For general help and advice to common questions relating to choosing, installing and setting up a HTPC please click the links below to see the answers:
- Are your 'Silent' and 'Fanless' systems actually silent?
- Do you have any advice on which processor is best suited to my requirements?
- Is WiFi suitable for streaming 1080p or 4K video files?
- What is the difference between an SSD (Solid State Drive) and a HDD (Hard Drive)
- I am new to the world of HTPC's, I've tried my friends Kodi XBMC box but the video performance is lacking, can you offer any advice?
- I'm having problems with my Ethernet not being recognised do I need drivers to fix this?
- I would like a PC that is capable of 4K, does the N3150 also support standard 1080p?
- I am having trouble with video playback on my TV, it pauses and judders, any advice?
I am new to the world of HTPC's, I've tried my friends Kodi XBMC box but the performance is lacking, can you offer any advice?
If however video performance is your priority then moving up to a Mini-ITX HTPC will certainly help as they have much greater processing power along with on board graphics to take care of the video rendering, all Mini-ITX will have gigabit ethernet and will be capable of playing videos off a USB hard drive. However a Mini-ITX system is a large step up in cost starting at around £200 as it is basically a fully fledged PC but in a mini case.
There are a few different ways you can access the Kodi software with a Mini-ITX system depending on your budget and also how versatile you want your system to be, i.e. is it going to be used purely as a video player/streamer? or would you also like to use it for browsing the web, word processing or playing 3D games, etc?
Methods for accessing Kodi:
OpenElec is an operating system available for free that is dedicated to running only Kodi. This is the simplest method but is also the most limited if you are interested in exploring other entertainment.
Ubuntu is a free Operating System based on Linux which is very easy to use. Kodi can be installed as an app, along with many other free applications such as Steam (games) and web browsers such as Chrome for Internet access. As Ubuntu is community supported some software can be a little buggy, but its free so you can’t really complain!
Windows is the most expensive option but it also gives you the most freedom to do almost anything you can think of with your HTPC including installing Kodi and many other media/games/productivity applications. Windows is also the only Operating System that supports Bluray playback (additional software required, e.g. PowerDVD 10+) and also has much better support for advanced content/formats such as 4K video coded in H.265/HEVC or VP9.
For 1080p content a system built around the Intel J1900 processor is recommended.
For a 1080p system with light gaming capability a system built around the AMD Athlon 5350 (Radeon R3 Graphics) is recommended, or for more advanced graphics AMD A6 Kaveri or above (Radeon R5/R7 Graphics)
For a 4K multimedia system the Intel N3150 processor with 8th generation Intel Graphics would be best, offering 4K video support through H.265/HEVC hardware acceleration (Windows only)
For a 4K system that will also be used for heavy work loads such as video editing then one based around Intel's latest Skylake desktop processors (Core i3 or above) will give you the best results
For a 4K system with full gaming capability then a system that can house a full graphics card such as our GTPC range would be your best option. Choosing a Graphics card with HDMI 2.0 such as the NVidia GTX 900 series will give you true UltraHD output (2160p @ 60Hz). HDMI 1.4a used by most devices only provides 2160p @ 24Hz max.
We have a range of wireless accessories to choose from including a few HTPC remotes that have wireless air mouse capability (think Nintendo Wii Remote), very intuitive to use. Look for the Rii i7, Rii i24 and Rii i25 for this functionality.
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I'm having problems with my Ethernet not being recognised do I need drivers to fix this?
Yes some motherboards will require you to install drivers for some of the functionality to work, especially with older Operating Systems such as Windows 7 where the drivers aren't built in.
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I would like a PC that is capable of 4K, does the n3150 also support standard 1080p?
Yes the N3150 motherboard supports standard 1920 x 1080p through HDMI 1.4a, DVI-D and DisplayPort 1.1a.
It supports up to 3840x2160 @30Hz or up to 2560x1600 @60Hz and all the various resolutions and refresh rates up to and in between such as 480p, 720p and 1080p. If you are using Windows you can select the required resolution by right clicking your desktop and selecting 'screen resolution', compatible resolutions will be available to choose from.
Please visit the ASRock website below for the detailed specifications of the motherboard including graphics outputs:
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Do you have any advice on which processor is best suited to my requirements?
