Sign in to follow this  
empty

Help me build a video appliance computer please

Recommended Posts

I want to build a video appliance, a computer which will play DIVX & VCD's & SVCD's into my AV system in the family room.

My thoughts are that it should be relatively fast but not a smoker (lets save a little cash), and it is important that it does not make a lot of noise.

I am thinking of the following, but am looking for suggestions:

Windows 2K SP2

WD 80JB HD

Some Athlon XP type CPU

256MB RAM

DVD Drive (not sure which one)

ATI card with VIVO (open to suggestions for alternatives)

If there is some sort of box out there like the ASUS Terminator or something that has most of this inside already with video I/O that might be interested in that too.

I already have a Logitech remote mouse & keyboard which I think will be handy for this setup.

SUGGESTIONS PLEASE!

TIA

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Go with Windows XP, for various reasons it is better for this kind of application than W2K.

Get an All-in-Wonder RADEON card, great VIVO abilities...

256MB of RAM is ok, 512MB is better if you're doing video in.

Lots and lots of drive space, 5,400 RPM IDE drives are fine for this work.

Athlon XP CPUs are great for this work, the 1800+ is probably the best bang for the buck right now.

Jason

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Go with Windows XP, for various reasons it is better for this kind of application than W2K.

Why do you say this? As far as I can tell, XP is slower and has worse support for most everything (MP3 for example).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

XP has a better media player for one, and it has better AVI support. It does have some driver issues on older hardware, but you're building a new machine, so who cares?

XP is slower in some respects, but when sitting there playing video, it makes zero difference. Just turn off the silly system restore features and other background crap, and it runs just as fast as 2000 did in most situations.

Jason

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest russofris

Cheap and reliable.

1: AthlonXP 16/1700

2: ECS K7S5A

3: Original ATI AIW Radeon (get 7500 if you wanna remote)

4: 256MB RAM

5: A $100 HDD (Can be WD/Maxtor/Seagate). Get the largers size for the buck, 5400rpm or not, whatever.... Whatever is on special at CompUSA...

6: Cheap case with 300W prw supply

7: Lite on DVD (Cheap for the performance)

The K7S5A has an AC97. If you want 5.1 sound, then buy an Audigy or Maya 7.1. If you want onboard sound, look for the C-Media 6.1 codecs.

Were you going to be attaching this to a TV, or a monitor?

Thank you for your time,

Frank Russo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I second Frank's opinion... That is a good starting point for such a system.

Playing back video has long since not been demanding, and it doesn't require an Athlon XP 1800+ either. A cheap Duron 900 does it just fine. :)

Of course, if you're encoding video, then you can never have enough CPU power for that. :P

The one thing a video server needs is drive space, lots of it. The Maxtor D540X 120GB drive is currently the best bang for the buck in terms of space. Quiet and reliable, you can get them anywhere...

Jason

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I second the point Frank Russo made about the display. However, I'm not aware of any 300 watt power supplies which meet ECS specs for the KS5A. I know that lots of people have run this board successfully using a 300 w ps, but if you have problems, so I hear, ECS will say its the power supply. The Enlight 7000 series case which includes the 330 watt power supply does, and it's only $60.

Be aware that it's hard to get a decent looking Windows desktop on even an HDTV. ATI has this in their FAQs, they blame it on the relatively low bandwidth of television receivers. Personally, I found text to be almost unreadable at 800x600 on a $2000 projection HDTV. However, DVD movies looked fine. If never use the computer for computer stuff, there's no issue.

For a system that's going to be used as a computer also, for instance Flask encoding, and if the room is relatively small, perhaps a 21" monitor might work.

Another thing to consider is whether you might want to use the system as a TV. Obviously this is no problem if you're using a TV for the display. If you use a computer monitor, and the thought of booting your TV is repulsive, consider an external tuner with remote control. ViewSonic makes such a unit, and NewEgg has them:

http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProduct.asp?...ory=1226&DEPA=1

I'm thinking seriously about putting together such a system, along with Klipsch THX surround sound. The home micro theatre, as it were. My system is aimed more at the computer hobbyest who has always wanted a 21" monitor, and would not spend big bucks for a home theatre system.

