mobo for htpc

goodguys

Member
2011-02-23 3:51 pm
Hi and thanks for reading this post.

I'm wanting to buy a mobo for htpc use but i don't know anything about them.

I've googled and there are miniatx, microatx, gamer boards, dunno what to buy there doesn't seem to be much specifically designed for htpc.

All i've found is the suggestion that full size boards are good as the components are more spaced out therefore less interference, and something about green usb cleaner power.

What should i do.
 
Hi and thanks for reading this post.

I'm wanting to buy a mobo for htpc use but i don't know anything about them.

I've googled and there are miniatx, microatx, gamer boards, dunno what to buy there doesn't seem to be much specifically designed for htpc.

All i've found is the suggestion that full size boards are good as the components are more spaced out therefore less interference, and something about green usb cleaner power.

What should i do.

Here is what I did.

GIGABYTE - Motherboard - Socket FM2+ - GA-F2A88XM-D3H (rev. 3.0)

Added 8 gigs of 2133 memory, an A10-6800K processor, a 120 gB SSD for OS and apps, 2 3TB spinning drives, a Ceton InfiniTV 6 tuner card, a Ceton extender for another TV and a Hauppauge 2250 ATSC dual tuner. OS in Win 7 pro 64 bit. The built in graphics happily handles 1080i. I've tried 'beating it up' by playing out HDTV streams via LAN to other PCs while recording multiple channels and watching HDTV. It never stutters. I have 3 more of the same machines but without the Ceton hardware as general purpose PCs. Processing power is almost an Intel i5 but more than an i3. The 4 machines have 25 TB storage total, all networked with a 16 port gigabit switch. 3 machines have UPS power that can keep them running for 20-30 minutes.

Board + proc + memory + drives was about $500 per machine.

You may have to get some of these
RMS Communications Inc.
to prevent ground loops through the cable grounds vs power supply 3rd wire. I have no hums or buzzes in the audio feeds. The video feeds are all DVI digital so there are no issues there.

This is my 4th HTPC across 10 years. It runs faster and lower power than the previous machines. BSOD is so infrequent as to not worry about.

 
Hi and thanks for reading this post.

I'm wanting to buy a mobo for htpc use but i don't know anything about them.

I've googled and there are miniatx, microatx, gamer boards, dunno what to buy there doesn't seem to be much specifically designed for htpc.

All i've found is the suggestion that full size boards are good as the components are more spaced out therefore less interference, and something about green usb cleaner power.

What should i do.
There is more to it than the mother board... although you are asking some good questions.

  • What OS will you be using?
  • How many audio outputs do you plan to use (e.g. stereo, 5.1, or 7.1 audio)?
  • What components will you be connecting to the PC? If directly connected to amplifiers, you need to make sure that the maximum output voltage from the PC (often only 1Vrms) is enough to drive the amplifiers to their rated output voltage at least).
  • How much processing will you be doing on the PC itself (for audio and video)? This has a lot to do with what CPU you will need, and therefore influences which motherboard you want to consider.
If you are planning on using this for audio I would look for a MFG who dedicates some better components to audio.

My own example (not for HT but for audio work) is a mini-ITX BayTrail motherboard by Asrock. It has 7.1 audio onboard, so lots of channels. I use it under linux to implement a crossover in software in the PC, with no video at all. I did some measurements of the audio (FR, distortion, etc). and it was not bad at all. The only problem I discovered was that some of my amplifiers produced audible hum (possibly from a ground loop or poor shielding, etc) where as some did not when connected to the PC. You may discover this kind of thing down the road after you buy the PC that cannot be discerned from specs.
 
In general, Home Theater isn't a difficult load for a PC. Most motherboards/processors are well able to handle the task.

Things I do to improve the "user experience" include storing the OS and other software on a SSD (Solid State Drive), so you don't have that rotating platter making noise, getting a large, quiet fan for the processor, a good/sturdy case to keep the contents safe, etc.

Personally, I've been loyal to Asus boards for years, and they haven't let me down yet. I also typically get AMD processors as I feel I get more performance for the money. I don't require ultimate performance....
 

goodguys

Member
2011-02-23 3:51 pm
Excellent Advice!!! I wanna build a good 'un. real state of the art. So far i have an asus stx II soundcard 7.1 with daughter board (£210) and an nvivdia quadro 2000 dual dvi graphics card (£300) Seasonic 550 watt power supply and finally a Phenom II 3ghz x4 quad core processor.

I'm going for 4 channel with active sub, or 5.1, i used to have 9.1 sound a few years ago but the living room was full of speakers we all kept bumping into them so i'm trying to keep it simple this time around.
I've also got 3 denon amps (£900 each) so 6 channels of amplification available.

Do better components make a difference to motherboards for home theatre use, some manufacturers boast about better regulators for cleaner power and better capacitors, i mean is it all the same and i should just grab any asus or gigabyte motherboard.

