HTPC Component Advice

MightyGeekMan

Weaksauce
Joined
Feb 11, 2008
Messages
69
Hey all,

Long story short, after 4 years of solid, everyday use, my Maingear Axess HTPC has given up the ghost. I really loved my HTPC so now I'm looking to replace it with a new one, but I can't seem to find what I really need from a ready-made system. Especially since no one offers an integrated amp like the MSI Media Live Diva that was in my old Maingear. After looking around for a couple of days I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to have to build my own HTPC replacement and probably add an external amp to power my speakers.

Since I've never built an HTPC before, not to mention a slim form factor PC, my most pressing question is what should I buy for components? My budget is around $1,000 and, if possible, I'd be happy to reuse my current case (Omaura TF-8). If reusing the case isn't advisable, then pretend you have a $1,000 (ish) budget and need to build an HTPC from scratch, including an external amp for driving a pair of bookshelf speakers (B&W Nautilus 805's). No gaming will be done on this HTPC, only watching movies from a server, streaming media (Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, etc.) and light web surfing. Below are the components I think I need, but if you see something missing please feel free to add it in.

Case (Can I reuse my current Omaura TF-8?)
Motherboard
CPU
CPU Cooling
Memory
Hard Drive (SSD Please)
Blue ray player
Power Supply (Low Noise or Fanless)
Speaker Amplifier (Pyle Home PCA2 80-Watt Stereo Mini Power Amplifier?)
Blue Ray Software
OS (already have Win7 Home)

Thanks in advance.
GeekMan
 

Drawmonster

2[H]4U
Joined
Jun 9, 2007
Messages
3,301
After a lot of research, I recently built a new HTPC. This is what I went with

Case - nMediaPC 1000B
Motherboard - ASRock H61M/U3S3
CPU - Intel Core i3-2125 - HD3000 Video Built in
CPU Cooling - Stock. Processor has a low profile cooler that is fine for a HTPC.
Memory - G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB)
Hard Drive (SSD Please) - Crucial M4 64Gb
Blue ray player - LITE-ON Black 12X BD-ROM
Power Supply (Low Noise or Fanless) - SeaSonic X series SS-400FL
Speaker Amplifier (Pyle Home PCA2 80-Watt Stereo Mini Power Amplifier?) - No idea
Blue Ray Software - No idea
OS (already have Win7 Home) - Good enough
3.5" to 2.5" HD adapter for SSD - SilverStone SDP08 3.5" to 2 x 2.5" Bay Converter

Total: $621.92 before shipping.

It's very fast, quiet, and low power. Love it. Can probably get it cheaper off Amazon.
 

Nerdydave

Limp Gawd
Joined
Oct 22, 2010
Messages
135
I am not sure why bother with an amp. I go to a receiver. It might be a little more expensive but I use a nvidia GTX 550 ti for bit streaming and 3D vision. CPU seams to be most important in an HTPC. You don't need the fastest CPU but for bluray 3D play black I have had stuttering with a dual core and no problems with a quad at the same Hz I also found that I use my media center for more and more. So going just cheap might not be a good idea.

My HTPC
Intel i5 2300
Nvidia GTX 550 ti
4 gigs of DDR 3 ram
128 gig SSD
I watch 3D movies, 2D movies and play Skyrim on it mainly
 

Drawmonster

2[H]4U
Joined
Jun 9, 2007
Messages
3,301
I am not sure why bother with an amp. I go to a receiver. It might be a little more expensive but I use a nvidia GTX 550 ti for bit streaming and 3D vision. CPU seams to be most important in an HTPC. You don't need the fastest CPU but for bluray 3D play black I have had stuttering with a dual core and no problems with a quad at the same Hz I also found that I use my media center for more and more. So going just cheap might not be a good idea.

My HTPC
Intel i5 2300
Nvidia GTX 550 ti
4 gigs of DDR 3 ram
128 gig SSD
I watch 3D movies, 2D movies and play Skyrim on it mainly

If you're going to go for an I5, you might as well get a 2500k. They can be had for like $40 more. But all the reviews and information I read lead me to believe they were wasted in an HTPC. They also use more power and produce more heat. I game on my gaming rig, and not on my HTPC though.

