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 Post subject: HTPC - Accent HT-400
PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2005 11:26 am 
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Joined: Tue Feb 24, 2004 6:29 am
Posts: 70
I've been mucking around with building a system using this case. Still trying to determine which cpu architecture to pursue (AMD 64, P4 Northwood, P4 Prescott, PentiumM). My use of this HTPC, would be to use it as a PVR (so a large hard-drive is a must), and predominantly using MCE2005's suite of applications (i.e. recording a program, whilst watching another, and recording TV shows to DVD, providing network storage for media files for the rest of the house).

I've noted the following revisions to the case when compared to the original HT-400 reviews (e.g. http://htpcnews.com/main.php?id=ht400b_1). I'll try to avoid repeating what the reviewers on other websites have said on things such as installation procedure.

1. In the UK (via www.quietpc.com) the case's IR receiver and optional VFD are mounted in a PCB which terminates in a USB cable that can be plumbed straight into a mobo header (instead of the molex/parallel port cable). The front mounted firewire port still terminates in a firewire plug, but I bought firewire plug-to-mobo-header cable from the vendor. This means, that neither the VFD or firewire cables need to routed to the outside of the case anymore!

2. The PCB for the VFD and power/reset switches have been seperated into 2 smaller PCBs, making installation of the VFD that much easier. Using the iMon driver/application was all that was needed to get the remote and VFD working straight away.

3. The remote now supplied is the iMon Pad.

4. The drive cage has been altered from the original 2 x 5.25" configuration, to a 5.25" and a 3.5" (see my comments on hard-drive mounting later on). The other 2 x 3.5" drive cage remain the same.

The case (silver), looks fantastic, and the logos are centred and true. And yet I can't see how this case is worth £250 (price includes the optional VFD) especially when compared to acoustically/thermally better designed PC cases which cost a 1/5 of the price (e.g. Antec 3700BQE). But having read reviews of other HTPC cases, this was the best of a bad bunch. What swayed it for me was the specially designed Acoustifoam kit developed for this case. The foam kit comprises of 4 pieces (3 for the of the case cover, and 1 for the base of the case). All the pieces when fitted are designed to not foul the case intake grills and mobo standoffs. The foam is very effective at deadening the panel resonance that thin gauge aluminium case covers are (in)famous for.

As I stated in the beginning of this post, I haven't settled on an architecture, but so far I've been playing around with a 2.8GHz Northwood & a 3.2GHz Prescott on the same motherboard. Components are as follows:

Accent HT-400 + Acoustifoam HT-400 kit + Acoustriproduct fan gasket + Acoustifan dustproof 80mm (5 volts)
Abit IC7-G (Zalman passive northbridge cooler) (for testing purposes)
Corsair 2x512Mb RAM
Samsung Spinpoint 120 250Gb SATA drive
Pioneer 108 drive (for testing purposes)
Seasonic S12-600 (for testing purposes)
Thermalight XP-120 + Acoustifan dustproof 120mm fan (5 volts)
Gigabyte fanless 6600GT AGP card (for testing purposes)


Whether or not the XP-120 can fit in this case will vary from motherboard to motherboard, as it really depends on where the CPU retention bracket is in relation to the rest of the motherboard. On the Abit IC7-G it wasn't a problem. I found that the cpu ran 3-4C cooler with the fan blowing in the up direction whilst testing the Prescott cpu. This is in line with SPCR's review of the cooler. It may be that in this orientation, it promotes airflow from the inlet vents to the CPU, rather than the other way around. One thing to note is that the foam does eat into the case space, meaning that there's little clearance room above the CPU heatsink/cooler, and a miniscule amount (if any) for the heatpipes of the nVidia card. Bearing in mind the voltages I'm running, temps are as follows (ambient temp 26C, and it was tested on the dining room table):

