HTPC, anyone ... anyone ?

Posted by: Mrkim [x] - (71.96.144.---)
Date: March 17, 2009 02:41AM
I've decided to undertake buildin a cuppla HTPC boxes and probe the local market for sales of these. Anyone here currently have one they've either bought or built and if so, is there anything you wish yours did better than it currently does or a feature you would prefer it has, but doesn't? Market research stuff yakno?

I've bought a cuppla cases and some hardware but haven't decided on the CPU I wanna use just yet. As with everything I've built good (quiet) cooling and overall neatness within the case will be forefront but overall performance and functionality is key too.

At least one of 'em will be a Linux machine. Big surprise eh grinning smiley
Posted by: fossil_digger [x] - (76.185.240.---)
Date: March 17, 2009 03:11AM
hot tall Puerto Rican chicks


hot tight Puerto Rican chicks! yeah!

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 17/03/2009 03:13AM by fossil_digger.
Posted by: pulse [x] - (Moderator)
Date: March 17, 2009 03:47AM
Fossil's been sniffing the happy glue again.

I've never used a HTPC, but at home have the following setup

Modchipped xbox1, connected to amp (Rotel RSX1056, Polk Audio RTi10 speakers), outputting to TV (Pioneer PDP-436HD), streaming media from my Thecus N5200B Pro NAS (5x1TB, RAID5 yay)

You need all the functions that XBMC delivers. Rock solid performance, massive codec support, it does everything.


It's available for Xbox, Linux, Windows, Mac OSX and AppleTV.

If the Xbox 1 could handle high definition (720P/1080i/1080P) then this would be an absolutely flawless setup. As it can't, I'm on the lookout for a suitable replacement.. so anything you find I'd be interested in.

Edit: My requirements for a HTPC would be: Small form factor (can fit in my entertainment unit), lower power, low heat, low noise. I'd love to use something like the Asus eeeBox as it ticks all the boxes, except it can only handle up to 720P output before the CPU starts churning (that's the Atom CPU for you). Something similar though which could output full 1080P though .... and I'd be set.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 17/03/2009 03:52AM by pulse.
Posted by: DarkKlown [x] - (Moderator)
Date: March 17, 2009 04:27AM
I used to have the same kinda setup as pulse (xbox) and i recently purchased a hd200 from sagetv. The hardware is fantastic with only a few problems.

1) The software seems kinda under developed. Things like scrapers aren't present and if you want that kinda functionality you need to use the sagetv server software (i'm using the hd200 in standalone mode streaming video from an attached 1tb usb drive and my main server which has a few tb).
2) If it isn't a standard it wont play. Downloading 1080p mkv movies has been hit and miss. A lot of the content seems to have been encoded for HTPC's that have a decent CPU in them so decoding badly encoded video isn't a problem, things like having the too many ref-frames (for a normal 1080p video in mkv format 1-2 is what you should have, a lot of stuff has up to 8-10 -- allowed 12 in the spec but that's for video that's like 3096x2048) - this is all rather disappointing seems movies can come in at the 18G mark and i only have 150G allowance download a month. Also for those unaware is takes FOREVER to encode a HD-Movie if it's encoded incorrectly. I tried doing a single pass on a movie the other day and gave up after 3-4 days when it was only at 60% - excuse for a quad core i7 yo yo!
3) no .srt support.. i watch a lot of non-english films (and i only speak english) so having to encode the subtitle into the video is a bit of a pain.
4) no open codec support.. All though you can download the firmware image and make changes to the UI etc i'm unsure if you can extend the codec support easily.. things like .ogm movies i've converted into avi/mkv/mpg.

That all said having hdmi output and the videos that are encoded properly playing perfectly is very nice. A lot of the stuff i download nowadays is only 720p and anything in that size plays perfectly.

Oh and i've also heard good things about popcorn hour but i don't own one so your own research is advised.