The I3 I listed is more than powerful enough, and actually considered to be overkill by most people. But the low heat, low power usage, and better price is hard to pass up.
 

Valaire

Gawd
Joined
Dec 16, 2005
Messages
846
Yeah there's no reason to use an i5 in an HTPC unless you're playing modern PC games on it. Otherwise, an i3 2100, or even a G620, are fine.
 

MightyGeekMan

Weaksauce
Joined
Feb 11, 2008
Messages
69
So, after looking around on my own and taking into account officer921's excellent advice, I came up with the following:
All of the above comes out to $835. Adding taxes and any extras I might need (cables, shipping, etc.) and I'm still under $1,000. Does this seem like a good HTPC rig? Is there something I'm overlooking/forgetting? Any other suggestions?

To answer the amp question; I figured the little T-Amp would be good enough for my needs since it's small and I can leave it on all the time. My only concern is sound quality, but for $40 I'm willing to give it a shot and if it sucks I'll return it and buy a cheap receiver like the Yamaha RX-V371BL for $220. I can't think of a reason not to try the Pyle, but if anyone wants to convince me to forgo buying it and get the receiver instead, please state your case!
 

Drawmonster

2[H]4U
Joined
Jun 9, 2007
Messages
3,301
That CPU is way overpriced IMO considering that $30 more gets you a quad-core Core i5 2400 CPU. In addition, if you were trying to get the Core i3 2125 for the faster onboard GPU, still not worth it since $15 more than the Core i3 2125 gets you the Core i3 2120 and the faster HD 5450 1GB card. Go for the Core i3 2120 instead:
http://www.amazon.com/Intel-i3-2125...e=UTF8&qid=1333852215&sr=1-1&tag=hardfocom-20

Again, an I5 is hot, power hungry, and overkill for an HTPC. Also adding a dedicated video card adds heat and sucks more power when you don't need it. The 2125 is powerful, efficient, and has the same onboard video as the I5's and I7's. The HD3000 is more than enough for an HTPC. So the best of both worlds. I chose it because it was the "best" for what I wanted, which is a cool, efficient, and powerful HTPC.
 

Dangman

Ninja Editor SuperMod
Joined
Dec 15, 2005
Messages
46,062
Again, an I5 is hot, power hungry, and overkill for an HTPC .
While I agree that an i5 is overkill for a HTPC, it's a far better value for the money than the Core i3 2125 at $148. In addition, the i5 2400 doesn't generate that much more heat than a Core i3. Also, both the Core i3 and Core i5 CPUs use around the same power at idle. Considering that a HTPC is gonna be mostly idle anyway with short bursts of activity, it makes little difference whether you have an i3 or i5. Though even at full load, the Core i5 2300 only uses about 13W more than the Core i3 2120. So not "power hungry" as you characterized it unless you think 13W to 15W is a lot of power.
Also adding a dedicated video card adds heat and sucks more power when you don't need it.
While true that a dedicated card adds more heat and uses more power, the HD 5450 only uses 3W or so at idle and 8W under typical HTPC usage. That's not that much power. Considering its low power, its heat generation isn't much either.
The 2125 is powerful, efficient, and has the same onboard video as the I5's and I7's. The HD3000 is more than enough for an HTPC.
I'm arguing based on price to performance, not lowest power and heat possible. With that said, for a HTPC, the HD 2000 would be more than enough as well. I do not see how the HD3000 justifies the extra $20 for the Core i3 2125 for a HTPC with no gaming. So again, for the OP, I recommend the Core i3 2120. If he needs greater GPU power, he should pick up the HD 5450 1GB. He probably won't need it though.
 

MightyGeekMan

Weaksauce
Joined
Feb 11, 2008
Messages
69
officer921 and Danny Bui:

You both are making very good points and I'm finding it difficult to make a decision because of your convincing reasoning. On the one hand the i3-2125 is powerful enough for an HTPC and will run videos perfectly well with low power and heat. On the other hand, for roughly the same price the i3-2120 + GPU card will get me slightly better CPU performance and roughly the same graphics power.

