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HTPC HW and SW advice


Server Grunt

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Server Grunt

Hi all

 

 

 

First I want to thank the guys at BYOB and HSS for their fantastic work, but also a great thank you to all of you who are active in these forums - it has been such an inspiring reading, helping me a lot in my progress towards my HTPC.

 

Now to business – Hope I am not overstepping any posting rules….

 

I am planning my new high performance HTPC and have reached some decisions but do need your advice on other things. The snag is that I am a relatively newcomer to this, so I am bevildered.

To give you something to comment on I have listed the following things that my HTPC should be capable of:

  • Blu Ray playback (Disc and HDD)
  • Web surfing
  • Web TV (Like BBC Iplayer, HULU)
  • TV-viewing and recording (incl. multi screen (using DVB-logic), re-encoding and commercial elimination (on the fly)
  • Basic gaming (or more advanced depending on Graphics card

The Intended HW looks as follows:

 

What I have

Case: HFX classic passive cooled (this I have since before)

ASUS XONAR 1.3 High-fi soundcard with HDMI pass through

 

What I need advice on

  • RAM: My thought is as much as possible, but what is your take?
  • Motherboard: Here I am thinking on a high grade and feturepacked MB: H67? Or should I go for the new version that can alternate between on-board and discrete graphics
  • High performance, multi-core processor – I7?
  • SSD-system HDD (possible in raid config) . I am thinking 160GB
  • 2 Tuner cards w. 2 tuners on each: DVB (I am living in Europe)
  • Possible passively cooled graphics card: (Want best possible)
  • PCI-card with extra eSata or usb3.0 ports
  • PSU? Fanless? external? – What is your take

SW:

 

I am planning to use win7 and WMC as a base and add-on:

  • Security SW
  • My Movies
  • Various Slysoft SW
  • POWER DVD or TNT for BR playback (Asus card works with TNT)

Additional advice on SW appreciated

 

All comments appreciated

//

Server Grunt

 

 

Edited by Server Grunt
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Hi all

 

 

 

First I want to thank the guys at BYOB and HSS for their fantastic work, but also a great thank you to all of you who are active in these forums - it has been such an inspiring reading, helping me a lot in my progress towards my HTPC.

 

Now to business – Hope I am not overstepping any posting rules….

 

I am planning my new high performance HTPC and have reached some decisions but do need your advice on other things. The snag is that I am a relatively newcomer to this, so I am bevildered.

To give you something to comment on I have listed the following things that my HTPC should be capable of:

  • Blu Ray playback (Disc and HDD)
  • Web surfing
  • Web TV (Like BBC Iplayer, HULU)
  • TV-viewing and recording (incl. multi screen (using DVB-logic), re-encoding and commercial elimination (on the fly)
  • Basic gaming (or more advanced depending on Graphics card

The Intended HW looks as follows:

 

 

 

 

What I have

Case: HFX classic passive cooled (this I have since before)

ASUS XONAR 1.3 High-fi soundcard with HDMI pass through

 

What I need advice on

  • RAM: My thought is as much as possible, but what is your take?
  • Motherboard: Here I am thinking on a high grade and feturepacked MB: H67? Or should I go for the new version that can alternate between on-board and discrete graphics
  • High performance, multi-core processor – I7?
  • SSD-system HDD (possible in raid config) . I am thinking 160GB
  • 2 Tuner cards w. 2 tuners on each: DVB (I am living in Europe)
  • Possible passively cooled graphics card: (Want best possible)
  • PCI-card with extra eSata or usb3.0 ports
  • PSU? Fanless? external? – What is your take

SW:

 

 

 

 

I am planning to use win7 and WMC as a base and add-on:

  • Security SW
  • My Movies
  • Various Slysoft SW
  • POWER DVD or TNT for BR playback (Asus card works with TNT)

Additional advice on SW appreciated

 

All comments appreciated

//

Server Grunt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glad you find the podcasts and forums useful. There are many helpful folks here on the forums and we all like to exchange and share information. As for your questions, my first and best advice is dump the Asus Xonar. All current generations of MB and graphics cards do a better job with audio pass-through, and with much less buggy software than the Asus Xonar. If anything it will add complications. TMT will support all audio cards including on-board for analog playback and all current chipsets like the H67 or Z68, as well as current GPU cards such as the AMD and nVidia for HDMI audio pass though. Although the Asus hardware is great, the audio software is the worst I have seen yet and there is nothing to gain by using it. Here is my take on your questions. Also, if you are playing BR off of your server or computer, use TMT as PowerDVD (including version 11) does not pull folder structures off of hard drives is next to useless in a WMC environment unless you use ISO. You can get it to work but you will have to use ISO and a virtual drive like the one offered by Slysoft. Again personally preference, I like to rip my movies without the trailers and advertising and use native folders to do that.

