Goodbye SLI, hello HTPC! Any advice for an HTPC n00b?

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Goodbye SLI, hello HTPC! Any advice for an HTPC n00b?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 8:54 pm

So I've finally gotten around to building a second PC out of spare parts from my previous build after picking up a few bits and pieces I needed to whip it together. I had to sacrifice SLI in my main rig to get a GPU in the system since I don't feel like buying a 3rd GPU at the moment, perhaps that will change in a couple of months and I can reclaim it for my main rig!

Any advice from HTPC users on TR? My HTPC is not a SFF PC, it is basically just a desktop running Windows 7 that will be plugged into the 46" Samsung TV in my living room.

To do list:
- Get motioninjoy to actually work so that I don't have to buy X360 controllers when I have 2 perfectly good PS3 controllers.
- Migrate games to this PC so that I can actually play them
- Set up MS office for those times that you have to take care of serious business from the couch
- ??????
- Profit

What kind of tricks do you guys all use to get the most out of your HTPC experience? I'm a total newbie on computing in the living room so I could use all the tips I can get!

HTPC Specs:
i5 750 @ 4.0 GHz, Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO. Might downclock the CPU since I only needed it OC'd to 4 GHz to get SLI working decently before I upgraded to an i7 3820/x79 in my main rig. Still, I'm idling in the low 30s on air with a 1.33 GHz overclock so I can't complain.. haven't tested load temps yet since no games are installed.

EVGA P55 FTW
16GB G.Skill 1600 Dual Channel
PNY GTX 670
Asus Xonar DG Sound Card
WD Black 640 GB HDD
D-Link Wireless N PCI-e card
Logitech G700 Wireless Mouse
Logitech K400 Wireless Media Keyboard with built in touchpad mouse
Antec Nine Hundred

Advise away, fellow gerbils!
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Re: Goodbye SLI, hello HTPC! Any advice for an HTPC n00b?

Postposted on Tue Jul 30, 2013 9:53 pm

For xinput games I advice this instead of crapware motionjoy
http://forums.pcsx2.net/Thread-XInput-W ... r?page=132
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Re: Goodbye SLI, hello HTPC! Any advice for an HTPC n00b?

Postposted on Wed Jul 31, 2013 4:47 am

JoyToKey or similar.

Let's you do things that don't have joypad support with a joypad, including weird old retro gaming and your favourite but quirky apps.
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Re: Goodbye SLI, hello HTPC! Any advice for an HTPC n00b?

Postposted on Wed Jul 31, 2013 7:39 am

Thanks fr500, pcsx2 looks nice at first glance. I'll look into it tonight when I get home!
I didn't have the time to check out JoyToKey this morning, but thanks for the suggestion, Chrispy.

This morning I finished up all Windows Updates, got nVidia and Xonar drivers up to date, and installed my pci-e wireless card. It seems quite fast so far, but the PC is a few feet from my router at the moment and not in the next room hooked up to the TV yet so we'll see how holds up. I managed to install Office, AV, and all the little essentials (VLC, WinRAR, uTorrent, etc) before heading to work today.

I'm extremely impressed and pleased with the temps I'm getting @ 4GHz with the Hyper 212 evo... idle is 30-31 degrees, highest load temp I've seen is 50 degrees. IDK what the hell is in that heatsink but it's doing a hell of a job!

Going into setting it up in the living room, what problems should I expect? I.e. overscan issues through HDMI, DPI feeling strange compared to a monitor, aliens stealing my babes, etc...
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Re: Goodbye SLI, hello HTPC! Any advice for an HTPC n00b?

Postposted on Wed Jul 31, 2013 8:41 am

Pcsx is aún emulator, i only advice to use that xinput wrapper. It allows to use ps3 controllers as if they were x360 controllers.

The biggest advantage is that unlike motion joy there is no ads nor driver signing conflicts nor an ie9 frame based controlnpanrel with elevated permissions
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Re: Goodbye SLI, hello HTPC! Any advice for an HTPC n00b?