This all said if i had the money and the time building a HTPC that could play 1080p and was silent and could run xbmc (linux) would definitely be the way forward.
Posted by: pulse [x] - (Moderator)
Date: March 17, 2009 05:04AM
I was just about to mention that.. literally 10 mins ago had a conversation with a guy at work, he's just bought a Popcorn Hour A-110 and loves it.

I'm not sure if it addresses the issues you've mentioned though.

This is my problem with these 'media centre in a box' products -- ALL of them are lacking something. Why can't somebody just release a small unit which runs XBMC, in a small, quiet case?

It'd be _perfect_.
Posted by: pulse [x] - (Moderator)
Date: March 17, 2009 05:30AM
This looks pretty flash too []

Don't know prices for it though.

Edit: Prices aren't bad, about $530 AUD (about $380 for you US peoples) + $170 for dual HD TV tuners.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 17/03/2009 05:32AM by pulse.
Posted by: ORLANDO399 [x] - (Moderator)
Date: March 17, 2009 06:14AM
English please eye rolling smiley
Posted by: Mrkim [x] - (71.96.144.---)
Date: March 17, 2009 12:56PM
^^^^^ Just go back to sleep 'lando, it'll be ok ^^^^^^

Thanks for the links guys, I'm compiling a database of links, PDFs, software and plan to do some test-box R&D once I get the 1st one built. I picked up a copy of Vistas Media Center yesterdee with a nice Antec HTPC case I picked up. I also plan on seeing how far myth will go towards a reasonable platform build in linux too.

'Bout decided they're gonna be quad core machines. i7 would be nice but the total system hardware costs would be steep! They'll each have at least 4gigs RAM if not 8.

I have 8gigs (4X2) dual channel DDR2 800mhz on the way for my home machine to replace the 4X1gigs I have now smiling bouncing smiley
Posted by: quasi [x] - (208.78.130.---)
Date: March 17, 2009 04:32PM
Posted by: DarkKlown [x] - (Moderator)
Date: March 18, 2009 08:09AM
xmbc is seriously the best piece of media center software around.. (vista media center? lol) it has a quick dev cycle and supports everything and then some.. lots of cool scrapers etc.. if your going to build custom hardware it's a hands down winner (you'd HAVE to run linux on something like that)... that all said 8G seems like total overkill for a pure htpc.. 4G would be TONS.. if not 1-2.. also i'd suggest trying to seperate your media into either a nas or another computer in another room purely for heat/cooling if not sound.. and make sure it does hdmi..
Posted by: Mrkim [x] - (71.96.144.---)
Date: March 18, 2009 11:58AM
I DLed XMBC so I can play with it and thanks again for the link and other input guys.

8ghz of RAM is absolutely overkill for damn near anything really but it also works well as a marketing tool when presenting a new product to market, with a double bonus these days of such an outrageous memory capacity actually bein cheap since I can pick it up for under $100.

One of the major issues I see in putting these together is spacial concerns of the case combined of course with the aesthetics of a nice looking and overall quiet unit. Passive cooling as opposed to positive ventilation and cooling keeps things quiet but with quad-cores inherently hot by themselves, then using a top notch video card or maybe even 2 linked in SLI mode, combined with a HD of any type, passive cooling alone seems foolhardy relative to hardware longevity.

I plan to have HDMI, VGA and DVI, 4-6 USB 2.0 ports and an E-SATA port, along with a multi card reader available as inputs/outputs to suit whatever requirements a user might have, whether they ever use them or not.

Honestly, a reasonable list of specs for such a unit would seem to necessitate nothing more than a good Micro ATX MoBo, quad core processor, 2 Ghz RAM, a sweet video card with the proper outputs, DVD-R drive, 500 watt or so power supply with decent cooling/ventilation and a 30gig (a new solid state card/HD would be perfect here for the lack of heat + the nice seek speed advantage) or so HD coupled with a nice software suite to control it all, then topped off with the most efficient and quiet case ventilation overall scheme given the spacial/Db constraints of the case used.