Idle PCMark04 MCE2005 Disk VGA CPU Fan Case FAN PSU Fan
P4 2.8GHz 48C 60C 55C 36C 55C @650rpm @500rpm @750-850rpm
P4 3.2GHz 58C 70C 65C 46C 58C @650rpm @500rpm @750-850rpm

Noise wise, the HTPC is very quiet, and I think perfectly acceptable for an HTPC environment. I was surprised that the PSU fan hardly ramped up at all, although this is more a testament to the effeciency of the Seasonic S12 PSU than the case. Up close you can hear the PC, and mostly from the back of the PC. Noise is mostly air flowing through the fans' blades, although I did note some vibrational noise from the hard-drive. Otherwise hard-drive idle is quiet from over 1 metre away, and seeks are very muted (I haven't checked to see if AAM is activated). There is still some resonance in the panels, but it doesn't create any noise (thanks to the acoustifoam). The majority of the heat is expelled out of the case by the PSU's 120mm fan, although the 80mm exhaust fan does help (despite it's lowly CFM value at 5 volts). This fan was mounted on the outside of the case (I may choose to increase this to 7.5V and see if I can live with the increase in noise when it's placed in the TV cabinet). Subjectively, and from the sofa, it's hard to hear the PC is on when the speakers are on, even during quiet passages, and that's the acid test. It's not going to compete with a quietened Antec 3700BQE (for example), the design of it is too compromised, but then it does blend in with it's surrounding, and the noise signature is unobtrusive. I don't know what I can compare it to, but it's several times quieter than a PS2 or Xbox (and their in an enclosed TV cabinet).

One thing is clear though, to get this case quiet, you need to carefully select your pc components. This means CPU, heatsink, fans, PSU, hard-drive, graphics card (if any) and subsequent cooling.

Problems I found:
1. List of compatible DVD writers that fit the fascia hasn't been updated by manufacturer. They only list the NEC drive, but it doesn't have booktype settings for DVD+R or DVD+RW. So I need to do a bit more research on other drives, otherwise, I'll just get the NEC and be done with it.
2. The power switch kept on getting stuck. No visible reason for this, but I rotated it around until it found a position where it didn't stick in use.
3. One of the brass standoffs for the VFD PCB, was not screwed in properly, causing the IR Receiver PCB to be twisted. It seems to be okay now.
4. Remote sensor needed to be carefully bent into a better seated position as it was preventing the installation of the VFD.
5. A general lack of instructions, particularly for installing the VFD. The website's VFD installation instructions are for the parrallel port version of the VFD.

Other things to consider during build:
1. Heatsink choice. I really wanted to get a cpu cooler whose fan could have been pointed towards the vent (possibly via a duct). This would reduce the amount of heat that the PSU has to expel. There isn't a lot of vertical room for such a setup, but you never know. There is of course one course of action, but it's quite drastic, and that would be to create a blow hole above the CPU fan. Dare I do it?
2. Some people have dremelled a hole where the vents are beneath the central drive cage is and aided airflow into the case with a fan.
3. Need to settle on mobo/cpu selection. The cheapest option is to stick with the P4 2.8GHz. But I also have a A64 + Abit AV8, but I don't know how well AMD does in MCE2005. For the sake of temperatures, I'm also willing to contemplate PentiumM, but again, I don't know how well it performs with what I intend to use the HTPC for.
4. HTPC doesn't need such a powerful PSU, fortunately the Seasonic S12 have lower powered variants.
5. Hard-drive mounting. Need to find a way to decouple/suspend the hard-drive to reduce vibrational noise. Otherwise, I'll remove the hard drive cage behind the USB/Firewire ports, and place the hard drive on non conductive foam there. As the case won't be moved, it might be okay. Whatever I choose to do, hard-drive temperature will need to be monitored. If it weren't for PVR function, I would choose to go for a quiet 2.5" drive, which can be decoupled in the 3.5" drive cages.
6. Graphics card. Although the existing graphics card is passively cooled, the heat builds up in the case. Exhausting the hot air out of the case, as the Artic Cooling silencers do, would be worth pursuing. However these coolers are not silent, unless you run a fanmate on it. As I understand it, there isn't a version which fits an AGP 6600GT card (thus potentially affecting my mobo choice).

