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Thread: New HTPC build - Graphics card/motherboard help

  1. #1
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    New HTPC build - Graphics card/motherboard help

    (This was originally posted in AVForums but they said they're not so hot on Linux so I've turned to the people that are. The comments about reading through existing threads applies as much to this forum as AVForums.)

    A year ago, I installed Mythbuntu on my parents' old Dell Dimension. It worked a treat (my wife never misses her US teen dramas) but the 20gb hard disk doesn't go far. Also, using Handbrake to convert to MP4 to put films on my phone was painfully slow.

    So, time for a new machine.

    I've been trawling Google and Forums for the last fortnight and this place seems to be the right place to go. I've learnt a lot so far, but I need some more help.

    My old PC is in an Antec Sonata silent case which I intend to use. (The stock CPU cooler is the only noisy bit - but I can't find many Socket A silent coolers now).

    In any case, I'm looking for something a bit beefier to plug into my TV.

    My plan is to have the machine as a MythTV backend and XBMC frontend (I'll also have music and photos on the machine). This does mean that machine is likely to be permanently on.

    The main things I'm stuck on are the Motherboard and graphics card.

    Motherboard:
    The Antec is a full ATX case so I'm not concerned about the size.

    On-board video: Can't work out whether this is better or not. TV has VGA/HDMI in so I'll need those.
    I don't have any HD content (yet) but want to future proof as much as possible.
    I've read that NVidia is better on Linux than ATI - but most onboard video seems to be ATI.

    Audio: My audio system has a spare optical in which I can use (or would HDMI+Audio into my pass through to audio receiver?)

    PCI: I've got a PCI TV tuner which works with MythTV which I plan to recylce.

    Looking at this card at the moment:
    ASRock AM3 M3A770DE/A/ASR
    I don't have any preference for manufacturer.

    Graphics Card
    As said above, I am looking for NVidia chipset but I've read that some hardware ( G98 ) has trouble with H264 video.

    As the machine is going to be in my front room - I'd prefer a silent card.

    CPU
    The AMD X2 240e looks good to me. I presume that it would have enough juice for HD video.

    Cooler
    Having had a bad experience with stock coolers I'll aim to get something quieter - something like the Shuriken.

    Memory
    About 2Gb - or do I need more?

    Drives
    Main drive 150Gb - OS/photos
    Second drive 1Gb - music/videos/TV recordings



    I'd love to hear people's comments/recommendations especially in terms of motherboard and graphics card.


    Lastly, will I have any issue in terms of connecting the HTPC to a TV via HDMI if the PC is permanently on - i.e. will there be a handshaking issue?


    Many thanks for your help.

    elP

  2. #2
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    Re: New HTPC build - Graphics card/motherboard help

    As a reference, here is my most recent build, it works perfectly on 10.04.

    https://secure.scan.co.uk/aspnet/Sho...651b9442e18ffe

    I also unlocked the 4th core on the processor in the BIOS, although it only works on some chips.
    There's no place like ~/

  3. #3
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    Re: New HTPC build - Graphics card/motherboard help

    Thanks. Looks like a nice set-up.

    The graphics card is a bit on the expensive side. Also, as this will be an HTPC in my front room I'd be inclined to go for a passively cooled one if possible.

  4. #4
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    Re: New HTPC build - Graphics card/motherboard help

    You say expensive, I say 'futureproof'

    It's actually very quiet; it's controlled by a temperature sensor on the chip, and I can hardly hear it.

    For a passively cooled one you're going to have to look at a much lower spec. Probably not a problem, the card we have is a gaming one.
    There's no place like ~/

  5. #5
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    Re: New HTPC build - Graphics card/motherboard help

    GPU- Get nvidia. Onboard video is OK these days, but for AMD is mostly ATI and ATI hardware video decdoing (XvBA) is buggy. nVidia hardware video decdoing (VDPAU) works really well. You can get nVidia onboard vide, but I've never been that impressed with teh new nVidia chipsets,, I think AMD chipsets and a cheap nVidia card is the way to go.

