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 Post subject: First HTPC build - need pro help!
PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2010 2:22 am 
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Joined: Wed May 05, 2010 1:40 am
Posts: 4
Location: UK
Hi all,

First post here so be gentle :-)

I just spent all day yesterday speccing up my first HTPC. So far I have the following components and comments/warnings/suggestions are most welcome!:

- ZOTAC NM10-DTX ION Upgrade Kit (for D510 Atom + next-gen ION)
- 4 GB RAM
- 2 x 2.5" SATA 640GB Western Digital WD6400BEVT in RAID 0
- BlackGold BGT3595 Quad TV Card (DVB-T and DVB-S/S2) - due for launch 17th May 2010
- Windows 7 Ultimate

Design goals are micro-itx SFF (for all-important WAF)

- Very quiet if not silent
- Must support Flash 10.1 apps like Hulu (I heard first gen ION and Atom 330 didn't cut it at higher resolutions).

As I'm a newcomer to the field I've identified the following outstanding questions/issues:

1) How to support audio bitstreaming of high-def audio formats? I read that you need to use one of the following three to support this: an AMD 5xxx series GPU OR an Intel core i5/i3 CPU or an HD bitstream-capable Sound Card. Is this correct or are there any other options?

2) The mobo above is unusal in that it has TWO PCI-e slots (one x16 (single channel) and one x1). However I cannot find an ITX case for the love of me that will support 2 x PCI card expansion slots - does anyone know of any? I originally wanted the Antec Antec ISK 310-150 but this only supports one PCI card.

3) Can anyone recommend a good WMC-compatible IR remote control?

4) can anyone recommend a good wife-friendly (i.e. small) keyboard that includes trackball or touchpad?

Many thanks in advance,
Garry


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 Post subject: Re: First HTPC build - need pro help!
PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2010 5:45 am 
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Joker99 wrote:
2) The mobo above is unusal in that it has TWO PCI-e slots (one x16 (single channel) and one x1). However I cannot find an ITX case for the love of me that will support 2 x PCI card expansion slots - does anyone know of any? I originally wanted the Antec Antec ISK 310-150 but this only supports one PCI card.

Silverstone Sugo SG05/SG06, Lian Li PC-Q08. Not exactly the smallest cases around, though.

Frankly, if you wanted HD audio bitstreaming, you probably would've been better off with a Core i3/i5 Clarkdale+H55/H57 set-up. Initial cash outlay may seem like a lot (~$250 w/o deals) but after you factor in additional cost for video card or sound card and consider that the processor is fast enough to handle pretty much any video you throw at it (with or without hardware acceleration), it's a pretty good deal.

As for AMD, there's a lack of socket AM3 Mini-ITX boards and the ones available is actually more expensive than Intel.


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 Post subject: Re: First HTPC build - need pro help!
PostPosted: Wed May 05, 2010 7:27 am 
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Joined: Wed May 05, 2010 7:19 am
Posts: 3
Location: US
Joker99 wrote:
Hi all,


4) can anyone recommend a good wife-friendly (i.e. small) keyboard that includes trackball or touchpad?

Many thanks in advance,
Garry


Moneual Lab 2.4GHz RF Wireless Computer Keyboard is a nice wife friendly keyboard. I got one last week for my HTPC. Works great. The keys are not quiet and the mouse buttons are a little stiff. Overall I really like it and more important, for your requirements, my wife likes it.
Adesso also has a keyboard touchpad combo board that might work for you.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu May 06, 2010 8:37 am 
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Joined: Wed May 05, 2010 1:40 am
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Location: UK
Awesome much appreciated thanks guys


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 Post subject: Re: First HTPC build - need pro help!
PostPosted: Thu May 06, 2010 10:06 am 
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Joker99 wrote:
- Must support Flash 10.1 apps like Hulu (I heard first gen ION and Atom 330 didn't cut it at higher resolutions).

ilovejedd wrote:
Frankly, if you wanted HD audio bitstreaming, you probably would've been better off with a Core i3/i5 Clarkdale+H55/H57 set-up. Initial cash outlay may seem like a lot (~$250 w/o deals) but after you factor in additional cost for video card or sound card and consider that the processor is fast enough to handle pretty much any video you throw at it (with or without hardware acceleration), it's a pretty good deal.

+1

I personally am not counting on hardware-accelerated flash. Sure, there has been some positive movement in this direction. But I'd want some CPU horsepower as suggested, so you can fall back on CPU decoding for situations where hardware acceleration fails. If/when flash acceleration happens, you'll still have a super-low idle power CPU with Clarkdale.

Question1: why raid 0 in a HTPC?

Question2: do you need 2 PCIe slots? Or was this only a requirement if you went with a dedicated GPU?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu May 06, 2010 10:18 am 
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I don't recommend RAID for much, especially not 0. There's nothing to be gained from this. In my experience with media PC, you can stream most HD video from a NAS without issue, so HDD speed is not at all a bottleneck. The "slowest" part of any user interface is simply flipping through large catalogs -- of music, for me, as I rarely store movies or other video that have already been viewed. This is where faster random access in the HDD might help, although probably not much unless you're talking about the kind of change from SSD to HDD; more important, most likely, is good software code. CPU speed might also be an issue here... though probably not unless you're trying to multitask unreasonably.

An Aside: Media Monkey, for example, has way faster menus than the SqueezeCenter/server software (for Squeezebox)... though it is marred by too much info. Too bad it doesn't have a simple jukebox overlay for when you want view the menu on a big screen from across the room and just pick music to listen to -- rather than study the fine details of the files, etc.

I use the Moneual, too, btw.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 07, 2010 1:35 am 
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Joined: Wed May 05, 2010 1:40 am
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Location: UK
Hi guys,

Thanks for the great input. I am now going to look into a system based around the Clarkdale. I think when you get an idea in your head (I was attracted to the Atom for the low power consumption of an 'always on' appliance') you can get tunnel-visioned in trying to make it work for you.

Answer to Q1 above: my choice of RAID 0 was all around disk performance. At peak times I considered that my HTPC could be recording a couple of channels whilst we play back another, and it's not inconceivable my daughters could be wanting to stream to extenders in their rooms. I don't know whether this scenario would actually come to pass (!) but was just trying to consider 'worst case' disk load. I have 2 x RAID 0 sets in my main PC (C: system | D: data/VMware) and have been happy with the results. I back everything up using SyncToy.

Answer to Q2: I only needed 2 PCI slots to shoe-horn in the Radeon discrete graphics card to make the audio bitstreaming work with the Atom solution. Having stepped back, I can see that Clarkdale is probably the way to go and simplifies the bitstreaming/Flash dilemma at a stroke. I'm going to spec up a new option based around this so I'll probably post a whole bunch of new questions later ;-)

Thanks again.
Garry


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