New to HTPC - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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post #1 of 5 Old 02-13-07, 09:23 AM Thread Starter
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New to HTPC

I have two older PCs around. What are the minimum requirements for hardware? What are some user friendly softwares to store and serve music and SD and HD movie content. Is there any source of info for beginners?
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post #2 of 5 Old 02-13-07, 10:30 AM
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Re: New to HTPC

I won't pretend to be an expert with HTPC's but I do know a bit about Video and CPU'll want to purchase a fast machine, most older boxes would be problematic from what I've read. I don't have a HTPC yet but I do mess around with video and surveillance on PC's.

For instance, my 1.9GHz AMD Athlon box barely keeps up with live 30fps video...that ain't what you want.

There are others here that will have valuable info for you, hopefully they'll chime in soon. Personally my bet is the old boxes won't cut it.
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post #3 of 5 Old 02-21-07, 06:39 PM
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Re: New to HTPC

I'm no expert either but, I think it pretty much depends on what you are going to do? If just basically using it as a DVR you should be able to get by with something like an Athlon XP (2000+ or better), 9600 All in Wonder, a large HDD,and 512 ram. If you're looking to do much video encoding, editing, etc. you may want a much faster rig with more memory.

From what I see you really don't need the latest and greatest vid card, connectivity and features seem to be more important than raw graphics processing power,... though I could be wrong.

What are the specs for the two old computers you have?

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post #4 of 5 Old 08-31-07, 11:27 PM
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Re: New to HTPC

I'm new to HTPC too! I'm currently running a old pc put together with spare parts as a HTPC. It has an AMD 1800+ cpu, 650 mb ram, an old FX5200 nvidia card, sound blaster (can't remember the model), 3 small 40 gb drives and a DVD rom I said pieced together from old parts with some sticks and glue for good measure It runs XP pro and plays everything! knew there was a has trouble keeping up with action scenes. I notice shearing / tearing in these scenes, even on simple pans in movies.

The problem may be video, lack of ram, old cpu or whatever...all I know is it isn't good enough. For the most part it is watchable with good picture and sound. However, to get a better experience don't just throw together any old thing. You'll only be disappionted and spending time on a far from perfect rig. Invest a little time and money to get some newer'll be happier in the long run.

Or, if your cheap like me, worse case you'll learn a little of the do's and don't before investing time and money.

Do: Come to site's like this and get the right info and learn what are the best choice(s) by reading other peoples experiences. And here you are, bravo!

Don't: Accept a mediocre solution of old parts and bailing wire while expecting "HD-DVD". Piecing together old and wonder if it could be doubt!

I'm building a "new" HTPC rig and from what I've learned here and on other sites I'll be much happier with the end result. Good reading and happy computing!
post #5 of 5 Old 09-01-07, 02:55 AM
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Re: New to HTPC

I'll add my two cents into this topic too...

Just like with muscle cars and race cars, speed counts, and unfortunately speed costs too.

Don't skimp on the motherboard. As inconspicuous as a MB may seem, there is a huge difference between companies. I personally like ASUS. There are also other great manufacturers out there, but stay away from PCChips or any motherboard companies that use their chipsets.

CPU and Ram are probably the two biggest things. This is the brains of your system and you want not only a smart system (CPU) but one that also has the room to think and perform complex functions without caching to your hard drive (RAM). Caching will decrease performance, again a car analogy... like a catalytic converter adds back pressure and reduces horsepower... You don't want anything stealing away your performance if you can help it.

HDMI video cards are starting to become more and more mainstream. I honestly expect conventional computer monitors to become a thing of the past and basically an HDTV will also double as a computer monitor. I am using a 26" LCD HDTV right now as my primary monitor. The HDMI card will also add extra flexibility to your system and allow you to connect directly to an HDTV without the need for any adapters (DVI to HDMI) or just settling for analog VGA. The cards are not that expensive either, you can get some very good ones for both AGP and PCI for under $100 now.

Audio... this is where computers and dedicated gear probably have their biggest difference. Don't skimp on your audio card. You want a good one that's for sure. There is nothing as frustrating as having a top notched image but a sound field that just doesn't live up to it.

Hard drives- these are also coming down in price, so don't skimp here either.

Look for price drops on HD DVD and BD ROM drives that should be coming out soon. You won't be able to burn with them, but you will be able to play back HD content. Right now the XBox 360 HD DVD external drive is around $180 and it will work with a PC. You will need a media player that supports High Def playback though and two that work well are Power DVD and WinDVD. There are of course others available so check around.

With the right setup, an HTPC can replace a DVR, a DVD player, and a High Def DVD player. I know of some people that built systems that have both an HD DVD drive and a BD drive, so it can be done. The question is, can it be done cheaper than a dual format HD player? Probably not, but it will be able to do things that the dual format player only dreams of!

As things progress, computers and Home Theater setups are going to integrate more and more. The PS3 and 360 are actually powerhouse computers and not just game consoles. The respective companies just dressed them and marketed them for a specific demographic. I certainly am not suggesting abandon an HTPC in favor of a game console, but the rumored $299 PS3 is more than worth a look at, especially if it has the built in HDMI port and same chipset. The XBox 360 Ultimate is also something to consider. Granted these aren't PC's, but for a media center they will do the same things most people are looking for (with the exception of replacing a DVR) and probably slightly better and at a cheaper price than custom building an HTPC.

It all depends on your mindset though. Just keep in mind, good motherboard, CPU, and RAM are first, then your video and audio cards... VISTA... wait for future service packs is my recommendation...

"Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler." - Albert Einstein

"If all else fails, spin the cat."- Grzboken
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