Confusing!

There's also the choice of buying the i3-2130 for the same price for even better CPU performance, but I'm not sure if that gains me anything since video shouldn't need that much power and I'd still feel like I needed a discreet GPU. I also feel that if I were to buy a separate GPU I would get something like a GeForce GT 430 for around $50 just so I would have better graphics than the HD3000.

All in all, I need to think on the CPU issue a little bit more before I make a decision.

So, my next question revolves around the rest of the build. Other than the CPU, does the rest of the components look like a good build for an HTPC? Is anything overkill/unnecessary? Should I change something or add something else?

Thanks all, I really appreciate the advice/help!
 

tikiman2012

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Dec 16, 2009
Messages
1,228
I guess one question is this. Why do you need 16GB of ram in an HTPC? 4GB is plenty. I would find the cheapest low voltage, 1600, low Cas, ram you can, although it's getting harder to find.
 

AQ_OC

2[H]4U
Joined
Jan 23, 2011
Messages
2,131
If all you plan to do on this machine is watch video, your aim should be the get it for the lowest price possible while still getting good quality components.

1) get no more than 4GB of ram. Any more is a total waste
2) get a CPU with GPU built in. the i3 with HD2000 is all you need. Probably less.
3) you don't need a discrete graphics card unless you plan to play games. It just makes heat inside the case.
4) do you really need 128GB of SDD? I'd get 64 GB and keep the rest for storage.

Do you plan to stream over a network or play local media in the optical drive?

What is your interface? WMC + MyMovies? That's what I suggest if you plan to stream. PowerDVD Ultra 12 is the BD player software I recommend. Save your money to buy this over getting all that ram and too much HDD. This is an appliance PC, not your desktop PC.
 

Drawmonster

2[H]4U
Joined
Jun 9, 2007
Messages
3,301
If all you plan to do on this machine is watch video, your aim should be the get it for the lowest price possible while still getting good quality components.

1) get no more than 4GB of ram. Any more is a total waste
2) get a CPU with GPU built in. the i3 with HD2000 is all you need. Probably less.
3) you don't need a discrete graphics card unless you plan to play games. It just makes heat inside the case.
4) do you really need 128GB of SDD? I'd get 64 GB and keep the rest for storage.

Do you plan to stream over a network or play local media in the optical drive?

What is your interface? WMC + MyMovies? That's what I suggest if you plan to stream. PowerDVD Ultra 12 is the BD player software I recommend. Save your money to buy this over getting all that ram and too much HDD. This is an appliance PC, not your desktop PC.

+1

The CPU is a matter of preference. I chose the one I recommended to you as it's the higher end of the I3 cpu's, which are pretty much THE htpc CPU's right now. It is probably a little overkill, but the I5 is way overkill, plus will cost more over time and is hotter. The built in HD3000 in the 2125 is more than enough, so no need for a discrete card. Again, that's more heat, and computers don't like heat. Especially when they are crammed into a tiny little case.

16Gb of ram is a lot, I used 8gb in mine, and that's probably overkill. I'd suggest 4Gb - 8Gb. If you're going to be streaming everything, then the 128Gb SSD is overkill as well. Since you won't be installing games and stuff, there is no need to pay a premium for space that will never get used. If you need to store any media on the HTPC, grab a 2TB green HD.

For my front end, I use WMC + Mediabrowser and love it. My wife and son also watch a lot of Netflix, and WMC has the best Netflix app of any of the HTPC front ends. I also use Media Center Master for all my metadata scraping. I have it run when my HTPC starts, and as movies are downloaded onto the HTPC, MCM grabs the metadata, posters, cast info, rating, etc.. and saves it into the folder with the movie. I have a much more complicated, but frickin' awesome, automated method of getting TV shows and processing them, one which is frowned upon around here. So won't get into that. I think I tried MyMovies at one time, but I vaguely remember not liking it for some reason. Been a long time though, so maybe it's better.

Now, barring all that, if you have the money set aside and want those components that you listed, by all means go for it. They computer will just last that much longer before an upgraded is needed. But if you want to save some money and still build a great HTPC now, then make those changes we suggested.
 
