HTPC Overhaul

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HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:26 am

Hey gerbils!

Since I scratched a project off the Honey Do List this past weekend, I'm turning my attention to upgrading the HTPC. This has been a long time in coming. Let's just say that it will be nice to have a motherboard that takes DDR3. :) But I could use some advice on some of the components.

The requirements:
  • Will be used for light gaming with XBOX style controller with Steam Big Picture mode. Resolution is fixed at 1920x1080.
  • Some games will give the GPU a workout - Assassin's Creed, Arkham City, Saints Row, etc. It's not all Shank.
  • TV content will be via unencrypted cable system via coax plus OTA HDTV signals via roof-mount antenna. No cable cards.
  • I have wired Ethernet, so no wireless required.
  • Will be located in a well-ventilated spot of the room, not in an enclosed cabinet.
  • Box is 13' feet away from listening position and I throw a lot of wattage into my sound, so dead silent is not a requirement
  • Audio currently goes to a 5.1 receiver via HDMI, but I don't think I get surround sound during gaming via this method

I plan on carrying over some pieces into the new system. The Blu-Ray drive, SSD, 2TB media drive, HD7770 GPU, keyboard/mouse combo and IR receiver will make the move. I have 8 GB of spare memory that will be inserted into the new motherboard. I'll keep using Win7 and the Media Center, which has worked quite well so far. So that stuff is all settled (unless you see something obviously wrong. :))

What I really need is advice on a case, motherboard, processor, power supply and capture card. Plus possibly a sound card if it will get me more noises in my head (just like high school!)

So far, I'm leaning towards: Silverstone GD05B, NMediaPC 6000B and sort of a Dark Horse option, the DIYPC HTPC-KT28B.

Capture card seems to be fulfilled by a Hauppage WinTV 2250 Dual Tuner. But I would be interested in alternatives.

It sounds like I want a microATX motherboard with an Intel i5. Preferably a motherboard with lots of onboard configurable fan headers. Other than that, I'm at a loss as to which brand, what features and what model of processor is a good buy. I'm also unsure as to whether a discrete audio card would give me any appreciable benefit. Any suggestions? ;)
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Tue Mar 19, 2013 11:04 am

Congrats on getting the Honey-Dos out of the way :P I know the feeling.

I have the Silverstone GD05B and it’s a solid HTPC case. Plenty of room for 3 hard drives (2 HHD+1 SSD/Laptop drive or 2 SSD/laptop+1HDD) a graphics card and all that. My case definitely isn’t silent, even with only 1 fan running, but it runs very cool even with just that one fan. Then again, I’m not 13 feet away from it. I doubt you’ll be able to hear it 13 feet away.

Unless you are really adept at cable management, you will *definitely* want a modular power supply for that case since there are no cable routing holes. There is a lot of free space under the front HDD, but it gets crowded fast and putting too much there will block a fan, though I don’t use that fan in my build. BTW, Amazon has this case for $95 – much cheaper than Newegg.

As for a sound card, an Asus Xonar will work pretty well from what I hear. Some of them are PCI rather than PCIe, so just be sure you have the right slot for the card.

You can also consider the Creative USB X-Fi Surround 5.1 Pro since it doesn’t require a PCI slot of any kind. I bought one, but haven’t used it since I want to test the sound quality from my motherboard first. It’s got good overall reviews though. Don’t know how that affects gaming though.

If you want to get an i5 processor, then is there really any other choice besides the i5-3570k? Might as well pair with a Z77 motherboard like the Asrock Pro4-M Z77 for $110 with 10% off, plus shipping. That board gets recommended pretty often around here. I don't know much about fan headers though, and i don't think the Asrock boards come with many...

Also, if you want mATX, Newegg is having a deal where you get an 8gb dual channel memory kit (its DDR3-1600, but CAS 10 ram) with certain Mobos. The only mATX board that qualifies is this Biostar Z77 model. Its got good reviews, but no optical out or regular PCI slot.

For a power supply, a $60 Seasonic modular will work great.

