Newbie looking to see what i can do with £1000

Discussion in 'Home Theatre Computing' started by homecinuk, Nov 2, 2007.

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  1. homecinuk

    homecinuk New Member

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    :)
    Hello,

    I am looking to build a basic Media Centre/Server on the cheap for about £1000 and upgrade it over time, but kind of new to media pc's and not overly sure about the specs on pc's, so any advice is gratefully received. I ideally would love hd output and upscaling if possible. The main functions I am looking for:

    Are to replace my Sky+ box.
    To also receive and record freeview.
    To be able to rip my DVD's/Music to the hard drive and possibly to a networked hard drive.
    Potentially upscale the output to HD.

    Any help and suggestions for the spec i should be looking at will be gratefully received.

    Cheers

    jon
     
  2. saltynay

    saltynay Eats, Drinks, Sleeps Kustom

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    Does size matter at all??? as there is quite a varied market to htpc with lots of cases and form factors available from a itx system which would be a pc around 7" cubed to a full tower case with full sized mobo......

    cases here: http://www.kustompcs.co.uk/acatalog/Kustom_PCs_Shop_HTPC_Cases_96.html

    Basic specs:

    cpu: E2180 or an amd 5400x2
    Ram: 1gb ddr2 -6400 (800mhz)
    Mobo: depends on size...
    hdd: seagate barracuda 7200.11 with 3 drives in a raid5 setup approx 1.5tb sounds a lot but hd content eats harddrive space very quickly
    Tuner card and dragon card to use sky on a pc
    psu: corsair 520hx or a quiet psu kustom offers some very good ones
    gfx card: either the 8500 or if you will do some occasional gaming on the pc then 8600
    Os: dependent on personal preference whether you want xp- MCE or vista - Home premium or a linux distro

    The programs I use for ripping dvd's are
    Dvd decryptor (to take the film off of the disk)
    autogordian knot (to convert the files into an easier and smaller format)
     
  3. Fireblade

    Fireblade Mental Modder[ator]!!

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    First of all... welcome to the forums Jon :cool:

    "Basic"... "cheap"... and "£1,000"... in the same sentence :eek:

    I admire yer style, if you consider £1,000 "cheap", and a £1,000 system "basic" :D


    If you want to go the HTPC route... I'd advise a 'full-size' HTPC case - i.e. one which can accept an ATX PSU and motherboard.
    Doing so, will offer you a load more options, in what hardware you can stick in it (i.e. multiple HDD's etc).
    You'll subsequently be able to choose any mobo (motherboard) on the market, and you won't be so limited regarding the graphics card (length particularly - although height can be an issue as well - in that many newer cards require 2x PCI slots)...
    or what heatsink and fan (HS+F) you can choose for cooling the CPU (again... height/clearance is a concern in many HTPC cases).

    However... if you're happy to go with a 'tower' case... there are literally dozens to choose from - as seen in the 'Cases' section of the shop!
    We all have differing opinions on what is "nice"/"classy", so only you can decide which case to go for... in the looks department certainly.
    If you subsequently find a couple/few cases you like... we'll be happy to advise you on which might be the better option... and (hopefully) the reasons for saying so - i.e. better layout/easier access/better cooling etc.

    So first things first:

    1. Tell us what kind of case you want to go with (HTPC/tower).
    Towers obviously offer far more options on the hardware front... but if you intend using the system in your living room for instance... a HTPC case would probably be the better option - at least if you've nowhere to stick a [midi] tower out of sight?

    2. Choose a couple/few cases you like, and mention which ones they are (make/model)... with a link to each case, preferably.
    Bear in mind though... these forums are owned, run and paid for by the kind chaps of Kustom PCs, so if you're going to provide links... either link to the product in their shop... or on the manufacturer's website.
    Don't go posting links to products on (or even mention) competitor sites! That's a big NO-NO around these here parts :D


    We'll then take it from there ;)
     
  4. homecinuk

    homecinuk New Member

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    Firstly thanks saltynay for getting back to me! Will bare this in mind.

    I feel I am looking for step by step guidance to help me with my first pc /htpc project and feeling like i need idiot proof advice!!! So good luck in helping me everyone!

    Hi Fireblade thanks for getting in touch.

