Im building a dream multimedia system...

loady

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Hi,

I am nearing the end of an extension to my house and this has created an oppurtunity to embed all my wires into the walls!!...i would like some advice from people who have built media systems...

i am going to build a box that has a Hd/BLU ray combo drive, quad core cpu, fast mobo and various other ancilleries...i want this all inside a media centre case that will live under a 37 inch lcd tv that i can use to waych HD movies on i have downloaded, i also want to be able to play pc games on the big screen....however...when the boss (wife) wants to watch eastenders i want to be able to switch out put to an auxillary 19" panel in the other room and run the box using a RF keyboard/mouse combo..this sytems will also be tied in with a complete surround sound sysem, i will also be running network points upto upstairs rooms.

If anyone can offer advise on setup of components i would be greatful.
 

loady

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ADDAGE:

I forgot to mention, i also need to have 2 other burners attached but i cant find a media case with 3 visible 5.25 bays....would it be possible to have an external caddy that i could connect to a connection on the box when needed, this would save power consumption as i occasionally do cd or dvd runs of catalouges for people so i deffo need then but not all the time, what would the impact be of plugging such equipment via usb...would it be able to keep up with the speed ??
 

Curly

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In between Bro and Mairyhinge. Hold that thought..
I've made a start with mine too m8 but not finished, so will be watching your thread with interest.
I have a quad core pc but no blue-ray drive as yet. The graphics card has HDMI. I have a wireless keyboard/mouse but the range is shite m8!!
You'll need an extender for that too!!
Mine is not in a media case but in a pc case hidden in a cupboard below my wall mounted 40" Samsung.

http://i197.photobucket.com/albums/aa191/Cur1y/DSC01112.jpg

My home network is hard wired in cat-5e
So far this just sends internet around the house to network points on wall..
I also want to be able to send video/audio to other rooms eventually.

Curly
 

loady

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Curly nice to have you onboard m8....im going for cat 6....as for the wireless keyboard/mouse....its going to be likvirtually in the same room so not really an issue...one thing im not sure about is have the 2 screen setup, what connections are best for the LCD 37" and can i just get a board that will support a super card for 37" that will handle HD and then just another slot for my standard 19" monitor ?
 

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You should be able to put two cards on most modern motherboards and either have the output mirrored (so you see the same thing on both screens) or extend your display so that it covers both screens. You'll then be able to move applications between the monitors. If you want to go down that route you'll need to make sure your motherboard has 2 PCI Express slots or that you get a graphics card with dual monitor output.

With screens of that size you'll want to connect them with DVI as opposed to SVideo or VGA, it'll be much sharper and you'll get a far crisper picture on your panels. Dual DVI cards can be expensive though, you might be better off with two cheaper cards with single DVI outputs on each. You don't need a hugely powerful card for watching HD but if you're expecting to play things like Crysis then you'll need something with a bit of oomph (and that supports directx 10, I believe).

And for the controls, your best bet is to steer well clear of regular wireless set-ups. THey quote ranges of 8ft or whatever but, in reality you'll be lucky if you get reliable control at anything over 2ft. Go with bluetooth or, better still, RF. I use a gyration micro set and the mouse works in the air as well, you don't need a flat surface to work it, useful if you can't be bothered to leave the couch. Gyration also developed the Wii remote with Nintendo so they know a thing or two about gyroscopics.

Good luck with your build!
 

oneman

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It you want to drive two screen then you will need a dual output card. They are not expensive (starting around £30). Make sure the card is HDCP compatible if you want HD content show on your TV.

You can get external 5 1/4 cases for your DVD writers, either USB, firewire or eSATA.
 

loady

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You can get external 5 1/4 cases for your DVD writers, either USB, firewire or eSATA.

Ahhh..yes Esata..would probably be the best bet, so i could get a nice case with just the need for my HD drive and then house my 2 burners in a caddy with Esata....thanks for that info.