_________________
Rigs have bespoke AcoustiProducts dampening, Nexus fans, and Samsung/WD drives
MCE2005: Accent HT-400 + Asus P5W DH Deluxe + 6600 Core2Duo (XP-120) + 7600GT (Zalman VF900)
GAMES: Antec 3700BQE + Asus P5W DH Deluxe + 6600 Core2Duo (Scythe Ninja) + 7900GTO
NLE: Antec 3700BQE + Abit IC7-G + 3.2 Prescott (Scythe Ninja) + 9800pro (volt mod. artic cooler)


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC - Accent HT-400
PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2005 4:57 pm 
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Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2005 2:48 pm
Posts: 254
Location: When it gets unbearably hot...you're there.
Well, I'm by no means an expert at HTPC's....but it sure has become a big interest. I put together our first HTPC only about half a year ago, but I've learned a lot from it, and it sure is a blast to tweak. The best part is when people come over and say, "oh, you have a Tivo?" and I can say, "No, I have a me-vo". All wittyness aside, people are impressed that it's an actual computer doing all that. It's kind of like them suddenly realizing Whoa...computers can actually do useful things!.

But anyway, just to add some thoughts here...

My HTPC does pretty much what you're looking for yours to do. But it's doing it with an old Pentium 4, I think like 1.2 GHz or something. The motherboard is an ASUS P4T, and it's only got 384 MB memory. So, in other words, the processor requirements for this are NOT high. I'm considering really upgrading my next HTPC to something faster because I like the idea of playing some console-type PC games on a big TV instead of my regular PC...just an idea, though. But for now, that's enough GHz for my needs. With little doubt, the slowdown in this system is the RAM. Unfortunately, this was a RAMBUS system, which is why it became my old system, and I'm not going to upgrade that.

kojak71 wrote:
watching another, and recording TV shows to DVD, providing network storage for media files for the rest of the house).


Here's the only other thing I'd suggest.....don't make the HTPC your media storage server. If you're going to be serious about storing media, you can only really mean using RAID. Either way, every HD you add to your HTPC adds noise and heat, both of which are detrimental to a quiet PC (my first HTPC is what led me to this site, and made me a daily reader). What I'd suggest instead (and I haven't done this yet, but I will for HTPC 2.0) is having a seperate media server in another room, and connect it to your HTPC via gigabit ethernet. The main reason I haven't done this is because i don't have any gigabit anything, and don't have a storage server set up yet. But it's in the plans.

Anyways, that's all I can suggest. I'm using an old old PC case (stuffed out of sight) because I cannot stand any of the current HTPC case designs. But I do plan on getting one with a VFD when I finally find it.

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SPCR: Boldly covering the broad range between "quiet" and "silent".
As a result of finding this site, my computer isn't any quieter...but at least I'm much more aware of it.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2005 1:04 am 
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Posts: 70
I know what you mean. I'm recording more programs then I can ever get around to watching!

I did an MCE2005 build on a P4 2.2GHz + Abit TH7II-Raid (intel 850) + RAMBUS (512Mb). I found it to be too slow, but maybe that was more to do with either the cpu's bus speed (400MHz vs. today's 800MHz) or the RAM's bus speed (PC800 vs today's PC3200).

My intention is to keep this a 1 hard-drive HTPC, which is why I opted for the Samsung 250Gb. I would have thought that this would be plenty of space for media storage as well?

