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Re: [vox-tech] HTPC/Media Center build questions
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Re: [vox-tech] HTPC/Media Center build questions



I'm interested in a HTPC, and I figured I'd pass along a couple related pieces
of info.  Alas in summary there's no great solution IMO that does all that you
would hope.  Being realtime encoding of 1080p, fast decoding, nice GUI,
multiple sources, can hook up big disks, universal remote, quiet, and of
course cheap.

But I can offer some guidelines:
* AMD vs intel doesn't matter, picking a performance and price point usually
  swings one way or the other, but not by much.  Often it's going to be
  decided by other things like say the embedded gpu, on board HDMI, nice
  sound card, motherboard size, and etc.
* If you want real time encoding I'd strongly recommend a quad core
  CPU unless you are sure a GPU based encoding solution will work for
  you (not common or free).
* intel embedded video sucks, ati is so so, the standard for GPU assisted
  playback is nvidia.  If you only want playback then any cpu works,
  as long as you get the nvidia and your system can use the GPU (mplayer,
  xine, vlc, and related have patches).  Specifically VPVAU works quite
  well.  GPU acceleration allows even the slowest cpus to playback 1080p.
* I'd consider a roku/xbox360/ps3 for netflix, it's not slick but it does work
  a universal remote can hide much of the pain.
* Quiet is relatively easy, avoid tiny fast fans (especially north bridge
  and gpu variety), there are stereo cabinet like cases with 120mm fans,
  if needed replace said fan with one with a reputation for quietness.
  Don't buy the fastest/hottest CPU/GPUs and you should be fine.  Clock rate
  doesn't get you much anyways.  A 2.4 GHz vs a 3.0 GHz cpu can be
  substantially cheaper and mostly as fast, and more importantly much easier
  to cool.  DDR3 is cooler than DDR2.  I'd get a dual core if you want
  playback only and a quad core if you want real time encode.
* http://silentpcreview.com/ is a great place for quiet reviews, and useful
  forums.  HTPCs are often discussed.
* http://www.pchdtv.com/ is popular, common, well supported and cheap $99.
* The lowest power solutions are atom based, fine for playback, assuming you
  get the nvidia GPU (embedded or on a card).  I'd consider the upgraded dual
  core/quad thread just in case.  I often see combos with a single core/dual
  thread + GPU mini itx for $130, and the dual core/quad thread for $160.
  With encoding, decoding, and handling multiple streams (say recording one
  and playing a second) I think the upgraded CPU would be well worth the extra
  $30.  With that said, just about any dual/quad core amd/intel cpu will be
  substantially faster and still be easy to cool.

You didn't mention timing, but if you can wait a bit the ION 2 (nvidia's
embedded chipset+gpu) is just hitting the market.  I expect it to hit easy to
find motherboards in the next month or two.  IONs current generation is a bit
spotty on quality, apparently manufacturing defects are causing high return
rates on numerous video cards and laptops that's only exposed after a bunch of
heat cycles.  Apple in particular seems to have gotten a fair number of these.

BTW, many folks end up with a 2 tier solution, a server somewhere with a bunch
of disk space, then thin networked clients for playback only.  If you haven't
seen the linuxmce video I strongly suggest torrenting one.
  http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/Video#Getting_the_video_in_high-def

IMO the google video one is mostly useless, definitely get the 720p version.

The two tier version while more expensive has a couple handy features:
* video playback is easy, cheap, and silent
* Easily supports multiple locations
* With the right software it enables home automation, migration video
  between clients, on screen called id and related.

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