You should be able to put two cards on most modern motherboards and either have the output mirrored (so you see the same thing on both screens) or extend your display so that it covers both screens. You'll then be able to move applications between the monitors. If you want to go down that route you'll need to make sure your motherboard has 2 PCI Express slots or that you get a graphics card with dual monitor output.

With screens of that size you'll want to connect them with DVI as opposed to SVideo or VGA, it'll be much sharper and you'll get a far crisper picture on your panels. Dual DVI cards can be expensive though, you might be better off with two cheaper cards with single DVI outputs on each. You don't need a hugely powerful card for watching HD but if you're expecting to play things like Crysis then you'll need something with a bit of oomph (and that supports directx 10, I believe).

And for the controls, your best bet is to steer well clear of regular wireless set-ups. THey quote ranges of 8ft or whatever but, in reality you'll be lucky if you get reliable control at anything over 2ft. Go with bluetooth or, better still, RF. I use a gyration micro set and the mouse works in the air as well, you don't need a flat surface to work it, useful if you can't be bothered to leave the couch. Gyration also developed the Wii remote with Nintendo so they know a thing or two about gyroscopics.

Good luck with your build!

Well this is going to be all singing dancing machine so i am looking at the the main card to power the tv screen to play crisis and HD movies and the second card will be a bog standard card to run the 19" tft for general usage so both the cards will need to be set up to display the same image and hopefully i can set the pc to power the card down thats not being used to save power, this is important as i dont want hardware runnnig that isnt being used. So i would need to be looking at a 37" lcd that has a DVI connection for sure from what you are saying as i do not want to compromise quality of image.
I am interested in the controls you mentioned....how much money are the gyroscopics you have ??...i was intending on using RF mouse/keyboard but would be happy if these will do.


From both your posts you have answered some questions for me that have been very helpful and i thank you.
 

karym6

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if you are up for it, try linuxMCE. Its a medi centric version of linux that has loads and loads of additional features, like follow-me etc. I had planned to use it in my last place, but moved to an open plan flat where you can pretty much hear and see everything at once.

It lets you use pretty much whatever you like as a media device, and lets you use bluetooth enabled mobiles as a remote.
 

Conrad

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If you're going for a card that'll play Crysis at a good frame rate (and other games, I'm just using that as a yardstick), then it'll most probably have dual DVI out. It could also well have HDMI out, which would be a better bet for connecting it to a TV. More TVs will support HDMI than DVI, you'll still get the improved picture and HDMI supports HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection, basically copy protection for blu-rays), just make sure the graphics card supports it too. There are ways around it but by the sounds of things you'll be going the "proper" route.

One other thing to be aware of with top-of-the-line graphics cards is that they're big. Most of them take up two PCI slots and al lot of them are well over standard length. If you're looking to put them inside a small HTPC case, check that they'll fit first.

With regards to components being powered on when not in use, I believe the GPUs on graphics cards will only comsume the voltage they need when they need it. I'm not aware of any graphics cards that power themselves down when not in use. You could probably do it manually by disabling it in the device manager but I would want to mess about with that too often.

For controllers, I'm using an outdated version but the current suite is this one: http://www.gyration.com/p-18-go-pro-24ghz-optical-air-mouse-and-compact-keyboard-suite.aspx. I can't really fault my one. Some people don't like the design but it doesn't bother me when the thing works so damn well!
 

loady

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if you are up for it, try linuxMCE. Its a medi centric version of linux that has loads and loads of additional features, like follow-me etc. I had planned to use it in my last place, but moved to an open plan flat where you can pretty much hear and see everything at once.

It lets you use pretty much whatever you like as a media device, and lets you use bluetooth enabled mobiles as a remote.

Yes i was thinking of a triple boot pc anyway, xp, vista and linux so will investigate that version of linux.

If you're going for a card that'll play Crysis at a good frame rate (and other games, I'm just using that as a yardstick), then it'll most probably have dual DVI out. It could also well have HDMI out, which would be a better bet for connecting it to a TV. More TVs will support HDMI than DVI, you'll still get the improved picture and HDMI supports HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection, basically copy protection for blu-rays), just make sure the graphics card supports it too. There are ways around it but by the sounds of things you'll be going the "proper" route.

