One more thing to go…

By | July 11, 2010

The next-to-last phase of my bedroom project was completed this weekend.  As I already mentioned in my last post, I decided to go the ITX route and got a good deal on a new case and snatched a board up to go with it.  The case ended up being pretty awesome – it was exactly what I needed.  It accepted my 3.5″ WD Raptor 75GB and 5.25″ LG BluRay/HD-DVD combo drives with no problems.  I also used  a stock Intel heatsink/fan which had the perfect amount of clearance underneath the combo drive.  There was no room for exhaust fans, but I wasn’t going to add any anyway…I did put in an 80mm MassCool intake though.  It’s a little loud, but it’s in the closet :)

The case included a 300W POWMAX PSU.  I realize it’s not a good PSU, but it works.  It’s actually a mATX PSU, so it won’t be as hard to find a replacement.  I read that many were using the Pico PSUs with the ION boards, but that is also where a lot of the resume from standby issues were coming from…there apparently wasn’t enough power to bring the ION systems out of sleep state, so I’d rather not step into that mess.  I have enough room in that case, even if it looks a bit like a rat’s nest.

The Zotac GF9300-G-E I picked up is a fourth generation (revision) and while there has been a history of issues with it, I had only one with the board itself.  I got hit by the Verifying DMI Pool freeze, where it just sits after initial post and never advances.  I set up a flash drive, flashed the BIOS the latest available version and was happily on my way.  For this build, I re-used my WD Raptor 74GB, LG BD/HD-DVD combo drive, 2x2GB Patriot DDR2-800 and an Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 (2.4GHz).  I acutally used an Intel Celeron E1500 (2.2GHz) in the beginning, but switched later…Media Browser prefers some horsepower for larger media collections.

I opted for Windows 7 Pro x64 edition this time around, although not exactly by choice (all of my HTPCs have been 32-bit).  My first install went with Win7 x86, but as this was my first nVidia build, I ran into some major issues between the onboard 9300 GPU and my HannSpree HDTV.  After much reading, it appears nVidia is plagued with issues when it comes to going out over DVI/HDMI to certain HDTVs.  Color space, PC/TV mode, resolution issues, etc.  I had a clear picture, but my colors were terribly off…I can’t even explain it.  They were washed out and each color seemed to have another color “tinting” it, so they were always way off.  It was absolutely nothing that could be fixed within the nVidia Control Panel or in my TV’s menu…it was just bad.  Apparently, the 9300 treats my TV’s native resolution (1360×768) as PC-mode and screws up the color space when output over DVI or HDMI.  The HDTV resolutions were all standard – 1080i, 1080p, 720p, 480p, etc.  All of which cause overscan issues with my TV.  Long story short, I tried everything – to include a re-install using Win7 x64 to try and solve it –  and nothing worked.  I tried adding an add-on GForce 8400GS, which encountered the exact same problem.  I then tried my ATI HD2600 Pro and had a beautiful picture, just like the HTPC it came from had.  This convinced me it was an nVidia issue.

I ended up not using the ATI card and just setting my resolution to 1080i and resizing my desktop to correct for overscan.  After some color adjustments, I am quite happy with the picture now, although I would be happier if I could use my native resolution.  Maybe it will be fixed one day.  I could have stayed with the ATI card, but I got this ITX board with CUDA-enabled GPU for a reason, so I intend to use it.  I have watched a couple of shows with it and have no complaints.

I went with a fairly minimal approach with codecs.  I installed CoreAVC Pro 2.0 (for CUDA), ffdshow x64 (for audio, DivX, XviD, etc.), Haali Media Splitter (for MKV and MP4) and registered the 64-bit version of VSFilter.dll (for subtitles).  Win7DSFilterTweaker was used to register it all.  Everything works well and I get good hardware accelerated playback on my h.264 content.  I don’t get any tray icon for FFA during playback, but I assume it’s working correctly as it’s all passed to my receiver the way I want it.

I don’t have the sleep/resume issues many have had with this board and CPU/chipset temps are decent.  Actually, the first thing I did when I got the board out was pop off the chipset heatsink, clean off their over-generous amount of paste and applied my own Arctic Silver.

I’m happy, overall, with the setup.  It fits perfectly on my shelf now and despite the nVidia display issue, works very well.  Check back soon as my rear in-wall/ceiling speakers arrive and I wrap this project up!

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