[mythtv-users] Looking to build first mythtv box

Rod Smith mythtv at rodsbooks.com
Sun Dec 13 05:36:19 UTC 2009

On Saturday 12 December 2009 10:29:05 pm Donald J. Organ IV wrote:
> I am going to build a new box and so far i am considering the following:
> http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128394
> AMD Athlon II X2 240 Regor 2.8GHz 2 x 1MB L2 Cache Socket AM3 65W Dual-Core
> Processor: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103688

FWIW, I recently upgraded my own Myth box using an Intel Celeron E3300 
(dual-core, 2.5GHz). According to some recent reviews (for instance, 
http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/cpu/print/value-cpu-roundup.html), the two 
CPUs are in the same ballpark, with your selection being a bit faster (5-10%) 
on most benchmarks. FWIW, my motherboard is an Intel BOXDG43NB 
(http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813121349), which is a 
little lower-end than yours in some respects, but it's got the advantage of 
having three PCI slots, which gives me flexibility to move around my existing 
PCI capture cards between my two backends.

I go into so much detail because I have no problem playing back HD content AND 
doing other stuff, such as transcoding. The system doesn't break a sweat. 
Depending on playback options such as deinterlacing and 5.1 audio upconvert, 
my CPU load when playing back HD content, according to top, is between 60% 
and 130% (keep in mind that the maximum is 200% on a dual-core system). So I 
expect you'll be fine in terms of CPU power.

> I am looking to be able to record HD and playback HD on the same box when
> why I want the HDMI out.

First, HDMI is electrically compatible with the more common (on computers) 
DVI; all you need is an appropriate cable or adapter. DVI lacks audio output, 
though, so you may need another cable if you plan to use the TV for sound. 
Cables are overpriced at brick-and-mortar retailers, but they're reasonably 
priced at NewEgg, and downright cheap on eBay. So don't get hung up on HDMI, 
with DVI being very common. Also, most new HD TVs have VGA inputs. If you've 
already got a TV without a VGA input, of course, having HDMI or DVI is 
important. If your TV has VGA input, though, consider my tale....

I recently bought an HD TV (a 720p model). It's got both VGA and HDMI inputs, 
and I bought a DVI-to-HDMI cable. I found that the DVI/HDMI input has serious 
problems for me: Text modes don't work, so I can't see the BIOS, boot loader, 
or text-mode Linux displays; I can't seem to get X to work at the TV's 
optimum resolution of 1366x768 over DVI/HDMI; and the TV overscans the 
1280x720 resolution that it does accept. I might be able to correct one or 
two of these problems, but for the moment I'm running in VGA mode, which 
works fine on all of these scores. Of course, details are likely to vary from 
one TV (and perhaps video card) to another, but it's conceivable that a TV's 
HDMI input won't be the best way to go. It'd be a shame to compromise on a 
board or spend a lot of extra money to get HDMI, or even DVI, and then never 
use it.

Others have recommended boards that support VDPAU. Although having the option 
is good, I don't think that VDPAU is necessary with CPUs of this class. As I 
said, I can play back HD content, even when my system is doing other work, 
with no problem. My board has an integrated Intel video chipset, so I'm not 
using VDPAU, or even XvMC. I figure that I can always add a separate 
VDPAU-capable video card if the need arises. At the moment, this doesn't seem 
likely. In the meantime, I'm enjoying not having to deal with proprietary 
drivers, which always seem to cause more hair-pulling than do the standard 
Xorg drivers.

I don't know if it was a factor in your selection, but I note that your chosen 
motherboard has an IEEE-1394 port. So does mine. This is useful if you want 
to record digitally from a cable box. If your motherboard lacks this port, 
you'll need to add a card to do this job, which will chew up one PCI or PCIe 
x1 slot. OTOH, some cable companies make their cable boxes' IEEE-1394 ports 
virtually useless by scrambling most of the channels sent out via this port.

Rod Smith

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