HTPC/Gaming Rig Step 1

The case

After selecting a case for my new living room computer I had to buy some more parts to piece together a running PC. The case I selected was the Lian Li PC-C32, in black. Overall I am satisfied with the case. It is fairly spacious, it looks good, it was pretty easy to mount everything inside of it. However, when I got the case it was a bit bigger and lighter than expected. The plates used for the case were a bit thin and the top lid had two screws in the front which I did not see and they almost made me force the top off. Other people have said the case comes with one motherboard stand too many. I did not have that problem as I installed a microATX board. The stock fans on full speed were a bit nosier than I would have liked too but it was nothing a replacement of fans and a fan controller could not handle. I chose the ZM-MFC1 Plus controller from Zalman.

The hardware

The computer consist of a Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H microATX motherboard with an on-board AMD HD3200 video chip powerful enough to playback full HD video. The AMD 780G chipset is a favoritte among many reviewrs (1). The motherboard is fitted with an AMD Athlon 4850e CPU which only requires a limted amount of power and 4 GB of Kingston DDR2 memory. Both the 1TB Spinpoint F1 hard drive and the SH-S203B DVD player came from Samsung. The plan is to get another hard drive and install it in a RAID level 1 to have backup of images, music and movies. Hopefully will the prices of solid-state-drives fall while the performance contines to increase so I can get such a drive and use it for the operating system drive. The whole ting is powered by a NorthQ Giant Reactor power supply which I had laying around.

The software

I have I have been using Windows Vista 64 because I had a license and I eventually plan on getting a better graphics card to be able to play games. Currently the cards are either too expensive, too noisy or not powerful enough so I think I will be waiting until the next generation arrives or until someone starts selling better cooling solutions for, for instance the AMD 4870X2. If I wasn’t planning on gaming I would have used a Linux distro for sure.

The problems

I wish I could say everything went accoring to plan. Unfortunately it did not. First, the PSU is a bit too noisy. The 850W version of the Zalman ZM1000-HP could be a possible solution. Second, the DVD is way too noisy. I do not plan on using this much but it sounds like a plane taking off. Third, the stock fans were too noisy on full spead. This has been solved by using a fan controller. I might also replace the fans. Fourth, I will certainly get a modular PSU the next time I buy a new one. I hate all those cables. Finally and most annoying. The graphic chip has some problems with HDMI and TVs. If I select the right input on the TV and then turn on the PC I get an image and everything works perfectly. However if I change the input on the TV to something else and then back again to the PC, I do not get any image. It seems it is a problem with the Catalys driver and the handshaking with the TV. I hope this will be fixed with the release of a new driver. As a consequence of this problem I have not used it as much as originally planned. I have not moved neither movies, images nor music to the PC.

The future

As mentioned I have planned to get another disk and a new graphics card. This is however somewhere down the road. It would have been nice to get a quieter PSU as well but with the noise level of the graphic cards of today it is no point of getting a silent PSU before I know which graphics card I will be pairing it with. When new and more powerful CPUS are comming I will probably update those too. However until later the two core AMD should do the job.

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