Hope that helps!
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Tue Mar 19, 2013 12:58 pm

Thank you for the helpful reply! I have been reading your posts about your own HTPC build process with interest.

I don't have any experience with BioStar boards, but how bad can it be, right? :) And if I get the sound card, that solves the "problem" with optical out. There's another advantage: With the free memory, I can take my two 4GB sticks I have lying around and fill up the slots for a stupidly overpowered HTPC.

Currently, I'm rocking an nMedia 100 case so I'm favorably inclined towards them. But it would be kind of silly to ask for recommendations and then ignore them. I am sorely tempted to go with this nMedia case just for the novelty factor. But I'm sure I'll regret that two days later. Oh well.

Please refresh my memory: Are you using the stock Intel heat sink or something aftermarket?
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Tue Mar 19, 2013 3:59 pm

I generally agree with SoCo. Just a couple things to add:
1) Asrock Pro4-M has 4 total fan headers. Only the 4-pin header can be automatically ramped, the other three can be manually set to a fixed % of the full fan speed.
The alternative to the AsRock board would be the Asus P8Z77-M for $120. In all practicality, it's the same as the AsRock board, but with better fan contols. The Asus board has less on-board audio capability (no optical out), but that's a moot point if you'll have a discrete sound card.
2) Since you'll be re-using your 7770, I do agree with an Intel processor. (otherwise I'd suggest an AMD APU) If you want 4 cores, an i5 is the ticket. I don't see the need for the unlocked multiplier though. If you're running the i5-3470 or i5-3570 on a Z77 board, you'll still be able to OC it by 400MHz. At that point you're nearly at the OC limit of the processor using stock voltage. Increasing voltage = increasing heat output = not wanted in HTPC use. If you want to save some money, you could go with an i3. I don't see too much demand for gaming while multitasking in an HTPC environment but even then the i3 does a respectable job. Don't forget the i3 has a 55W TDP whereas the i5' has a 77W TDP = less heat generated = less noise. The i3-3220 is $15 off on newegg right now making it $115.
3) 8GB of RAM on an HTPC is plenty.
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Tue Mar 19, 2013 4:25 pm

Do you have requirements beyond what you've listed that require the additional physical cores of the i5? I just built an HTPC using the i3-3225 and it's been great. I see that you've got a discreet GPU, so you could probably save even more with an i3-3220 :http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819116775&CMP=OTC-TechReport&ATT=19-116-775&nm_mc=OTC-TechReport&cm_mmc=OTC-TechReport-_-NA-_-NA-_-NA

As for tuners, I've moved away from cards installed in the machine and now use the silicondust HDHomeRun Dual http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6815345007
I was having trouble with the tuners I had (one avermedia, one hauppage) and replaced both with one of these and it's been flawless. I also like the ability to use the tuners over the network on the laptop and my gaming PC if I want to pull up something I don't have set to record on the HTPC

Cases are such a personal preference - I'm using the silverstone LC17 I bought 5+ years ago - it's a bit outdated, but it still looks nice IMO and it's able to be pretty quiet with the lower power hardware inside.

You're going to need a sound solution that will do Dolby or DTS encoding for you and then use a digital optical over to your receiver for surround sound in gaming. It would really be a nice feature for NV or AMD to add to their video cards with HDMI output. I own a Xonar but couldn't stand the drivers (that were never updated) and would constantly change inputs on me so it sits in a box now. I tried to find a micro-atx Z77 board with Dolby Digital Live or DTS connect integrated with the onboard sound, but my google and newegg skills seem to be lacking this afternoon. This one seems like it should, but I can't find a definitive answer: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6813157300
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Tue Mar 19, 2013 4:50 pm

Interestingly, this ASUS that TR reviewed a little while ago does seem to have DTS encoding as an option
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6813131840

ASUS (or anyone, really) doesn't seem to have an equivalent product in the m-atx line for some reason.
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Tue Mar 19, 2013 7:27 pm

Darkmage wrote:Thank you for the helpful reply! I have been reading your posts about your own HTPC build process with interest.