    After checking my bank balance last night :( I think a £1000 might be a bit too much BUT still aiming at that and can always remove things and scale back to upgrade at a later date.

    I had already decide on a Full size case to allow future upgrades so thinking on the same lines I feel.

    Now to get on to your questions:

    1) I think an HTPC case will do, a full size one.

    Now I had a few naive questions:

    1) Ideally want my HTPC to control everything and maybe emit IR codes to control my TV or RS232. Is this do-able or am I talking rubbish.

    2) The main items i want it to do (below): What can I cut costs and still get the same results and upgrade at a later date.

    To replace my Sky+ box.
    To also receive and record freeview.
    To be able to rip my DVD's/Music to the hard drive and possibly to a networked hard drive.
    Potentially upscale the output to HD.

    3) Any suggestions on spec'ing out this job....

    4) Is there any nice full screen software that looks likes my sky+ menus when i am using sky on the pc, so its like using my sky normally.

    :) Thanks in advance

    Enjoying the weekend?

    Oh and thanks for the warm welcome!
     
  5. saltynay

    saltynay Eats, Drinks, Sleeps Kustom

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    1) That is a kind of weird way to do it with IR coding...... A tv is very basically a screen and therefore the same as a computer monitor so if your building a htpc then all data i.e. video, music, tv comes from the pc. You either use a wireless/gyro keyboard or a remote to control the pc from a distance, The key difference is that the tv doesn't have its own processing as such it merely acts as a medium for the image.

    2) Well to cut costs you can skip out the tv tuner and cam card on the pc and just use a capture card which takes a live stream off of the sky box the downfall is that you need the sky box plugged into your pc and you have to use the sky box remote to change channel as the pc isn't in control of the feed.

    3) Said prospective specs in first post :) and we need to sort out all your questions around what you want before we start thinking about individual pieces of hardware.

    4) There are lots :) none that look exactly the same as sky to my knowledge...... but a lot which are similar and easy to use google these:
    Windows vista media centre
    Windows xp media centre
    mythtv
    tvtime
    sagetv
    freevo


    my questions:

    1) What tv do you have?
    2) what speaker set do you have?
    3) Are you going to be cannibalising your current computer for parts or are you going to keep them seperate?
    4) Would you like a traditional keyboard and mouse(wireless)? A remote control similar to a tv remote? or a gyroscopic mouse and keyboard (gyroscope mice react to hand movements to move the pointer so you don't need a flat surface, Like a Nintendo Wii remote)?
    5) Is there any timescale deadline? or a casual pc build?
     
  6. homecinuk

    homecinuk New Member

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    1) Toshiba 32WLT66
    2) None at the moment. Just sold my pioneer surround sound.
    3)Going to start from the beginning current pc is my main work pc so need it seperate.
    4)TV remote (maybe touchscreen), and wireless keyboard and mouse for basic pc functions
    5) Casual Pc build.


    The reason i ask about ir codes was i like the idea of one remote and use it to turn the screen off and control the volume on the screen and access the sleep timer function (which i use alot).

    I like the idea of getting rid of my sky plus box so probably use the pc to recieve and record sky.

    Hope we are getting nearer a list of functionality.

    :)
     
  7. saltynay

    saltynay Eats, Drinks, Sleeps Kustom

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    ok for your tv you will need a dvi to hdmi cable to transfer the image.

    Are you an audiophile or just a general user?? You can cut costs by not buying a soundcard and instead using onboard sound which is great on modern motherboards.

    How many dvds are you planning to backup???

    When you say HD content are you talking about sky tv hd channels or the disk forms of hd-dvd and blu-ray? a HD optical drive will set you back quite a bit and much like the VHS, betamax format war 10 years ago you could spend a lot of money on a hd-dvd drive just to find it becomes obselete or vice versa with a Blu-ray drive

    This is a gyration mouse and keyboard
    http://www.kustompcs.co.uk/acatalog/info_3026.html
    Kustoms large selection of remotes as well:
    http://www.kustompcs.co.uk/acatalog/Home_Media_Devices.html

    You can use a learning universal pc remote (which is pretty much all of them) to control the tv in that way although I am unsure about a program that allows the computer to go into sleepmode for a set amount of time.