  • RAM: 8 Gig for what you described should do everything you want with room to spare. If budget allows go for 16. Beyond 8 the gain is questionable unless you are using VM or doing heavy video editing. I upgraded to 16 on a couple of my machines and would make the decision on value more that anything. If you can get 16 for a good price, then I would go for that otherwise you will be fine with 8.
  • Motherboard: Since you are buying new, go for the Z68 with on-board graphics support support. If you find a good deal on a H67 do not shy away from it as other than SSD caching there is very little difference. The discreet/on-board switching is more marketing than it is useful and has too many drawbacks at this time.
  • High performance, multi-core processor – I7?: Again based on value, the 2500k is cheaper and 95-98% of the speed of the 2600k. Both will do a great job and the only real difference is hyper threading. I have the 2500, 2500k, and 2600, and 2600k and cannot tell the difference under everyday workloads. Only visible when using a benchmarks. Depending on the software you are using, you "might" see a slight gain from the hyper thread but based on what you listed I doubt there will be a difference. Again, your pocket book is the decision maker for this one but the sweet spot is the 2500k.

  • SSD-system HDD (possible in raid config) . I am thinking 160GB - Several options here: 1 fast SSD drive for the OS and 1 large spindle drive for the data and other stuff, and if you get the Z68, add a small SSD to cache the large spindle. I am a RAID fan but not for the OS (just me). Nothing wrong with it just less straight forward. I prefer a single fast SSD that simplifies my restores and installs. My Vertex 3 is just as fast as most raid setups. It is a personal choice but have done both I will stick with a super fast single drive of 120-240G over RAID for the OS. A 120 for just the OS and applications (no games) is more than enough.
  • 2 Tuner cards w. 2 tuners on each: DVB (I am living in Europe) - No real input here, not a tuner user.
  • Possible passively cooled graphics card: (Want best possible): - This one I would not do. Most GPU's that offer more than the on-board GPU will generate quite a bit of heat, and cards suitable for gaming generate allot of heat especially during game play. If you are using this as an HTPC, I would stay with the integrated GPU inside the the Core Ix as it does a great job with BD playback and general use. If you game, then get a gaming card such as 6790 - 6950 based on budget and do not get a passively cooled card.
  • PCI-card with extra eSata or usb3.0 ports - Personal preference on this one. I dislike eSata and refuse to use it anymore but this of course defers from user to user.
  • PSU? Fanless? external? – What is your take: - Remember that passively cooled PS are great if the load is low and there is good ventilation in the case as they tend to add heat inside the case. I would go with a quiet supply such as the Cooler master or Corsair with modular cables especially if you are going to add a gaming card. You will be surprised how much a good graphics card will draw and how fast things heat up.

Hope this helps and we certainly would like to hear about your final configuration and maybe even some pictures of the final setup.

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redscare24

Couple suggestions:

 

MB = Z68 (I agree with Doc)

Ram = 8GB (chances are you won't ever use 16 and money could be spent better elsewhere)

Processor = 2500k (again, agree with doc)

SSD = I would just do a SSD for the OS. Then a 2TB green drive for your data. Price-wise you will get the most bang for your buck.

TV Tuner = HD Homerun.

Graphics Card = HD6790 should work well for the cost.

PSU = agree with doc. Probably around a 450 - 500w bronze rated.

 

I actually had my first gaming HTPC built professionally by Assassin HTPC (www.assassinhtpc.com). I've since added another one to my home theater room so I can game on my computer if my kids are taking up the tv.

 

Might be a suggestion as they were pretty reasonably priced and gives you some satisfaction of someone knowing what they're doing.

 

But Doc's specs are mostly spot on.