I don't have any experience with BioStar boards, but how bad can it be, right? :) And if I get the sound card, that solves the "problem" with optical out. There's another advantage: With the free memory, I can take my two 4GB sticks I have lying around and fill up the slots for a stupidly overpowered HTPC.

Currently, I'm rocking an nMedia 100 case so I'm favorably inclined towards them. But it would be kind of silly to ask for recommendations and then ignore them. I am sorely tempted to go with this nMedia case just for the novelty factor. But I'm sure I'll regret that two days later. Oh well.

Please refresh my memory: Are you using the stock Intel heat sink or something aftermarket?


Cool man, glad I can help :)

My HPTC has a Biostar board and I don't have any complaints other than the lack of optical out, so the sound card is a must. That said, and for what its worth, the i3-3225 works fine in my HTPC as well and I don't think my computer has ever used all 8gbs of RAM.

My i3-3225 uses only the stock heatsink - temp right now is 35c while watching TV and recording another show. I think the highest I've ever seen it is mid-high 40s when playing Battlefield 3 on the integrated graphics (just because I could).

I like that nMedia case. Would be great in the right room since its something other than a modern looking piece of home theater equipment. But yeah, the novelty would wear off in about a week haha.
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HTPC: i3 3225/H77/8gb g.skill 1.25v/1+2TB HDD/Asus BR/Asus 7850 2gb/Silverstone GD05B/Antec 380w/InfiniTV 4/Win7
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Wed Mar 20, 2013 5:16 am

Darkmage wrote:The Blu-Ray drive, SSD, 2TB media drive, HD7770 GPU, keyboard/mouse combo and IR receiver will make the move. I have 8 GB of spare memory that will be inserted into the new motherboard. I'll keep using Win7 and the Media Center, which has worked quite well so far. What I really need is advice on a case, motherboard, processor, power supply and capture card.

Silverstone GD05B
I like that HTPC case. It's $36½ (28%) cheaper at Amazon than at Newegg.

Have you checked out some of the other recent HTPC threads here? I linked some good power supplies in that one.

Darkmage wrote: Capture card seems to be fulfilled by a Hauppage WinTV 2250 Dual Tuner. But I would be interested in alternatives.
That's also cheaper at Amazon. I did okay with cards from AverMedia for a while, but I'm much happier with my Ceton InfiniTV 4. Note that even without a CableCard installed, you may get quite a few HD channels in clear-QAM on your cable signal. Setting up the guide in Windows Media Center to assign the correct listings to the unidentified clear-QAM channels takes a while, but once you've done it, it works well. The drawback I experienced was that my cable company would shuffle a few channels around every couple of weeks and I'd end up recording the secondary SD broadcast from my PBS affiliate instead of the HD CBS channel.

Darkmage wrote: Audio currently goes to a 5.1 receiver via HDMI, but I don't think I get surround sound during gaming via this method
When I had the A75 motherboard in my HTPC, I was able to fix the 5.1 vs. 2.0 over HDMI problem by installing some Realtek drivers. Try Googling on those before you give up. If you're using digital output from the PC to the receiver, there's not much need for a sound card.

DPete27 wrote: Asrock Pro4-M has 4 total fan headers.
I'm quite pleased with the Asus P8Z77-M Pro. It has better fan speed control than other brands of motherboard. It's more expensive now than when I built my current HTPC almost a year ago.

DPete27 wrote: Don't forget the i3 has a 55W TDP whereas the i5' has a 77W TDP = less heat generated = less noise.
While the TDP power ratings are appropriate for a fully-loaded processor, remember that your HTPC will spend most of its time in sleep mode. When it's recording, the processor will be very lightly loaded, so you're not going to be pumping out anywhere near the TDP except when you're gaming. I've got a large CoolerMaster CPU cooler installed on mine that is inaudible when recording.
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Wed Mar 20, 2013 6:44 am

I'm late to the party but I'll throw in another vote for the Silverston Grandia (the GD05 and GD04 differ only by the optical drive cutout shape)

Asus is your go-to choice for a board with decent fan-controllers, as well.