One other thing to be aware of with top-of-the-line graphics cards is that they're big. Most of them take up two PCI slots and al lot of them are well over standard length. If you're looking to put them inside a small HTPC case, check that they'll fit first.

With regards to components being powered on when not in use, I believe the GPUs on graphics cards will only comsume the voltage they need when they need it. I'm not aware of any graphics cards that power themselves down when not in use. You could probably do it manually by disabling it in the device manager but I would want to mess about with that too often.

For controllers, I'm using an outdated version but the current suite is this one: http://www.gyration.com/p-18-go-pro-24ghz-optical-air-mouse-and-compact-keyboard-suite.aspx. I can't really fault my one. Some people don't like the design but it doesn't bother me when the thing works so damn well!

Looks like the card is going to be a bit of a minefiled to choose, as the 19" monitor i have is vga and i dont wish to buy another one, so i am hoping a board with 2 pci express slots and a really good card to run the lcd with dvi and the other to use vga for the 19".
That wireless set you got there is coming in at about £150, quite expensive but hey im going all out, i noticed it is american, would that be an issue ?.

I now have some other concerns, what about running peripherals ? ie my usb scanner, i obviously dont want that shit around if i can help it, could i hard wire a usb outlet where the auxillary panel is going to be, the printer is not to much of a problem as i can run it as a print server and have it connected to one of the network ports.
 

Conrad

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You should be able to find a card that's got a DVI and a VGA out, or just focus on one card for the 37" and then run the 19" off the onboard VGA. It's not so much of a minefield as you've got lots of choices and options. Go for the combination that gives you the most combinations and you'll be laughing. A motherboard with dual PCI and onboard VGA coupled with a top-spec card with dual DVI will offer you almost every combination you can think of, and will see you through your next couple of screen upgrades.

Someone will release a game your rig can't run at full speed the week after you finish it though!

The link was to give you an idea of the company, a quick google shopping search returned some sets for about £75 (http://www.google.co.uk/products?q=gyration&hl=en) which is around what you'd pay for a decent bluetooth set.

You might find your biggest problem is with your peripherals. Networking your printer is a good idea but USB doesn't work well over distances. You can get repeating hubs that allow you to go further but I think USBs maximum distance is about 10 meters. Something like this might be an option though: http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=3246389&sku=M501-1320 (again, they're US based but it proves the product exists!). You could coule that with ethernet-over-power (homeplug) and put your scanner and any other devices you wanted anywhere you liked pretty much.

Also, if you're building an HTPC that you want to watch movies on, pay attention to cooling and noise levels. I've found that buying passive items and then choosing my own fans provides the best results. Watch out for people calling their items "silent" or "stealth", they're often nothing of the sort. If it's a concern I can point you in the direction of some excellent quit/cool PC resellers and reviewers.

I've managed to put together a dual core rig that runs under 50 degrees when playing heavily compressed (so heavy CPU load: 80% - 90% for most of the time) and is under 25db at full load. It's about 2ft from me and I can't hear the thing except when the room is silent. An extra £1 or £2 on a fan here and there will make a massive difference.

Apologies for the long posts!
 

oneman

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You should be able to find a card that's got a DVI and a VGA out, or just focus on one card for the 37" and then run the 19" off the onboard VGA. It's not so much of a minefield as you've got lots of choices and options. Go for the combination that gives you the most combinations and you'll be laughing. A motherboard with dual PCI and onboard VGA coupled with a top-spec card with dual DVI will offer you almost every combination you can think of, and will see you through your next couple of screen upgrades.

Someone will release a game your rig can't run at full speed the week after you finish it though!

The link was to give you an idea of the company, a quick google shopping search returned some sets for about £75 (http://www.google.co.uk/products?q=gyration&hl=en) which is around what you'd pay for a decent bluetooth set.

