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Combine HTPC and WHS in one box or make two? RRS feed

  • Question

  • I would very much appreciate advice on the following.  Given that most of my files will be stored on a WHS box, does it also make sense to have that same box be the basis for a home theater PC, or should I build two separate boxes?

     

    If I build the HTPC around one of the AMD 780G motherboards (with HDMI output) and put a high end Athalon 64x2 or Phenom, I have the processing power for multimedia work and obvious overkill for a WHS box.  On the one hand, the sucker will use more electric power than a minimal WHS would require, but I'll only have to pay for one box.  An alternative would be to build a low power WHS which would run 24x7 and only fire up a separate HTPC when I need it (three or four hours per day).  The hardware and software costs of this second approach would be greater, but the power consumption would be less.

     

    I am sure that there are many issues other than power consumtion that should go into analyzing which option makes the most sense.  Or, in fact, there may be other options.  Please help me (and others) think about the pros and cons of each approach.  Thanks for your advice.

     

    Ed

     

     

    Sunday, April 13, 2008 8:55 PM

Answers

  • Ed, all connecting your home server to your television will get you is the ability to display your home server's desktop (and whatever's running there) on your television. WHS is not designed to be a HTPC replacement. The recommended solution is a two box solution, with the HTPC using the WHS PC for media storage.
    • Marked as answer by Sailwithed Thursday, January 14, 2010 12:11 AM
    Saturday, April 19, 2008 7:59 PM
    Moderator

All replies

  • Seeing as WHS isn't meant as a desktop OS (which is, basically, what a HTPC is - a desktop), and WHS doesn't have any kind of PVR app, support for tuners, etc., I'd suggest two boxes (your HTPC, and a WHS box.)

    As for power use:  the Athlon64 x2 procs have some crazy-high power usage (and attendant heat production.)  Not trying to play fanboi or start a flamewar here, but, have you considered an Intel chip (say, a Core2Duo E2140)?  Fast, cool, and uses a lot less power.

    Sunday, April 13, 2008 11:55 PM
  • Core2Duos use a "lot less power" ? I'm not so sure about that.

     

    But I would recommend a fast, efficient single core CPU for a WHS box such as a Pentium 4 sub-3ghz range. WHS boxes aren't going to need a beefy CPU, most of their work is based on data transfer. I've even seen people running WHS boxes on Pentium 3s with excellent results and P3s eat much less power than any of the aformentioned CPUs. But of course you can't buy that equipment new anymore.

     

     cuppie wrote:

    Seeing as WHS isn't meant as a desktop OS (which is, basically, what a HTPC is - a desktop), and WHS doesn't have any kind of PVR app, support for tuners, etc., I'd suggest two boxes (your HTPC, and a WHS box.)

    As for power use:  the Athlon64 x2 procs have some crazy-high power usage (and attendant heat production.)  Not trying to play fanboi or start a flamewar here, but, have you considered an Intel chip (say, a Core2Duo E2140)?  Fast, cool, and uses a lot less power.

    Monday, April 14, 2008 6:33 PM
  • If I were you I'd take a serious look at SageTV.  I've been a happy user of Sage for four years now.  They have a version of their server software that installs as a WHS plugin, I'm running it and it works fine.

     

    The disadvantage of a one-box media center and WHS box is that your server is in your TV room.  It's big, it's noisy (fans, disk access), and it's ugly.  Run Sage on your WHS box but stick it in the basement, without a monitor.  Then, get a Sage HD extender for $200 that'll network with your server and sit next to the TV.  It's small, silent and pretty.  Hardware requirements for Sage aren't huge, either.

     

    Let me know if you have any questions, I'd be happy to help.  Sage has an active set of user forums, as well.

     

    Monday, April 14, 2008 6:37 PM
  •  Whizard72 wrote:
    Core2Duos use a "lot less power" ? I'm not so sure about that.
      I did mean "when compared to a 'high-end' Athlon64 x2 (of which most are 110W TDP chips), then, yes (An E2140, by comparison, is a mere 65W TDP.)  What's the power rating on that P4 (and, are you referring to S478 or LGA775 chips?)  Smile
    Monday, April 14, 2008 8:13 PM
  • You could also go the 'Tranquil' route! They have a Home Server with 4 internal tuners and is fanless. Little to no noise and feeds the Sage set top boxes. Thinking of getting one to 'play' with, especially when they go to  the Atom 45nm - ultra low power, 1.87GHz in Q2.

     

    Colin

     

    Monday, April 14, 2008 8:21 PM
  • I would second the looking at SageTV, I think Sage combined with one of their HDExtenders is a very strong package. I plan on evaluating it over the next couple months. The one thing I'm most interested in is the new HD-PVR that will allow for recording of component video sources. It should be out in May.

    Monday, April 14, 2008 8:23 PM
  • Thanks for all the helpful replies.  I guess I'll build two boxes:

     

    1.  a low power CPU WHS box with two 750 gig "green" drives

    2.  a high power CPU HTPC box with a smallish, 10,000 rpm hard drive with on a mb w/HDMI output

     

    I guess I'm just surprised to see how many people are putting quad-core super-beasts into the WHS boxes.  What for if they're not doing processor intensive tasks, like encoding video?  That's why I originally thought about combining the two.

