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  1. #1
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    A response to Matt Smith's HTPC article

    I was reading the recent article about HTPC's here and just had to think to myself that perhaps Mr. Smith has missed the point or put together a less than optimal HTPC. When I built my HTPC I knew exactly what I wanted and needed. Threw a pentium E5200 wolfdale dual core into an mATX board with onboard nvidia 9400 graphics with an HDMI out, a couple gigs of ram and 2 1TB caviar green HDD's. Got a decent PSU with a large slow fan and a spiffy antec HTPC case (somewhat unbelieveably that was the most expensive part by a notable margin).

    Basically what I'm trying to say is that hes 100% right on the hardware front, in that htpc's don't need power. But thats not exactly groundbreaking is it? Matt claims that a desktop HTPC is too noisy and that a laptop would be quieter. My rebuttal would be that mine is equally silent with nothing more than a conscientious PSU choice, the stock HSF and the fans that came with the case. He claims they're too inflexible, which seems a little strange to me. How can one PC be any more inflexible on the software front than the other? Not to mention, a laptop is a lot less flexible on the hardware end (how many laptops come with TV tuners?)

    As I see it, a laptop offers you very few advantages, mostly dealing with their size (though SFF's and such pretty much equal them there) and have a number of notable drawbacks:

    1. Less HDD space. (mentioned in the article, but a definite convenience factor for the desktop to have all or most of the content locally)
    2. Little upgradability
    3. Price. Two of the three suggested products have prices over 800$. Without some of the bells and whistles i put in, my HTPC cost about 500$

    4. My last point is, admittedly, a point of preference, but I think its noteworthy. there is a convenience factor and polish factor that a laptop just doesn't have. I set up my HTPC, the wires all run into the receiver/tv inside my cabinet. One flick of a switch and everything powers on, goes to the right inputs and works immediately (with a 50$ refurbed harmony remote). There is no straining to plug in wires behind my receiver or TV each time i want to put on the laptop. there are no loose wires across the rug, there are no worries that it'll display properly or that i'll get the sound to output over HDMI becuase its there all the time and is set up and doesn't change. This is just so much more "professional" and impressive than any laptop. Plus, it looks pretty nice next to my receiver.

    Just wanted to put in my 2c and say that I see what you're saying Matt, but I respectfully disagree
    Last edited by Activate: AMD; 07-07-2010 at 09:13 AM.


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  2. #2
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    Re: A response to Matt Smith's HTPC article

    Laptops have advantages in this application, but to truly utilize the benefits of an HTPC, a server for storage would be mandatory, especially if you are storing HD rips.
    My main concern, which is not addressed in the article, is will any of these laptops Bitstream HD audio over HDMI from Blu-Ray? If not, then that is a show-stopper right there for many of us.

  3. #3
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    Re: A response to Matt Smith's HTPC article

    another noteworthy point which fits into my point about hardware flexability. As far as i know there are only a couple of sound cards capable of this and all of them require would an upgrade slot


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  4. #4
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    Re: A response to Matt Smith's HTPC article

    Well, any of the ATI 5XXX Series vid cards will bitstream HD-audio, as will the newest Intel chipset and CPU, at least for desktop configurations.

  5. #5
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    Re: A response to Matt Smith's HTPC article

    Quote Originally Posted by John C View Post
    Well, any of the ATI 5XXX Series vid cards will bitstream HD-audio, as will the newest Intel chipset and CPU, at least for desktop configurations.
    I'm not sure thats true. They will bitstream the uncompressed PCM audio, but in order to transfer the encoded lossless format you need a proper soundcard, which i believe limits you pretty much to a couple of Xonar cards and TMT3 software (last time I checked)


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  6. #6
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    Re: A response to Matt Smith's HTPC article

    Quote Originally Posted by Activate: AMD View Post
    I'm not sure thats true. They will bitstream the uncompressed PCM audio, but in order to transfer the encoded lossless format you need a proper soundcard, which i believe limits you pretty much to a couple of Xonar cards and TMT3 software (last time I checked)
    That used to be true, but now the vid cards do it alone. I have a 5670 in my HTPC, and it lights up the TrueHD lights over HDMI on my Pioneer receiver. .
    It works with Both TMT and PowerDVD also. The Xonar wound up being too little, too late, and too expensive.