    GT210, GT220, GT430. Cheap, good VDPAU support, passive models avaible.

    CPU- 240e should decode HD without VDPAU just fine (but VDPAU is a better idea than CPU HD decoding). Nice cool little chip.

    Heatsink/fan- Why a Shuriken SCSK-1000? They are made for 'slim' cases normally, though its an interesting heatpipe/traditional heatsink setup. Heatpipes tend to work better over 50c, so if you wanted a passive (fanless)/semipassive system with low CPU temps it might be a good one.

    RAM- 2GB would be fine.

    Drives- 150GB? *blinks* Unless its an old Hdd you are recycling in the system, dont. I'd also go for a 2TB 2nd drive over 1TB, its amazing how fast you fill space.

    Motherboard- Asorck M3A770DE/A/ASR- Avoid! Besides there being no listing for that exactl model nmber on teh asrcok website, its also got a VIA 1708S sound chip- widely known as bloody awful (and poor linux support into the bargin).

    I'd go for the Gigabyte 870A-UD3 you posted on AVforums myself. If you want to save a little money, make sure you get AM3 (not 'AM2+/AM3'), and the newer chipsets (870, 890FX) have a ew advantages over the older chipsets (SATAIII support in particular).

    870- good base model, overclocking (and underclkcing) capable.

    890FX- 'top end' model, slightly better overclocker/underclocker, tends to have more 'features' (some of whihch tend to be useles with linux), better cooling.
    Quote Originally Posted by Joe of loath View Post
    As a reference, here is my most recent build, it works perfectly on 10.04.

    https://secure.scan.co.uk/aspnet/Sho...651b9442e18ffe

    I also unlocked the 4th core on the processor in the BIOS, although it only works on some chips.
    I had a look at that, and I was a little shocked....I've never been an MSI fan, but that '870-C45' motherboard has got to be one of the most misleadign part numbers I've ever seen in my life... '870' is the newer AMD chipset, but MSI gave the '870-C45' an older 770 chipset? Thats just crap...

  6. #6
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    Re: New HTPC build - Graphics card/motherboard help

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe of loath View Post
    You say expensive, I say 'futureproof'
    Very important - as I found while trying to find a new cooler for a Socket A board...

    Cascade: Thanks so much for your tips.

    In answer to your questions:

    GPU - I thought NVidia would probably be the way to go - will look to see what I can find.

    Heatsink - Doesn't need to be the Shuriken - I've just had bad experiences with stock AMD fans (it's the one thing that makes a noise in my silent case).
    I've no idea how hot the 240e will get - given it's a low voltage cpu, hopefully not too hot.
    I'm always slightly concerned by passive coolers on CPUs but that could just be my inexperience showing!

    Drives: Yes, the 150Gb is a recycled drive. If this is a bad idea I'm happy to buy an extra drive.
    Is my idea of having the OS on one partition and audio/photos on another on that drive appropriate?

    Motherboard: Great advice. Thanks.


    Looks like I'm almost there.

    I'll have to document the build/software installation as a tutorial (if I don't screw it up) and post on the forums as a thank you.

  7. #7
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    Re: New HTPC build - Graphics card/motherboard help

    HDD- 150GB isnt bad, its just bad to buy one now. Sure, if its just for the OS and /home you dont need any more, and even 150GB is more than a lot (most?) people would need in that situation.

    BTW, if its 150GB IDE, I would consider getting a SATA drive. The newer 870/SB850 chipset doesnt have a PATA controller, so manufactuers tend to add PATA controllers. Some of them are dodgy with linux.

    I'll revise my GA-870-UD3 to GA-870UD3P (no PATA and less onboard junk), if you have an all SATA HDD/optical setup or are prepered to get the parts you need to have that. Less stuff you dont really need, and personally, I've found that 'vanilla' boards run better than boards with a ton of extras.