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Guest no-control

What I need advice on

  • RAM: My thought is as much as possible, but what is your take?
  • Motherboard: Here I am thinking on a high grade and feturepacked MB: H67? Or should I go for the new version that can alternate between on-board and discrete graphics
  • High performance, multi-core processor – I7?
  • SSD-system HDD (possible in raid config) . I am thinking 160GB
  • 2 Tuner cards w. 2 tuners on each: DVB (I am living in Europe)
  • Possible passively cooled graphics card: (Want best possible)
  • PCI-card with extra eSata or usb3.0 ports
  • PSU? Fanless? external? – What is your take

 

 

My opinion based on the usage you listed:

 

Mobo: Z68 - again might as well take advantage of the newer chipset, but I wouldn't turn away a well priced H67 either.

CPU: i3-2100 - This is waaay more than enough for an HTPC/game PC.

RAM: 8gb - Only because with the price points it just makes sense

SSD: its your call here to use one or not, but I wouldn't spend a lot of money on 3rd gen SSDs.

HDD: same as above, pick whatever you'll need for storage.

Tuner: IDK whats available in your market, but for US I would say the HDHR over everything else.

eSATA/USB3: If you want/need it i guess

PSU: Never fanless! New quality PSUs like the corsairs I use and heavily promote on the show. Are nearly silent due to self regulating speed controls.

GPU: This is really going to depend on 2 things how well your case moves air and what type of games do you want to play. Fanless cards for gaming suck and actually are much hotter than plain jane GPUs. If you playing console ports, and are ok with (console level graphics) you could get away with 6770/6790. If you're looking for PC grade graphics, then you're going to need 6870 as a minimum and on high speed games (like BF3, etc) most likely a 6950.

 

the CPUs right now are so ridiculously overpowered there really no use case for an i7 outside of heavy 3d modeling/rendering or video production. Even the i5 is overpowered for anything other than a graphics workstation or a really high end gaming build. The i3-2100 will pretty much mop the floor from basic PC all the way up to a basic gaming rig. I built a purposed gaming rig for my son based around the older i3/h55 and a mid level GPU (5770) and looks/plays without a hitch on medium-high settings and its all stuffed into a SFF SilverStone SUGO5. It's basically what you're looking to build only with a bigger board (his is ITX) and some extra cards.

 

Just my thoughts.

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Server Grunt

Thank you, you are not only insightful but also ´quick to answer!!

 

Some follow-up questions:

 

Videocard:

If I want to do 3D from my HTPC do I no need a high-performance card, like the Sapphire ATI Fanless HD6670 Ultimate 1GB GDDR5 PCI-E HMDI? However, as this is a fanless card I am a little concerned since my case uses heatpipes that connects to the case, that i turn acts as a massiv heat sink.

 

HDD:

  • How do you mean with setting up a SSD to chache the spindle drive?
  • Also, as SSD are silent and do not produce a lot of heat , i have gotten the advice to let it "hang free" in the case - is this correct?

 

Soundcard:

I am just a little unsure, since by old core 2 duo paltform needed the Asus Xonar card to play HD-sound formats in and provide high qulity sound input to my Home Theatre, but I guess that the new chipsets have betetr capabilities or?

 

Processor and RAM

Just to be sure. I have a requirement (I know this looks extreme, but space and wife factors forces me to have it in one box and that it needs to be placed in a positin were silence is essential.) on this box that it simultaneusly, and I litteraly mean this, should be able to do:

  • Blu Ray playback (Disc or HDD)
  • Web TV (Like BBC Iplayer, HULU)
  • TV-viewing and recording and commercial elimination
  • Media re-encoding
  • TV-streamingg to other screens (using DVB-logic),

Is a i5 and 8GB enough? In that case what 15-model? If not, should I go for an i7 and 16GB

 

Note that I try to get as much time as possible between ne HTPC:s as possible, so I rather overbuild than not.

 

/S. Grunt

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Guest no-control

In the order you presented.

 

GPU: For 3D yes you'll need a discreet GPU. Again I'm not going to recommend fanless especially in the type of case you're looking to put it in. I also think the 6670 is a bit low for any kind of gaming.

 

HDD: The z68 boards allow you to use and SSD as cache for the spindle drives. We talked extensively about it on BYOB episodes 54 & 56. I'm not sure I would call it advice, but yes you do not HAVE to mount and SSD or any drive for that matter.