Please visit our processor guide page for a comparison of the various types of processors available, depending on your requirements the guide has been split into 3 main types of HTPC uses, please click the links below:
Processor Guide - INTRODUCTION
Processor Guide - SMALL SILENT HTPCs
Processor Guide - HIGH PERFORMANCE HTPCs
Processor Guide - GAMING HTPCs
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Is WiFi suitable for streaming 1080p or 4K video files?
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I am having trouble with streaming video performance on my TV, it pauses and judders, any advice?
1) WIFI SIGNAL STRENGTH
Location of your HTPC can greatly affect the performance of its wireless network connection. Many factors can affect wireless performance including distance from your WiFi Router, interference from other neighbouring WiFi networks, interference from other wireless devices (baby monitors, house phones, etc), obstacles between the computer and router (walls, floors, furniture, etc).
Where is your Media PC located? The closer your computer to your router the stronger the signal will be. A good router should be able to provide a strong signal through at least 1 wall or floor, depending on the materials in your floors and walls will determine how much signal strength is lost through, for example metal pipers or underfloor heating can shield the signal.
You may find that there are WiFi 'dead spots' throughout your house, these may be found near walls or in corners, sometimes just moving your device by a foot can have a huge impact on WiFi performance.
2) WIFI BAND AND CHANNEL
What WiFi band are you using? modern routers broadcast on both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz channels, if your HTPC can pick up both bands (Dual Band WiFi) try the different bands.
The 5Ghz channel has a faster connection speed but it has a smaller broadcast range, 2.4Ghz is a more stable longer range channel that is also better at passing through walls. You are more likely to get interference using the 2.4Ghz band as it more widely used.
Within each band are a number of channels. Your router will broadcast on one of these channels, some modern routers will scan all the channels and broadcast on the channel with the least interference. It might be worth logging into your router and checking which band your router is broadcasting on and trying an alternate channel.
You can download free apps on your smartphone called 'WiFi Scanners' that will show which channels all the in range WiFi networks are broadcasting on, try and see if there is channel gap you can use to improve performance.
If your problem is more of stuttering/juddering (non-smooth) picture then please see comments below:
If it is a juddering issue this can be resolved by trying out a few settings on both the computer and TV that it is plugged into. The reason for juddering in most cases is due to the difference in refresh rate of the video source file, the refresh rate output of the PC and the ability of the TV to handle the differences, for instance even the most advanced graphics cards can suffer from this problem if the settings are not correct for your particular setup.
Things to try out to resolve a juddering problem are (try in this order):
1) Try an alternative web Browser
2) Change the settings on your TV
3) Change your refresh rate
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What is the difference between an SSD (Solid State Drive) and a HDD (Hard Drive)
An SSD is much much faster than a traditional HDD, it can in some cases increase general system responsiveness by to 10 times for things such as booting into Windows and opening up an application. The downside to SSD's is that you get less storage for the same cost, for example a 120Gb SSD costs the same as a 1000Gb HDD.
The ideal system would feature an SSD drive for you Operating System to run off providing fast access to all your system files for a responsive system, along with a secondary storage HDD with all your data (media, documents, etc).
If you only have room in your sytem for 1 storage drive, but would like the performance benefits of an SSD with capacity of a HDD then you may consider an SSHD (Solid State Hybrid Drive). an SSHD is a standard Hard Drive with a small 8Gb SSD integrated into the drive, over time the drive figures out which files you use the most and puts them into the 8Gb SSD, this increases the system performance whilst still offering larger storage capacities at a reasonable price.
The performance of an SSHD sits somewhere in between an SSD and HDD offering a good compromise of speed and capacity.
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Are your 'Silent' and 'Fanless' systems actually silent?
The short answer is yes, many of our computers feature completely fanless cooling, resulting in absolute silent (0db) operation as there are no moving parts within the system.
Other factors can introduce noise into the system such as the addition of a Bluray drive which spins the disc to read the information, therefore whilst the disc is being read there is a small amount of sound being emitted. When the Drive is not in use it will remain silent.
The type of Storage Drive you choose can also introduce a very small amount of sound into the system. Traditional Hard Drives (HDD's) operate by spinning small discs inside the drive, although extremely quiet they can be heard if you put your ear close to the system. Please note - it is unlikely you will be able to hear the Hard Drive from more than a meter or so away.
If absolute silence is your goal then it is recommended to choose an SSD (Solid State Drive), these do not have any moving parts and operate in complete silence (0db).
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