Postposted on Wed Jul 31, 2013 10:40 am

Prestige Worldwide wrote:I'm extremely impressed and pleased with the temps I'm getting @ 4GHz with the Hyper 212 evo

That's why so many recommend it, the EVO is a great mid-range heatsink ;)

Prestige Worldwide wrote:Going into setting it up in the living room, what problems should I expect? I.e. overscan issues through HDMI, DPI feeling strange compared to a monitor, aliens stealing my babes, etc...

Most TV's have one or more HDMI inputs specifically labelled as DVI or HDMI/DVI; use this one if you can. On some TV's this is the only input that allows unmodified, 1:1 pixel mapping - with the other inputs going through a scaler with overscan.

Also look for "modes" for that specific input. Often you will want to avoid things like "game" or "DVD" because they add noise-reduction, contrast enhancements and edge enhancement which can ruin picture quality from a PC. The ideal setting is one that does nothing at all (let your graphics card handle it) and is usually called "PC" or "DVI".

I also find it much better to let the GPU do resolution scaling, if you intend to run at anything other than native res. Your HDTV will probably screw up aspect ratio at some resolutions, whilst your GPU won't. Set the TV to 1080p60 or 720p60 and do everything else via the graphics driver.
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Re: Goodbye SLI, hello HTPC! Any advice for an HTPC n00b?

Postposted on Wed Jul 31, 2013 12:04 pm

Hahah, I did the same thing a week ago. As I've gotten older, I've realized I don't play games... except for ruzzle on my phone. In my bedroom I have a rig I built idk 4 years ago? Anyway I use it for TV and movies, I didnt even have a monitor connected anymore, just a TV. So I decided to take out the crossfire setup completely, the fan noise was a KILLER, and replaced with an with a fanless Radeon HD6450. I've also added a small SSD for the OS and use the spinners to hold media. For video capture I use a Hauppauge HVR-2250 with IR blaster to control a Motorola DCT700. I use windows media center under windows 8 to watch and record TV. For a remote control, I don't use the receiver/remote that came with the Hauppauge because the range I found to be no bueno. Instead the IR receiver from a Azend Group MediaGate GP-IR02BK I got from amazon. For the remote, I use a Logitech harmony 300. FYI, idk if Logitech makes that remote anymore b/c I don't see it on the website. The only reason I got it was because it was cheap and can control both the TV and PC. I also liked how you can custom map the buttons using the Logitech website. Overall the setup works well. The CPU is an AMD Phenom II x6... T1055 I believe.

I own two HTPC's both in different rooms and set one up for my parents. These are my experiences encountered with the different setups. In my original HTPC I had an AMD Athlon II x2, and yeah buddy, it worked... but don't count on using third party software to compress and remove commercials from recordings in the background, because the thing slowed a lot. Even with an SSD and ample ram. I used the same video card in that build, a Radeon HD6450. After I upgraded to a Quad core Athlon II X4 the background lag issues went away. I went Athlon instead of Phenom because they don't get nearly as hot, and dislike fan noise when watching TV.

On my parents HTPC I took a different approach. It was an old first gen Phenom X4. I upgraded it to 8gb ram, added an SSD for windows, with the spinner used for recording. I used a Radeon HD5450 (time was short on my visit, so a quickie Office Depot purchase). Instead of a Hauppauge card I used a Three Tuner HD Homerun prime, with cable card. For them I used this premium route, since they pay ALOT more than I do for TV and hence should be able to get their HD. Even though the Phenom was older, it works fine for background compression and removing commercials. I've experienced no lag what so ever, when watching full HD TV on it. The homerun prime is also nice because it can be used to send TV signal to any PC in your home. One thing I recommend however, is a good rounter. Not one of those cheapo 600N deals from Walmart, but something that can handle multiple HD streams. This is important if say someone is watching TV in the family room, and someone else is doing Youtube in another etc...

