Have spare machine, will build HTPC...
OK, so I have an entirely new machine, and I'm planning on turning my old PC into an HTPC. I have a few stumbling blocks though... one being I have never really looked at htpc builds until now. I've really hazy on a few points and I'm hoping I can get a few questions answered, or at least point me in the right direction. I'll start by listing the parts of my old PC and saying I'd like to use as much of it as possible. I'll leave out the case though, since I am going to buy a proper HTPC case to fit in my component rack.
Gigabyte GA-M57SLI-S4 Motherboard
AMD AM2 6000+ Dual Core CPU
ASUS EAH4850 512MB Video (With direct HDMI output)
4Gb 667MHz Kingston RAM (4x 1Gig sticks)
OCZ StealthXStream 500W PSU
2x 3.5" Seagate 500Gb SATAII HDD's
Basically I'd like the system to be an HTPC that also serves music and video for the various laptops in the house. I'm also planning on networking my 360 in to the works. Now here's where I get a little hazy and have a few questions...
I want to buy an HTPC case for the system. Can you buy them with IR recievers and a remote? Would the be compatible with a Media Center remote? Or should I forgo the remote alltogether and buy a wireless air-mouse instead?
Also, do I need to worry about cooling for an HTPC? Obviously there'd be no OC'ing or anything, but I always see people buy lower end video cards for these things. Does that have to do with heating issues? Or simply because there's no need for a high end card? If so then it's no big deal since I have the card as a spare anyway.
And concerning Windows Media Center; should I "obtain" it? Or should I buy a copy of vista for the media center included in it? Can I get a copy with the media center remote? Or, again, should I just forget the remote and go with an air-mouse?
Lastly, can I drop in a regular ATX MB in to an ATX HTPC case? Is it basically the same layout , just tipped on it's side?
I'll probably have a few more questions over the next few days, but any help from this point would be a start, and very much appreciated. Thanks =)
I had an HTPC, not a great one but I learned a couple things:
try to get a keyboard with built in trackball/mouse buttons, I found that it is 100x better than screwing around with 2 seperates, I have this one:
Moneual MK700 Wireless Keyboard - Black / Silver
and this one:
Moneual RF509 RF Wireless Media Center Keyboard 1 Channel W/ Optical Trackball 10M Range 3XAA USB - DirectCanada
I actually like the second one better even though the forst one is the newer "improved version"
As for the vid card, ATI builds in the same HD video specs into all their cards, the higher end cards just play games better, so if you plan on gaming, then the 4850 is good, if no games then a 4350 is more than enough.
ATX is ATX, although stuff like coolers and SATA port placement can play a big role dpending on mobo and case.
I never used the meddia center part, I have my 360 hooked up too.
You can buy a pricey case with IR receiver (like moneual 932) or buy a cheaper one without (like lascala lc17b) and buy an aftermarket media display and remote to put in- if you use a harmony remote, check logitech's website for compatibility- they have a good utility for that.
I would prefer vista but maybe not worth an extra 120
Often you'll need a low profile CPU cooler for them. If you're stacking it over an amplifier (don't if you can avoid) you'll need to make sure it'll be cool enough. fan sizes for these are smaller than 120mm so if you want to add an extra order it with the case if you don't have the right size at home.
no problem with atx board in atx case
I happen to like Bluetooth and: NCIX.com - Buy Logitech Cordless Mediaboard Pro Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard with Touchpad for PS3 2XAA - 968011-0403 In Canada.
Although it has some markings for the PS3 and some media buttons that don't quite work, but for a keyboard/mouse it works beautifully.
nMedia had a quite a nice case that had room for a built in EOLed MS IR Receiver, but it's also EOLed. Newer nMedia cases don't have this slot which is sad.
I agree with donimo, if you can, get one of those keyboards w/ trackballs. Right now, I am using a mouse with a keyboard (both wired, lol!), and its a pain all across. I hope to be getting a keyboard of that sort someday.
Might want to checkout MediaPortal instead of buying Windows of sorts.
I use this keyboard Logitech Dinovo Edge Bluetooth Ultra Slim Wireless Keyboard Rechargable LI-ION W/ USB Mini Receiver - DirectCanada it can usually be picked up for about $160. Has great range and battery life. They just came out with a smaller model Logitech Dinovo Mini MCE HTPC Wireless Keyboard Backlit Bluetooth 30FT Range LI-ION - DirectCanada.
Your other option is to get Windows 7 Build 7000 and get Media Center for free :)
I've had my HTPC running great for a while now and here are some observations & link to my build.
1) With ATI cards high or even medium end are not needed. ATI's UVD (Unified Video Decoder) is pretty much the same throughout a given line, 3xxx or 4xxx, so don't put out any unnecessary extra funds on the video card. If the 4850 is what you have already available then great!
2) While UVD works great at minimizing the work that the cpu has to do you will always find a video where UVD may not be able to function as it should. In this case your 6000+ CPU will do nicely for those times when brute force is needed for decoding.
3) Be selective and stingy with the codecs you install. Going ahead & installing a boat load of codecs can lead to real issues. Try to install what you actually need only.
4) Remotes are easy. For a cheap but good remote that will be recognized with VMC, Mediaportal or whatever go here.
Pcusa Vista Remote Control with IR Receiver Silver - DirectCanada
This is just an example of something that works well but won't break the bank. A remote keyboard like thse already mentioned will do fine.
Yor left over components look like they will make a very nice HTPC & while the motherboard is overkill since it is available already, it will do very nicely.
I just built another HTPC for a client. Here is the case I used.
Nmedia HTPC-1000B Desktop Media Centre Case mATX Black 1X5.25 4X3.5INT Card Reader No PS - DirectCanada
Not a choice if you want to add some kind of display later though but a very nice quiet case at a good price point with decent cooling.
As for software, there is no need to purchase Windows just to get Media Center if that is not the version you have already. I can recommend MediaPortal ( MEDIAPORTAL - free media center - Home ) which is what I use. Version 1.0 just dropped recently after a long development process. This is open source software with great contributions coming in from many developers. It is extensible and works very well & looks great with all the skin choices that are available.
Another choice could be Meedio ( MeediOS | Bringing Media to Life ). While MeediOS is in development, Meedio Ultimate is a very mature & stable HTPC platform.
Here is a link to my HTPC build. I did this on the cheap as a "Proof of Concept" but will soon be upgrading to an A/V component look case. It does 1080p without any issues btw.
My 1080P Budget HTPC Build (Lots Of Pics) - MediaPortal Forum
As for advice, the quieter the case, the better. I wouldn't be afraid to invest a few more dollars into getting something with quality put into it, such as using rubber mounts for HDDs and cable routing for improved airflow.
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