You might find your biggest problem is with your peripherals. Networking your printer is a good idea but USB doesn't work well over distances. You can get repeating hubs that allow you to go further but I think USBs maximum distance is about 10 meters. Something like this might be an option though: http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=3246389&sku=M501-1320 (again, they're US based but it proves the product exists!). You could coule that with ethernet-over-power (homeplug) and put your scanner and any other devices you wanted anywhere you liked pretty much.

Also, if you're building an HTPC that you want to watch movies on, pay attention to cooling and noise levels. I've found that buying passive items and then choosing my own fans provides the best results. Watch out for people calling their items "silent" or "stealth", they're often nothing of the sort. If it's a concern I can point you in the direction of some excellent quit/cool PC resellers and reviewers.

I've managed to put together a dual core rig that runs under 50 degrees when playing heavily compressed (so heavy CPU load: 80% - 90% for most of the time) and is under 25db at full load. It's about 2ft from me and I can't hear the thing except when the room is silent. An extra £1 or £2 on a fan here and there will make a massive difference.

Apologies for the long posts!


ITA about the fans, there seems to be a big differnce in quality and noise between different ones.
 

loady

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You should be able to find a card that's got a DVI and a VGA out, or just focus on one card for the 37" and then run the 19" off the onboard VGA. It's not so much of a minefield as you've got lots of choices and options. Go for the combination that gives you the most combinations and you'll be laughing. A motherboard with dual PCI and onboard VGA coupled with a top-spec card with dual DVI will offer you almost every combination you can think of, and will see you through your next couple of screen upgrades.

Someone will release a game your rig can't run at full speed the week after you finish it though!

The link was to give you an idea of the company, a quick google shopping search returned some sets for about £75 (http://www.google.co.uk/products?q=gyration&hl=en) which is around what you'd pay for a decent bluetooth set.

You might find your biggest problem is with your peripherals. Networking your printer is a good idea but USB doesn't work well over distances. You can get repeating hubs that allow you to go further but I think USBs maximum distance is about 10 meters. Something like this might be an option though: http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=3246389&sku=M501-1320 (again, they're US based but it proves the product exists!). You could coule that with ethernet-over-power (homeplug) and put your scanner and any other devices you wanted anywhere you liked pretty much.

Also, if you're building an HTPC that you want to watch movies on, pay attention to cooling and noise levels. I've found that buying passive items and then choosing my own fans provides the best results. Watch out for people calling their items "silent" or "stealth", they're often nothing of the sort. If it's a concern I can point you in the direction of some excellent quit/cool PC resellers and reviewers.

I've managed to put together a dual core rig that runs under 50 degrees when playing heavily compressed (so heavy CPU load: 80% - 90% for most of the time) and is under 25db at full load. It's about 2ft from me and I can't hear the thing except when the room is silent. An extra £1 or £2 on a fan here and there will make a massive difference.

Apologies for the long posts!

Hey, Dont apolagise for the concisive, detailed and interesting post....i would be very interested in some direction for a quiet pc as that is a main concern...i know that the bigger the fan then the more air it can move with less speed, i think more importantly is the psu fan.

As for the peripherals, the cable length is going to be about 4-5 metres maybe, i just want them in a cupboard out of the way around the corner.

Im planning on having a gigabit ethernet as i am going to run cat6 cable, i currently have a

wrt54gs, well 2 of them actually, and a linksys 5 port gigabit switch, i will prolly upgrade the linksys to a gigabit version and hope i can install 3rd party firmware at some point in time.
 

oneman

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If you are trying to track down the noise there are 6 main sources of noise.
CPU fans
Northbridge
Case fan
PSU Fan
GFX card fan
HDD

Basic principle that big and slow is better then small and fast.

If you don't want to play games then you have an advantage because you can get a motherboard with onboard gfx that supports HD acceleration. That way you have already cut out GFX fan.

At the same time get a M/B with passive cooling on the northbridge. But be careful that any cooling is not going to cause an issue with a replacement CPU fan.

PSU should be straightforward. Spend on decent money and get a branded PSU with a 120mm, temp controlled fan.

Case fan, if you system is not being pushed hard then consider a single front mounted, speed controlled, ball bearing, 120mm fan. It should be enough.