Walt

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you want a system that does not make a lot of noise, use a CPU that generates as little heat as possible so that you can cool it with a 1500 rpm 80 mm fan. If you can live with a full tower, buy a full tower. When you have a large number of disks in a midtower, heat will build up more easily in the smaller cas because the drives are closer together. In a full tower, you can put lots of space between your disks and install one or two slow 80 mm's in the top backside. Slow 80 mm fans would be ideal for you cooling as they generate very little noise. Your case should have a good power supply, again with silent fans.

I'd say you should look at this:

P4 1.6A

256 or 512 MB RAM (DDR or even SDR should be fast enough)

decent system board; look at stability first and features last

ATI vidcard

big silent and cool disks (cool is good because you won't need extra or faster fans to get rid of warmer running disks)

An Athlon XP is fine as well but you should bear in mind that they run hotter than the P4, requiring a faster fan. I have an 80 mm Antec Smart Fan which is nearly silent. I think you should test which CPU fans are silent enough for you. If it's a good one to buy an Athlon, buy an Athlon. Otherwise buy a P4 (or maybe P4 Celeron)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest russofris

On a side note...

Has Nvidia been making any progress with their "All in Wonder" style offerings. I have heard that Asus was making some progress in this area. Anything close to ATI as of yet?

Thank you for your time,

Frank Russo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On a side note...

Has Nvidia been making any progress with their "All in Wonder" style offerings.  I have heard that Asus was making some progress in this area.  Anything close to ATI as of yet?

Thank you for your time,

Frank Russo

No, nVidia's VIVO is not yet to the abilities of the AIW cards yet.

On the plus side, AnandTech reports that the GF4 is getting closer, it is better than the prior atempts, but still not to the same level as the AIW cards.

If you need VIVO and TV out ability, get an ATI AIW RADEON. :)

Jason

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Alright here are my suggestions. Prices will be based on NewEggs just because I find them a good dealer and fairly good prices. You could get all the parts from cheaper places using pricewatch but I doubt you could find a vendor who has all the parts for a total cheaper price unfortunately.

Processor - I recommend you don't go with a sub 1Ghz processor just because I've seen 1Ghz processors chug on some Divx files. Though those bitrates of those files are a little higher than needed for a TV since you can normally cut the bitrate and can't tell the difference oftentimes on a TV (though if you are using a computer monitor to watch them I find you need at least 10MB per minute of recording for decent quality using Divx). Now if this PC is going to be doing encoding as well you will need some processing power. I recommend you get a Athlon XP 1800+ since you can get it just below $100 from NewEgg. You might want to consider then potentially underclocking and lower the voltage on the processor so you can use a Zalman Heatsink without even a fan.

Motherboard - I'm going to recommend a NForce MicroATX motherboard because if this is a video machine you don't want something huge next to your TV. So I would recommend the Abit NV7m. It has nice 5.1 sound features. You don't really care about that it has integrated video but what you do care is its a MicroATX board with an AGP slot. Also you have an integrated NIC which is important because you don't want 20 drives in your video machine and rather have lots of data stored elsewhere since each of those drives are going to add noise and heat plus its one less thing to buy. Also it only cost $87. Only thing is the motherboard isn't supposed to be a tweakers board which should be fine except the only way you could really underclock is by dropping down to 100mhz FSB. This would reduce the speed from 1.53Ghz down to 1.15Ghz that should hopefully good enough to get away with no fan on a Zalman heatsink.

Hard Drive - I'm going to recommend the Cuda IV 80GB because that is a quiet drive. Its not the fastest but it should be plenty fast. You don't need to waste money on the JB line of WD drives. You should be more concerned with the drive being quiet and cool running not fast. 80GB should be plenty of storage space for your video machine because you should be storing files when not in use on a fileserver with a load of drives and some way to keep them safe hopefully. It currently goes for $111 at NewEgg which isn't too bad. Not great as prices for 80GB drives go but for what you are getting its not a horrible deal.

DVD Drive - I'm going to say go with the Pioneer 16x DVD 106S/2. The slot type drive should be nice in a video appliance. Its not too expensive at $46 either.

Memory - You just need 256MB of PC2100. No reason to split it up over 2 sticks for dual channel since thats not much use since the bus to the processor doesn't have enough bandwidth to make use of the extra speed.

Video Card - Depends on do you really want video input or all you reall care for is video output. If you don't need video input consider something really cheap like a Radeon 7000 SDR 32MB with video out. That would be only like $35. If you want video input then I say get the Radeon AIW 7500 which costs about $150.

