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HTPC Build


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#1
gutterman

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Hey Everyone,

I am interested in building a home theater PC. I had originally considered just building a plain desktop system, but was intrigued after seeing the open source MediaPortal project. I figure I will go with something that can support a good MicroATX processor. I would think going higher speeds would be safe, although I know keeping heat and the fans running less is more important for an HTPC.

I have HD channels fed to me from Time Warner Cable. I want to take advantage of those HD channels still. This is where I'm lost. Where do I turn for Sound/Video Cards that will support my surround sound and HD video?

Thanks!
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#2
Troy

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Hi there,

You are building yourself a new HTPC? Sounds like fun! :) I have a few questions for you so I can get a better understanding of your situation.

I am not familiar with Time Warner Cable - how does this connect to your computer? How do you currently display HD content?

MicroATX (or mATX) is not a processor size, but a "form factor" - the size of the case, motherboard, etc... For more reading, see here.

So you would like to use a mATX case for the build? Would you like it to be small and quiet? Or you don't mind a fan or two?

Are you intending on doing any kind of gaming on this computer, or just to play HD content?

And finally, what do you mean by going "higher speed"? Do you mean getting a higher-clocked processor, for example?

Cheers

Troy
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#3
gutterman

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Hi Troy, I always appreciate your timely responses and throrough direction for any projects. Cheers for always helpin out!

Time Warner Cable is my Cable Provider. I mentioned them because I wanted to be certain that the HD Channels they supply me aren't going to be lost in the process of converting from their provided "HD Receiver Box" to my HTPC with a TV Tuner via the graphics card.

I do plan on sticking with the mATX. Sorry if I mentioned that as a processor, I am aware it is a form factor. I prefer small and quiet, preferably SLIM if possible (so that it can fit in my current theater furniture.) however I am not against one fan. My only question is I can't stand the noise produced by my XBOX 360 that I believe has two fans. If this helps as an indicator, I want to to be quieter than the XBOX 360. Haha.

I don't have any intentions on gaming through this, since I do have the XBOX which would suffice. The only high end graphcis would be a possible Blu-Ray player, but I'm thinking of falling back to a standard CD/DVD and then swapping out when BD drives drop in price considerably.

When I discussed higher speeds, I was referring to selecting my processor. I don't want a processor that opperates at 2.8GHZ when one that functions at 1.9GHZ would suffice an HTPC's functions. Ultimately, I am concerned with selecting such a high speed processor (because it has good specs) that I have excess heat, when I don't need something that high-end afterall.

Please let me know if this is unclear, looking forward to the build!
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#4
Troy

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Hi again,

Okay I understand mostly where you're coming from - the only thing I don't understand is the Cable that provides HD content (because I don't have cable - never seen it in use - will have to research it). I was specifically asking for this, because we may need to ensure that your motherboard has a certain port that you can plug the Cable in to - this is why I was asking how do you currently display your HD content? Are you aware of the name of the port/plugs that your Cable uses (that would be plugged into the computer)? Somebody else may need to help out here...

On to the parts themselves, though, I strongly suggest you start by finding a mATX case that fits in your available space. Currently, here is a list of Newegg's HTPC cases, and here are the slim mATX cases. I personally like that Antec slim mATX case, as they make good PSU's, and this one is an 80PLUS certified unit (high efficiency). I would think that 350W should be enough for this build, but we'll double check that once all the parts are chosen.

A low-end ATI video card will be a good choice here, as they are able to process the HD content onboard, minimising use of the CPU. The HD3450 series are good and cheap, and you can get ones with passive heatsinks for silence.

Do you have a specific budget to stick to here, or just to get something that ticks all the boxes for your uses?

Cheers

Troy
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#5
gutterman

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Just something that ticks all the boxes. Time Warner Cable is my Standard and High Def Content Provider for Television...as well as Internet and Phone. They are your standard giant corporation. With onboard graphics, would I just find a motherboard that included the video card onboard, vs. PCI?

For Hard Drive I was thinking about going with a WD 1 TB. I want a large size HDD so that I can store my movie and music collection. That means the CD/DVD player can be pretty standard. It won't be used too often and will be replaced when Blu Ray Disc Drives drop in price.
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