Im setting up a general PC for the family. Main task will be home theatre/media player - need to play and stream full HD video and have option to output to a TV, tuner card to play live TV, web surfing and word type stuff.
Any games would be minimal and I only really play older Civilization command & conquer but they are not a real concern, if they run great if not meh, got better PCs for that. Kids play Flash games on the disney site but im guessing they are not to intensive so wont have much of an impact.
I also want it in as compact a case as possible, its going in the kitchen area (mounted under breakfast bar with monitor on bench) so I dont want a big chunky case, as small as practicle to fit everything in.
As it is a secondary, general PC I am on a budget, trying to minimise unneeded cost but obviously need it to be able to comfortably complete those tasks.
This is a shop im looking to buy from so all parts are on there:
So with that in mind I have the following questions:
1 - Processor. What is required for good playback of the above? Would an I3 be ok or should I go I5? Also I have no idea about AMD chips and their equivalents but the prices are good. I am a bit confused on this, any advice is greatly appreciated.
2 - Case. At schools there are compact Ienovo computers, are compact cases custom to companies or easy to find?
3 - DDR 2 v 3 ram - was thinking of 2, is there a real difference for my needs?
4 - AGP v PCI Express - In regards to video cards (or anything else relevant) what does this mean and whats the difference?
5 - Do I need a Soudcard? I want to output to an amplifier for my sound, would the onboard sound be fine for this? What are soundcards for these days, havent had one in years. WIll one act as an amplifier and I dont need to feed to a stand alone AMP?
6 - Motherboards - Dont really know what I need and what the pros n cons are of MB's, if you could pair with my needs/processor would be appreciated.
Thanks for any help/
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1) Dual core or better for the CPU. I3 would be fine, or one of the quad core AMD CPUs. I would use one between 2Ghz and 3Ghz.
2) If you want a compact case, then there are some limitations. Most all use a Micro ATX motherboard, but the newer Micro ATX motherboards, even with on-board video, are quite capable of what you want. I have a couple with HDMI out and they can handle Blu-ray or HD MKV video. Watch out for the room for the optical drive. One of my cases will only work with a short (Sony) optical drive. Not much room in there.
3) DDR3 is about the standard now, unless you get an older motherboard. 4GB is plenty for a 32bit OS.
4) You won't see many AGP video cards, old stuff now. PCI-E is more common, but with a good Micro ATX MB, you probably don't need a extra video card.
5) Most any MB made in the last few years include a very capable on board sound card, many with surround sound and optical or coaxial audio outputs included. An extra sound card is rarely needed.
6) I prefer Gigabyte MBs, especially with AMD CPUs or when using a Micro ATX MB. The Gigabyte GA-880GM-UD2H AMD880G AM3 DDR3 is one good choice for a AMD HTPC.
Here's a link to a Micro ATX HTPC I put together a while back: https://forum.videohelp.com/threads/320109-HTPC-from-used-parts?
The case is about 36cm wide X 38cm deep X 11cm high.
I have a MSI 785GM-E65 motherboard, that I like a lot, but there is an AMD chipset limitation that restricts audio output. They cannot bitstream DTS HD MA/DD True HD or do more than 2 channel LPCM over HDMI. If you need those features supported onboard, Intel is your only choice. However the onboard video provided by the 890G, 880G, 790G and 785G chipsets on AMD boards are fine for HTPC and general purpose use.
If the AMD audio limitations are not a problem, the Gigabyte GA-880GM-UD2H is one of the nicer new AMD AM3 motherboard I have seen, and has sideport memory. Sideport memory makes a difference when using onboard video, so get a motherboard that has it if you don't want a VGA card. If it is still availble and costs less, the GIGABYTE GA-MA785GPM-UD2H would be another option if you don't need USB 3.0 or SATA 6Gb/s. The MSI 785GM-E65 motherboard I have would be fine too, but probably would not save you any money over the the Gigabyte GA-880GM-UD2H. The Gigabyte boards also have an 8-pin 12V connection, while most MSI MATX boards have a 4-pin 12V connection (even mine which is supposed to support a 140W CPU).
The more air circulation around the case the better, and the smaller the case the more you need to think about components that are less likely to contribute to over-heating.
Last edited by usually_quiet; 22nd Dec 2010 at 00:43. Reason: Corrected model number
I took some time to look at small slim MATX cases again. I considered getting one for my first build, but realized they make putting a system together harder, and I wanted room for 2 optical drives and 2 HDDs too, so I went for an MATX tower. (Most slim MATX cases only have room for 1 optical drive and 1 HDD. A few even need laptop drives.) Auditek, In-Win, HEC, and Apex all made some nice looking inexpensive slim MATX cases, but I don't know if any of them are available in Australia. Most of the time the PSU that comes with a slim case is your only option because none of the standard PSUs sold separately is the right size.
An AMD Propus quad core would be nice, and reasonably priced, but in a small slim case you might be better off with a dual core like this http://www.msy.com.au/product.jsp?productId=1435 on account of heat. (Smaller slim cases have one 80mm fan or two 40 to 60mm fans.) It could be enough for what you describe. My PC is used for mostly watching/recording TV and more general purpose stuff, but no streaming and only a little re-encoding. I get by with an AMD Regor 250 3.0 GHz.
If you want a small case, avoid RAM with heat spreaders and get low-profile RAM, if possible.
Last edited by usually_quiet; 24th Dec 2010 at 00:07. Reason: clarity
My other HTPC uses a Lian Li desktop case. Room for two optical drives and two HDDs. If you need the PC to fit in a entertainment console, that's one option. It also uses a Micro-ATX MB, but there's a lot more room. Of course, it's a lot bigger than the one I posted earlier. https://forum.videohelp.com/threads/305973-Post-pics-of-your-HTPC?p=1898449&viewfull=1#post1898449