  7. #7
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    Re: A response to Matt Smith's HTPC article

    i3 and i5 Clarkdale chips can also bitstream lossless and the gtx460 will soon.

  8. #8
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    Re: A response to Matt Smith's HTPC article

    I see other downsides to laptops:
    • Like micro and mini boards, they often lack available system resources, such as the lack of APIC and reduced system bus bandwidth.
    • Unless you're using SSD, the drives are almost always slower than desktop drives
    • They're far more expensive to repair and parts are not always readily available
    • Significantly diminished expansion options. USB ports is one that hasn't been mentioned.


    SFF PC's can often also be passively cooled, which pretty much negates the noise factor. Besides, many laptops have hell noisy optical drives that have to be managed via software. I don't buy the noise complaint though. I run a full sized system as an HTPC and it's just as quiet as any laptop. 3x120mm fans, CPU fan and VGA fan. Unlike smaller systems, I can very comfortably run DTV capture card, sat card, VGA card, sound card and three HDD's - and I still have room to add stuff to it.

    It doesn't make much sense to me to run a separate box (eg. NAS) for storage if you can run it all in one unit. If you've gotta do that, you run into a whole bunch of other potential issues. Network throughput being one of the major ones.

    Depends on what you need though. For most people, a laptop or other setup with mini/micro board would suit. If you need extra storage, slap an eSATA drive on it. For me that kind of defeats the purpose. Buying a laptop, adding external drives or NAS and hanging USB hubs and other stuff off it is likely to cost more than just getting a desktop PC (which will ultimately perform better) and rigging that up.

  9. #9
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    Re: A response to Matt Smith's HTPC article

    Quote Originally Posted by Mjölnir View Post
    I see other downsides to laptops:
    • Like micro and mini boards, they often lack available system resources, such as the lack of APIC and reduced system bus bandwidth.
    • Unless you're using SSD, the drives are almost always slower than desktop drives
    • They're far more expensive to repair and parts are not always readily available
    • Significantly diminished expansion options. USB ports is one that hasn't been mentioned.


    SFF PC's can often also be passively cooled, which pretty much negates the noise factor. Besides, many laptops have hell noisy optical drives that have to be managed via software. I don't buy the noise complaint though. I run a full sized system as an HTPC and it's just as quiet as any laptop. 3x120mm fans, CPU fan and VGA fan. Unlike smaller systems, I can very comfortably run DTV capture card, sat card, VGA card, sound card and three HDD's - and I still have room to add stuff to it.

    It doesn't make much sense to me to run a separate box (eg. NAS) for storage if you can run it all in one unit. If you've gotta do that, you run into a whole bunch of other potential issues. Network throughput being one of the major ones.

    Depends on what you need though. For most people, a laptop or other setup with mini/micro board would suit. If you need extra storage, slap an eSATA drive on it. For me that kind of defeats the purpose. Buying a laptop, adding external drives or NAS and hanging USB hubs and other stuff off it is likely to cost more than just getting a desktop PC (which will ultimately perform better) and rigging that up.
    totally agree. basically my HTPC functions as a media player and storage device. Since its a nearly full size system I can put a few HDD's in it without needing to get a full NAS system. Just use WOL and bam, access to my movies anywhere in the house


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  10. #10
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    Re: A response to Matt Smith's HTPC article

    I can see the other side of the argument, for sure. There most certainly are enthusiasts who really do need a desktop-based HTPC because they have large amounts of media content stored in digital form.

    However, my main point is this - you can now buy a laptop that will work as an HTPC without much or any sacrifice unless you have no intention of owning a laptop at all. Most of the mainstream laptops that are on the market can play HD video beautifully and serve as a normal laptop.

    A typical multimedia laptop will cost $700-$800. But if you were going to buy a new laptop anyway, the actual additional cost is either $0 (if you wanted a reasonably powerful laptop anyway) or the difference in price between the very low-end laptop that you would have otherwise purchased and the more expensive laptop you actually bought.

    Given this - and the trajectory of computing currently - desktop based HTPCs seem to be of limited use. HTPCs have never been terribly popular anyway. And I think they'll become less popular over time, and will eventually be used by only the most die-hard media enthusiasts.
    Last edited by Mattdoommaster; 08-28-2010 at 07:59 PM.

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