     

    Ed

     

    Tuesday, April 15, 2008 5:24 PM
  • You could replace your high power box with an HD media extender from Sage.  It's cheap, silent, and low power consumption.

    Tuesday, April 15, 2008 8:05 PM
  • Ah right, I stand corrected, I had the chips mixed up, you're right otherwise.

     

     cuppie wrote:

     Whizard72 wrote:
    Core2Duos use a "lot less power" ? I'm not so sure about that.
      I did mean "when compared to a 'high-end' Athlon64 x2 (of which most are 110W TDP chips), then, yes (An E2140, by comparison, is a mere 65W TDP.)  What's the power rating on that P4 (and, are you referring to S478 or LGA775 chips?) 
    Tuesday, April 15, 2008 9:16 PM
  • That is what I would do, the point of a WHS is central storage, to use it as a desktop computer, even for HTPC uses is a risk to the data stored on the machine.

     

    People putting quad-core processors in a WHS boxes are definitely ensuring themselves a perfectly viable WHS box for at least 8-10 years or more with provisions for drives of course.

     

    Other than that, Quad-cores are a waste in a WHS box for right now.

     

     

     Sailwithed wrote:

    Thanks for all the helpful replies.  I guess I'll build two boxes:

     

    1.  a low power CPU WHS box with two 750 gig "green" drives

    2.  a high power CPU HTPC box with a smallish, 10,000 rpm hard drive with on a mb w/HDMI output

     

    I guess I'm just surprised to see how many people are putting quad-core super-beasts into the WHS boxes.  What for if they're not doing processor intensive tasks, like encoding video?  That's why I originally thought about combining the two.

     

    Ed

     

    Tuesday, April 15, 2008 9:22 PM
  • Here is a post I made to help another gent looking to do the same thing as well as my experiences and choices. There are also some links to threads that answer many of your concerns about PVR's and tuner cards, which will work on WHS. There is no need to build two boxes. You will not need to use WHS as a "desktop'" OS to do this.

    Read my findings and recomendations in the link below and then follow the links I supplied. Ultimately, Your choice would depend on the need for PVR functionality vs not needing it. Also, using Sage TV and TVersity and alike hog up a lot of CPU power to "Transcode" your movies and send them to the TV. As you'll read in my post, a lot of CPU power would be needed to do the "transcoding" job and still allow WHS to function properly and not lag other users accessing files from WHS.  If PVR is not needed, you can use an Xbox or Xbox 360 or Mvix device on each TV, no software is needed on WHS and a less powerful unit is required.

    Anyway, check my post and the other related links.....Hope it helps.

    HTPC or Media Center set up for WHS

    Tuesday, April 15, 2008 9:26 PM
  •  Sailwithed wrote:

    I would very much appreciate advice on the following.  Given that most of my files will be stored on a WHS box, does it also make sense to have that same box be the basis for a home theater PC, or should I build two separate boxes?

     

    If I build the HTPC around one of the AMD 780G motherboards (with HDMI output) and put a high end Athalon 64x2 or Phenom, I have the processing power for multimedia work and obvious overkill for a WHS box.  On the one hand, the sucker will use more electric power than a minimal WHS would require, but I'll only have to pay for one box.  An alternative would be to build a low power WHS which would run 24x7 and only fire up a separate HTPC when I need it (three or four hours per day).  The hardware and software costs of this second approach would be greater, but the power consumption would be less.

     

    I am sure that there are many issues other than power consumtion that should go into analyzing which option makes the most sense.  Or, in fact, there may be other options.  Please help me (and others) think about the pros and cons of each approach.  Thanks for your advice.

     

    Ed

     

    If your goal is to have WHS functions and stream movies, music, pictures, etc. to a TV and wired and/or wireless client PCs in your home, WHS box and a media extender are all you need to accomplish your goal.  If you want to record and playback TV programs, then a TV card can be added to WHS.  WHS box is far more versatile than most people think, is easier to setup, easier to maintain and has less hardware requirements than HTPC to also use as media server.  My setup is WHS box, SageTV for WHS, HD100 media extender (has HDMI connection) and a tv card, and I stream to a TV and multiple clients at the same time with no problem.  Obiviously, you want to have slightly higher than WHS minimum specs for this setup.

     

    I may get flamed for saying this, but I have no problem NOT running my WHS box 24x7.  Yes it's a server, but unlike in business environments, home server doesn't need or is required to be on 24x7.  My client pc backups are done early enough that I can turn my WHS box off usually when everyone is asleep and/or not being used for at least 6 to 8 hours, considerable power savings since I have 10 internal and an external drives.

     

    You can always start out with WHS, and if it doesn't meet your media function needs, you can always build a separate HTPC box.

