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Old 01-26-2013, 11:03 AM   #1
TSDible
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Default Another Re-purpose Old Hardware? Thread

Ok...

So I showed the wife the power of a HTPC using a combination of one of our newer laptops and my old desktop computer.

We are cable ditchers, and once she saw the power of bringing all of our devices in to a single computer, she has given me the green light to build a new system.

I'm going to have the system in a different room, so I really don't care what it looks like. One of our main concerns is PVR functionality on Live TV. In my testing, WMC has functioned brilliantly.

I also plan on retiring our simple NAS and adding additional software RAID drives to this system to create shares that we can use to store critical data. That storage will now be expanded to rip a lot of our digital content (movies).

I almost never use my desktop computer anymore so I'm seriously considering re-purposing it to perform the HTPC functions.

Here is what I have

Antec 900 case (plenty big)
Corsair TX750 PSU (Too big and noisy, but ok to start)
ASUS P5Q Pro Motherboard
Intel Q6600
4GB DDR2 Ram
ATI 4850 Video Card (works great, but no HDMI video/audio)
Plenty of various SATA drives that I can add to the system
Currently running Windows 7 Ultimate

Live TV is currently handled using a HDHomeRun that seems to be working great. I will consider adding a second one if I feel that 2 tuners is not enough.

One problem that I ran in to is that it works fine as is, but lacks real HDMI support. I had a Nvidia 8400 GS laying around and put that in. Once I did that, I had HDMI video and audio, but the Live TV performance and video multitasking was lackluster. I could clearly see stuttering and audio syncing issues that were not present when using the 4850 and motherboard

So really, my choices are...

1. Purchase a low cost PCIe video card that will handle HDMI to use with the above system

2. Replace the MB, CPU, RAM with a newer more efficient iCore setup and use integrated video capability.

If I went with option 1, what are my real choices for video? Should the 8400 GS be enough and I just don't have enough power in the rest of the system?

If I went with option 2, would the power savings of a more efficient system really be worth it? Or is it going to take me X years to really see the savings kick in... at which point I will probably want to update the system anyway?

Any thoughts and input are greatly appreciated.
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Old 01-26-2013, 12:02 PM   #2
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I don't see why you couldn't use the system as is. Mine is of fairly similar vintage an does a good job. However, I spent some time and money keeping it quiet; your parts will produce a lot of heat so you'll need good quality cooling to keep the noise down.

My 4830 came with an ATI DVI-HDMI adapter which passes audio. You may want to check that out; yours can probably do the same. It can only bitstream basic DTS/DD plus PCM, but unless you plan to play blu-rays from it, that's not a problem.
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Old 01-26-2013, 12:13 PM   #3
TSDible
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Thanks for the info.

I will dig through my hardware closet when I get home to see if I have that.

The Antec case has great cooling. I'm not worried about that.

I am wondering if I will save much in the way of power if I replaced that PSU.
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Old 01-26-2013, 12:25 PM   #4
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There are three versions of the 8400GS. The first one was based on the G86 core and has Nvidia PureVideo 2 which provides feature set A. The second one was based on the G98 and has Nvidia PureVideo 3 which provides feature set B. The third one has PureVideo 4 and provides feature set C.

I use a third generation 8400GS on my HTPC with no issues. If your 8400GS isn't working out for you I would opt to replace it. I don't see a need for you to replace you whole system. If you want to stay with Nvidia I would look for a card with at least feature set C.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wikipedia
Nvidia VDPAU Feature Sets

Nvidia VDPAU Feature Sets are different hardware generations of Nvidia GPU's supporting different levels of hardware decoding capabilities.

Partial acceleration means that VLD (bitstream) decoding is performed on the CPU, with the GPU only performing IDCT, motion compensation and deblocking. Complete acceleration means that the GPU performs all of VLD, IDCT, motion compensation and deblocking.

Feature Set A
Supports complete acceleration for H.264 and partial acceleration for MPEG-1, MPEG-2, VC-1/WMV9

Feature Set B
Supports complete acceleration for MPEG-1, MPEG-2, VC-1/WMV9 and H.264.

Feature Set C
Support complete acceleration for MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 Part 2 (a.k.a. MPEG-4 ASP), VC-1/WMV9 and H.264.

Feature Set D
Introduced 4K resolution / QFHD video decoding at up to 3840 x 2160 pixels

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nvidia_PureVideo <-- Has list of Nvidia cards and what feature sets they have.

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Old 01-26-2013, 12:32 PM   #5
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At the wall, my Q8200 machine idles at about 65w. That is after all but one of the hard drives is spun down. Unless you plan to do lots of gaming on it, you could probably get away with something like a G-360 from Seasonic or any low-med wattage gold PSU.