In terms of processor, I have been using my laptop as an HTPC at my girlfriends house and it hardly ever breaks a sweat, even when gaming. It has a Pentium B960 in it which is inferior to even a $50 Celeron G1610. It's no i3 but considering it's very cheap, power efficient and that you're only talking about "light" gaming I would recommend it as a way to shave around $75 off your build cost if you're interested in doing that. It's certainly enough to give us smooth framerates in things like BL2 (even split-screen). If it's not enough power for you, an i3 isn't likely to be orders-of-magnitude faster so at that point you should probably look for a true quad-core.
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Wed Mar 20, 2013 8:40 am

Chrispy_ wrote:an i3 isn't likely to be orders-of-magnitude faster [than a Celeron G1610] so at that point you should probably look for a true quad-core.

I don't support that claim. If we assume the Celeron G1610 performance is equal to a Pentium G2120 (which it's not) so we can compare a gaming benchmark on TR, the Pentium and i3 perform similarly while ONLY gaming. However, once you add background tasks while gaming, the Pentium falls flat on it's face. The i3 also takes a hit, but hyperthreading helps keep it standing above most of the AMD lineup. Admittedly, recording TV isn't as taxing as video encoding, but there will still be some performance hit that will be magnified on the Pentum/Celeron.

Also, check out TR's gaming performance per dollar chart moving the i3 back toward the $115 price point, the i5-3470 up toward the $200 price point. I think the i3 justifies its price between the true dual-cores and the i5's.
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Wed Mar 20, 2013 8:49 am

DPete27 wrote:I generally agree with SoCo. Just a couple things to add:
1) Asrock Pro4-M has 4 total fan headers. Only the 4-pin header can be automatically ramped, the other three can be manually set to a fixed % of the full fan speed.
The alternative to the AsRock board would be the Asus P8Z77-M for $120. In all practicality, it's the same as the AsRock board, but with better fan contols. The Asus board has less on-board audio capability (no optical out), but that's a moot point if you'll have a discrete sound card.
Hmm. That's nice. Additionally, the legacy PCI slot will let me migrate my existing capture card.

DPete27 wrote:2) Since you'll be re-using your 7770, I do agree with an Intel processor. (otherwise I'd suggest an AMD APU) If you want 4 cores, an i5 is the ticket. I don't see the need for the unlocked multiplier though. If you're running the i5-3470 or i5-3570 on a Z77 board, you'll still be able to OC it by 400MHz. At that point you're nearly at the OC limit of the processor using stock voltage. Increasing voltage = increasing heat output = not wanted in HTPC use.
I have a philosophical objection to overclocking an HTPC. So no worries there.

DPete27 wrote:If you want to save some money, you could go with an i3. I don't see too much demand for gaming while multitasking in an HTPC environment but even then the i3 does a respectable job.
My desire for an i5 was solely for smooth gaming goodness. I have no plans to multitask gaming with encoding. Any encoding on the HTPC is going to be via batch process overnight. Speaking of which, I'll come back after this build is complete and ask about converting MKV to MP4 so they'll show up in MCE... (Which I'll do ASAP before the SWMBO gets PO'd about my heavy acronym use.)

frumper15 wrote:Do you have requirements beyond what you've listed that require the additional physical cores of the i5? I just built an HTPC using the i3-3225 and it's been great. I see that you've got a discreet GPU, so you could probably save even more with an i3-3220
Negative. If the i3 will not hinder my gameplay, then I'd be fine with the cheaper processor. Thanks!

frumper15 wrote:You're going to need a sound solution that will do Dolby or DTS encoding for you and then use a digital optical over to your receiver for surround sound in gaming. [snip] I own a Xonar but couldn't stand the drivers (that were never updated) and would constantly change inputs on me so it sits in a box now.
It seems that several third party drivers are available for these cards now that fix a lot of these problems. The reviews of the cards at NewEgg are full of tidbits and useful search terms. :)

JustAnEngineer wrote:I like that HTPC case. It's $36½ (28%) cheaper at Amazon than at Newegg.[snip]That's also cheaper at Amazon.
Yeah, I have two wishlists going, one at each site. I'm doing direct model number comparisons between the two. It looks like I'm going to have a race to see who has the faster shipping.

