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  Request for comments on semi-HTPC build - primary function will be music 
 Date Written 
Brett Borowski Feb 01, 2008, 11:34pm EST Report Abuse
I've never built an entire computer before, though I've done a variety of typical upgrades - adding PCI cards, CPU & HD upgrades.

I'd like to build a semi-HTPC. That is, my primary goal is to have a small, quiet machine that I can connect to my A/V Receiver via HDMI to store and play music. The TV connected to the the AV receiver will serve as the monitor. Perhaps someday I'll add a (low-profile) HDTV tuner card so I can record QAM off of cable for when my two tuner Dish DVR just isn't enough. ;) But this is only a secondary consideration and may never come about.

Anyway, I've picked out some hardware and I'd appreciate any comments, specifically regarding suitability for my needs, potential heat issues (it will be going in a closed cabinet with speaker cloth at the front and only a few vent holes at the back), and bang-for-the-buck (I don't want cost to escalate much, but I know sometimes a few dollars extra can be money well spent). I've been using Newegg as my primary resource....

Case: APEX DM-387 Black Steel MicroATX Slim Case Computer Case 275W Power Supply - Retail ($48.99)
Motherboard: BIOSTAR TForce TF7050-M2 AM2 NVIDIA GeForce 7050PV HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail ($74.99 - $10 MIR)
Processor: AMD Athlon 64 LE-1620 2.4GHz Socket AM2 45W Single-Core Processor Model ADH1620DHBOX - Retail ($46.99)
- or -
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+ Brisbane 2.3GHz Socket AM2 65W Dual-Core Processor Model ADO4400DOBOX - Retail ($69.99)
Memory: Kingston HyperX 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model KHX6400D2LLK2/2GR - Retail ($49.99 - $10MIR)\
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 ST3750330AS 750GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - OEM ($179.99)
Optical Drive: I have a couple of spares around
OS: Ubuntu 7.10

So, questions that come to mind are:

1) Does Biostar make decent motherboards?
2) Which processor? I know my primary mission will not tax the 45W single core, but if the X2 65W CPU won't run that much hotter, I'd be inclined to go with that. There's a chance this could run Vista at some point.
3) Will that 750GB Barracuda be too hot for this slim case?
4) Will I want to replace the stock 80mm fan in this case with a quieter one?
5) To save money on an OS, I plan on using EAC to rip my CD's to FLAC files on a separate Windows machine and then use Ubuntu and Rhythmbox on this machine. Does this seam unreasonable or silly? Is there any reason I might want to bite the bullet and just install Vista on this machine?
6) Are there any unknown unknowns that I should worry about?


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BoT Feb 02, 2008, 12:28am EST Report Abuse
>> Re: Request for comments on semi-HTPC build - primary function will be music
well, not a lot of options left.
how about mythtv? linux would defenitly be better for this box then vista and i would go
with the single core. heat will defenitly be an issue. well, maybe not defenitlly but with
not airflow in the cabinet you need good airflow in the case. there are also quiet fans that
can push a decent amount of air. consider modding the case to fit a larger fan.

also, you spend on the case, cpu and motherboard as much as you spend on the hdd
alone. something i would look into.

a tv tuner card could easily replace your dvr and make the hdd look a lot more reasonable.
i don't the circumstances but many companies charge for having a dvr, if that's your case
then i would really consider it. avermedia has a good one that reciords ntsc/ atsc and
qam. but it would add to the heat factor.

is the cabinet a rackmount size? i would even consider installing a fan on the backside
of the cabinet. just some ideas

You can either be part of the problem or be part of the solution.
Codisha -
Reviews -
kOrny Feb 02, 2008, 03:41am EST Report Abuse
>> Re: Request for comments on semi-HTPC build - primary function will be music
i've owned 3 biostar motherboards -- all have worked great. they offer alot of features for not alot of dough. can't go wrong.