Last edited:

Drawmonster

2[H]4U
Joined
Jun 9, 2007
Messages
3,301
So here's what a nice conservative build, based on the advice in the thread, would look like:

Case: SilverStone GD50B - $88
Motherboard - ASRock H61M/U3S3 - $70 <- Don't need a Z68 board for an HTPC
CPU: Intel Core i3-2120 - $125 <- Changed to 2120 with HD2000
PSU: SeaSonic X series SS-400FL - $130
RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaw 4Gb Kit - $28 <- More than enough memory for an HTPC
HDD: Crucial M4 64Gb SSD - $85 <- More than enough storage
HDD Bay Converter: SilverStone SDP08 3.5" to 2 x 2.5" - $9
BD-ROM: LITE-ON Black 12X - $60
AMP: Pyle Home PCA2 - $40

$635 total. So a savings of $200 off your previous build, and nearly $400 off your $1000 budget. Only two things I might change personally is going with the I3 2125 and maybe 8Gb of memory. Obviously I'm biased, as those are what I have in my HTPC. ;)
 

Zangmonkey

Supreme [H]ardness
Joined
Jul 6, 2005
Messages
4,386
So here's what a nice conservative build, based on the advice in the thread, would look like:

Case: SilverStone GD50B - $88
Motherboard - ASRock H61M/U3S3 - $70 <- Don't need a Z68 board for an HTPC
CPU: Intel Core i3-2120 - $125 <- Changed to 2120 with HD2000
PSU: SeaSonic X series SS-400FL - $130
RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaw 4Gb Kit - $28 <- More than enough memory for an HTPC
HDD: Crucial M4 64Gb SSD - $85 <- More than enough storage
HDD Bay Converter: SilverStone SDP08 3.5" to 2 x 2.5" - $9
BD-ROM: LITE-ON Black 12X - $60
AMP: Pyle Home PCA2 - $40

$635 total. So a savings of $200 off your previous build, and nearly $400 off your $1000 budget. Only two things I might change personally is going with the I3 2125 and maybe 8Gb of memory. Obviously I'm biased, as those are what I have in my HTPC. ;)

I know why you went with that psu but there are quiet units like the nexus ones that won't be audible over the cpu cooler.
 

MightyGeekMan

Weaksauce
Joined
Feb 11, 2008
Messages
69
So here's what a nice conservative build, based on the advice in the thread, would look like:

Case: SilverStone GD50B - $88
Motherboard - ASRock H61M/U3S3 - $70 <- Don't need a Z68 board for an HTPC
CPU: Intel Core i3-2120 - $125 <- Changed to 2120 with HD2000
PSU: SeaSonic X series SS-400FL - $130
RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaw 4Gb Kit - $28 <- More than enough memory for an HTPC
HDD: Crucial M4 64Gb SSD - $85 <- More than enough storage
HDD Bay Converter: SilverStone SDP08 3.5" to 2 x 2.5" - $9
BD-ROM: LITE-ON Black 12X - $60
AMP: Pyle Home PCA2 - $40

$635 total. So a savings of $200 off your previous build, and nearly $400 off your $1000 budget. Only two things I might change personally is going with the I3 2125 and maybe 8Gb of memory. Obviously I'm biased, as those are what I have in my HTPC. ;)