CPU fan, no questions asked, the tall 'stacker' units offer optimum balance between noise and performance. The only issue is they are VERY tall and you might have problems fitting them to a multi-media case. One other option here is a to get a mobile CPU which are designed for low power. With one of these you should be able to get away without using a CPU all together if you use a decent heatsink in direct line of a front case fan and some ducting.

HDD, look for either Samsung or Seagate drives. Both score very well in keeping the noise down. You can use either rubber mounting kit or 5 1/2 internal enclosure to further reduce noise. Another option is to use eSATA drive in a external enclosure and put it out of the way or use a laptop drive, if you are only doing multimedia working then 5400 rpm should not be a problem.

One other thing to think about is get a BTX layout system as it is designed for optimum airflow in mind and it is possible to cool the entire system with a single 120mm front fan.
 

Conrad

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All excellent advice.

For case fans, I'd recommend Noctua and Acoustifan and, as oneman says, go as large as your case will allow. I'm running 80mm fans in my machine but the Noctua 120mm's I've got in my desktop are near silent, even without any speed control. With fan layout, try to make the ones at the front intake fans and the ones at the back exhaust fans. If you've got room to put fans on the top or on the sides, work out what components they're going to be near and then work out whether you'd be better with them sucking or blowing. Also, mount them on these: http://www.maplin.co.uk/Module.aspx?ModuleNo=98863&&source=14&doy=4m6. They'll isolate the fans from the case and stop vibration (and noise).

I'm using a Nesteq PSU and I believe that Nesteq, Zalman and Xylence make some of the quietest fans out there, but watch out for the volume ratings (I'll come to that in a bit). The temperatute controlled ones will vary their speed as needed and as oneman says, are the ones to go for.

Alot of CPU coolers will come without fans, allowing you to add your own. They're the ones to go for as, often, the ones that come with fans will be noisy unless you're buying a brand that also happens to make quiet fans: Zalman and Noctua, for example. There's no point getting a really quiet PC that has one really loud fan in it!

As with anything, a manufacturers quoted volume or decibel figures (db) should be taken with a pinch of salt. While they're not to be relied on exclusively, they'll offer a pretty good comparison and indication of whether something is quiet or not. What quiet is depends on your personal preference, some people are happier with more noise than others. I might be telling you stuff you already know but be aware that the db scale isn't linear. That means that 40db isn't twice as loud as 20db, it's 4 times as loud. The volume doubles for every 10db. The difference between something that's 20db and something that's 30db is huge. Under 15db is pretty inaudible but 30db is qoute a lot louder than a whisper. While that doesn't sound like much, imagine having someone mumbling where your PC is, all the time.

Have a look here for some good reviews on quiet components: http://silentpcreview.com.
These guys sell a lot of the best quiet pC bits about, and their forum is ok too: http://www.quietpc.com/
 

oneman

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Thanks for mentioning about the airflow should be from front to back.

I used to recommend Zalman CPU fans for a long time but I think they are struggling now. If you have one of the new 45nm CPU not overclocked then you should be able to use this without a fan if you have front mounted 120mm fan blowing into it.

http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=296802


Unless you are planning on overclocking or have a high end GFX card then a single intake fan in conjunctions with PSU fan should be enough.
 

Conrad

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It's interesting how opinions differ so wildly and just goes to show how many different options you've got when building a new machine. I'm much more of the opinion that you should put in as many fans as you can, make them as large as you can and have them all quiet. My desktop workstation has 8 x 120mm fans in it! It does have 9 hard drives though. :eek:

This is why I like cooling products that ship without fans, I'll probably end up replacing the stock one anyway.

If you're happy running with the minimum number of needed fans then there's really nothing lost in doing that. Having more fans gives you a bit more temperature headroom but at the expense of cost, hassle (fitting them, making sure they're correctly aligned) and potential noise.

I've had a couple of Zalman coolers and they've always served me well, the last one I bought was over a year ago though. I'm really starting to love the Noctua stuff right now though, it's so quiet!

