mobo / cpu choice for htpc build

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Several months ago I started pulling components together to build my next
computer.  My goal is to use it as an htpc, mostly as a jukebox, photo album
and with the right software some form of interface to the internet (weather,
news, movie info, etc).  I will probably install a dvd (not certain whether
to go with rom or writer) and a tuner card.  It won't be used for computer
games at all.

Anyway, I have the following parts pulled together at this point:

Seagate 160 gig hd
512 mb pc2700 memory
PowerColor 9250 video w/128 mb, AGP, VGA, DVI, TV out
and an ECS l4vxa2 mobo (don't hate me)

As I said above, I'll add the dvd and tuner card and probably a flash card
reader.  Also want to add a sound card with digital out to connect to the
dbs stereo system.

My question right now, though is concerning the mobo and a cpu.  If I add a
hardware based tuner card (as opposed to a software based card), I know I
can use less in the way of a processor.  On the other hand, if I go with an
hd card, I know I need a pretty heavy duty cpu.  I picked up the ECS Mobo
several months ago pretty cheap and I realize some people have a lot of
problems with them.  Right now, I'm trying to match it to a cpu and could
use some help.

According to ECS's website, this mobo can handle a P4 cpu running at 400 mhz
fsb up to 2.2 ghz, a P4 running at 533 fsb at 3.06 ghz, or up to a 2.8 ghz
Celeron at 400 mhz fsb.  Right now, for cost reasons and the realization
most of the computer's use will be with music and internet and little use
for video, I'm leaning toward a Celeron chip.  But I'm having a hard time
finding one.  I looked on Tiger's website and the lowest speed Celeron they
carry is a 533 mhz fsb at 2.93 (the Intel Celron 340).  After rebate it is
39.99.  They also have the 350 (3.2 ghz/533 fsb) for 59.99.

ECS does not list a compatability with the 533 fsb celeron's.  So I'm
wondering if anyone has had any success running this chip and/or running a
chip above the ghz level listed on ECS's website.

Like I said above, I don't want to spend a lot of money on this project and
I do understand a lot of hatred for the ECS boards.  Thanks for any


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Re: mobo / cpu choice for htpc build

On Sun, 7 May 2006 23:19:36 -0500, "Robert"

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take the following with a grain of salt:

Whatever you build, it will be overkill.  Jukebox needs
300MHz  CPU, Photo album maybe 200MHz, and internet access
has everything to do with whether you want those annoying
Flash Ads (yuck!) or don't and it thus it needs even less

A TV tuner card is not in itself a need for high
performance, but "IF" you want to capture video to a fairly
high compression codec (higher than MPEG2, like
Divx/XVID/MSV), then that can make all the difference in
whether system can do it realtime, though if it's only
analog broadcast you're after, even today's budget systems
can do it reasonably well.

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I hate you.

Giving $ to ECS does two things... Encourages them to make
these junk boards, and cause you to have LQ system that dies
earlier than necessary, contributing to landfills, robbing
someone else of a system they need (grandma/etc only needs
office, email, etc) or at least costing you as many dollars
in loss of resale value (a dead system sells very poorly) as
the difference between that board and one a little better.

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Not to watch, just to record.  I can't speak for everyone,
but I find hardware based cards worthless, or really, worth
not a cent more and maybe less than others (depending on
what the software allows).  I rarely ever capture in MPEG2
with any of my systems set up for TV capture (5 at present).

I do have one set up to capture to MPEG2 but only because
the card in that one was bought dirt-cheap, and even fast
enough to play last-years decent games (nVidia Personal
Cinema FX5700, which overclocks quite a bit so gaming isn't
half bad).  That particular system, or rather that card, I
got so cheap because it didn't come with software.  I ended
up using WinDVR which is pretty crippled, but it does MPEG2
fine and so it's the lone system doing MPEG2.

Any other system uses something else.  If it'll be edited
later, lossless compression is best.  If the lossless system
is "occupied", I'll use one that has an MJPEG hardware card
in it (since MJPEG is less lossy), Matrox G200 (an oldie but
a goodie for analog monitors).  Anything else (in my use) is
best using MPEG4 or a close derivative with small
motion-change keyframes.  Essentially, that allows a fair
precision at editing out commercials.  

I don't expect anyone else to have the same needs, but the
main point might be that unless you have a 3rd party
software that you prefer, the included software may be more
important than hardware vs software compression.  Today's
CPUs can handle compression of MPEG2 (of the hardware
cards), fine, and even do it better than the hardware cards
can, because the hardware cards are limited to what
procession algorythms the chip can do, while the software
cards can go beyond this, up to as much as the CPU can do
(which is more today with modern CPUs).

One problem with this is if the system has simultaneous need
of performance for other apps, or more than one app and only
a dual core, dual CPU (whichever) system.  Then hardware
compression becomes more useful, but if someone is such a
power user that they have that many demanding things going
on, I'd just cut to the chase and recommend more than one
system... just tacking on another CPU doesn't resolve issues
of memory, HDD, memory bandwidth, etc.

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Ok, perhaps I was cruel previously with the comment about
their boards.  I'd buy one if cheap enough, I just wouldn't
put it in a main use or highly demanding (like gaming)

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I refuse to talk Tiger Direct except to mention that the
public will be better off if they just go out of business.
They are crooks, at least, and I'd never buy squat from
them, and encourage anyone having a problem to just sue
them.  Check the BBB or any web forum with frequent system
integrator purchasers, you will find horror stories of what
happens all too often with TD.