    The early 'factory' heatsink and fans from AMD weren't great. hey are better now, but the very fact you've said 'passive' makes me think that you migth perfer a better one..and they arent that expensive these days.

    Passive cooling a CPU is possible, but unless you've got a very low heat CPU its risky. The 240e should run pretty cool, but I dont think it would be cool enough to run totally passive. Though if you are using a 120mm exhaust fan on the solo, its close enough that it could let the CPU survive without any major issues.

    A nice heatsink/fan to check out is the noctua NH-U12P (great heatsink and fan). Virtually silent at low fan speeds, and it will keep the temps very low at low fanspeeds as well. Win/Win.

    If you are after quiet, have a look at the seasonic x-650 gold. Expensive power supply, but great quality. They run totally fanless at low loads, but if the load/temps ramp up the fan kicks in (so its as quiet as a fanless power supply at low loads, but will spin up the fan if things get hot....great idea)

    http://www.silentpcreview.com/Seasonic_X650

    Since you're in the UK (I assume) try staticice for good prices-

    http://www.staticice.co.uk/

    BTW, I forgot- you can still get socket 'A' coolers, but yeah, they are hard to find. Some of the newer CPU coolers can be modded to fit a socket a (just use the clip from a socket a cooler to hold it down) but actually knowing what is modable or not isnt easy.

  8. #8
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    Re: New HTPC build - Graphics card/motherboard help

    Cascade: again, some fantastic advice.

    Yes, I am in the UK.

    I've had a look at those graphics cards: Some interesting reviews around - not entirely flattering. The trouble is, most reviews are for hardcore gaming which just isn't what I'm after.

    My main concern is with noise/cooling - most cards seem to have a fan on and I really don't want the noise. However, if I go (and can find) passive card then I'd need to be happy that the case is well ventilated. The case has a large fan on the back which sucks air through the case (ventilation holes on the sides at the top - not near expansion slots).

    Can't believe how much of headache this can be!

    Will persevere though - I know I'll get there eventually.

  9. #9
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    Re: New HTPC build - Graphics card/motherboard help

    In answer to your other questions:

    yes 150Gb drive is SATA.

    Another reason for the Shuriken was that it's an upright case, so I'd be concerned about the weight of a large cooler creatin stress on the CPU or board.

    The case's PSU (350W) is pretty silent so I'd not look to replace that unless necessary - your recommendation looks very nice though!

  10. #10
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    Re: New HTPC build - Graphics card/motherboard help

    Thnaks

    The gaming sites tend to give the GT210/GT220/GT240/GT430 a nasty reviews...but they always give 'low end' cards nasty reviews. For a HTPC, the gaming cards are NOT a good idea. TDP (termal desing power) on a GT210, 30.5watts, GT220, 58watts, GT240, 69watts, GT430, 49/60watts (retail/OEM). A GTX460, the current mainstream favourite from nVidia for gaming, 150-160watts.

    Extra heat = more fans blowing to exhaust the heat (or fans spining faster). Not good for a HTPC.

    BTW, actual power consumption will be below the TDP figures, have a look here-

    http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/vid...on-2010_3.html

    A Gt210 should do everything you want, if you are nervious then get a GT220. I'm runnign a card with less power than a GT220 (8600GT), iot does VDPAU nicely. No desktop issues either. Passive models are around. If your having trouble finding which models are passive cooled, then you can go to newegg-> video cards-> advanced search-> select "GPU- G/GT series" and "cooler- fanless".

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...e=&srchInDesc=

    That wont show you all the pasive cooled GT models, but it will give you a some to choose from. Finding them in the UK should be as easy as entering the model number into staticice. (eg, EN210)

    I actually own an antec solo as well. Phenom II 550 with factory heatsink/fan (dual core, 80watts TDP, nearly twice the TDP of the 240e), 8600GT (pasive cooled), corsair HX20 power suppkly, stock rear fan. Never overheated, and I've only bumped the fan from 'low' to 'middle' for summer. Its run in well over 30C with no issues.

    With the fan on 'low' its near enough to silent.

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