Out of interest, have you had any experience with this: http://www.quietpc.com/gb-en-gbp/products/intelcooling/nh-c12p. I'm thinking of replacing the stock cooler on a non-overclocked quad core chip with it. I'd like to use a scythe ninja but I just don't have the height and I don't fancy the ninja mini, although I can't explain why.

Loady, sorry for hijacking your thread.
 
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loady

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It's interesting how opinions differ so wildly and just goes to show how many different options you've got when building a new machine. I'm much more of the opinion that you should put in as many fans as you can, make them as large as you can and have them all quiet. My desktop workstation has 8 x 120mm fans in it! It does have 9 hard drives though. :eek:

This is why I like cooling products that ship without fans, I'll probably end up replacing the stock one anyway.

If you're happy running with the minimum number of needed fans then there's really nothing lost in doing that. Having more fans gives you a bit more temperature headroom but at the expense of cost, hassle (fitting them, making sure they're correctly aligned) and potential noise.

I've had a couple of Zalman coolers and they've always served me well, the last one I bought was over a year ago though. I'm really starting to love the Noctua stuff right now though, it's so quiet!

Out of interest, have you had any experience with this: http://www.quietpc.com/gb-en-gbp/products/intelcooling/nh-c12p. I'm thinking of replacing the stock cooler on a non-overclocked quad core chip with it. I'd like to use a scythe ninja but I just don't have the height and I don't fancy the ninja mini, although I can't explain why.

Loady, sorry for hijacking your thread.

No worries man, i will pick something up out of it!!

If you are trying to track down the noise there are 6 main sources of noise.
CPU fans
Northbridge
Case fan
PSU Fan
GFX card fan
HDD

Basic principle that big and slow is better then small and fast.

If you don't want to play games then you have an advantage because you can get a motherboard with onboard gfx that supports HD acceleration. That way you have already cut out GFX fan.

At the same time get a M/B with passive cooling on the northbridge. But be careful that any cooling is not going to cause an issue with a replacement CPU fan.

PSU should be straightforward. Spend on decent money and get a branded PSU with a 120mm, temp controlled fan.

Case fan, if you system is not being pushed hard then consider a single front mounted, speed controlled, ball bearing, 120mm fan. It should be enough.

CPU fan, no questions asked, the tall 'stacker' units offer optimum balance between noise and performance. The only issue is they are VERY tall and you might have problems fitting them to a multi-media case. One other option here is a to get a mobile CPU which are designed for low power. With one of these you should be able to get away without using a CPU all together if you use a decent heatsink in direct line of a front case fan and some ducting.

HDD, look for either Samsung or Seagate drives. Both score very well in keeping the noise down. You can use either rubber mounting kit or 5 1/2 internal enclosure to further reduce noise. Another option is to use eSATA drive in a external enclosure and put it out of the way or use a laptop drive, if you are only doing multimedia working then 5400 rpm should not be a problem.

One other thing to think about is get a BTX layout system as it is designed for optimum airflow in mind and it is possible to cool the entire system with a single 120mm front fan.

Ok guys, i am going to spoil myself here...here is the case i think i am going to buy.... http://www.custompc.co.uk/reviews/111402/zalman-hd160xt.html#
Yes i know its extravagant...its certainly tall so do you think i can put in the fanless tower heatsink on the cpu, im looking to go intel quad core..maybe amd...not really sure yet..in any case (no pun intended) these are supposed to run cooler.

I think i have confused myself with the gfx card......if i found a card with 2 hdmi ports could i use one to run the rom drive and one to run windows on screen thus eliminating the need for dvi/vga ??or do i need to have dvi for general windows usage..im assuming that the Hd/Blu ray rom drive will play through the gfx card and not directly through a connection on the back of the rom drive :S....my heads itching now lol
 

loady

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Yeah..thats what i though....now to fill it...

I just plucked this out of ebuyer... http://www.ebuyer.com/product/145353 but it says hdtv out, is that to mean it has a hdmi port on it ??...not really sure what i need to be looking at for a gfx card....REALLY dont want to overspend on that.
 
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