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ECS is as quirky as it comes when it comes to CPU support.
PCChips was worse but they're one-in-the-same now, so expect
nothing better.  These boards are best used to build a
system at lowest price possible, not to keep for yourself.

The FSB is not a problem if isolated to Celerons.  The issue
would be bios recognition of the CPU ID.  However, if you
aren't doing video capture, it wouldn't matter,
underclocking a Celeron would work, you could set the bios
to a lower CPU vCore (or hack it to do that if necessary)
and enjoy an even cooler running CPU.

Frankly, a Prescott Celeron is a poor choice, it'll waste
power and have poor performance too because of it's lower
FSB and smaller L2 cache.  Even so, if you insist on Intel
Inside, the celeron makes more sense than P4 for the
described uses.

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Newegg, Sempron, underclock and undervolt.  It can be
passively cooled then and chassis may only need the PSU
exahaust for entire system cooling.  Your needs may differ,
but a HTPC can be quiet and cool if you don't need the high
compression capture ability.

Re: mobo / cpu choice for htpc build

Thanks for the input and not flaming me too badly over the ECS board.

I have to laugh at your statement that PCChip boards are/were as bad as ECS.
I believe the board in the computer I'm writing this on is a PCChip board.
I've had it in this computer for more than two years with an overclocked 1.6
Cel. cpu running 24/7, unless I'm out of town.  I've played around with a
number of the HTPC software pieces on this computer and decided it was time
to actually make a comp that was dedicated for that use.

Yes, the ECS board was cheap.  Spent between 10 and 15 bucks on it which is
the reason I went ahead and got it.  And yes, I realize you get what you pay

You suggested I consider a Sempron if I insisted on having an intel inside
as the Prescott would not be good, but the Sempron is an AMD.  I like the
idea of an underclocked chip with passive cooling.  I haven't used Athlon
since I built a 386 machine several years ago.  I stopped considering them
when they changed the naming scheme and it appeared as if the chip you were
buying (based on cpu number) was faster than the actual rated speed.  Maybe
I'll look at it again.

Thanks for the extra info on the tv tuner cards.  I have an Hauppage pci
tuner (WinTV w/decoder #BT878, not a 150 or 250) in this computer (probably
purchased about 2 or 3 years ago).  Video capture on it has never been very
good.  At the time, it seemed there was a big push to make sure you bought a
board that did not do software compression.  I'm running it on an
overclocked 1.6 Celeron, so from what you are saying I assume that would be
(the use of a 1.6) why it seems to take a long time to give me back control
when I stop recording.  So, I just never used it as a pvr.  Picture seems
kind of grainy on it as well, and now it is in the same room as a tv so I
just use the tv.

I do generally agree with your statement about Tiger.  If I'm looking for
something cheap to dink around with and realize that it may not last long
I'll buy from them.  I have used Newegg a number of times and like their

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Re: mobo / cpu choice for htpc build - correction

Ooops.  The PCChips board was the build before the current one.  This is an
abit board that I'm running now.  But that said, when I built my current
comp, I took the one with the PCChips board to my grandma and she played
games on it almost every day until her death last year.  Other than being
slow by today's standards it did work all the time.

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Re: mobo / cpu choice for htpc build

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The processors listed here for l4vxa2 have one thing in common.
They are 0.13 micron parts. There are no 90nm parts listed, and
that includes those dirt cheap Celeron-D's you are seeing. AFAIK,
that means the Celeron-D or Prescott or later, won't work in there.
Only Northwoods would be a good bet.

S478 Northwood processors (0.13u and either Celeron or P4) are
getting harder to find. Newegg used to have a few, but seems
to be cleaned out. Pricewatch lists a few, if you can stand
dealing with the companies who have listed them. The cheapest
is a 2.6/FSB400/128K Celeron for $61.

Powerleap stocks some, but at "original" pricing:

That motherboard you bought is impressively cheap. I found
one for sale at $17.95.

The following pair of items ought to work together.

ECS 661GX-M 1.0B Socket 478 SIS 661GX Micro ATX $40.99
Takes DDR RAM. Built-in graphics (VGA connector). Three phase Vcore.

Intel Celeron D 325 Prescott 2.53GHz/FSB533/256KB S478 BX80546RE2533C $53

And from the other camp:

AMD Sempron 64 2600+ Palermo 1600MHz HT S754 SDA2600BXBOX - Retail $68
1.6GHz, 128KB cache.

MSI K8MM-V Socket 754 VIA K8M800 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail $51
Built-in graphics. DDR memory, single channel.

The only gotcha with Semprons, is the lower speed ones are not
characterised for Cool N' Quiet. This article mentions CrystalCPUID
and RMClock, as tools for providing the missing functionality.

I found that link in this thread (posting #5):

Cool N' Quiet allows the processor power dissipation to drop to ~20W
when the machine isn't very busy. This document shows the power
states the processor has been tested at. The SDA2600 on page 63, has
no entry at the bottom of the table. The SDA3100 in the rightmost
column, does have an entry at the bottom of the table, and drops
to 19W. Either buy an SDA3100 and use the official CNQ software,
or buy the SDA2600 and experiment with CrystalCPUID/RMClock, to get
to the lower power state when the machine is not very busy.

Have fun,

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