    Have to go right now but I shall put a spec list next time I am on unless someone replies before me :D
     
  8. Stephen B

    Stephen B Chunky but Funky

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    my 2c

    always been a fan of Shuttles for small and potentially quiet boxes, so I'd select something along the following lines

    XPC SD35 - £300
    Q6600 - £165
    2 gig ddr2 PC2-6400 - £60
    500gb HD - £60
    8800GT - £175
    XP/Vista - £100
    Terratec Dual Tuner TV card - £60
    Optical drive/ mouse Keyb - £50

    total £970, swap and change as necessary :)
     
  9. homecinuk

    homecinuk New Member

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    My tv has a pc input and 2 hdmi.

    Probably look to use just the motherboard soudcard to keep costs down at this stage.

    Got loads of DVD's and Loads of Music Album I was think of getting a small HD Drive for the pc maybe about 200gb and using NAS storage drive over a small CAT 5 network I am creating. What do you think? Can DVD's Backed up on a NAS device still produce a good picture quality on the TV if its in a different room.

    Working in the AV industry i know the format war all to well and have decide to avoid a Blu-ray or HD-DVD for now but curious about ripping my DVD's to the pc/nas drives and upscaling the content going to my tv is that do-able?
    Also not got HD sky YET BUT curious about being able to get it so want my pc to act like an HD Sky Plus box. i.e. being able to record 2 sky channels at once and being able to deal with Sky HD if i upgrade.

    Cheers already checked out the remotes and keyboards but consider that the last thing i need to sort out.


    This is probably the cheapest answer so will look at this after i am sure the htpc will do as i want!



    Have fun!!

    Speak soon no doubt!

    Cheers:)
     
  10. homecinuk

    homecinuk New Member

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    Cheers for this. Will have a look.
     
  11. saltynay

    saltynay Eats, Drinks, Sleeps Kustom

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    FOR the GODDAMN THIRD TIME I am writing this as I keep accidentally clicking refresh when I nearly finish it :(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :mad:

    Great gaming pc, mediocre media centre

    When a tv has a pc input it generally means a VGA port (analogue) whilst older cards still use this, modern graphics cards use DVI (digital). Rather then using a converter its just as easy to use the HDMI (digital) port on your tv. To do this you need to use a DVI-->HDMI cable and then there is no quality loss

    onboard sound it is then, You can easily add a dedicated soundcard if needed at a later date.

    Network storage is great and the bandwidth does allow for dvd quality streaming and I would guess it can do hd content aswell. It is however perverse not to use the hdd rack in your pc case. Most people have a small "onsite" unit linked to a large server tower in the attic, but by having networked storage and a tower case your doubling the space needed.

    Unsure about the complexities of decoding "sky" hd content (research this for yourself) however I would imagine it to be similar needs as the standard channels+ a hd ready tuner card. recording two channels at once is simply having enough tuners to decode the recording and the channel your watching i.e. if you have one onboard tuner then you can either watch or record not both at the same time, If you have a card with dual tuners then you can record two channels and not watch anything live or you can record with one and watch with the other.

    My perspective on the components needed

    Cpu: E2180 or a phenom (either dual or tricore, quad core just wouldn't be used and therefore a waste of cash) The Phenoms are AMDs latest cpus and they are not on the market yet but there staged release begins soon.

    Ram: 2gb DDr2-6400 a good brand

    Motherboard: Asus P5k or an Am2+ (can't recommend yet as the phenoms aren't released I cant tell you the best :))

    Hdd: 320gb samsung spinpoint "onsite" & approx 1.5tb of network storage as media just eats through gigabytes especially with HD and tv recording

    Graphics card: passive 8500 or a 8600 although with the intro of the 8800gt all graphics prices will probably drop so this may change.

    Operating system: Vista for eye candy, Xp for performance and comfortability, linux distro because they are free and extremely good (its amazing what a nerd in his parents garage can do lol)

    TV tuner: Hauppauge WinTV HVR4000

    Found this link which may negate the need for a cam slot http://stuff.tv/news/sky-eyes-your-media-center-pc/default.aspx

    Cam card: I can't remember the name of the specific chipset needed for sky decoding, there is a thread in the archives of the forum so perhaps someone else will remember...... IIRC its Dragon chipset?????

