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torifile
2010-02-17, 13:18
Some of you may remember that I found a great deal on a Mac mini a couple weeks back. I've been using it as an HTPC but I'm frustrated by it. The HD is too small, frontrow kinda sucks, it can't play some of my encoded video without stuttering (ripped from DVDs and encoded using handbrake's high quality setting). So I've been thinking about selling it and building a proper HTPC with the money. I figure I could probably get about $500 for it and I'd like to keep it in that price range.

Some requirements: It's got to be quiet and dead simple to use with a remote. HD tuner would be really nice. It needs to play iTunes protected video. Any thoughts?

Luca
2010-02-17, 13:23
Rather than typing it all out I'll just post a link:

http://forums.applenova.com/showthread.php?t=34090

;)

EDIT: However, it looks like turtle got some discounts. To save money I'd go with a Core i5-750 (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115215) if you can't get whatever discounts turtle got.

torifile
2010-02-17, 13:26
Rather than typing it all out I'll just post a link:

http://forums.applenova.com/showthread.php?t=34090

;)

EDIT: However, it looks like turtle got some discounts. To save money I'd go with a Core i5-750 (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819115215) if you can't get whatever discounts turtle got.
Yeah, my first thought was to look at that thread but I don't think I can get prices that low. And from the looks of it, it's quite a bit bigger than I would like. So, that's another requirement: small.

PB PM
2010-02-17, 13:26
Even a mid-range Core 2 Duo would be more than enough for a HTPC.

torifile
2010-02-17, 13:30
Even a mid-range Core 2 Duo would be more than enough for a HTPC.
Yeah. I don't need it to do any encoding duties, just playback and some downloading.

Luca
2010-02-17, 13:37
If that's the case I might start with this case:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129034

It takes a microATX motherboard so go for an mATX with LGA 775:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128357

Those should be good starting points. The case even comes with a power supply, and it's an Antec so it should be pretty good.

torifile
2010-02-17, 14:59
Is the GMA graphics card in that gigabyte board any good? I was looking at the nvidia 9300 boards. Thoughts about that?

tomoe
2010-02-17, 15:29
Here's the HTPC build I started picking out last week, in case it helps (not tryiing to hijack). :) Still deciding whether I actually want an optical drive (it would have to be external unless I get a different case).

Zotac IONITX F-E (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813500036), which seems to be a little better than the A-U.

M350 case (http://www.mini-box.com/M350-universal-mini-itx-enclosure), VESA Mount compatible so I can attach it to the back of my TV.

WD 500GB hard drive (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136314) (deliberately chose 5400RPM to keep the temp low)

4GB RAM (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231122).

SilenX fan (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835191003)

I still haven't figured what wattage of PSU I would need...:\ 90W?

Also haven't decided whether to stick with XP (which I already have) or buy Win7 (which is expensive, no?).

PB PM
2010-02-17, 15:33
I wouldn't rely on the GMA graphics for 1080p, if that is what you are asking.

torifile
2010-02-17, 17:01
I wouldn't rely on the GMA graphics for 1080p, if that is what you are asking.
Thanks. Trying to keep costs and heat (well, sound) to a minimum. Thoughts on that nvidia board?

And, tomoe, please don't worry about threadjacking. It's totally cool to have a discussion. :)

PB PM
2010-02-17, 17:16
I think you'd want an 9400m at the very least for 1080p.

Luca
2010-02-17, 17:39
I'd go for this (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102876) myself. A Radeon 5450. It's cheap ($55), powerful enough for anything you might need to do, fanless (=quiet), and has an HDMI output.

PB PM
2010-02-17, 19:02
Yup, that's what I'd do as well.

torifile
2010-02-17, 19:56
I was thinking that I'd try windows 7 to see if the media center is any better than frontrow. Has anyone tried it?

PB PM
2010-02-17, 20:16
Media center blows frontrow out of the water, enough said.

torifile
2010-02-17, 20:26
Media center blows frontrow out of the water, enough said.

I'll give it a try on my desktop then. The thing about the mini is that it's the exact form factor I want. There are just no good front ends for it. Or am I missing something? I've tried boxee and plex. Both feel very rough around the edges.

dmegatool
2010-02-17, 21:00
Since we're talking about Windows... I'm using SageTV on my HTCP. There's ALOT of features as people can easily develop for it. It's pretty much the Firefox of the Media Centers so it can become bloated. You just need to find the right combination of skin/plugin. Oh and it's not free... but there's a trial.

As PB PM already said, WMC is probably the best solution out their. It got pretty much all the feature you want with the sleekest design. I just don't use it cause it don't support the HDPVR out of the box.

torifile
2010-02-17, 21:05
Since we're talking about Windows... I'm using SageTV on my HTCP. There's ALOT of features as people can easily develop for it. It's pretty much the Firefox of the Media Centers so it can become bloated. You just need to find the right combination of skin/plugin. Oh and it's not free... but there's a trial.

As PB PM already said, WMC is probably the best solution out their. It got pretty much all the feature you want with the sleekest design. I just don't use it cause it don't support the HDPVR out of the box.
It seems slick in the 5 minutes I just played around with it. How's remote control support? I don't have one to try.