_________________
Rigs have bespoke AcoustiProducts dampening, Nexus fans, and Samsung/WD drives
MCE2005: Accent HT-400 + Asus P5W DH Deluxe + 6600 Core2Duo (XP-120) + 7600GT (Zalman VF900)
GAMES: Antec 3700BQE + Asus P5W DH Deluxe + 6600 Core2Duo (Scythe Ninja) + 7900GTO
NLE: Antec 3700BQE + Abit IC7-G + 3.2 Prescott (Scythe Ninja) + 9800pro (volt mod. artic cooler)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2005 8:23 am 
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Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2005 2:48 pm
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Location: When it gets unbearably hot...you're there.
kojak71 wrote:
My intention is to keep this a 1 hard-drive HTPC, which is why I opted for the Samsung 250Gb. I would have thought that this would be plenty of space for media storage as well?


:lol: HAHAHAAHAAHAHAHA :lol:

Oh, I'm sorry...you were probably serious. :) :wink:

Let's put it this way.....our first HTPC had an 80GB drive for OS and to store TV shows. That QUICKLY filled up with tv shows. So, I got a 160 GB drive that was on sale specifically for show storage, and replaced the 80 GB drive with a 40 GB drive just for the OS. Within a week, a 250 GB drive went on sale, and I was tempted...but I resisted. As of last night, I went in, added BACK the 80 GB drive as another show storage drive.

And here's the kicker. My wife and I really aren't avid TV show watchers. But that's mainly because when you sit down to watch TV, there's nothing but garbage on. The only shows we were planning to watch were Law and Order and The Simpsons. Once you can record things and watch at your leisure, you're suddenly willing to try all sorts of new shows. Now we're watching the new Battlestar Gallactica, Family Guy, and The Office (the American version, not the BBC). Add to that the kids shows (Barney, Cyberchase, Liberty Kids...) that my wife thought to record and other various shows, and the disk space goes fast. Prior to adding the 80 GB drive last night, we were once again out of space.

Besides TV shows, I only have about 4 ripped CD's stored on there, and 1 DVD ISO. So it's by no means a media storage device....it's almost completely for TV shows.

Now, I will say this: I'm using BeyondTV, not MCE, and I created a recording format that uses ~3 GB /hour. I think most other formats use less than that, so your disk space would go farther (and the difference in quality is open for debate). And also realize this....even at 3 GB/hour, that's over 50 hours of TV with only a 160 GB drive!! You would think that a full work-week of TV would be enough for most people...I sure thought it would be. But realize this too...skipping commercials saves you a LOT of time. With BeyondTV, it's a one button event, and I've skipped all the commercials. That's 3-5 minutes saved.

My thought is that 250 GB is a good start. And that should be good for your TV show recording, a fair amount of ripped CD's, and some DVD's even. But if you're talking storing all of your CD's and DVD ISO's, then I really think you're going to run out of room fast.

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SPCR: Boldly covering the broad range between "quiet" and "silent".
As a result of finding this site, my computer isn't any quieter...but at least I'm much more aware of it.


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 Post subject: note from moderator
PostPosted: Thu Jun 30, 2005 4:09 pm 
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Location: Maynard, MA, Eaarth
Hello:

I've moved this post to the User Review section, because of the thoroughness and obvious hard work that was put into it.

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http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/


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 Post subject: Update on specs
PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 8:32 am 
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Posts: 70
Still haven't finalised hardware choice, but I have now installed 4 digital tuners (Hauppauge NovaT PCI), and hacked the registry to get them to all work with MCE2005. You would be surprised how many times I've recorded 4 programs at the same time!

Bought an NEC 3540 drive, but I'm having some issues with the fascia fouling the drive opening in the front of the case. Currently working on a solution with the ever helpful people at QuietPC. It's either the fascia or the drive cage itself which is causing the problem.

On the whole, the system has been on 24/7 with no real issues for over a month. I've had far fewer problems with this unit when compared to my old Pace Twin tuner (which is a dedicated DVR set-top box). In fact the only real problem I've had is how quickly the hard-drive is getting full.