    Psu: The nexus semi passive psu could be good perhaps email graeme to check before you buy I have no experience with that product if it lives up to its marketing should be perfect.

    After market fan cooler is a must

    Case: your choice :) we will tell you if it will work or not if you are unsure about cooling needs

    Possible mods: Foam lining for noice reduction, lighting, new fans, little embedded screen for details on audio track running or something quirky
     
  12. Westy5

    Westy5 Space

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    Certainly one thing to consider is just how much CPU performance you actually need...

    You could stick a higher TDP chip in (thinking 6000+), or go for a cooer chip (thinking C2D or AMD BE series).

    High TDP = more heat to dissipate = noiser cooler
    Low TDP = less heat = passive cooling

    For example, I've got a BE-2350 or 2400 can't quite remember, sat in an HTPC being passively cooled by a largish tower cooler. Nice and cool, but more importantly for me, nice and quiet.

    I don't do HD, so that chip is great, runs at about 20% whilst watching DVDs from the internal 500gg drive
     
  13. Stephen B

    Stephen B Chunky but Funky

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    the quad was chosen for re-encoding video etc, simply the fastest method available at this moment in time, and q6600 G0 stepping chips are extremely popular for low heat output as well

    as regards a mediocre media pc I challenge you to prove it, I currently have an SD37P2 with an e6600 and 8600gt, I use it for supplying up to and including 1080p media to my 46" Samsung LCD and it never misses a beat, I feed the onboard via optical to my sound sytem and again no issues

    sits nice and quietly directly beneath my TV and never lets its presense be felt to the detrament of my viewing pleasure

    additionally I could add a further 2 large capacity sataII drives with a small trade off towards internal heat, so I have chosen to keep the majority of my media on my main rig and access it via my LAN
     
  14. Fireblade

    Fireblade Mental Modder[ator]!!

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    If you know it's gonna be a lengthy response, type it in a new text document, then copy/paste it, rather than typing it directly in a forums 'reply' ;)
     
  15. nicky munchkin

    nicky munchkin Nick is not responding...

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    If you're running Internet Explorer 7 or Firefox, you should just be able to hit back and it will be there.
     
  16. homecinuk

    homecinuk New Member

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    Probably go down the HDMI cable route.

    Yeah probably do it that way.
    Probably get this when i get some more money as probably need over 2 tb to get a few dvd's on... i have ALOT! lol! Not sure if the rack type NAS is right or not ... I.e. start with 1tb and upgrade in the slots.
    The card recommend below does what i want!
    sounds ok so far...
    Now you have lost me... Can you explain...

    What do you think the costing of this sort of system would be?

    Cheers for all the advice everyone think we are getting somewhere now...

    :) :D
     
  17. saltynay

    saltynay Eats, Drinks, Sleeps Kustom

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    Well to help you figure out your harddrive space needed I also ran my own media server which I sold :( for a profit :D. One dvd straight ripped takes up about 5gb using AutoGK I then minimised to 1.4gb it takes my current computer about 15mins to rip the dvd + 3hours to use AutoGK to resize it (it has a playlist type system so you can leave it to do this constantly and it will just work through each video). So count your dvds :D and divide that number by 2 and times it by 3. 100dvds needs 150gbs.

    Sky is a major corporation and so they don't like the viewers at home fiddling with there hardware as this can enable them to hack it and get free channels, So there is no official program or tuner card that does this. However the skybox is just a mini computer and it needs to get its hardware from somewhere to decode the satellite channels so the same hardware that sky use is on the commercial market. TV tuner cards don't have a "card slot" so there is no way to plug the sky card in hence why you need a Cam addon card which reads the magnetic chip. Sky channels can only be decoded by the chipset they use and I believe its the "dragon chipset".

    It will set you back with an educated guess £900

    Sorry my comment about it being a mediocre htpc was cruel its an awesome computer but a lot of that processing power is wasted whilst I am trying to recommended a pc that is ideally suited both financially and functionally for.... Homecineuk
     
  18. Stephen B

    Stephen B Chunky but Funky

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    I sense a hint of sarcasm in that reply, its hardly awesome, my other one on the other hand is :)

    and its in budget too, so ner :p