Are there any iPhone remote apps that control WMC? I have one called Airmouse which functions as a mouse for the interface but that's a little clunky.

Finally, does windows have the overscan problem OS X seems to have on t.v. displays?

tomoe
2010-02-18, 11:45
I'd go for this (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814102876) myself. A Radeon 5450. It's cheap ($55), powerful enough for anything you might need to do, fanless (=quiet), and has an HDMI output.

So if one built up an HTPC using the Radeon 5450 and the Intel i5-750, would it also be able to function as a lightweight gaming rig? Or am I missing something?

Luca
2010-02-18, 12:28
I would think the 5450 could handle some games, but not the most demanding ones. You'd probably have to turn the settings or resolution down too.

PB PM
2010-02-18, 13:24
Most settings would need to be turned down for anything new. The benchmarks I saw, show it having extremely poor performance at resolutions over 1280x1024, for gaming.

Luca
2010-02-18, 14:15
Actually I just read a couple more reviews and maybe a 4650 would be a better choice. Though all you really need is a low price and video playback. It'll depend on price, output options (not all cards have HDMI), and so on. A fanless card might be a good choice to reduce noise.

torifile
2010-02-24, 16:36
How's this setup?

Zotac nvidia 9300 mobo (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B001NGP6E0/ref=ord_cart_shr?_encoding=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&v=glance)
RAM (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B000TPXULC/ref=ord_cart_shr?_encoding=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&v=glance)
Antec Case (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B000T4MRF8/ref=ord_cart_shr?_encoding=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&v=glance)
e8400 CPU (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B00116SLYY/ref=ord_cart_shr?_encoding=UTF8&m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&v=glance)

I choose that CPU and RAM because they came in a package deal with the mobo. Any thoughts? Paired with this tuner card (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815306020) from turtle's thread. All told, just above the $500 I was hoping for.

I'm torn between getting the integrated graphics on this mobo or a dedicated solution that Luca has recommended.

PB PM
2010-02-24, 16:44
The CPU and RAM are fine. Never heard of that brand of mobo before, so I cannot say.

Luca
2010-02-24, 17:13
I've seen Zotac mobos before but it seems almost everyone in the DIY PC community has a fondness for either Asus or Gigabyte. But that should be a fine motherboard. Did a search for "nvidia 9300 htpc" and everyone's saying it's perfect for HTPCs. I'd go for it!

turtle
2010-02-24, 21:38
...
I'm torn between getting the integrated graphics on this mobo or a dedicated solution that Luca has recommended.

For the price it just seems worth it to get the 5450. The preformance is great with this thing. I know it's "overkill" for a media center kinda, but it gives you more options down the line while being really quiet (no fan) and all three major video outputs on one board.

*I just looked at your motherboard and see it already has them too. I'd give it a shot and see how it works for you without putting a card in then. If you find the need, upgrade. :)

torifile
2010-02-27, 01:12
Ordered the parts on Wed night and got them today. I put the machine together in about an hour and I'm now installing Windows 7. I would have been done hours ago except that I couldn't find my Windows 7 disc (volume licensing through Duke is nice). I had to redownload it from Duke and burn another copy. Now I'm just waiting for 7 to install. Anyone want a perfectly capable Mac mini? ;)

PB PM
2010-02-27, 02:49
Anyone want a perfectly capable Mac mini?
If its free.... ;) j/k.

torifile
2010-03-01, 23:26
My HTPC is complete. So far, it's awesome. Well, what I've tried is awesome. The TV tuner I bought (recommended by turtle) works perfectly and the tv watching experience is better than on cable. I only have basic cable, so I have no guide or DVR or anything fancy like that. The interface for tv watching/recording through WMC is very nice.

I still need to figure out how to get my iTunes library playable through its interface. I like iTunes for managing my media and I've got lots of kids videos purchased through iTunes, so I need to use it. I also really like the remote app for iPhone for music playback control, so I don't want to lose that.

Overall, though, I put this thing together for about $520. I sold my mac mini for $525 today. So far so good. :)

torifile
2010-07-29, 13:58
Just an update on this project. Almost 5 months on and I'm still very satisfied. My wife has said, on multiple occasions, that she "loves the computer" and that never happens. It's so easy to use. I don't think I'd change a thing about it. :)

turtle
2010-07-29, 20:33
I'm glad to hear this. My wife and I have been putting ours to use once a week now. We got sucked into Design Star on HGTV while vacationing at my mom's house. So once a week we log into their site and catch up. Tonight is going to be one of those nights. :)

torifile
2010-07-29, 22:18
I'm glad to hear this. My wife and I have been putting ours to use once a week now. We got sucked into Design Star on HGTV while vacationing at my mom's house. So once a week we log into their site and catch up. Tonight is going to be one of those nights. :)
Only once a week? We use ours on a daily basis. I only wish it were more quiet. Eventually, I'm going to invest in some silent fans. And I still haven't figured out how to get my iTunes library to show up in WMC correctly. Things are a little wonky there. But it's still awesome.