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Advice on new HTPC (Unique Situation)

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
I'm looking to build an HTPC that is strong in some areas and completely void in others for the simple fact that I have a uniquely powerful machine I use for gaming, ripping, video/audio format conversion and storage.

You can see the build of my pc HERE. I have additional TB hard drives in the machine since the build log so I have even more space. And a shiny new LG BD Rewriter in the rig as well.

Therefore, I don't need ANY hard drive storage in my HTPC other than the SSD which I believe I'd go with the 128gb Samsung 830, since I'll just send the movies over via WIFI (I recently bought the ASUS RT-N66U hoping it would stream 12+ gb mkv files to my TV without stuttering but it doesn't) ahead of playing them.

I have the Samsung 59" PN59D8000 3D Plasma Smart TV and Denon AVR1912 AV Receiver. For speakers I have very nice Infinity 5.1 surround sound. Waiting to upgrade to 7.1 when I move into my new house next year.

Here's the gist of what I'm trying to build in a HTPC:
  1. Has to be without any doubt strong enough to handle the highest quality mkv video/audio with files exceeding 16gb.
  2. I will not ever play games off this unit. I don't want to waste money building something for games, this rig will be strictly for home theater use.
  3. Fast load times and decent storage to hold the operating system, necessary video play/conversion utilities and only temporary videos that I will queue up ahead of time via wifi from movie libraries on my main PC and another server I have in the house. Thinking the 128gb SSD is more than enough.
  4. Super quiet. Not liquid cooled quiet. But close to it. I'm willing to buy quality fans to replace stock ones for example. Would consider a passive-cooled GPU or on board graphics if it can handle the quality without any hiccups or loss.
  5. Size of the unit isn't as important as making sure it's quiet and cooled properly, but smaller obviously the better.
  6. Doesn't need any fancy drive, just something cheap to load drivers easily like a DVD drive. I own a Panasonic BDT210 already as part of my home theater and of course, the two BD drives in my main PC.
  7. Whether the video comes out of the mobo or a separate GPU, I don't want to mess with mini-HDMI, I hear those ports break too easily. I'm looking for straight HDMI output.
  8. If it's better to have optical audio output outside of HDMI, then I'd rather do that since my existing home theater hardware can support it. If it's not noticeable, then I'd rather go for ease of use and just run straight HDMI to my receiver (I hear the receiver is often the best at decoding, correct me if I'm wrong).
  9. Support for 7.1 would be nice if it can be part of the build without driving the price up too much. I think I read somewhere that 7.1 was an issue with HDMI on some GPUs.
  10. Obviously what is recommended would have to fit (including upgraded/quieter fans). I don't mind taking a dremel tool to a corner of a fan's casing to squeeze it around a capacitor if it can be done effectively, but obviously easier if everything just fit.
  11. As far as external lights on the case, as cool as they may seem, they can become a distraction during a movie. I'd prefer to build an HTPC that is aesthetically pleasing when the lights are on and it's not in use, but mostly invisible when watching movies and the room is dark.
  12. Lastly, regarding 3D. I only have Avatar as it came free with the Panasonic BD player, but I'd imagine I'd get more 3D movies in the future. I'd want a graphics solution that can handle 3D BD with active 3D technology.
  13. If going with a separate GPU instead of onboard, I'm generally loyal to nvidea over ati because of horror stories with ati drivers, but I can be convinced if there is a consensus on an overwhelming favorite.
  14. Regarding software, I'm still trying to research what is best XBMC? Not sure. I have Win7 professional or Win7 home I can install on the unit for free, which I'm hoping will suffice as I have no experience in any other OS.

As far as anything else I would potentially do with the HTPC outside of straight movie watching, perhaps a quick surf on the web or check email. Extremely low system demand activity. Watching high quality mkv files as well as any and all other video formats (avi, mpg, wmv, mov, etc.) is what I want this thing to excel at.

As a thank you for taking the time to draft a build to meet my specifications, I will send a gift to the person who provides the best complete build that others generally agree would be a winning build (it must verify clearly how it meets each of the above requirements). Of course, I'm hoping, especially since I don't need to buy HDDs, that this can be built at a reasonable price, say sub $500? At least I'm hoping. If I'm way off, I'd be willing to reconsider my needs if I can find out what are the specific needs that jack the price up.
    