JustAnEngineer wrote:Setting up the guide in Windows Media Center to assign the correct listings to the unidentified clear-QAM channels takes a while, but once you've done it, it works well.
I've done that before and it's not too difficult. It just takes time. I think the only thing stopping me previously was that I only had one HDTV input on my capture cards so it was a choice between OTA or clear-QAM. OTA won out due to higher resolutions. I don't watch a lot of TV. I use the DVR function to record the one show SWMBO follows, plus the occasional special event (Superbowl, Grammys, Olympics, etc.) so it wasn't a hardship.

JustAnEngineer wrote:Have you checked out some of the other recent HTPC threads here? I linked some good power supplies in that one.
Yes indeed I have. I was hoping you'd pop into my thread and lend your expertise. Between SoCo and BostonHokie doing their builds, I've been soaking up the state of the craft for weeks. I should be able to post a parts list today for final approval from the HTPC Gerbil Committee before sending it off to accounting. ;)

JustAnEngineer wrote:When I had the A75 motherboard in my HTPC, I was able to fix the 5.1 vs. 2.0 over HDMI problem by installing some Realtek drivers.
Hmm. I have gone to Realtek's website and installed their drivers for my current Realtek chip and it doesn't seem to have solved the problem. I just assumed it was because the board is now relatively ancient and it wasn't supported by the chipset. I checked my NewEgg account and the last upgrade to the HTPC was 2009. Something to ponder, surely. Perhaps I'll order the card and hold off opening it until I play with the onboard audio a bit.

Chrispy_ wrote:I'm late to the party but I'll throw in another vote for the Silverston Grandia (the GD05 and GD04 differ only by the optical drive cutout shape)
You're not late yet. I haven't placed the order(s) just yet, so I'm still soliciting advice.

Chrispy_ wrote:It has a Pentium B960 in it [snip] It's no i3 but considering it's very cheap, power efficient and that you're only talking about "light" gaming I would recommend it as a way to shave around $75 off your build cost if you're interested in doing that. It's certainly enough to give us smooth framerates in things like BL2 (even split-screen). If it's not enough power for you, an i3 isn't likely to be orders-of-magnitude faster so at that point you should probably look for a true quad-core.
Thanks. It definitely sounds like I can safely downgrade to an i3 and not lose playable framerates thanks to the discrete graphics card. That's nice as I can shave off a large chunk of the price tag.

Thank you all for the advice! I should have a proposed shopping list in a few hours.
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Wed Mar 20, 2013 10:49 am

All right. First draft of the overhaul shopping list:
Motherboard: Asus P8Z77-M
Processor: Intel i3-3220
Power Supply: Seasonic M12ii 520W
Case: Silverstone Grandia GD04
Sound Card: Asus Xonar DSX
Memory: Legacy
Video Card: Legacy
Hard Drives: Legacy
Blu-Ray: Legacy
Capture card: Legacy
Keyboard: Legacy
Remote: Legacy

Any comment before I pull the trigger? Current price stands at $312.99
Last edited by Darkmage on Wed Mar 20, 2013 2:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Wed Mar 20, 2013 12:45 pm

Seasonic 80 Plus Gold PSU for same price? You only need 360W so even this 360W model would work just fine.
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Wed Mar 20, 2013 1:10 pm

What did you decide on the TV Tuner?
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Wed Mar 20, 2013 2:10 pm

DPete27 wrote:Seasonic 80 Plus Gold PSU for same price? You only need 360W so even this 360W model would work just fine.
That's not a bad idea. But there's free shipping on the 520W. :)

dextrous wrote:What did you decide on the TV Tuner?

Since the Asus motherboard includes a PCI slot, I can use my existing ATI HDTV Wonder. I have updated the post to include that. Thanks!
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Wed Mar 20, 2013 2:34 pm

Darkmage wrote:That's not a bad idea. But there's free shipping on the 520W.

