Pimp my HTPC?
May 8, 2008 12:43 PM   Subscribe

Mobo Filter: Help me find the perfect motherboard (and possibly PSU) for my HTPC.

Now Uni is done for the year I have decided that my sumer project will be to build a low power and low noise HTPC. I've already bought this case, swish eh! But I'm stuck now. I need reccomendations for a motherboard as there are so many out there and I cant find the perfect one. Here are my requirements:
  • HDMI? - My HDTV will take a VGA connection or a HDMI connection. Do I really need HDMI? Onboard graphics will be cool, and probably prefered as I wont be using this for gaming. HD resolutions are a must though.
  • Digital audio output - This will go straight into my AV amp. So coax or optical are fine.
  • IDE/ATA - I have an old DVD-RW drive and a 320GB hard drive I want to put in it so IDE would be nice. Of course SATA would be nice to for any future upgrades.
  • The case can fit ATX and micro-ATX but I would prefer to have ATX so I can expand in the future.
  • Also what wattage PSU should I go for? I'll probably have 2 hard drives and two optical drives in it (IF I get a blueray drive). Would 350W be too little?
So! Reccomendations? Anything else you would suggest? Any ancecdotes about your own HTPC project? Any Ideas about coooling or noise elimination?

Thanks a lot Hive-Mind.
posted by gergtreble to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Ah. The "this" in "I have already bought this case" should have been a this.
posted by gergtreble at 12:44 PM on May 8, 2008

Response by poster: Well I have a PC attached to my TV at the moment via VGA and its fine. But I only have a 720p TV at the moment. Should I go up to 1080p would VGA be able to cover that?
posted by gergtreble at 1:28 PM on May 8, 2008

I have the MythTV frontend on an Apple TV running Linux. I even have a little USB DVD drive for playing DVDs. The Myth backend runs in another room with all the tuner cards.

I'm surprised how well the Apple TV works. It manages to play 1080p/i MPEG-2 content with XvMC and 720p h.264 with mplayer with no troubles at all.
posted by phatmonkey at 1:35 PM on May 8, 2008

Response by poster: Phatmonkey: Are you running a backend with that? Im looking at MythTV too. But wont be using it untill I get a bigger place! Right now I need a mobo!
posted by gergtreble at 1:43 PM on May 8, 2008

This one has digital audio and HDMI/DVI/VGA on board (with, of course, IDE and SATA headers). Use a celeron chip if you're not recording and want (comparatively) low power consumption. If you're recording and want to feel confident about doing several things at once, get a dual core chip. Then add 'silent' chip and case fans. Then you're left to monkey with the hard part: UI and remote integration. Have fun!
posted by cowbellemoo at 2:14 PM on May 8, 2008

I recommend getting a board with AMD's new 780G chipset, which has onboard video powerful enough for HDCP output and decoding HD codecs with only a minimally powerful CPU, thus reducing power consumption, heat, and noise. Here's a very positive review of the chipset from Tom's Hardware that specifically deals with its HTPC application.

Newegg has three mini-ATX models available that match your specs; there doesn't seem to be much difference in their features. All of them have only one ATA channel, which means max two IDE devices, but I think you're going to find that's true with all new motherboards.

For determining the power supply, I recommend this PSU calculator -- 350W should be plenty, especially if you're not sticking a video card in there. I would focus on efficiency and quality rather than wattage -- definitely get an 80 Plus-rated PSU.
posted by camcgee at 2:18 PM on May 8, 2008

Definitely look at a board with the AMD 780G chipset. Here's a pretty in-depth article by Tom's Hardware Guide. This chipset can boast the lowest power consumption of any currently on the market, and coupled with the right CPU (read: AMD 45W) you have yourself a great low-power setup.

Did I mention the onboard video is a Radeon HD3200? And the board supports crossfire (1 card + onboard!), DirectX10, and PCI Express 2.0 as well.

That being the case.. I just built up a new system on a 780G board.. and everything seems to be fine running on 220W. This is the specific board I chose to use. Note that THG's article uses the Gigabyte 780G board as their reference model.
posted by s01110011 at 2:30 PM on May 8, 2008

^ Looks like camcgee caught me dozing. haha. I have used the PSU calculator he linked as well - I wouldn't take that to be an authoritative guide, as most psu calculators have trouble keeping up with exact models, new chipset, etc (e.g. most PSU calculators estimate power consumption based on size, not chipset). Google a few, and get a good sense of what range you need to be in.

Another note. On my older HTPC I just changed the fans out to Noctua brand case fans.. makes a world of a difference! (at a price, of course). Here are some reviews of the fans.

Last thing: as a general note, Silent PC Review is a great place to research HTPC/low power/noise parts/configurations. There's a wealth of knowledge there.

Have fun with your build!
posted by s01110011 at 2:35 PM on May 8, 2008

@gergtreble: Yes, the MythTV backend runs as a Xen domU with all my tuner cards and an NFS share with videos/music. Both ends (Apple TV and the backend) run Mythbuntu.
posted by phatmonkey at 3:08 PM on May 8, 2008

I've heard good stories about the board cowbellemoo linked to. My personal approach is to buy separate video cards, particularly since the case you have has plenty of space, but that's just me. So I just buy pretty much any board and a cheap fanless nvidia card. For audio I just pass through to my surround sound amp so all I need the on-board sound card to have is a toslink connector.

On VGA/HDMI, you'll need HDMI plus all the approved, signed software and drivers and all of that to get blu-ray going at full resolution as far as I understand it. I personally run VGA because my TV overscans on all inputs except VGA and I'm not interested in blu-ray.

If you're considering looking in to mythtv later as you suggest steer clear of ATi video like that which s01110011 mentioned. ATi's linux drivers are improving, but they're still utter trash. If you're not interested in myth and are going to stay with windows that board looks decent too.
posted by markr at 7:00 PM on May 8, 2008

The Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H looked best when I researched this question a few months ago for a friend. It has VGA, DVI, and HDMI video connections. My entire parts list is here. Be sure the power supply you choose is 80 PLUS Certified.
posted by PueExMachina at 8:43 PM on May 8, 2008

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