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post #2 of 7
I'll take a crack at this.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bellagiofan View Post

  1. Has to be without any doubt strong enough to handle the highest quality mkv video/audio with files exceeding 16gb.
  2. I will not ever play games off this unit. I don't want to waste money building something for games, this rig will be strictly for home theater use.
  3. Fast load times and decent storage to hold the operating system, necessary video play/conversion utilities and only temporary videos that I will queue up ahead of time via wifi from movie libraries on my main PC and another server I have in the house. Thinking the 128gb SSD is more than enough.
  4. Super quiet. Not liquid cooled quiet. But close to it. I'm willing to buy quality fans to replace stock ones for example. Would consider a passive-cooled GPU or on board graphics if it can handle the quality without any hiccups or loss.
  5. Size of the unit isn't as important as making sure it's quiet and cooled properly, but smaller obviously the better.
  6. Doesn't need any fancy drive, just something cheap to load drivers easily like a DVD drive. I own a Panasonic BDT210 already as part of my home theater and of course, the two BD drives in my main PC.
  7. Whether the video comes out of the mobo or a separate GPU, I don't want to mess with mini-HDMI, I hear those ports break too easily. I'm looking for straight HDMI output.
  8. If it's better to have optical audio output outside of HDMI, then I'd rather do that since my existing home theater hardware can support it. If it's not noticeable, then I'd rather go for ease of use and just run straight HDMI to my receiver (I hear the receiver is often the best at decoding, correct me if I'm wrong).
  9. Support for 7.1 would be nice if it can be part of the build without driving the price up too much. I think I read somewhere that 7.1 was an issue with HDMI on some GPUs.
  10. Obviously what is recommended would have to fit (including upgraded/quieter fans). I don't mind taking a dremel tool to a corner of a fan's casing to squeeze it around a capacitor if it can be done effectively, but obviously easier if everything just fit.
  11. As far as external lights on the case, as cool as they may seem, they can become a distraction during a movie. I'd prefer to build an HTPC that is aesthetically pleasing when the lights are on and it's not in use, but mostly invisible when watching movies and the room is dark.
  12. Lastly, regarding 3D. I only have Avatar as it came free with the Panasonic BD player, but I'd imagine I'd get more 3D movies in the future. I'd want a graphics solution that can handle 3D BD with active 3D technology.
  13. If going with a separate GPU instead of onboard, I'm generally loyal to nvidea over ati because of horror stories with ati drivers, but I can be convinced if there is a consensus on an overwhelming favorite.
  14. Regarding software, I'm still trying to research what is best XBMC? Not sure. I have Win7 professional or Win7 home I can install on the unit for free, which I'm hoping will suffice as I have no experience in any other OS.

I think you're right on the money with the Samsung 830 128GB perfect for a boot drive and had a little extra space to temporarily hold movies if you need it to.

Having it be super quiet shouldn't be to big a feat, I sangged a low profile Cooler Master GeminII M4 and turned the fan on low and it keeps the CPU just as cool as the stock fan (AMD A6 3600 APU) but is whisper quiet. Really your best bet without spending any extra money on fans is buying a board with alot of 3 pin fan connectors hopefully bundled with some decent Fan controlling software, set to silent and your good to go.

HDMI output should be avaliable on most microATX boards atleast coming from the AMD FM1 side of the house, shoudln't be an issue.

If your A/V receiver has HDMI passthrough I would just use that, seems alittle more diffcult to find an inexpensive mobo with SPDIF out.

The realtek 892/898 onboard audio both support 7.1/5.1, but if you have a nice sound system you might want to look into an ASUS Xonar or other 3rd party sound card.

The A8 Llano APUs support 3D BluRay playback, although you might want to wait for Trinity to drop and get some extra power. Should be some time in October. Again i think the APU is the way to go, yah you could buy a Intel G620 + a GPU (Don't know if the intel setup is capable of 3D BluRay) but for the same price why not get the all in one APU? Plus I think you can get a quad for the same price as a cheap dual Intel + GPU setup.

Yes user XBMC and Win7! XBMC is easily the best Media Ceneter software out there and its complelty customizable plus supports DXVA which is what you gonna need when pushing all the high quality video.

Give me a few extra minutes to come up with a build, stay tuned thumb.gif.
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The Warlock
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post #3 of 7
I was going to add one last thing, transferring 16GB movies over your wireless network is going to be painful! Do you have wireless N?
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The Warlock
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post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 
Yeah I got this bad boy router (LINK) hoping it would be strong enough to stream very large mkv files without buffering issues but it doesn't. After a great deal of reading, while some people claim they've gotten things to work, unless you exactly mirror their hardware and environment, almost everyone agrees the wireless bandwidth provided by even the top performing routers just isn't there yet.

