Home > computer, displays, graphics, hackintosh, media, memory, movie, television, video > Hackintosh HTPC part 2

Hackintosh HTPC part 2

Having decided to build a hackintosh HTPC in part 1, the next step is picking hardware. This would normally include a display and this project is no different. The display this time though is an LCD television instead of the usual LCD monitor.

I had a short list of potential TV’s and the top was occupied by a couple of Sony models, the 40V4000 and 40W4000. The decision on which to go for would depend on what deals were available as the spec is similar, with the 40W4000 being a 10 bit panel (instead of 8 bit) and adding some multimedia features. Next on the list were Samsung’s 6 series models. A local retailer had an older Samsung 46″ 5 series and a Sony 40L4000 (a cut down 40V4000) hooked up to a Vista PC through a KVM switch, running at something like 1366×768 resolution. I increased the resolution to 1920×1080 and to my surprise the Sony showed an unsupported display mode message while the Samsung looked fantastic.

A quick download of manuals and all became clear. While the Samsung models from 5 Series onward (and possibly earlier) support D-sub analog input at full panel resolution the Sony models I looked at don’t offer this. A quick search online returned some reports that the Sony models do support full resolution over HDMI on newer video cards. I was after full resolution for all connections, so the Sony TV’s were off the list.

I finally picked a Samsung 46A656 from Cosco at £960. This includes a 5 year warranty and a 90 day refund guarantee. I asked what this covers and was told by the TV salesman ‘any reason you don’t like it’. That means 90 days to decide if it’s the right size for the room, if the quality and features are what you want and if Mrs Basshead thinks it’s worth the money.

TV in place it was time to move onto the HTPC. The newest Apple supported chipset is in the new Macbooks, using Nvidia’s 9400 integrated graphics. Reviews say these offer very good performance and the chipset is used in a Gigabyte motherboard, the Micro ATX GA-E7AUM-DS2H. A built in HDMI port with audio pass through sounds very good, but at a price of around £115 it’s not a cheap option. A bit more reading showed that it’s also overkill for the target application.

To get an idea of what power is required to play 1080p material I hooked up my Macbook to the Samsung TV’s D-sub and set the display to 1920×1080. Plex media player software was already on the Macbook so I used this to play a couple of 720 video’s and some 1080 trailers from the Apple site. The 720 media played fine and looked good, but the 1080 video stuttered a bit. The Macbook has a 1.83Ghz Core Duo processor and an Intel 950 video chipset, so something just a bit more powerful would probably cope fine.

I had a spare 7300Gt card from when I recently upgraded the hackintosh to a 9800GT, and it’s passively cooled making it the perfect candidate for the job. The Intel Core 2 Duo E5200 offers 2.5Ghz on a 45Nm process for lower heat and power consumption at a reasonable £63, with 800Mhz DDR2 memory just over £20 for 2Gb. I settled on a Gigabyte GA-G31M-S2L motherboard since it’s cheap, works well in a hackintosh (see insanelymac for the details) and has a digital audio header on the motherboard.

I toyed with buying another Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro since it’s a powerful yet quiet CPU cooler, but decided to leave this and a HTPC case until after I proved the hardware did the job. The CPU was a retail box which includes a cooler even though they aren’t the quietest of examples. The hackintosh hard drive (a 500Gb Samsung) was filling rapidly with video from my HF100, so a 1Tb hard drive went on the order for the hackintosh with the intention of using the 500Gb in the HTPC.

The final items were HDMI cables for the HTPC and future components. Spending over £20 each on HDMI cables from high street retailers is a waste of money when Aria had standard quality 2M HDMI cables for under £3, so I added a few of those. The Samsung 6 series has 4 HDMI sockets so there’s plenty of expansion potential. A final DVI to HDMI cable took care of the HTPC to TV connection.

In part 3 I will detail the build and software install.

Part 1

  1. January 31, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Sounds like a good combination, very similar to mine. I’d opted instead to use a cheap DVI to HDMI Cable from the computer to the TV, and my TV is a Sharp Aquos 37″ 1080p model which also gets inputs from lowly things like a digital cable box and a PS2. Curious to hear pt3, as I always considered turning my machine (currently running Linux / XBMC ) into a hackintosh.

  2. tyler
    February 2, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    I see you were thinking about using Plex for your media center. Boxee is based off XBMX just like Plex but includes internet video browsing for sites like comedy central and Hulu. I have it on my mac and it is by far the best media center software out there.

    Check it out.

    It is in alpha right now so you need an invite to join. Just e-mail me and i can get you an invite.

  3. tyler
    February 2, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Never mind, I just went over to the website and I guess they have opened up the alpha testing to anyone.

  4. Colin
    February 3, 2009 at 5:15 am

    You might want to take a look at Boxee – http://boxee.tv as a good piece of software for watching content. My mb pro has been hooked up to the TV ever since I downloaded it. Considering building a hackintosh to replace it.

  5. Vanley
    August 28, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    no part 3 ? ;/

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