_________________
Rigs have bespoke AcoustiProducts dampening, Nexus fans, and Samsung/WD drives
MCE2005: Accent HT-400 + Asus P5W DH Deluxe + 6600 Core2Duo (XP-120) + 7600GT (Zalman VF900)
GAMES: Antec 3700BQE + Asus P5W DH Deluxe + 6600 Core2Duo (Scythe Ninja) + 7900GTO
NLE: Antec 3700BQE + Abit IC7-G + 3.2 Prescott (Scythe Ninja) + 9800pro (volt mod. artic cooler)


Last edited by kojak71 on Tue Jan 24, 2006 5:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2005 7:11 pm 
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Location: Erie, PA USA
kojak,

I've been using this case for about 9mths now as my HTPC, so my case is one of the older models -- I'm told that the newer models have improved the optical drive door (no longer "taped" on the drive tray). That's really my only real qualm with my case (well, that and the glass on the VFD is too dark), I have yet to find a tape that will hold up for the long haul -- the tray cover will always eventually tilt away from the tray -- making it no longer flush with the front panel.

It's one of the rare HTPC cases that accepts full size PSU's as well has 80mm exhaust fans (instead of the little 60mm jobs on most cases). Very easy to make the case quiet and now comes with a pre-cut acoustipack kit (did mine myself).

One last thing -- I wholeheartedly agree with sundevil -- use a seperate media server. Preferably RAID-5 with as many big HD's as you can fit on it.

My media server is in the basement, connected via gigalan and has 4 120gb HD's (big, for nine months ago). I'm constantly juggling space and am planning on upgrading to 300gb drives sometime this year (will give me close to a TB -- we'll see how long that lasts).

On the software side, I strongly recommend Meedio, along with a Winamp plugin, can play AAC files and control an ipod (bye bye iTunes). Keeps my large music collection (ripped 320bps), movies and photographs in line and the newest version also does "TIVO" (which I don't use, won't work with my cable box). They say it is also an x10 controller, but again, don't use that feature.

Finally, as someone else said, HTPC doesn't really need speed if you are hardware encoding video. Speed is only needed for games...


Dave


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2005 9:42 am 
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The door is still the same as before, it sticks onto the optical drive fascia. Whoever designed this system needs to be shot! The redesigned door you mentioned hasn't made it to market yet.

Unfortunately all DVB-t cards do not do hardware encoding, only software. This doesn't really tax the system anyway. The only time I notice the CPU being taxed, is when I'm transferring a recorded TV program onto DVD. I've got the official Sonic encoders, and it takes a horribly long time to do the process, because it insists on re-encoding the dvr-ms files. This is supposedly going to be fixed in a forthcoming MCE update.

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Rigs have bespoke AcoustiProducts dampening, Nexus fans, and Samsung/WD drives
MCE2005: Accent HT-400 + Asus P5W DH Deluxe + 6600 Core2Duo (XP-120) + 7600GT (Zalman VF900)
GAMES: Antec 3700BQE + Asus P5W DH Deluxe + 6600 Core2Duo (Scythe Ninja) + 7900GTO
NLE: Antec 3700BQE + Abit IC7-G + 3.2 Prescott (Scythe Ninja) + 9800pro (volt mod. artic cooler)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2005 5:40 pm 
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Sorry for bringing this off-topic, but you've piqued my interest.

kojak71 wrote:
Unfortunately all DVB-t cards do not do hardware encoding, only software. This doesn't really tax the system anyway.

??? I thought DVB-T was broadcast in Mpeg-2 and that all it did was capture the stream.

kojak71 wrote:
...it insists on re-encoding the dvr-ms files. This is supposedly going to be fixed in a forthcoming MCE update.

:shock: As in MCE will lighten up on the requirement to encode into dvr-ms or that Sonic will force a re-encode on already Mpeg'ed files? If it's the former, where'd ya hear that? That's GREAT news. If it's the latter, are you sure that Sonic isn't re-encoding the files due to DVB-T not necessarily being the same resolution as DVD?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2005 2:51 am 
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sthayashi wrote:
I thought DVB-T was broadcast in Mpeg-2 and that all it did was capture the stream.