Does itx, atx, mini, micro etc matter, the bigger boards use more power but is there any benefit to that
 
I might have chosen somewhat different parts, especially your video board. The "quadra" line of video boards is optimized for CAD, and is really a lot of money for what you get. Gaming boards give you more processor power for your money, and really, home video isn't very demanding of video anyway. I did splurge on the 8-core processor, and I don't regret it....
Power supply regulation is really not an issue, as far as I can tell. Your Asus sound card has internal regulation, and should be just fine.
I admit to using an OrangePi Plus for my audio system these days, and a very inexpensive USB sound card. I do the DSP and crossover in the Pi, and it sounds wonderful.... On the rare occasions when I do HT, it's the Gateway laptop I end up using.... Yeah, not much. Dual core. HT isn't really very demanding of processor or video.....
The last two PCs I built were for my wife's CAD/Design business. 8-core, 16 gigs ram, SSD OS drive. One of them has a Hauppage tv tuner, and it does just fine as HT....
 

goodguys

Member
2011-02-23 3:51 pm
Are you saying that the motherboard is fairly irrelevant as far as htpc goes, all the maufacturers' hype about quality parts and better signal transfer is bs

If so what form factor do you recommend, is it best to use the micro atx boards for energy saving and less heat.

The reason i am pressing the point over motherboards is that some manufacturers claim their boards are specialised for htpc use:

"The Intel NUC family delivers stunning visuals and edge-of-your-seat performance in an ultra-small package."
And it carries on like this page after page, but i can't find an explanation why this nuc thingy is supposed to be so much better , is it different parts or different layouts. Or could it be motherboards are all the same and this is intel just trying to sell products.
 
Yeah, like most audio hype, I've yet to hear or see any difference between the various different ones.

Micro ATX, mini, full size... How much room do you have? Do you have room for a big box, and do you intend to stuff it pretty full? Bigger boxes can handle large, slow, quiet fans, while small boxes that take micro-size motherboards may need smaller, noisier fans.

HT doesn't require the kind of video muscle that gaming requires, the video stuff is already there, doesn't need to be calculated in real-time.... We had HTPC running just fine with 10-year old systems. More power didn't really change anything.
 

goodguys

Member
2011-02-23 3:51 pm
So it's all manuacturers' bs then

I'd like to keep the motherboard form factor small for energy conservation, less heat etc
At the moment i have a full size case, but it does have different screw fittings to accomodate different size motherboards.

I also have a micro atx case hanging around which i'm using as an external hard drive enclosure at the moment. There are 2 hard drives inside which are powered by the 100 watt internal power supply, and I have sata to esata cables running off the back of the hard drives, which i plug into my laptop's esata port.

If i can find a good motherboard i'll probably use the onboard graphics solution and plug the asus stx II soundcard into a pci slot. Apart from that there will be the obvious ram and 3.5 inch hard drive. So not too much external hardware.

Thanks
 
My 3rd HTPC was a 3.4 GHz Phenom II on a Gigabyte 780 series board. The 'idle' power was 110 Watts. The current board I linked to in #2 runs considerably faster and the idle power is under 50 Watts. It also has SATA 3 and USB 3, both of which you definitely want.

Audio S/N claims 108 dB. I have not measured it but it is definitely very quiet. It also has SPDIF optical output . Current Newegg price $69.99. With an FM2+ processor (Kaveri) it will do 4K video.

Both boards are micro ATX.

 
As has already been said, HT does not require a very powerful PC at all. That gives the opportunity to build a physically small PC that may be more acceptable in a living room.

I have built a mini ITX PC and, earlier this year I built a thin mini ITX PC that looks like a thin black DVD player. For both builds I used Asus mobo's as I have always been happy with their products.

The only drawback with very small PCs is the difficulty in installing a TV tuner card. I don't have one and find that with a smart TV, a hard drive DVD recorder and all the catchup opportunities available on the web, there is no need for one.

My current thin mini ITX machine has an on-board SSD for the software and a 2.5" SSD for some files although I am now moving to a NAS. I would strongly recommend an SSD for the software as it boots up almost immediately.
 

goodguys

Member
2011-02-23 3:51 pm
Just to clarify and summarise this thread, different sized motherboards would not assist in picture or sound quality for htpc. And power consumption is not related to size of board.
Bigger boards allow for more powerfull cpu's, more ram, more bios features, onboard graphics and sound.
Does that sound right or is there anything more to add.

Thank you
 
Small form factor boards can take processors more powerful than what is needed for HT purposes. My ASUS thin mini-ITX mobo will take an i7 CPU but I am only using an i3. Same goes for RAM, my mobo will take 16GB and I am using 8GB which is still fine for HT use.

The issue with using powerful CUPs on small form factor mobos is one of cooling. The need to fit a big fan/cooler rather defeats the object of having a small mobo which is be enable the use of a small case.

I consider my small mobo still to be BIOS rich and enables many functions not needed for HT uses.