However, when tryin to draw attention to a product for marketing purposes overkill in areas that are truly inconsequential as in the use of large quantities of RAM, 500 gig HDs and then a fully functional stand alone working computer are attractive to many people, and of course adds in serious headaches in getting such a system put together and keep it all cool and quiet. With this in mind along with most consumers fear of using a Linux OS it means the largest segment of the potential market for such a product would then need to be run on a MS based OS, which to my mind BLOWS MONKEY CHUNKS!

In reality a fully locked down simple machine with no additional functionality as anything but an HTPC machine would get the job done but wouldn't appeal to many peoples ideas of what such a system should be .... which is where the headaches really start kickin in eye popping smiley

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 18/03/2009 02:20PM by Mrkim.
Posted by: fossil_digger [x] - (76.185.240.---)
Date: March 18, 2009 03:12PM
i guess the Puerto Rican chicks are out. sad smiley
Posted by: DarkKlown [x] - (Moderator)
Date: March 20, 2009 01:04AM
If you locked the system down to be a purely htpc you'd have enough interest that you'd be able to generate a steady income from sales. At a later date you may think about expanding the system to be more extensible, but for now.. KISS..

Your biggest hurdle on a system like this is going to be price. Try and find a motherboard that has everything possible onboard. The more cards etc you have the more space you'll need. The things doesn't NEED a super duper graphics card. The faster the card the more expensive it's going to be and the more noise it's going to make. SLI would totally be out of the ballpark.

Also 30G solid state drive? Why.. a hundred meg would all u'd need for a linux kernel, basic X, and xbmc.. again you'll cut back on cost/size and noise/heat..

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 20/03/2009 01:05AM by DarkKlown.
Posted by: Mrkim [x] - (71.96.144.---)
Date: April 01, 2009 01:24PM
So far I have a basic hardware outline for an HTPC rig with a sweet Gigabyte MoBo with VGA,DVI, S-video, HDMI and audio outputs, 2ghz worth of dual channel RAM, a dual TV tuner card w/FM tuner included, all in one card reader with E-SATA port to easily allow data importing, DVD-R drive, a base-line HD capacity of 160gig, 500watt minimum PS and I'm going to attempt running the system on an Intel E8500 Core 2 Duo chip. The E8500 is a 3.16ghz chip and with the MoBo should be overclockable to about 3.8ghz without incurring a lot of additional heat. Not sure yet if this processor will be able to handle the demands of watching and recording video simultaneously, if not, then problee have to switch to a quad core. All units will also come with a supplied surge protector.

The intent of such a build is to enable hook up to game system/camcorder/cable/satellite/antenna/another PC or a data storage bank as input sources for audio/video while also having the onboard capacity of storing data/audio/video, allow importing/displaying of camera card files and anything else one cares to import via a card and enable dual channel simultaneous play/recording of video, output audio and video to a monitor or TV, both old school models as well as the newer generation plasmas and LCDs, then also enable audio output to a receiver/amp or whatever other externally amplified audio source one might choose. As an audiophile myself I would NEVER expect the output of a set of cheezy speakers even the best TVs use as a viable audio output source, nor do I expect most of the intended consumer market for such a product to do so either.

The base system offering will be a locked down box run from a fairly simple remote control.

I've spent untold hours scouring the net for CPUs and coolers/TV tuners/PSs/MoBos/HDs/card readers/fans/isolators/cables/foam and all the other hardware bits required to assemble these and they'll come with sweet touches like isolator/dampers for all the fans, HDs, video drives and the PS, have sound deadening foam applied to the case interiors, modified cooling systems and hardware placement inside the cases with cabling/routing tailored to allow the most beneficial component cooling with a focus on a quiet overall system. Most if not all original case/CPU and all other standard issue fans discarded in favor of more efficient and quieter offerings available. I have fallen in love with Arctic Cooling fans!