Loading up 4 cores on 7-zip was an extra 25w for me, and playing an HD movie with madVR was another 35w (neither test is a true burn in just typical use). So, I almost never exceed 150w.
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Old 01-26-2013, 02:11 PM   #6
TSDible
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Ok...

So I dug through all my stuff and couldn't find the DVI to HDMI adapter. Apparently my Saphire 4850 does have the feature however.

Now I'm wondering if I should just purchase an ATI adapter from ebay for $6 and give it a shot. Certainly cheaper than a new video card.

I booted up my system on the Kill-A-Watt... It is idling right now at about 135w or so. Pretty high... Would a more efficient PSU help?

Not that it matters that much... It was on 24/7 without being used anyway...
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Old 01-26-2013, 02:29 PM   #7
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Mine was missing too. I bought one online (ebay I think) and it worked fine. The one for my 4830 has the model number 6140063501g. It's only about $5 on ebay so might be worth it. Our generation of video card does use a fair bit of power though.

You probably idle at around 100w DC or less factoring in efficiency, about 30-40w more than me. Between the video card and CPU and chipset that sounds about right. My CPU is undervolted as far as it can at stock speeds which you should be able to tweak. If the 4850 has adjustable voltage, you can also tweak that. The lower you go, the bigger a problem idle efficiency becomes when you have a 750W PSU.
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Old 01-26-2013, 02:46 PM   #8
TSDible
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Thanks for the info.

It came to me as I was sitting here where my adapter may be... I found it.

Video and audio are up and working.

I do have a problem with the display aspect ratio not matching my TV. Black bars all around. I'm trying to work out that problem now.
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Old 01-26-2013, 05:00 PM   #9
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probably the overscan setting in your catalyst driver...set it to either 0% or 100% (can't remember which).
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Old 01-26-2013, 05:15 PM   #10
TSDible
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fuzzymath10 View Post
probably the overscan setting in your catalyst driver...set it to either 0% or 100% (can't remember which).
That was the problem. I figured it out pretty quickly.

It is working great for $0.

I see myself spending a lot of time with Assassin's guides to get it running smoothly.

I can spend the money I saved on a more efficient PSU and maybe a SSD for the system.
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Old 01-27-2013, 11:46 AM   #11
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I've got a TX750v2 in my desktop and it's waaay overpowered... I have a CX430v2 in my HTPC and it's probably underutilized still... (but it was on sale for $17 AR and I couldn't say no.) I'd proabably shop the sales and pickup something more appropriate...

I hooked the KillAWatt up... my G620 HTPC uses 40w at system idle, 75W in LinX testing... that with 3 HDD's running but no video card. I guess I seriously overestimated that when getting the CX430...
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Old 02-01-2013, 01:38 PM   #12
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Traditional wisdom says that the power savings of a more efficient PSU doesn't cover the upfront cost, but it can vary. I would say if you are going to sell the 750 for a large-ish sum, and replace it with a cheaper $19 Corsair 430 (on sale at newegg right now), then sure, go for it. I wouldn't buy a more efficient power supply on its own and hope to recover the cost in the near future though.

Since you got the HDMI adapter and it works, I would probably just stick with that for now, but I bought an ATI 4350 (some time ago) that is passively cooled for my HTPC and has built in HDMI with DXVA encoding. I think it was $25 because I didn't fill out the rebate (would have made it $15). If you can find something similar, the power savings for something like that may actually pay off, and the silence of the passive card is real nice in an HTPC.
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Old 02-01-2013, 07:51 PM   #13
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Thanks for the input.

Power Savings isn't the primary reason for replacing the 750. It is a beast. Loud as heck, but an effective PSU. It is complete overkill for my system. I'm not trying to get any money back.

Thanks for the info on the card... I may check that out.

Are there any other inexpensive passive cards that could fit the bill?
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Old 02-01-2013, 09:19 PM   #14
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I would stay away from the corsair cx series. Get an Antec
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Old 02-03-2013, 01:36 PM   #15
TSDible
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I'm thinking about replacing my 4850 with a passive 6450.

I know that technically, it is slower than my older 4850. But I'm also considering the power and noise savings.

Since I don't plan on gaming with this system, how will the 6450 do for HTPC video and sound processing?
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Old 02-05-2013, 03:22 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TSDible View Post
I'm thinking about replacing my 4850 with a passive 6450.

I know that technically, it is slower than my older 4850. But I'm also considering the power and noise savings.

Since I don't plan on gaming with this system, how will the 6450 do for HTPC video and sound processing?
I run a passively cooled Asus HD6450 in my htpc, and it works great. However, I have the sound over HDMI disabled, as I have a soundbar for audio.
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