Fair enough, I can't knock you for not caring about an extra 5% of efficiency, but the 360W is $66 w/ shipping.
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Wed Mar 20, 2013 2:48 pm

DPete27 wrote:
Darkmage wrote:That's not a bad idea. But there's free shipping on the 520W.

Fair enough, I can't knock you for not caring about an extra 5% of efficiency, but the 360W is $66 w/ shipping.


Are you still eligible for a Shoprunner free trial? If so, just got with that. I got a free trial when I built my HPTC in November, then went to cancel it and they offered me 3 more months for free. Then, if I made 3 shoprunner eligible purchases during that time, I got a full year free. Well, I ended up ordering way more than 3 items in that time period and have gotten free shipping from Newegg since then. Really nice to have 2 day shipping. If only Amazon Prime had an offer like that.
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HTPC: i3 3225/H77/8gb g.skill 1.25v/1+2TB HDD/Asus BR/Asus 7850 2gb/Silverstone GD05B/Antec 380w/InfiniTV 4/Win7
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Wed Mar 20, 2013 7:40 pm

Darkmage wrote:
JustAnEngineer wrote: When I had the A75 motherboard in my HTPC, I was able to fix the 5.1 vs. 2.0 over HDMI problem by installing some Realtek drivers.
Hmm. I have gone to Realtek's website and installed their drivers for my current Realtek chip and it doesn't seem to have solved the problem.
You need the ATI HDMI Audio Device driver, not the regular sound chip driver. It might have been the one discussed in this thread:
http://forums.guru3d.com/showthread.php?t=355805
The latest version (R2.70) appears to be the third file on the list here:
http://www.realtek.com.tw/downloads/dow ... Down=false
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Wed Mar 20, 2013 9:28 pm

Trigger has been pulled and the digital gears are now in motion. A couple notes:

I ended up with a Seasonic 450W Gold rated power supply. Not because I didn't like DPete27's suggestion, but because the 360W one he recommended wasn't modular. Based on SoCo's case recommendation, this would be a PITA. In the end, I decided it wasn't worthwhile to make technical decisions based upon shipping costs, so I went with the higher rated power supply rather than the higher wattage.

I went with the Silverstone GB04 instead of the GB05. Thanks for pointing out the minor difference in design. I had to go with Amazon for that one as it was out of stock at NewEgg.

Total price was $486.99, which tells me I definitely fat-fingered the initial quote in my earlier post. I think I didn't include the case, but I'm not sure. If I can get the HDMI in the 7770 to work, as per JustAnEngineer's post, I'll send the Xonar back unopened and bring the total price down to $430 or so. Which to my mind isn't bad for a gaming PC upgrade where you replace the case, CPU and motherboard.

When I get the new HTPC assembled and the legacy equipment transferred, I'll report back. The current HTPC is sporting an Intel Celeron E1400 at 2.0GHz with 2GB of DDR2 RAM on top of a Gigabyte GA-G31M-ES2L motherboard. Which is just fine for DVR purposes, but turns Assassins Creed III into a slideshow.
If there is one thing a remote-controlled, silent and unseeable surveillance/killing machine needs, it’s more whimsy. -- Marcus
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Wed Mar 20, 2013 9:48 pm

Play with the HDMI- I was able to get it working to 7.1 for games and movies without issue. It's seriously the best and easiest way to do it; if you're encoding off of a card, you're stuck at 5.1 (if that matters) and lower fidelity compressed streams.
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Fri Mar 22, 2013 10:04 am

Airmantharp wrote:Play with the HDMI- I was able to get it working to 7.1 for games and movies without issue. It's seriously the best and easiest way to do it; if you're encoding off of a card, you're stuck at 5.1 (if that matters) and lower fidelity compressed streams.