I have a cuppla variations of HTPC cases to start from as well as a few nice mid tower PC cases to play with and have developed a test bed table-top layout for individual hardware testing prior to system assembly. No fun in putting together a system only to find failures in the hardware afterwards and unfortunately DOAs are still a part of new components without even mentioning in-bound shipping damages to components (another topic all in itself)!

Later/higher end iterations will include options like Blu-Ray players,1+TB onboard data storage with the ability to synch up to a larger external data bank, massive video card capability to allow high end gaming capabilities, wireless cards to enable linking to a LAN and the functionality of a full on stand alone computer system complete with either a Linux or Windows OS.

Lotsa bugs to sort out, but that's 1/2 the fun, right?

I'm also simultaneously workin on a gamer rig platform and wow these really have some outrageous(aka ex$pensive) hardware requirements! High end Intel quad core CPUs (trying to avert going to an i7 platform just yet), dual and tri-SLI 1gb video card set-ups, 1000watt or larger PSs, high end MoBos ($300+), with card readers/E-SATA, extremely modified air cooling and even watercooling systems used in combination for the CPU and GPUs cooling incorporated into LAN-box and mid/full tower cases.

I'm playin with all sorts of ideas for new developments in water cooling/air cooling and incorporating TECs and would also like to build my own surge suppressors and incorporate them into all these systems internally (pre-PS), but there are only so many hours in a day and so many ways I can stretch myself at once, but hey, it keeps me off the streets at night, so smileys with beer
Posted by: woberto [x] - (144.136.97.---)
Date: October 23, 2011 07:02AM
Wow this seems really old now...
Posted by: pulse [x] - (Moderator)
Date: October 25, 2011 11:42AM
I was reading my 'media' setup above and thinking of how out of date that is

I've now got an ASUS EB1501 running XBMC/Linux as my streamer, connected to the same TV but now with a Denon AVR4311 replacing the Rotel amp.

The XBOX is in a box in the cupboard (though I might drag it out, I had a pretty cool MAME setup & shitloads of games on it).

Oh and I upgraded my NAS from 5 x 1TB to 5 x 2TB. Then filled it and bought a HP Microserver and put an additional 4 x 3TB disks in it smiling smiley

My how things change in 2 years. In the same 2 year span I've also bought, built, used and about to decommission my desktop PC and replace it with a shiny sandy bridge-e based system when they're released mid-november. Oh and replaced my 19" Samsung LCD with a 27" Dell U2711 (which is just fucking awesome). And my GTX260 with a GTX580 graphics card. And a 256GB crucial M4 SSD.

Times, they are a-changin'

No wonder I haven't got any money. I've gotta dig out some receipts and do my taxes smiling smiley
Posted by: quasi [x] - (208.78.130.---)
Date: October 25, 2011 04:11PM
You guys buy & build new equipment the way chicks buy shoes & clothes.
I was just watching an episode of the original "Hawaii Five-0". You should see the computers they've got. Their clothes are way out of style,too........but it's still a good show. PUNCH CARDS RULE!

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 25/10/2011 04:24PM by quasi.
Posted by: pulse [x] - (Moderator)
Date: October 25, 2011 08:47PM
Yeah, but computers are way cooler than shoes eye rolling smiley
Posted by: quasi [x] - (208.78.130.---)
Date: October 25, 2011 10:44PM
Yeah, but did you ever try to walk with a couple of them on your feet?
Posted by: woberto [x] - (49.178.246.---)
Date: October 26, 2011 04:56AM
Quasi, those of us born around 1970ish are a generation that don't know hardship.
Byt if we make it to your age, we might then realise that you can't wear computer hardware for shoes.
Posted by: pulse [x] - (Moderator)
Date: October 26, 2011 09:24AM
And possibly if you're dumb enough to try perhaps you don't deserve footwear?

