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Need advice on my proposed HTPC build
Posted: Sun Apr 20, 2008 4:20 pm
This is my first HTPC compact build, so any advice you guys can give me would be great. I have been looking at a few posts to try and come up with a build that I will be happy with, but there are heaps of things to consider.
My HTPC will be connected to my Yamaha A/V receiver, and my A/V receiver will be connected to my HD TV and my speakers. The main uses for my HTPC will be -
Record HD TV from Foxtel and FTA TV
Play Blu-Ray/DVD movies
Play music/video files (mp3, flac, divx, xvid, etc)
Play games (games will be played at 1024x720)
I want it to be quiet but am willing to sacrifice a bit more noise for performance if I need to. The proposed specs are -
Case: Antec NSK2480
PSU: EarthWatts 380 Watt power supply (comes with case)
MB: Gigabyte GA-G33M-DS2R
CPU: Intel E8200
CPU Heat Sink: Scythe Ninja Mini
RAM: Kingston 1GB DDR2 667 PC5300 x 2 (total 2GB)
VC: Passive cooled 9600GT 512MB (not sure what brand I should go, ECS?)
HD: WD 500GB 7200RPM Caviar SE16
Optical Drive: Pioneer BDC-SO2BK
Some questions I have is -
Will this system be capable to do what I want?
Will it be too hot? Can I make any mods that will cool it down if I need to?
What TV Tuner should I use?
What brand VC should I use? I've read the passive cooled ECS is good.
Will I be able to install an IR receiver so I can power on the HTPC via a remote control?
Any help you can give me will be much appreciated.
Posted: Sun Apr 20, 2008 11:20 pm
I have this case with similar components, bought late last year. You should be able to perform all the tasks you mentioned. Using an older processor (E6550) and graphics card (8600GTS), I can play most modern games at 1920x1200 (Crysis not included due to the graphics card being too weak) without any heat issues. Other things (including HD movie playback) are no problem at all. Given that the 9600GT is twice as fast as the 8600GTS, and the resolution you plan much smaller, it should be a good gaming rig.
You need to have the right side of the case free or ducted, so that hot air can escape through the vents, and away from the case. Fresh air has to come in from all other sides (and I mean all â€” the intakes are important for various components). Cramped spaces will give you trouble.
Make sure you buy expansion cards with the right connectors â€” there are only so many expansion slots on mATX boards.
If you feel like you need a remote, I'd recommend the Antec Fusion Case, which has the same layout, and a remote included. Also, it has a thick aluminum front for better sound dampening, and better looks. You could just buy a wireless keyboard with multimedia buttons, but those are often unable of turning the PC on.
The graphics card heatsink has to be small enough to fit the case, so models with Accelero S2 are out of the question. Even the S1 might be a problem in this case. Personally, I'd go with the passive Gigabyte model, since it has a small heatsink (many fins, though, so it should dissipate heat well). As long as the upper air intake is free, you need not worry about graphics card heat. My 8600GTS (passive, also from Gigabyte) stays under 60 C under load in this case, which is much lover than cards with reference coolers.
If you will sit near the system when it is operating, you will need sound dampening. Meaning, a fan swap in the power supply, as well as different fans for pulling air out of the system, set to low speeds (600-700 rpm at idle, 1000-1200 under load). The ones Antec provides are not that quiet, even at low speeds. If you plan overclocking, you'll probably need 1000 rpm at all times because of CPU heat. Also, I'd recommend putting some dampening material on the walls of the hard disk cage, and making sure the hard disk is well suspended. The second part is easy: Just don't screw the disk on too tightly, and vibrations won't be a problem.
Posted: Mon Apr 21, 2008 6:01 pm
Thanks for the advice Modo
I think I will build it without swapping the PSU or case fans at first, and then if I find it too loud then I will replace the fans.
Any suggestion as too which type of fans I should use to replace the stock ones?
Also since I will only be playing games at a maximum resolution of 1366x768 (max resolution of my HD TV), do you think that the 9600GT 512MB video card is overkill? If so what are some other alternatives?
Posted: Mon Apr 21, 2008 7:42 pm
Looks good! The G33M-DS2R is a great board - very stable, well spec'ed and flexible. The only negative thing I can say about it is that it only has 2 fan headers (both are SpeedFan controllable), so if you want to control the CPU and case fans with SpeedFan, you'll need to buy or make a splitter cable. I've done this with mine - running 2 case fans (Scythe Slipstream 800's), SpeedFan controlled from 1 header, and the CPU fan on the 2nd header.
A few thoughts:
I don't recommend the WD 500GB Caviar SE16 - it's not a quiet drive IMO. I have one in my HTPC and while seeks are muted with AAM on, the motor noise is too loud. It also runs rather hot. I've regretted buying it, and plan to toss it and replace with a 1Tb GP soon. I've also found 500Gb is too small for HTPC usage. The GP's are a little slower but will be quieter/cooler/consume less power than the 7200rpm models.
For the CPU, another option is the E7200 due out in a couple of weeks. Will be cheaper and very close in performance to the E8200. Otherwise, if you want more grunt, maybe look at the E8400. Seems like overkill though unless you plan to do a lot of transcoding - in which case a quad like the Q9300 is a better choice. Also depends if you're planning to overclock.
Video card - have you considered the HD3850? Arguably better suited for a HTPC - lower power consumption at idle so it will run cooler when not gaming which I'm guessing will be a lot of the time, and it will still perform well. The video card is going to be the hottest and highest power consuming component in your system, so consider that choice carefully.
For case fans, the Scythe Slipstream 800rpm's are excellent - run them at ~500rpm for silence and setup SpeedFan to ramp them up on load if temp's get too high.
For IR receiver/remote, I use the the standard MS one and it does the job. Inexpensive, works well and has a button to turn the PC on/off remotely. You can always start with this and if you're not happy with it, replace it later on.
For the tuner, are you wanting to record both digital free-to-air and Foxtel analogue? I think there are still issues with using both digital and analogue tuners with Vista Media Center if that's what you'll be using. So you might want to research this and see if there are workarounds - a good resource is http://www.xpmediacentre.com.au
Check out http://www.digitalnow.com.au
for tuners cards with good local support. I currently use their TinyTwin USB dual HD tuner - it works flawlessly, but it's digital only so it won't handle Foxtel.
Posted: Mon Apr 21, 2008 10:18 pm
I believe the two fan connectors won't be a problem. With a dedicated case fan pulling air directly through it, the Ninja Mini should be perfectly capable of cooling any mid-range CPU without any additional fans. I use the Thermalright SI-128 SE, which has similar cooling capabilities, and doesn't require a fan in this configuration (even with the slightly hotter processor).
The graphics card seems like overkill, but it will last you longer without any need for upgrades. Games' technology moves fast, and I'd take that into consideration. Since passive solutions are available, you need not worry about noise.
Posted: Tue Apr 22, 2008 9:45 pm
Thanks AndrewD. Good point about the hard drive, I think 500GB might not be enough now that I think about it and I didn't know that the SE16 wasn't quiet. re the video card, I think modo has a good point about future proofing, Iâ€™ll probably stick with the 9600GT
I checked out xpmediacentre.com.au, it's got some really good info that will come in handy for me, I haven't had a chance to check out digitalnow.com.au but I will do soon.
I think being able to record from cable TV will be a little tricky..... I want to record from foxtel via the composite cable coming from the foxtel box. I would like my HTPC to be able to control my foxtel box (power on, change channel, etc) but that seems too much hassle to get it working well, so I'm happy to do manual recording (manually power on foxtel box and change channel). I have to research this a bit more, xpmediacentre.com.au looks like it has heaps of info on this.