 

Soundcard: We're sure that the soundcard isn't needed. I play BD with HD audio passed right into my receiver. If you going to use a GPU this is a moot issue as the GPU will handle the passthrough of the audio via the HDMI cable anyway.

 

CPU/RAM: yes i5-2500k and 8GB of RAM will be fine with this.

 

Overbuilding is a waste of money, build it for its purpose. no more no less.

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Server Grunt

Thanks

I will listen to 54 & 56 for this (i am caching up on the episodes, so not there yet)

 

Reg. GPU: As you probably konow, in the HFX cases the cooling of compnents such as the CPU and GPU is done through mounting heatpipes on the components that leads the heat to the case itself, which is actually a giant heatsink.

Even so, would you still recommend a fan or watercooeld (premounted) solution for the GPU?

If so, say that I chooese high end graphics card in the 67xx-series for 3D - not gaming - what fan or water cooling solution should I chose?

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Thank you, you are not only insightful but also ´quick to answer!!

 

Some follow-up questions:

 

Videocard:

If I want to do 3D from my HTPC do I no need a high-performance card, like the Sapphire ATI Fanless HD6670 Ultimate 1GB GDDR5 PCI-E HMDI? However, as this is a fanless card I am a little concerned since my case uses heatpipes that connects to the case, that i turn acts as a massiv heat sink.

 

HDD:

  • How do you mean with setting up a SSD to chache the spindle drive?
  • Also, as SSD are silent and do not produce a lot of heat , i have gotten the advice to let it "hang free" in the case - is this correct?

Soundcard:

I am just a little unsure, since by old core 2 duo paltform needed the Asus Xonar card to play HD-sound formats in and provide high qulity sound input to my Home Theatre, but I guess that the new chipsets have betetr capabilities or?

 

Processor and RAM

Just to be sure. I have a requirement (I know this looks extreme, but space and wife factors forces me to have it in one box and that it needs to be placed in a positin were silence is essential.) on this box that it simultaneusly, and I litteraly mean this, should be able to do:

  • Blu Ray playback (Disc or HDD)
  • Web TV (Like BBC Iplayer, HULU)
  • TV-viewing and recording and commercial elimination
  • Media re-encoding
  • TV-streamingg to other screens (using DVB-logic),

Is a i5 and 8GB enough? In that case what 15-model? If not, should I go for an i7 and 16GB

 

 

Note that I try to get as much time as possible between ne HTPC:s as possible, so I rather overbuild than not.

 

/S. Grunt

 

  • Most graphic cards (including built in) that support HDMI 1.4a will support 3D. Check the specs of the card you need. Unless you are buying for game play you do not need too much. Personally, I would not use a discreet for what you are trying to do. I would go with the Intel GPU and see how if works and add one later if it does not perform to your expectations.
  • As I mentioned in the original post, no soundboard is needed especially the Xonar. You can not compare the system you where using with current chipsets which pass through all audio including DTS-MA and TrueHD. If you really want to use it, it certainly up to you but I can tell you first hand it is not necessary and you will be complicating your life. I have two in the closet that I pulled out. BD video/audio is a function of software and hardware. You will have the hardware
  • SSD caching is a function of the new Z68 chipeset and can speed up one port. You need to decide to use this before you install windows as you have to set the BIOS. Check the post on the front page of the HSS called SSD caching for more details as well as numerous articles on the subject.
  • Same advice as before. Any CPU from the I3-2100 and up will do what you want. Buy based on budget. Nothing you are describing here is very taxing. If it were my, I would go with an I5-2500k with 8 gigs

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TV Tuner = HD Homerun.

Just wondering if these work in Europe?

 

I actually had my first gaming HTPC built professionally by Assassin HTPC (www.assassinhtpc.com). I've since added another one to my home theater room so I can game on my computer if my kids are taking up the tv.

Again, just wondering how practical this would be for someone in Europe.

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ImTheTypeOfGuy

Just wondering if these work in Europe?

 

 

Again, just wondering how practical this would be for someone in Europe.

 

I am about 90% sure that cablecard, and thus ceton and hd homerun, are US only. It seems I have heard Ian Dixon say this.

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