Besides, quasi - you ever tried to walk in high heels? I'd rather a computer on my feet!
Posted by: fossil_digger [x] - (76.185.188.---)
Date: October 26, 2011 02:14PM
i don't even wanna know the reason why you have walked in high heels. clown
Posted by: pro_junior [x] - (Moderator)
Date: October 26, 2011 05:37PM
this was taken later on in the night, after he changed shoes...but you get the idea.
Posted by: pulse [x] - (Moderator)
Date: November 30, 2011 02:31AM
pulse Wrote:

> My how things change in 2 years. In the same 2
> year span I've also bought, built, used and about
> to decommission my desktop PC and replace it with
> a shiny sandy bridge-e based system when they're
> released mid-november. Oh and replaced my 19"
> Samsung LCD with a 27" Dell U2711 (which is just
> fucking awesome). And my GTX260 with a GTX580
> graphics card. And a 256GB crucial M4 SSD.

So that's now complete smiling smiley

Core i7 3930K (6 core, 12 thread monster, watercooled), Asus P9X79 Deluxe (Socket 2011) motherboard, 16G ram, now running 2 x MSI GTX580 Lightning in SLI, 256GB SSD, and all the trimmings. Built a new PC yesterday from the ground up, only 2 bits I recycled were the SSD and one of the 2 graphics cards (since it's still basically top of the line).

Battlefield 3 looks awesome smiling smiley

Also my cabling on this one is marginally neater.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 30/11/2011 09:54AM by pulse.
Posted by: woberto [x] - (144.136.97.---)
Date: November 30, 2011 08:03AM
Is that your other "cabling" job to the right of frame?
Cat5 squished against the wall...
Posted by: pulse [x] - (Moderator)
Date: November 30, 2011 09:53AM
Just in frame is a Sun Ultra 20, and yes there's a little cat 5 behind it. That runs from the router down to the switch. You don't want to see my desk.......
Posted by: woberto [x] - (144.136.97.---)
Date: November 30, 2011 10:41AM
I recycled a Sun sparc5 last year. Maybe I should have kept it for nostalgia but it took up too much space.
Posted by: Mrkim [x] - (71.164.244.---)
Date: December 04, 2011 04:37AM
Curious pulse, were you runnin air cooled before so you have comparisons for the new water coolings effectiveness over straight air cooled?

When I looked into WC a while back I wasn't impressed with the results and how the systems were designed. Aluminum or copper tubing with flexible connectors would be much more efficient as the tubing itself then becomes a heat transfer media.

I bought a small radiator about 8X12" X 3" thick with a mounting base and fan shroud made for a 7" fan with the intention of buyin 3 water blocks and connecting all 3 machines on my main rack to it but never found one of those oh-so-important round to its.

I need a new pic or 2 of my server since I rebuilt it recently. It used to look alot like yours inside, much cleaner now clown

BTW, if that machine ever showed up here I might hafta work a vanishing act on it (matrix)

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/12/2011 04:38AM by Mrkim.
Posted by: woberto [x] - (144.136.97.---)
Date: December 04, 2011 04:47AM
How much money have you got Kim?
Read this about google
Or watch thison you-boob
Posted by: pulse [x] - (Moderator)
Date: December 04, 2011 05:24AM
Hey Kim,

I don't have 1:1 comparison on this machine since it was new from the ground up. What I can tell you is the monster power hungry, overclocked i7 3930K tops out around 48-50C running 12 threads of Prime 95 @4.2GHz. The water cooler in question isn't a custom rig, it's a Corsair H100.

My air cooled core i7 860 (also overclocked, cooled by Noctua NH-D14, basically top air cooler) running 8 threads of prime 95 @3.5GHz topped out at 85-90C.

So yes, there's definitely an improvement. There's another difference though; I've set the H100 to pull cool air from outside the case through the radiator and exhaust into the case - the NH-D14 blows hot air over the CPU from inside the case (and right behind one of the GTX580's) which is then exhausted out.

I couldn't say categorically what the difference is, as they're different CPU architectures, different cases, improved cabling for airflow etc - but the H100 seems massively more efficient in my experience. I'm very happy with it.
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