    Friday, April 18, 2008 5:03 PM
  • Thanks, inlvnv,

     

    Yeah, I really just want to stream material that will be on the WHS to my TV.  That's why I was thinking of using one of the new AMD 780G mbs, which has HDMI output.  I ASSUME (correct me if wrong), that I can just run an HDMI cable between the WHS box and the TV's HDMI input and play away.  I've got a Dish Networks DVR which I can use to capture video, which can be downloaded to the WHS from the DVR via a USB cable.  Strikes me I don't even need an extender.

     

    I, too, intend to turn off the WHS overnight and when I'm travelling.

     

    Ed

     

    Friday, April 18, 2008 11:28 PM
  •  Don3580 wrote:

    You could replace your high power box with an HD media extender from Sage.  It's cheap, silent, and low power consumption.

     

    While this is slightly off-topic, do you know how often the HD extenders are available? Every time I've tried to purchase one (going back to December), they have been out-of-stock.

     

    Thanks!

    -Shane

    Saturday, April 19, 2008 7:41 PM
  • Ed, all connecting your home server to your television will get you is the ability to display your home server's desktop (and whatever's running there) on your television. WHS is not designed to be a HTPC replacement. The recommended solution is a two box solution, with the HTPC using the WHS PC for media storage.
    • Marked as answer by Sailwithed Thursday, January 14, 2010 12:11 AM
    Saturday, April 19, 2008 7:59 PM
    Moderator
  •  Sailwithed wrote:

    Thanks, inlvnv,

     

    Yeah, I really just want to stream material that will be on the WHS to my TV.  That's why I was thinking of using one of the new AMD 780G mbs, which has HDMI output.  I ASSUME (correct me if wrong), that I can just run an HDMI cable between the WHS box and the TV's HDMI input and play away.  I've got a Dish Networks DVR which I can use to capture video, which can be downloaded to the WHS from the DVR via a USB cable.  Strikes me I don't even need an extender.

     

    I, too, intend to turn off the WHS overnight and when I'm travelling.

     

    Ed

    As Ken mentioned above, that HDMI port will only allow display of WHS desktop, which should come in handy if you ever need direct access to troubleshoot your WHS or reinstall or clean install.  To connect and stream to TV will require either an extender or Separate HTPC box connected to your TV.  HTPC box is an option, but I prefer one WHS box solution with extender to TV for the reasons I've mentioned previously.  I use Sage so, I can only estimate costs based on this but, for less than $200, you can have an SD extender plus necessary software to connect to TV.  Spend another $60 if you want for HD extender.  To me this is far more cost efficient solution than building a separate HTPC box in addition to WHS box.  There are also quite a few other extenders out there to consider, including from linksys and dlink, I believe with wireless option.  Check out forums like avsforum.com for info.

    Sunday, April 20, 2008 4:05 PM
  •  Shane Milton (Jaxidian) wrote:
     Don3580 wrote:

    You could replace your high power box with an HD media extender from Sage.  It's cheap, silent, and low power consumption.

     

    While this is slightly off-topic, do you know how often the HD extenders are available? Every time I've tried to purchase one (going back to December), they have been out-of-stock.

     

    Thanks!

    -Shane

    No one knows, they had two shipments, both selling out in about a week.  You literally have to check everyday and grab'em when available.

    Sunday, April 20, 2008 4:10 PM

  • Sorry to reply to such an old thread, but I have only just recieved a trial copy of WHS and have exactly the same desire as Ed;
    - One box as both HTPC and WHS

    What about building a machine on a AMD 780G motherboard, a 4850e procesor (45watts) and then running WHS as a virual machine inside XP or something?


    I've already trialled WinXP-Pro on the machine to see if the motherboard can handle 1080p videos.  It can, and with spare CPU time.  Considering current financial and Green thoughts, it seems to make sense to combine the two...


    What do people think about such an idea?


    Cheers,
    Mat.
    Sunday, April 5, 2009 9:06 AM

  • Sorry to reply to such an old thread, but I have only just recieved a trial copy of WHS and have exactly the same desire as Ed;
    - One box as both HTPC and WHS

    What about building a machine on a AMD 780G motherboard, a 4850e procesor (45watts) and then running WHS as a virual machine inside XP or something?


    I've already trialled WinXP-Pro on the machine to see if the motherboard can handle 1080p videos.  It can, and with spare CPU time.  Considering current financial and Green thoughts, it seems to make sense to combine the two...


    What do people think about such an idea?


    Cheers,
    Mat.

    You can try it, but it's unsupported. Frankly, if I were going to try to combine them through a VM solution (which I wouldn't), I would switch your server and client OSes around (run XP as a VM inside WHS).
    Sunday, April 5, 2009 1:48 PM
    Moderator
  • I agree it's not the tidiest solution, but as the hardware is capable of playing the files I can't justify buying a second lot of hardware.

    As for which OS to run in a VM, the whole desire comes from not being able to get the Audio drivers for WHS to perform correctly.  I havn't tried it yet, but I presumed this will them impact on the VM OS?  (If the host can't access the audio hardware correctly, I thought the client wouldn't be able to either)


    If I could get the drivers working correctly in WHS, I wouldn't even think about having a 2nd OS in a VM or otherwise...

    Sunday, April 5, 2009 10:41 PM