Ah yes you are right, which would explain why DVB-T cards aren't hardware based.

sthayashi wrote:
As in MCE will lighten up on the requirement to encode into dvr-ms or that Sonic will force a re-encode on already Mpeg'ed files? If it's the former, where'd ya hear that? That's GREAT news. If it's the latter, are you sure that Sonic isn't re-encoding the files due to DVB-T not necessarily being the same resolution as DVD?


DVR-MS is just a mpeg-2 file with a metadata wrapper. Rather than stripping this wrapper out (which would be very quick) the Sonic encoder re-encodes the file frame by frame (which is why it takes so long). The MCE update I'm referring to is known as 'Emerald' including a whole host of updates. Although there hasn't been an official announcement as to what's going to be included in this release, it's widely rumoured that the Sonic encoder will be updated to skip "unneccessary" processes. DVB-T radio will also be included in this update.

_________________
Rigs have bespoke AcoustiProducts dampening, Nexus fans, and Samsung/WD drives
MCE2005: Accent HT-400 + Asus P5W DH Deluxe + 6600 Core2Duo (XP-120) + 7600GT (Zalman VF900)
GAMES: Antec 3700BQE + Asus P5W DH Deluxe + 6600 Core2Duo (Scythe Ninja) + 7900GTO
NLE: Antec 3700BQE + Abit IC7-G + 3.2 Prescott (Scythe Ninja) + 9800pro (volt mod. artic cooler)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2005 7:02 pm 
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kojak71 wrote:
sthayashi wrote:
As in MCE will lighten up on the requirement to encode into dvr-ms or that Sonic will force a re-encode on already Mpeg'ed files? If it's the former, where'd ya hear that? That's GREAT news. If it's the latter, are you sure that Sonic isn't re-encoding the files due to DVB-T not necessarily being the same resolution as DVD?


DVR-MS is just a mpeg-2 file with a metadata wrapper. Rather than stripping this wrapper out (which would be very quick) the Sonic encoder re-encodes the file frame by frame (which is why it takes so long). The MCE update I'm referring to is known as 'Emerald' including a whole host of updates. Although there hasn't been an official announcement as to what's going to be included in this release, it's widely rumoured that the Sonic encoder will be updated to skip "unneccessary" processes. DVB-T radio will also be included in this update.

I'm longing for a day when I can use MCE's interface and at the same time compress shows for space savings, currently I've had problems with every 'tool' that can do these compressions and most of them are hacks anyway.

I'm not quite sure how Sonic can turn a DVR-MS into a DVD file, since I had thought that DVB-T can be 1280x720, 1920x1080 or occasionally 640x480. Since the first two are not DVD resolutions, a recompression is necessary in order to scale it to DVD resolutions.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Aug 21, 2005 1:00 am 
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sthayashi wrote:
I'm not quite sure how Sonic can turn a DVR-MS into a DVD file, since I had thought that DVB-T can be 1280x720, 1920x1080 or occasionally 640x480. Since the first two are not DVD resolutions, a recompression is necessary in order to scale it to DVD resolutions.


In the UK, DVB-t is only used to broadcast standard def. pictures. to a maximum of 720x576, so no need to downscale as it's already DVD friendly.