And one last thing. I have experienced a this same problem in all my HTPC builds, and I think its because of the AMD driver. In windows media center for some reason the digital cable advisor test fails, even though the hardware is more than capable. To get around the issue I found a third party program on the internets that basically forces the test to pass. I have read Nvidia GPU's don't experience this issueas often. So you may want to consider a fanless Nvidia Geforce as an alternative.
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Re: Goodbye SLI, hello HTPC! Any advice for an HTPC n00b?

Postposted on Wed Jul 31, 2013 1:00 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:Most TV's have one or more HDMI inputs specifically labelled as DVI or HDMI/DVI; use this one if you can. On some TV's this is the only input that allows unmodified, 1:1 pixel mapping - with the other inputs going through a scaler with overscan.

Also look for "modes" for that specific input. Often you will want to avoid things like "game" or "DVD" because they add noise-reduction, contrast enhancements and edge enhancement which can ruin picture quality from a PC. The ideal setting is one that does nothing at all (let your graphics card handle it) and is usually called "PC" or "DVI".

I also find it much better to let the GPU do resolution scaling, if you intend to run at anything other than native res. Your HDTV will probably screw up aspect ratio at some resolutions, whilst your GPU won't. Set the TV to 1080p60 or 720p60 and do everything else via the graphics driver.


Excellent. Actually, doing this may also help me on my main gaming rig. I have a fringe usage case where I prefer to use 960x540 in FEAR Combat (multiplayer) because I prefer the feel of the game at a lower resolution. Using the GPU to scale it to 1080/120Hz (120hz monitor :)) could allow me to game without everything getting shifted on my second monitor! It could also reduce input lag by the monitor not having to scale the image. I'm going to look into this tonight, thank you very much!

As for the living room PC, there is a PC/DVI HDMI input on the back and that's what I intend to use. Since the build has a GTX 670, I see no reason to run games at anything less than 1080 / 60. I have a dot by dot mode (forget which term the TV actually uses) so with that I should be pretty safe in not having overscan.


Migustus wrote:Hahah, I did the same thing a week ago. As I've gotten older, I've realized I don't play games... except for ruzzle on my phone. In my bedroom I have a rig I built idk 4 years ago? Anyway I use it for TV and movies, I didnt even have a monitor connected anymore, just a TV. So I decided to take out the crossfire setup completely, the fan noise was a KILLER, and replaced with an with a fanless Radeon HD6450. I've also added a small SSD for the OS and use the spinners to hold media. For video capture I use a Hauppauge HVR-2250 with IR blaster to control a Motorola DCT700. I use windows media center under windows 8 to watch and record TV. For a remote control, I don't use the receiver/remote that came with the Hauppauge because the range I found to be no bueno. Instead the IR receiver from a Azend Group MediaGate GP-IR02BK I got from amazon. For the remote, I use a Logitech harmony 300. FYI, idk if Logitech makes that remote anymore b/c I don't see it on the website. The only reason I got it was because it was cheap and can control both the TV and PC. I also liked how you can custom map the buttons using the Logitech website. Overall the setup works well. The CPU is an AMD Phenom II x6... T1055 I believe.

I own two HTPC's both in different rooms and set one up for my parents. These are my experiences encountered with the different setups. In my original HTPC I had an AMD Athlon II x2, and yeah buddy, it worked... but don't count on using third party software to compress and remove commercials from recordings in the background, because the thing slowed a lot. Even with an SSD and ample ram. I used the same video card in that build, a Radeon HD6450. After I upgraded to a Quad core Athlon II X4 the background lag issues went away. I went Athlon instead of Phenom because they don't get nearly as hot, and dislike fan noise when watching TV.

On my parents HTPC I took a different approach. It was an old first gen Phenom X4. I upgraded it to 8gb ram, added an SSD for windows, with the spinner used for recording. I used a Radeon HD5450 (time was short on my visit, so a quickie Office Depot purchase). Instead of a Hauppauge card I used a Three Tuner HD Homerun prime, with cable card. For them I used this premium route, since they pay ALOT more than I do for TV and hence should be able to get their HD. Even though the Phenom was older, it works fine for background compression and removing commercials. I've experienced no lag what so ever, when watching full HD TV on it. The homerun prime is also nice because it can be used to send TV signal to any PC in your home. One thing I recommend however, is a good rounter. Not one of those cheapo 600N deals from Walmart, but something that can handle multiple HD streams. This is important if say someone is watching TV in the family room, and someone else is doing Youtube in another etc...