Case - I'm going to say go for the Enlight 76020B1 just because it has a 300W PSU in it. You could go for something that looks a little nicer but you will have to spend money on replacing the PSU. Anyways it should be a nice fairly tiny case. You can it appears remove the blue transparent plastic on the front if you don't like it. And for $45 its not exactly any huge loss of money.

Anyways I believe that covers everything you will find you need.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest russofris
Motherboard - I'm going to recommend a NForce MicroATX motherboard because if this is a video machine you don't want something huge next to your TV.  So I would recommend the Abit NV7m.  It has nice 5.1 sound features.  You don't really care about that it has integrated video but what you do care is its a MicroATX board with an AGP slot.

Micro-ATX boards have been problematic for me, although I have never used the Abit board that you mention. Nforce MB's with onboard video tend to have problems when you insert a card in to the AGP slot (check google groups).

I agree that the size is important, but not if you have to make sacrafices. There are many nice minitower cases that support full size ATX boards

For example

http://www.kustompcs.co.uk/product.php?view=1017

Thank you for your time,

Frank Russo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I like black cases myself for near the TV.

Here is what my current system looks like. A very nice Antec SX-1080 case. Only downside is the case is $120, plus shipping...

DCP00457.JPG

DCP00458.JPG

DCP00459.JPG

Jason

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey Jason,

Thanks for the case pictures. I'm thinking of buying this case for my computer. What do you think of it? And does it have fans in front of the internal HDD bays? (I looked at the drawing on antec's site, but I wasn't sure from the picture.)

Thanks,

Modus

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The other question is, what are you going to use as a UI? The WAF (err, Wife Acceptance Factor) of pointing and double clicking on programs with a wireless trackball or whatever tends to be low. You might want to consider building a front end with something like Talisman, or, if you're desperate, putting an HTML page on what we in the IT industry like to call the Active Deathtrap.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I got a better idea.. why not buy an X-Box.. and get it chipped ?

Its got a 733 P3, Geforce 3 1/2, DVD drive.

Plus it has native Widescreen, Pal60 and Dolby 5.1 plus remote to handle your DVDs.

A divx player has been released for it...but its currently in beta.. but I think that it can output a picture better than any TVout card due to its video encoder/decoder chips.

Also its small, cool.. and is currently getting hacked to bits!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Be aware of that ABit nForce board. I was going to pick one up for a small PC for my parents. However, any reviews I've seen have pointed out the board's woeful video output quality. Aparently it's quite bad.

I don't think ABit have figured out the whole onboard video thing - I have an old WB6 (i810, Slot1), and it's video output is so poor the machine has been running headless as a server since it was new. Between fuzzy output and corruption, it's generally unusable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You could probably get by with a AMD Duron. You don't have to get an Athlon XP, but since the price is so low now, it MIGHT help.

512 MB of RAM is definitely recommended.

ATi All-in-Wonder Radeon (32 MB)....avoid if you can. I have it, and it's much more hassle then it is worth. But the newer one (AIW Radeon 7500 or 8500/8500DV) hopefully will be better. My system STILL has troubles with the video card and system.

Probably a 5-10x IDE DVD drive would work for you. You might be able find them used by now for like very little.

Hard drive space is probably a priority. That's probably where I would spend much of the money.

Windows XP is definitely the way to go. It's got way better support and it would definitely help you to set up your system, or at least it will make an honest attempt at making it as painless as possible (at least from the software side). DivX codecs are a must, and if you really feel adventurous, compressing some of your own AVIs or MPEGS would probably help to save on space as well.

Recommended to keep your OS and your videos on separate storage subsystems. If anything goes wrong, it's easy to reinstall the system, rather than getting all those videos again.

Other than that....hopefully your TV/sound system is SPDIF capable. You might also be able to go with a Sound Blaster Extigy or Audigy/Live and use the digital out. Depends on how you want to do it. If you don't have SPDIF capabilities for your TV, don't worry, it comes with RCA component A/V.

(Just read Jason's post about a Duron 900). Thought so. You could probably even go lower than that, but if you're doing any work with DivX 5, you'd NEED the speed...I can guarantee you that right now. (DivX 5 is good at compressing, at the cost of CPU performance.)

Speaking from experience, and I'll repeat it again:

STAY AWAY FROM THE ORIGINAL ATI ALL-IN-WONDER CARDS. They're not THAT great. :( Hopefully the newer ones are better.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this