_________________
Rigs have bespoke AcoustiProducts dampening, Nexus fans, and Samsung/WD drives
MCE2005: Accent HT-400 + Asus P5W DH Deluxe + 6600 Core2Duo (XP-120) + 7600GT (Zalman VF900)
GAMES: Antec 3700BQE + Asus P5W DH Deluxe + 6600 Core2Duo (Scythe Ninja) + 7900GTO
NLE: Antec 3700BQE + Abit IC7-G + 3.2 Prescott (Scythe Ninja) + 9800pro (volt mod. artic cooler)


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 Post subject: Semi-finalised hardware choice
PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2005 7:56 am 
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A couple of months ago I rebuilt the PC using the Asus P4C800 E Deluxe along with a Northwoord P4 2.8GHz. Although the motherboard chipset remains the same, the Asus version of the i875 chipset has proved to be more stable. It also gives me the option to switch to the Pentium-M with Asus's adaptor.

Other changes I made, was to switch over to having the OS installed on a Samsung 40Gb 2.5" drive, and have a Raid0 array (made up of 2 Samsung Spinpoint 250Gb SATA drives) for my TV recordings. The Raid0 disks are housed in the drive cage adjacent to the central drive cage. There are no inlent vents underneath this drive cage, and I think that this is the major reason why these drives are now running at 46-48C.

Noise wise, as there are more hard-drives in my system, seek noise is evident, but drowned out by by the speaker system even at very modest volumes. The PSU fan ramps occassionally now and again, although when it does it isn't too intrusive and it's only for a short while.

I can't believe that even with almost 500Gb available, just how quickly it fills up with TV recordings, and how many times I'm recording 4 channels simultaneously. I might end putting some vent holes underneath the Raid0 drive cage, or I might switch to using eSATA external drives.

_________________
Rigs have bespoke AcoustiProducts dampening, Nexus fans, and Samsung/WD drives
MCE2005: Accent HT-400 + Asus P5W DH Deluxe + 6600 Core2Duo (XP-120) + 7600GT (Zalman VF900)
GAMES: Antec 3700BQE + Asus P5W DH Deluxe + 6600 Core2Duo (Scythe Ninja) + 7900GTO
NLE: Antec 3700BQE + Abit IC7-G + 3.2 Prescott (Scythe Ninja) + 9800pro (volt mod. artic cooler)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2005 7:10 pm 
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If anyone is interested in the build cost, at todays prices my setup would cost under £1500. If I had a more pared down setup (i.e. 1 tuner + 1 hard-drive) it would be under £1250. Further savings could be made by not choosing best of breed components (e.g. Seasonic PSU).

This final total may rise if I decide to switch to using a Pentium-M + Asus adaptor, and/or if I switch to buying ECC RAM. My only hesitation in not doing this now is that I'm wary of spending any more money on a motherboard platform that is no longer in production, i.e. Socket 478 + DDR + AGP. This platform was chosen quite deliberately because the alternative (Socket 775 + DDR2 + PCIe) meant having to switch from Northwood to Prescott CPUs. Another problem with the new platform is that with the transition to PCIe slots, you tend to only get 2 PCI slots on these boards. For most people that's not going to be an issue as they'll only want a maximum of 2 tuners. However with my multi-tuner requirements I need 4 PCI slots just to house the digital TV tuner cards. Some manufacturers have announced their intention to make dual digital tuner cards, so if that were to happen it would be one obstacle removed for me.

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Rigs have bespoke AcoustiProducts dampening, Nexus fans, and Samsung/WD drives
MCE2005: Accent HT-400 + Asus P5W DH Deluxe + 6600 Core2Duo (XP-120) + 7600GT (Zalman VF900)
GAMES: Antec 3700BQE + Asus P5W DH Deluxe + 6600 Core2Duo (Scythe Ninja) + 7900GTO
NLE: Antec 3700BQE + Abit IC7-G + 3.2 Prescott (Scythe Ninja) + 9800pro (volt mod. artic cooler)


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 26, 2006 3:17 pm 
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Joined: Tue Feb 24, 2004 6:29 am
Posts: 70
Here are some pictures of the HTPC build.

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Looks fairly bare, for the moment! The acoustipack foam was installed before putting in the motherboard. You'll also note that the exhaust fan was installed on the outside of the case.