And one last thing. I have experienced a this same problem in all my HTPC builds, and I think its because of the AMD driver. In windows media center for some reason the digital cable advisor test fails, even though the hardware is more than capable. To get around the issue I found a third party program on the internets that basically forces the test to pass. I have read Nvidia GPU's don't experience this issueas often. So you may want to consider a fanless Nvidia Geforce as an alternative.


I actually don't have a TV tuner or PVR on this build, I will be legally downloading or using netflix for now. So I guess "general-purpose living room PC" might be a more appropriate term than HTPC at this point.

Blu Ray playback is the PS3's main / only duty for me at this point as I barely have any games so the rig will not have to handle Blu-Ray playback.

I'd say the priorities, in descending order would be:
1. Downloading / streaming / watching movies and tv series by legal means
2. Browsing teh internets
3. General productivity in excel / word
4. Gaming

I'll still be using my main desktop for my serious gaming sessions for FPS games. But I imagine games like Batman, GTA IV, LA Noire, Limbo, etc, will be pleasant to play on the couch

Since I still want to be able to play games at high settings and don't feel like buying another GPU, the GTX 670 will stay in this living room build for the time being. The CPU and case fans are pretty quiet and I'll be ~10 feet from the PC so the PNY GTX 670's fan noise shouldn't bother me too much. I also have our air conditioner in this room so it's not exactly a silent room. It's an open layout connected to the kitchen so cooking will be another source of noise to drown out the GPU. Since this is something I just kind of threw together, low noise is not priority #1 and shouldn't be too bothersome.

I don't have a remote control but I picked up a cool wireless keyboard, the Logitech k400. It has a trackpad on the right side which removes the need to lean over to the coffee table to move the mouse (also have a Logitech g700 for more serious mouse duties on this build). The k400 also has media buttons so that should suffice for now as I'll just need basic play / pause functionality.

I suppose it wouldn't be out of the question to add an hauppage or similar input card, but for the time being I can live without it.

Thanks for the feedback, distinguished gerbils! 8)
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Re: Goodbye SLI, hello HTPC! Any advice for an HTPC n00b?

Postposted on Wed Jul 31, 2013 1:33 pm

Don't dismiss the K400 so quickly, many experienced HTPC veterans swear by it, even when they have fancier media remotes to hand

(I don't own one - I run the tiny MS Arc keyboard and an old Logitech MX Air, along with a couple of XB360 wireless pads)
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Re: Goodbye SLI, hello HTPC! Any advice for an HTPC n00b?

Postposted on Wed Jul 31, 2013 5:04 pm

I'm not dismissing it at all, I think it's awesome for a couch keyboard / mouse combo! (I said it was cool!)
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Re: Goodbye SLI, hello HTPC! Any advice for an HTPC n00b?

Postposted on Wed Jul 31, 2013 7:27 pm

Yeah, I meant that you shouldn't worry about upgrading the K400 to something fancier down the line. It's one of the best options already ;)
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Re: Goodbye SLI, hello HTPC! Any advice for an HTPC n00b?

Postposted on Thu Aug 01, 2013 6:55 am

Agreed, it's really nice for laying back with all the control you need, not having to lean over to the coffee table to use a mouse.
Seems pretty awesome so far. Not to mention I got it for $30 shipped so it was quite a good deal.

I fired it up attached to the TV this morning and it looked kind of crappy and grainy with the 100% DPI setting. Bumping up to 125% looked good, and so did 150%. I'm not sure which setting I should stick with yet.

Anyone else running a PC into an HDTV in the 46% range via HDMI that can give any input on their DPI setting preference? I'm using Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.
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Re: Goodbye SLI, hello HTPC! Any advice for an HTPC n00b?