Am I understanding you to say that you're getting 7.1 over HDMI from games? What is it encoding it into? DTS, Dolby Digital? I'm intrigued to say the least if that is possible.
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Sat Mar 23, 2013 5:41 am

frumper15 wrote:
Airmantharp wrote:Play with the HDMI- I was able to get it working to 7.1 for games and movies without issue. It's seriously the best and easiest way to do it; if you're encoding off of a card, you're stuck at 5.1 (if that matters) and lower fidelity compressed streams.

Am I understanding you to say that you're getting 7.1 over HDMI from games? What is it encoding it into? DTS, Dolby Digital? I'm intrigued to say the least if that is possible.


The superior bandwidth over HDMI allows for 7.1 PCM- meaning, not encoded, loss-less. Tell Windows to use HDMI 7.1 and then tell the game or application to do the same, and the receiver should light right up with all channels accounted for.
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Mon Mar 25, 2013 7:35 am

I do love Amazon and NewEgg. But the one piece that didn't arrive in the mail this weekend was the power supply. With luck, that will arrive today and I can begin the brain transplant. It has been remarkably easy so far.
If there is one thing a remote-controlled, silent and unseeable surveillance/killing machine needs, it’s more whimsy. -- Marcus
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Wed Mar 27, 2013 11:41 am

All right. The power supply arrived Tuesday, so the hardware portion of the upgrade happened Tuesday night. It was tight, but not nearly as bad as when I first put the HTPC together in the nMedia 100 case. Actually, I thought it was going to be a snap until the time came to run the power to all of the accessories.

Naturally, if it has tires or wires it is going to take longer than you think. The first major hurdle was the modular power supply only had one string of SATA power plugs. It was not possible to screw the SSD in to the underside of the bracket because the power plug wires were coming from the wrong direction and would push up on the bracket. After much sturm and drang, I managed to find the other SATA power module that apparently is made for just such an occasion. I still can't screw the SSD into the bracket, but it slides nicely above the 2TB physical drive and isn't going anywhere.

Second major problem: My 8GB of RAM aren't compatible with the motherboard. This was highly frustrating as it prevents the BIOS screen from showing up and I was removing accessories right & left to figure out where the video signal was exiting the HTPC. On the positive side, the motherboard has a handy light on it that tells you that the memory isn't compatible - I just have to read the manual. Swapping the memory out for 4GB I had laying around solved that problem nicely. I'll live with 4GB.

After that, it was all software issues. The brain transplant to the new motherboard & CPU prevented Win7 from running, complete with failure for recovery mode to work. Also, Win7 Upgrade won't install if you format the hard disk despite the fact that it lets you format the hard disk from within the setup menu. A quick call to MS tech support solved that problem. Then it was merely a matter of waiting for 137 Win7 security updates, drivers & patches to download & install. And then anther 23 updates. Then 16 updates. Then 19. Right about 11 PM I shut it all down.

This morning was downloading and installing Steam, PowerDVD 11 (save your emails! There's no way to find it on Cyberlink's website), MyMovies 4, Chrome, MS Security Essentials and configuring Windows Media Center. I also moved it from the workbench to the theater and plugged in the antenna. By the time I left for work, MyMovies was downloading the actor profiles & portraits on 19,000+ actors.

Tonight I have to verify that the patch to PowerDVD 11 worked and I can view Blu-Ray discs, set up the DVR to record the one show my wife watches and test all the little features to make sure I haven't lost anything. Windows Experience index went from 5.6 to 7.2 (!). I'll check the Kill-A-Watt tonight to see about the draw at the plug.
If there is one thing a remote-controlled, silent and unseeable surveillance/killing machine needs, it’s more whimsy. -- Marcus
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Wed Mar 27, 2013 4:54 pm

Where did you end up with the sound front? Are you trying over HDMI on the 7770 first or going straight to the Xonar?
I'm curious about your power usage compared to your earlier build. Since you carried a bunch over your gains would appear to be limited to CPU and motherboard. Should be good for a few watts while significantly more powerful but I don't know how much you'll save. I find my biggest savings are getting sleep to work well - media center handles waking the machine up for recordings and the remote I use wakes it up without issue so I would have hope you could achieve a similar result. If you're not using the machine for anything other than HTPC duty you should be able to have it asleep for the majority of the time. I think mine uses less than 5 watts in S3 sleep.
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Wed Mar 27, 2013 6:10 pm

What remote are you using? The one I've got doesn't wake from sleep/standby easily...
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Wed Mar 27, 2013 6:45 pm

druidcent wrote:What remote are you using? The one I've got doesn't wake from sleep/standby easily...


