So yeah, I'm about to undertake a new home theatre PC build using the ITX form factor. Small, unobtrusive and (relatively) quiet.
I'm mainly going to be using it for TV recording/playback and the odd DVD. I've ordered the following components:
- VIA EPIA SP13000 w/Integrated VIA C3 CPU @ 1.3GHz.
- 1gb DDR400 RAM.
- 60gb 2.5" Notebook drive. (Space isn't an issue, any recordings made won't be on there for long.)
- Slimline Slot-Loading Dual Layer DVD-RW.
- ATI Radeon 9250 PCI (I've read lots of horror stories about the SP13000's integrated UniChrome graphics controller - sluggish playback, horrible resolutions and buggy MPEG acceleration, so I figured a proper GPU wouldn't go amiss here.
- Fusion HDTV DVB-T Digital Terrestrial Dual-Tuner.
- CaseTronic C137 with 120w power circuitboard and external brick.
All this is going to be hooked up to a 26" Samsung HDTV (though I don't actually plan on watching HD content for a while yet - not until Free-to-Air HDTV streams begin, anyway) through a DVI to HDMI converter, and the system itself will run Windows XP MCE 2005, although I'm also going to give EPIOS a try and see if I can get some extra kick out of it.
I'm wondering if anyone here has a similar (EPIA based) system, and would care to share some performance details - in particular how well it holds up when recording TV.
IMHO if you're gonna have an ITX system with an expansion card in (ie it will need a relatively tall case) I'd say you're better off with a Shuttle or one of the smaller mATX cases. I only see the point of ITX if you're using something like a Travla C134.
Not really relevant as you've already ordered, but that's what I think.
The C137 provides plenty of room for two PCI expansion cards mounted horizontally. If it weren't for the fact that I needed those two slots for the GPU and TV tuner I would have got a Morex Cubid. They look much nicer.
I did look at the option of a MATX or BTX system, but that brought me over budget.
Shizzle my nizzle
28th July 2004
Did you read this month's (well, technically next month's issue, but it's out now) PC Gamer article about this? It had some useful advice about alternatives to Windows XP Media Centre Edition.
No, but I have been Googling extensively for other media suites and what-not. That's where I stumbled upon EPIOS, a Gentoo-based Linux distro compiled especially for EPIA motherboards, which includes a Media Suite of sorts, as well as hardware MPEG4 support for the CN400 chipset. But, since this is primarily going to be used by my parents (Who are about as computer-literate as a brick wall), I'm trying to keep it somewhat simple and/or familiar - so jumping into Linux could pose some problems on that front.
I don't have much experience with those performance-wise, but my understanding is that they're no worse than a typical DVR box with respect to functionality. That is to say, they may or may not win any benchmarks, but they do what they need to do well enough.
Glasius was working on one of these awhile back... he might have some useful info if you can track him down now that he's gone underground.
As for building an ITX/mini-ITX system versus a μATX rig... the former can be made completely fanless and with an external brick. Good where noise is an issue. You do give up ground on the performance end of it but as I've said, if its primary function is as a DVR...
Yeah, DVR recording is my primary concern - however the capture card I'm using relies heavily on software encoding, and I'm not sure how well that would sit with only a 1.3GHz Nehemiah under the hood. I'm hoping the 1gb of RAM and the addition of the Radeon - to free up CPU time otherwise spent on the onboard VGA - will swing it, but I'm still a bit dubious. We shall see.