Postposted on Thu Aug 01, 2013 7:43 am

Some games if I recall correctly do not like 150%...I remember BF3 @150% the mouse cursor is in the wrong spot by a ton. Making impossible to select what you need in the menu.

For gaming I would stay at 125% at max.

I keep mine at 125% and use chrome and use its font increase via crtl-mouse wheel up/down and set my pages to 150%.
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Re: Goodbye SLI, hello HTPC! Any advice for an HTPC n00b?

Postposted on Thu Aug 01, 2013 8:26 am

Good to know. I'll give 125% a whirl, in that case.

Seems silly that they would apply those DPI changes to games, it would be nice to have different settings for Windows and fullscreen games and applications.

Although I wouldn't be playing BF3 on the living room PC, or any FPS games really, as my main rig on a desk with mouse/kb and 120hz monitor is much more conducive to 1337 pwnage than chilling on the couch and where I will continue to do my "serious" gaming.

Thanks!
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Re: Goodbye SLI, hello HTPC! Any advice for an HTPC n00b?

Postposted on Thu Aug 01, 2013 11:25 am

A couple of things:

#1, I agree the K400 is awesome, I use that keyboard as well! You might also consider a Blu-trac mouse. Those things work well on any surface: ex pillows, leather couch, blankets, your girlfriend whatever... and honestly I use that more than the K400 late night when the lights are off and I'm browsing Netflix or some website for movies to stream. The win 8 taskbar keyboard (it’s different then the OSK) is really handy as well. Like you, I left one of my HTPC's running win 7; truth be told I like it better for an HTPC anyway, Win 8 is turning into Vista 2.0 for me :/. You can emulate the instant taskbar keyboard feature of windows 8 by turning on tablet PC feature of windows 7. I guess could just use the OSK, but it’s not as convenient imo. If after enabling the feature the tablet keyboard doesn’t appear, you might have to “fake” windows into thinking that you have a digitizer/touch enabled device. The easiest way I found is to install “virtual tablet server” from sunnysidesoft. That software package is designed to enable you to use a windows 8 tablet’s Wacom device as a pen tablet on another PC. Consequently it also does a good job of faking win7/8 into thinking you have a pen, if indeed you don’t.

Side note: That software is also a nice thing to use if you’re a pen tablet owner (i.e. Wacom bamboo etc...) who has a touch screen monitor, but have encountered the problem of Windows not being able to distinguish touch from pen and associated character recognition/search problem. (btw Wacom users contact me if you want more info on that, b/c Wacom/MS/all the forums on the net offer no solutions)

#2, I agree 125% is best. I have encountered numerous “weird” problems at 150%. Things that don’t make sense, like chrome showing the taskbar during full screen videos etc… If you still have problems at 125% you can disable High DPI scaling, by right mouse click on shortcut/properties. The option is under one of the tabs.

#3, Grainy-ness. I’ve also experienced this problem. I first had the problem after switching the video cards and using different cords. I had been using a DVI to HDMI cord b/c the X-fire cards only had DVI out. I switched to HDMI only after changing to the HD6450. I used el-cheapo $4 HDMI cord from eBay, BIG mistake. Initially I thought the same thing you did, about pixel shape and landed up changing every setting under the sun. It eventually turned out that the entire “grainy” issue I had experienced was caused by the low quality cord. I diagnosed after trying high quality gold plated HDMI cord from my X-Box console.
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Re: Goodbye SLI, hello HTPC! Any advice for an HTPC n00b?

Postposted on Sat Aug 03, 2013 6:00 pm

#1 - The K400 is awesome, definitely the right choice for this PC. Windows 8 annoyed me after a while and I ended up shelling out $5 for Start8.

#2 I experienced some wierdness in 150%, despite it generally looking better, I'll have to stick with 125%. The taskbar is often overlapping fullscreen video when streaming TV shows and it's too distracting for me to live with.