Transferring the movies over to the HTPC really won't be an issue. I work from home and always forward-thinking, meaning that I'll more often than not come up with a movie in my mind that I'd like to queue up for the evening's entertainment. And I'll just send the file over in the afternoon and be good to go well in advance. While there is some appeal to being able to reference a movie list or database directly off the HTPC, I imagine I can later (once I move into my new house) build a substantial server with cat5 running throughout the house and just have the HTPC wired right into the network.

I've been reading up on Trinity and I'd be willing to wait a few weeks if it's worth it. Of course, we'd have to have a mobo optimized for it as well. I think I read somewhere that ASUS has one but not sure of availability and if it works with my needs. Will do more digging on that.
Edited by Bellagiofan - 9/26/12 at 9:20am
    
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post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
I'm reviewing the specs on the ASUS F2A85-V PRO. Looks pretty good. Hasn't yet shipped to retailers but Amazon already has it for I guess would be considered pre-order. I imagine they wouldn't do that unless they were pretty close to getting their hands on it.

http://www.amazon.com/ASUS-240-Pin-Motherboards-F2A85-V-PRO/dp/B009F1DUAM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1348679678&sr=8-1&keywords=F2A85-V+PRO

I'm not in any serious rush to build an HTPC yesterday because my girlfriend grew up in China and there are tons of old classics from back in the 80s/90s that she's never seen, so it's still going to take awhile to go through all the DVD's and random movies I can record from cable. I'm totally cool with waiting a few weeks or a month to get some components that will be worth the wait.
    
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post #6 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bellagiofan View Post

Transferring the movies over to the HTPC really won't be an issue. I work from home and always forward-thinking, meaning that I'll more often than not come up with a movie in my mind that I'd like to queue up for the evening's entertainment. And I'll just send the file over in the afternoon and be good to go well in advance. While there is some appeal to being able to reference a movie list or database directly off the HTPC, I imagine I can later (once I move into my new house) build a substantial server with cat5 running throughout the house and just have the HTPC wired right into the network.

Yeah, a couple months after buying my home, I ran 8 pulls of cat 6 through my house to various locations, 2 behind the TV. Never a shred of lag when watching/moving large files on my gig network. If you can live with 802.11N for the time being, then go with it.
post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 
While doing further research on this HTCP, it occurred to me I could possibly turn it also into a DVR and save a lot of money on my cable bill. I own two HD cable box/DVR's from Cox. One in the living room on one side of the house and one in my office on another (same floor about 50-60 feet walking distance). My 5.1Ghz machine is in my office next to the TV (relatively new Panasonic TC-L37D2). It's got 2 HDMI and one PC input among others. My computer can output the signal off the EVGA GTX-580's mini-HDMI out. The cable modem and ASUS wireless router are also on the same desk.

I'm reading up on the Ceton and HDHomerun Prime. I'm thinking the Homerun Prime is exactly what I'm looking for. The Ceton offers one more tuner, but 3 is enough for me, and I won't have to buy these extenders. Sounds like I'll be able to play, record, schedule and watch live TV with just the one unit. Ceton requires extenders. However, I have to get a better understanding of all the pros and cons. For example, I realize a con is that I have to leave the computer on 24/7. If I ever have to restart the computer (crash or installation of new software requiring restart), I think I can't do that while a show is recording or it will miss part of the recording.

And of course there is a bandwidth issue. Reason I built the beast of a machine is that I do a great deal of data mining for work and also use it for gaming. If I'm doing some serious data-intensive activity, how would that affect recording quality? Especially when recording two shows at the same time.

All these questions need to be answered before I give up the boxes. I'm doing a lot of that research now but of course, if anyone is an expert on this stuff, any insight would be greatly appreciated.

If I do go this route, I will then consider adding a hard drive to the HTPC or even build a NAS as the always on DVR to manage the recording of all shows so I don't have to worry about tying up my computer. However, if I do that, I'll still need to know if I can control the TV in my office. Usually the TV will never be on unless my PC is on. Otherwise I'd just watch TV in the living room. The other issue is that from what I understand, there are some programs that when recorded have very strict copy protection on them and they can only be seen by one computer, the one that recorded it. I'd need to have the freedom to watch the program on either TV as easily as turning the TV on, clicking on the recordings list and selecting the program to watch it.

In the meantime, I got a partial list of some of the components I'm considering:

    
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