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With the heatsink & fan in place, things are starting to look a little tight. Note that the fan is blowing up, rather than down.



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Doesn't look like it, but the CPU heatpipes are not touching the northbridge cooler, but it's close.



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On this particular motherboard (Asus P4C800e Deluxe), there's just enough clearance between the cooler and the PSU.



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With the DVD writer, passive graphics card and tuners (count 4 of them!) installed, things are taking shape. The big problem is going to be cabling, the PSU has a fair amount of wiring that's superfluous in this build.



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That's a bit better. The hard-drives on the right are seated in a cradle with enough room underneath to hide the PSU cables. As their aren't any ventilation holes were the bunched up cables reside, there's not going to be any airflow issues.


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As you can see, the way that the fins of the heatsink are facing along with it's fan obstruct almost 80% of the PSU's fan swept area. It's a good thing I did mount the exhaust fan on the outside of the case otherwise PSU fan would have been almost totally obstructed.

There are several ways I think that this case could have been improved upon:

1. Although it's supposed to allow you to use normal sized components, it's not large enough to accomodate class leading components. It could have done with being larger still, certainly heightwise. With an extra centimetre, it would have allowed me to use other coolers (Zalman 9500, Ninja, SI-120, etc.).
2. The case cover should have come with the option of a vent over the CPU. It would have suited my particular cooler setup perfectly (XP120 with the fan blowing "up").
3. The case's airflow is mostly limited to the inlet vents on the sides of the top cover. There are a couple of problems with this. Firstly airflow from the left side will be hindered as soon as you install a PCI card. The other problem is that as this case is the standard width for AV equipment, most TV cabinets tend to allow have 1cm clearance on each side of the case. In my view airflow could be better improved in a couple of ways. If you see in the first picture, you can just about make out some inlet air slots under the central drive cage. In my view they should extend these to whole width of the case. They also missed a trick with the front of the case. Had they designed a floating fascia airflow would be greatly improved.
4. To the right of the case you have the main hard-drive cage (fits two 3.5" drives). As there aren't any ventilation slots (as discussed in point 3), the temperatures I've noticed lead me to believe that there's a lot of dead air. As the drives are horizontal, heat from the bottom drives ends up warming the top drive. It would have been better if the cage was designed to allow the drives to be mounted vertically.
6. DVD Drive fascia. I've said it before and I'll say it again, stick on DVD fascia's are awful, but whoever designed the one for this case should be shot as it's not even universal, i.e. it will only fit a few drives (only the NEC drives are the ones I know of that fit). They should take a leaf out of SFF design, use a case sprung DVD front panel.

Despite my criticisms, the system manages to do what I set out for it to do, and that's to have a media centre system which is silent. The PSU and CPU fan hardly ramp up at all (the CPU fan is now controlled automatically by Speedfan). I'm not sure if I would choose this case again (a lot of my ideas seems to have been incorporated into the Zalman HD160), but for now it will do. I don't think that I could have achieved a silent media centre system if I had a Prescott or dual-core CPU, but I'm waiting for conroe to be released before jumping on that bandwagon.

If you do plan to get ahead with a build in an HTPC case, a word to the wise, plan your build carefully as access is incredibly fiddly. E.g. removing the hard-drive from the central cage, requires the removal of both the heatsink (to slide in/out the drive) and the auxiliary drive cage (to get access to the hard-drive mounting screws).

_________________
Rigs have bespoke AcoustiProducts dampening, Nexus fans, and Samsung/WD drives
MCE2005: Accent HT-400 + Asus P5W DH Deluxe + 6600 Core2Duo (XP-120) + 7600GT (Zalman VF900)
GAMES: Antec 3700BQE + Asus P5W DH Deluxe + 6600 Core2Duo (Scythe Ninja) + 7900GTO
NLE: Antec 3700BQE + Abit IC7-G + 3.2 Prescott (Scythe Ninja) + 9800pro (volt mod. artic cooler)


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