3# Graininess - I'm using HDMI to HDMI, no adapters, as the 670 has 2 DVI, HDMI, and DP. It still looks a tiny bit grainy at 125%, but I attribute this to using Windows on a 46" 1080p TV. The HDMI cables I have probably aren't high quality, I'm pretty sure I got 4 or 5 of them on Amazon for $6-8 total, but they seem to work on all of my other devices just fine so it's probably not a cable issue. Overall it looks fine and it's just me being picky.

Overall it's awesome, I just need to get some games on it already :)
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Re: Goodbye SLI, hello HTPC! Any advice for an HTPC n00b?

Postposted on Mon Aug 05, 2013 8:45 am

To address the grainy picture .....make sure you go into the TV setting's and try lowering the sharpness. On my LCD's anything higher then 50% sharpness makes it grainy. But i can use 100% sharpness on my Panisonic 55" vt30 3d plasma TV.

It also helps a lot to use Windows Display Color calibration to adjust color, brightness and contrast with your TV settings and Gamma with the PC. Then it will go right to another very important step...Adjust Windows Cleartype settings.

Let me know how that works out PW.

As for the k400, I have 2 of them they are great if your typing but if all you need is a mouse, get one that will track on anything like the previous poster said.
I have a nice smooth leather furniture so any mouse track great on the arm of my matching lazy boy. In my bedroom I have 2 mouses a regular cheap wireless logitech mouse for surfing the net, but for gaming I have a wireless Microsoft mouse with a very bright Blue sensor that works great "more precise and has a 4th thumb button" on the covers or one of my great danes backs....yep a big dogs back :) I would use it all the time but is sucks down a AA battery in a week If i use it all the time where my logitech will last a couple months or better.
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Re: Goodbye SLI, hello HTPC! Any advice for an HTPC n00b?

Postposted on Mon Aug 05, 2013 10:13 am

Thanks V. I will see what I can do about tweaking the sharpness, colour calibration, and cleartype settings.

As for the mouse, I got a Logitech G700 wireless / wired gaming mouse for $50 on NCIX's extreme deal of the day a couple of weeks back. I haven't actually used it on the couch yet, but my couch is made of micro suede so I think it will track just fine.

I must say I much prefer the feel of a Razer Deathadder to the g700, but again, any serious FPS gaming will be done on my main desktop PC in my man cave :)
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Re: Goodbye SLI, hello HTPC! Any advice for an HTPC n00b?

Postposted on Mon Aug 05, 2013 3:11 pm

PW,
I know what you mean my man cave has a Razer Imperator along with the matching Razer Black Widow Ultimate mechanical keyboard and my Giant mousepad a white Razer Megasoma measuring 13.8 inches wide by 9 inches in height :P

What i want most to go with my HTPC's is to have a wireless Razer BWU mechanical keyboard's hooked up to my HTPC's or any wireless illuminated keyboard that was mechanical. The mechanical feel with feedback is so much better then the k400 or any normal non mechanical keyboard. They would have to make it lighter that's for sure with it tipping the scales at around 4.4lbs. I cannot say it enough that I love the feel of mechanical keyboards, it's really nice to actually feel the feedback and know you hit the key and it input the information even if the key did not bottom out. My BWU keyboard inputs at right around 50% of it travel distance before the keys bottom out...I am sure other mechanical keyboards do the same thing. Anyways it is awesome.
The K400 does its job. But i HATE typing on it!!! Using it right now and just talking about my mechanical keyboard makes me want to put a real long 25ft USB extension cable on my HTPC and bring my BWU in here right now!

If anyone knows of a wireless USB mechanical keyboard please let me know.
2600k HT on@4705mhz 2x EVGA GTX770 4gb Classified cards running in SLI @1320 mhz core and 2003 mhz mem,mounted in CM HAF922.2xHTPC's 2xi3 2120 3.3ghz dual core,1xasus LP HD6570 1xHIS hd7750@1150core1325mem,55"PanyVT30
vargis14
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Re: Goodbye SLI, hello HTPC! Any advice for an HTPC n00b?

Postposted on Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:38 pm

Just played some Worms Armageddon on the big screen with the fiancee... good times were had.

"KAMIKAZEEEEE" :D
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