Brett Borowski Feb 02, 2008, 03:00pm EST Report Abuse
>> Re: Request for comments on semi-HTPC build - primary function will be music

The reason for the large hard drive on such a light system is because storage is a priority - I intend to store (and play) several hundred CD's worth of music (in FLAC) so I can store the actual CD's in a cool, dry place instead of anywhere near the family room. A piece of furniture that would hold all our CD's and satisfy my wife would be far more expensive and take up far more space than this 12x15x4" box. ;-)

As for video, it cannot replace my Dish DVR. The Dish DVR tunes and decrypts the signal from the Dish antenna and outputs a video signal over HDMI, component, S-video, or composite. Obviously HD is only available via component and HDMI - there's no way to tune the Dish signal with a PC card; it's encrypted and not ATSC or QAM. Plus their dual tuner DVR is pretty darn nice! (And as far as I know, there aren't any cards that will capture HD video from HDMI or component.) So a tuner card down the road won't see much use other than the occasional time when there are three shows on at once that we want to record and one of them is available on my limited cable package. And with the writer's strike, I doubt that will happen any time soon. :)


BoT Feb 02, 2008, 04:20pm EST Report Abuse
>> Re: Request for comments on semi-HTPC build - primary function will be music
that's the card i am looking to get
AVerMedia AVerTV Combo PCIe ATSC/NTSC/QAM TV Tuner Card - $84.99

i tw cable has cable cards, dunno about sat.

i am not trying to talk you out of the 750gb hdd but you could get a 500gb hdd for $80.-
bucks less that could go towards the system and you would still have plenty of room for

1 song = 5mb (average)
20 songs per cd (most only 16)
= 100mb per cd
= 1gb for 10 cd's
= 10gb for 100 cd's
= 100gb for 1000 cd's
= 500gb for 5000 cd's

that's a pretty rough calculation and in no way acurate but it paint's a pretty good picture.
up to you. i really am concerned about temps thou. because you won't be able to enjoy
your digitized collection for long if the system is boiling.

if this is just for music and does not require much more performance and/ or expandabillity
then i would consider a low power via system. via chips use far less then 45w and can run
even fanless.

You can either be part of the problem or be part of the solution.
Codisha -
Reviews -
Brett Borowski Feb 02, 2008, 11:16pm EST Report Abuse
>> Re: Request for comments on semi-HTPC build - primary function will be music
Yeah, satellite is a whole different ballgame from OTA and cable. As for the audio, though, I plan on using FLAC, which is lossless, so it's more like .4 GB per CD. I've got at least 500 to rip. I guess I could get away with a 500 GB drive, even at that (lossless) compression rate, even with a growing music collection. Part of the reason I had spec'd the 750 was because there was no premium for the extra space - $0.24/GB for either way. (The comparable 32MB buffer 500 GB Seagate drive is $120, while the 750 is $180.) And if the 500GB Seagate will run cooler than the 750GB Seagate

So what would I spend the $60 on? :)

HDMI video & audio output would be ideal, though DVI and coax SPDIF would be a minimum requirement. I didn't see any VIA systems that meet even the DVI/SPDIF requirement.

I imagine if I really wanted a dual core Athlon, I could spend that $60 on a 45W DC. The 2.4GHz Single core 45W CPU is $47 and the 2.3GHz 45W CPU is $109... :)

BoT Feb 03, 2008, 12:57am EST Report Abuse
>> Re: Request for comments on semi-HTPC build - primary function will be music
wow, 4gb per cd. that's plenty of space. well, makes the 750gb not look so big anymore.
i didn't know that flac takes up that much space, i mean it's bigger then the original
cd format. i am puzzeled and amazed.
anyway, found a via board with dvi and spdif, also uses half the power.
i bit more pricy then your setup but will have better chances to survive in a cabinet.
i am not harping on the via boards i am just fascinated with them and am looking for
anyway to justify them.
if it's mainly for music, i would go single core. assumably it would be cooler. still can
expand later if the power is not enough.

i take it you are confident in seagate hdd's? good choice, i like them too.
the wd 500gb goes for 99.- thou, if you get 2 you could run raid 1. just to make sure you
are not losing your entire collection if 1 dies.

You can either be part of the problem or be part of the solution.
Codisha -
Reviews -
Brett Borowski Feb 03, 2008, 12:49pm EST Report Abuse
>> Re: Request for comments on semi-HTPC build - primary function will be music
Whoops! That's .4 GB - i.e. 400MB. Something like a 40-60% compression ratio, I think.

So 500 CD's ~= 200 GB....

I'll take a look at the VIA board....




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