View Full Version : Please help newbie pick new hardware
07-13-2003, 12:16 PM
Hey there -
I'm getting the itch to set up a HTPC, using SageTV as a centerpiece. I want to try and keep this thing small and quiet, and I've come up with the following list of parts:
1. VIA M10000
2. 512MB RAM
3. Samsung SM-352B CDRW/DVD
4. Samsung SpinPoint 120GB hard drive
Can anyone point out any serious problems with this hardware? I don't need to do any gaming on the system.
Questions I am wrestling with:
1. Should I replace the Samsung HD with a smaller 40GB Fujitsu notebook HD, to keep things quiet and cool?
2. Should I move to a low-power Intel CPU, perhaps 1.6GHz P4?
I am a little concerned about the video output quality of the VIA board when viewed on my 65" CRT rear projector. Do most people use the TV-out on the VIA, or use a VGA-component breakout? Also, how is the sound quality of the VIA board? Will I be able to replace my stand-alone DVD and CD player with this setup for sound quality (both surround and music)?
Please let me know the "real deal" on how these systems are used!
07-14-2003, 12:53 AM
Well, Good to see someone else in the same situation. I am debating the very same issues myself right now. I just purchased a PVR-350 online and am not sure what kind of system I can get by with. Just like you I don't want this for gaming just good quality video from both PVR and DVD's. The Epia seems awful promising but I have had a lot of negative feedback. Still pulling my hair out trying to figure this out without wasting a couple of hundred dollars.
I'm currently using a Epia M10000, Seagate Barracuda V 120GB HDD, PVR350. I'm glad I choose the PVR350 over the PVR250, because it gave me the on board mpeg decoder which is much much better quality than the built Epia TV-out.
The PVR350 will be the perfect device for use in low grunt machines once the On Screen Display is supported by SageTV. The Frey guys have state that this will be in a future release. Until then, I need to have both the Epia's tv out and the PVR350's tv out connected to different inputs on my TV and switch between them when I want to use the guide (etc). It sounds like a hassle, but it's worth it for the extra quality.
BTW, the Epia M series boards also claim to built in MPEG2 decoders, but have nothing more than average hardware-assisted accelerator features that can be used by an mpeg decoder.
07-14-2003, 01:08 AM
The big question is how much money you are willing to spend. You can get a regular PC to be quiet and reasonably small, but it can get rather expensive.
Coolermaster makes some decent HTPC cases but they are designed for microATX boards. These only have 3 PCI slots, but are certainly more expandable than the Epia. These have the advantages of allowing processor upgrades, video upgrades, etc. Not sure if these cases use standard ATX power supplies. If so, there are a number of very quiet ones, such as Nexus and Zalman PSU. Add a quiet HSF, fanless video card, and a quiet drive such as a Seagate Barracuda IV (if you can find them any more) and you will have a nice quiet system that will be far more flexible than the Epia.
Go up to a full ATX board, and you get even more flexibility, and choice, but give up on size. Most HTPC cases that that use ATX are rather large. A fairly small one is the Atech case, but this is major expensive. Again, quiet components are available.
For resources, check out:
AVS forum (http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/forumdisplay.php?s=&forumid=26)
Silent PC Review (http://www.silentpcreview.com/)
Atech case (http://www.atechfabrication.com/home_theater_computers.htm)
07-14-2003, 10:31 AM
I'm glad to know I'm not alone in my confusion!
The idea of going with the EPIA boards is tempting and using a PVR-350 card for output is tempting. But I know from personal experience how slow development can be is it relies on 3rd party interfaces. Not that I doubt the technical ability of anyone working on the Sage or Hauppauge sides, but it can be a slow process if politics or "NIH" (Not Invented Here) enters in. And typically, it's usually the little guy that suffers.
I think I may start considering a micro-ATX or a full-ATX solution. I was hoping to be totally won over by the mini-ITX stuff because of its low power requirements, but it looks like going with a <2GHz Northwood P4 will still put me around the same ballpark for heat. You can silence even real high-powered systems, but dissipating 200W into a room is still pumping out a lot of heat, even if you can't hear it!
Getting something like a micro-ATX ASUS P4P800-VM is tempting, but the advantages are numerous when it comes to silencing: wider selection of power supplies, CPU coolers, GPU coolers, more case room for damping, etc.
Sigh. It really shouldn't be this confusing to buy a purpose-built HTPC!
07-14-2003, 10:32 AM
Sorry - should have read
Getting something like a micro-ATX ASUS P4P800-VM is tempting, but the advantages *TO FULL-ATX* are numerous when it comes to silencing
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