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 Post subject: Input on my $162 Pentium-M HTPC
PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2010 4:10 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jan 28, 2010 7:41 am
Posts: 112
Location: Rockford, IL ( USA )
Okay, I just got done ordering an Aopen PDS XC Cube MZ915-M off of ebay for $65 shipped with a 1.86ghz Pentium-M Dothan, 40gb HD and 512mb ( I have a 2gb kit I will swap out ) and I ordered a refurb'd MX 3200 keyboard/mouse combo for my input device ( was debating on this or an AVS MCE Remote on NewEgg for $22, this seemed better for me ). I ordered an XFX 512mb GDDR3 9500GT from Buy.com for $58 shipped and a low profile bracket kit for $7 shipped on eBay.

Here are my questions and such that I would like input on.

#1. Do you all think I could have done better for $162 and if so how?

#2. Is there any problems anyone can see with 1080P content on this machine as I'm hoping the 9500GT will handle the decoding well enough on the GPU.

#3. Would I be better off going with Windows 7 or a dedicated HTPC OS or is there a really good HTPC program I can run under W7 for best effect?

#4. This machine will be used as a backup Call of Duty 4 PC, what are the odds of the Pentium-M being able to serve out 1080P video thru the wireless network from attached USB 2.0 external HD's? This is one of my biggest worries as it would suck to fire up CoD4 in the living room and have one of my roomates yell out "Hey, I was jerkin it to Ohura!!! WTF GIVES?!?!" ( Stark Trek is the most popular at the house :)

#5. What would be best to put in the vacant Pci slot? a low profile HDTV tuner or a Wireless N card? This isn't a now upgrade but a near future upgrade and whatever doesn't go in the Pci slot will go in a USB port.

#6. Should I and would I be better off with an internal sata Blu-Ray combo drive or an external USB drive?

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 Post subject: Re: Input on my $162 Pentium-M HTPC
PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:01 am 
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Joined: Wed Aug 13, 2008 11:45 am
Posts: 519
Location: 128.0.0.1
You have to use Windows if the PC is meant to double as a CoD4 machine. The only "HTPC OS" is Linux, specifically some specialised distros like Mythbuntu or XMBC Live. No gaming on them.

Acting as a file server will not really tax the system much, but a single core Pentium M is pretty much minimum spec for CoD4. So I'd expect performance issues no matter what.


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 Post subject: Re: Input on my $162 Pentium-M HTPC
PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2010 4:58 am 
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Joined: Thu Jul 22, 2004 6:53 pm
Posts: 89
Location: Taipei, Taiwan
I recommend you get a remote. After I got my MCE remote, most days I only use the remote. There are still some times when I need the keyboard, but most of the time, the remote is overwhelmingly more convenient and comfortable to use.

I recommend you use Windows 7 and give the Windows Media Center a try. It may be able to do everything you need. If you want more, XBMC runs under Windows 7 and an interesting new version just came out. Other alternatives are Boxee (better for internet streams) and MediaPortal (better if you have a TV tuner).

Once you have your media center up and running, I think you'll quickly realize how convenient a remote can be.

Is your vacant slot a PCI slot or PCI Express? But either way, I recommend you use it for a TV tuner. USB wireless adapters are cheap, very common and generally useful to have if you set up or fix computers a lot. TV tuners keep evolving as standards and capabilities change. Now there are good USB solutions, but for a while the best TV tuners were PCI Express.

Streaming 1080p while gaming -- probably fine, if disk access doesn't screw up your game. I don't play CoD4 so I don't know. But to be on the safe side, you could 1) get more RAM -- but my Pentium M system is limited to 2GB so yours might be limited too, and 2) get a SSD and install your OS and apps/games on it, and your videos on a separate drive. Simply watching 1080p is usually not a big deal, but constantly skipping around a 1080p video could be.

External vs. internal Bluray drive, doesn't matter.

Some helpful numbers to keep in mind:
Blu-ray max bitrate: 40Mbps (but I think most are much less)
Bitrate of typical 1080p video from torrents: 15Mbps or less
USB 2.0 max bandwidth: 480Mbps (realistically probably 300Mbps or less)
Wireless G max bandwidth: 54Mbps (realistically probably around 20Mbps)
Wireless N max bandwidth: 300Mbps (realistically probably around 80Mbps)
100Mb Ethernet: probably 70-90Mbps


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 Post subject: Re: Input on my $162 Pentium-M HTPC
PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2010 6:24 am 
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Joined: Thu Jan 28, 2010 7:41 am
Posts: 112
Location: Rockford, IL ( USA )
I haven't seen a good half height Hauppauge HDTV tuner for regular Pci or any half height TV tuner that seems to be worthwhile for regular Pci. There is the Diamond ATI based TV Wonder HD 600 but I've heard the ATI HD tuners can be extremely iffy and not always MCE friendly.

I'll prob order a remote next week when I get paid and I'll look into those media OS's.

Sadly, the i915 chipset only supports 2gb maximum memory so the machine will be completely maxed out at the 2gb :(

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 Post subject: Re: Input on my $162 Pentium-M HTPC
PostPosted: Sat Jan 01, 2011 11:06 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jan 28, 2010 7:41 am
Posts: 112
Location: Rockford, IL ( USA )
Woohoo, I fried the USB to SATA bridge in my $130 toshiba 2.5" external USB HD :) This is good because I removed the HD from the enclosure, crammed it ( oh you have nooo fn idea ) in the MZ915-M and mod'd a 40mm fan into the drive carriage to keep it and the 40gb OS HD cool :)

Now the machine is silent, has tons of storage in a tiny space and it plays CoD4 on high detail ( minus AA with 16x AF ) @ 1440x900 with 40 - 80fps on Creek : ) Given once I hook it up to my 480P TV and reduce the res to 720x480 I should still b able to use 4x AA and have a better experience than a PS3 :-P

Sadly, the cost of this unit with the inclusion of the 1tb HD ( which woulda stayed plugged into it all the time anyways ) is now about $300 :-/

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