I'd like to know too, as I'm about to get my 'HTPC' reassembled for full duty again.
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Wed Mar 27, 2013 9:22 pm

druidcent wrote:What remote are you using? The one I've got doesn't wake from sleep/standby easily...


For the remote I'm using a cheap Harmony 200 that I have configured for media center under the "Cable" device with volume controlling my surround sound receiver. The IR receiver is from the original Microsoft RC6 remote http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6880100851
I wish I could buy another of those remotes. Other than fairly short battery life due to the button backlighting, it was about perfect from button placement to being able to program volume up/down to control another device and it had a TV power button as well. Mine is currently held together by a large amount of tape and some of the buttons stopped working.

Before the Harmony I was using a near clone of the MS remote that came with my Avermedia tuner card - the ergonomics and button layout were the same, but it lacked programmable volume control and tv power buttons. It looks like you can get a pretty close approximation of that one here: http://www.amazon.com/Microsoft-RC15340 ... B007FZEG4Y
As you can tell from the one review, it won't have the programmable power or volume control, but it's hard to beat the ergonomics and price on that one (if you already have an IR receiver). Oh, and it appears to be in Japanese!

I imagine the IR receiver has more to do with reliability of the sleep/on functionality and I've always used the MS one, but I've built a few HTPCs for friends/family and I can't say I've had any trouble. I do recall on some of my older machines I had to do something in the BIOS and the hardware properties to allow USB to wake from sleep, but I don't think I've had to do that on any recent builds.
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Thu Mar 28, 2013 5:51 am

Darkmage wrote:I still can't screw the SSD into the bracket, but it slides nicely above the 2TB physical drive and isn't going anywhere.
Some velcro tape or adhesive putty can secure an SSD if the mounting brackets aren't working for you.
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Re: HTPC Overhaul

Postposted on Thu Mar 28, 2013 6:45 am

frumper15 wrote:Where did you end up with the sound front? Are you trying over HDMI on the 7770 first or going straight to the Xonar?
I bought the Xonar but I haven't installed it yet. Last night's problem was PowerDVD wouldn't run Blu-Ray disc due to it not believing that my HDMI cable and video card were HDCP compliant. Of course, I'm reading that #$?@!! message over my HDMI cable and it's telling me to make sure I'm using an HDMI or DVI cable... I ended up reinstalling & updating PowerDVD a couple times. In the end, I installed AnyDVD and it took that crap right out. But it means I didn't have a chance to play with the sound nor look at the Kill-a-watt. I hope to do that tonight.

frumper15 wrote:I'm curious about your power usage compared to your earlier build. Since you carried a bunch over your gains would appear to be limited to CPU and motherboard. Should be good for a few watts while significantly more powerful but I don't know how much you'll save.
I think you're right. Before the rebuild, I was idling around 90W with it hovering around 108W during downloads & updates, with occasional spikes to 115W or so and dips down into the 84W area. Just glancing at it yesterday saw it hovering around 89W, so it doesn't look like much has changed there.

frumper15 wrote:I find my biggest savings are getting sleep to work well - media center handles waking the machine up for recordings and the remote I use wakes it up without issue so I would have hope you could achieve a similar result. If you're not using the machine for anything other than HTPC duty you should be able to have it asleep for the majority of the time. I think mine uses less than 5 watts in S3 sleep.
Agreed. MCE does the wake-up-and-record thing really well, so that should save me in the long run. I will be sure to check the amperage during sleep as well. Now, if I could only get the computer to wake up on a remote signal...
If there is one thing a remote-controlled, silent and unseeable surveillance/killing machine needs, it’s more whimsy. -- Marcus
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