A few questions/observations:
  1. My original assumption was that once Win8 was released I would upgrade from Win7. That was my thinking when I spec'd out the Z68 MoBo, 128GB HDD and 16GB RAM. Am I wrong in believing having extra "oomph" can only help me? With the understanding that I plan on upgrading to Win8, would you still suggest the ASRock MoBo, 4GB RAM and a 64GB SSD HDD?
  2. I did think 16GB of RAM was a little overkill and will probably downgrade to 8GB. That would save me about $50.
  3. I'd love to get the cheaper SSD but I'm not sure how much HDD space Win7 or Win8 take up and need to run smoothly for an HTPC. For comparison, my current workhorse desktop OS (Win7 Pro) takes up almost 60GBs. And I install my programs on a separate drive. Plus, all my media is on a couple of 16TB NAS devices, so almost nothing but the OS is on the main drive and it's almost 60GBs! I wouldn't want to get a 64GB SSD only to discover it was too small for the OS.
  4. I was actually going to forgo the BD player completely until my wife reminded me that some friends and family visit and bring their own movies to watch. Ripping them sometimes takes too long for them (or more likely, their kids) to wait for so having the drive makes sense.
  5. The CPU question has had me hunting all over the web for answers and, as far as I can tell, I am best served with the i3-2125 and its on-board HD3000 graphics for an HTPC. That seems to be the interwebbing's current consensus of the best HTPC CPU for heat, noise, cost and possible future power needs.
  6. I am STILL not sure whether I should get an inexpensive receiver or the cheap T-Amp. If I can keep my costs down to under $900 then I may just get the receiver instead. Still not sure about this...
Thank everyone for all their advice/help so far. This has been a great learning experience and I am itching to get started on the build!
 

Drawmonster

2[H]4U
Joined
Jun 9, 2007
Messages
3,301
A few questions/observations:
  1. My original assumption was that once Win8 was released I would upgrade from Win7. That was my thinking when I spec'd out the Z68 MoBo, 128GB HDD and 16GB RAM. Am I wrong in believing having extra "oomph" can only help me? With the understanding that I plan on upgrading to Win8, would you still suggest the ASRock MoBo, 4GB RAM and a 64GB SSD HDD?
  2. I did think 16GB of RAM was a little overkill and will probably downgrade to 8GB. That would save me about $50.
  3. I'd love to get the cheaper SSD but I'm not sure how much HDD space Win7 or Win8 take up and need to run smoothly for an HTPC. For comparison, my current workhorse desktop OS (Win7 Pro) takes up almost 60GBs. And I install my programs on a separate drive. Plus, all my media is on a couple of 16TB NAS devices, so almost nothing but the OS is on the main drive and it's almost 60GBs! I wouldn't want to get a 64GB SSD only to discover it was too small for the OS.
  4. I was actually going to forgo the BD player completely until my wife reminded me that some friends and family visit and bring their own movies to watch. Ripping them sometimes takes too long for them (or more likely, their kids) to wait for so having the drive makes sense.
  5. The CPU question has had me hunting all over the web for answers and, as far as I can tell, I am best served with the i3-2125 and its on-board HD3000 graphics for an HTPC. That seems to be the interwebbing's current consensus of the best HTPC CPU for heat, noise, cost and possible future power needs.
  6. I am STILL not sure whether I should get an inexpensive receiver or the cheap T-Amp. If I can keep my costs down to under $900 then I may just get the receiver instead. Still not sure about this...
Thank everyone for all their advice/help so far. This has been a great learning experience and I am itching to get started on the build!

I know absolutely nothing about Windows 8. The only things I did read, in passing, suggested it was a complete and total waste. Vista 2 more or less. Not sure if that's changed recently or not, but I personally won't be leaving Windows 7 for a good long time. So I can't comment if Win8 needs more power or not. I know the components are more than enough for Win7.

As far as HD space, the 64Gb SSD in my HTPC is sitting at about 36Gb used. That's with everything installed that is need fore doing everything I want with the HTPC. Unless you install a lot of programs that aren't necessarily for an HTPC, there's no way you should need a bigger OS drive. Again, don't know about Win8.

I think the 2125 is the best HTPC cpu out right now, so I agree with the masses. I don't know anything about the amp you listed, as I have a nice Yamaha receive that I bitstream too.

On a side note, what kind of NAS setup do you have? That's something I'm currently wrestling with as well. I think I have my hardware figured out, but finding the right OS is the problem. WHS 2011, FreeNas, Amahi, etc..

Very tempted to go with a prebuilt solution, like a Synology, just to alleviate the headaches. :D
 

MightyGeekMan

Weaksauce
Joined
Feb 11, 2008
Messages
69
I know absolutely nothing about Windows 8. The only things I did read, in passing, suggested it was a complete and total waste. Vista 2 more or less. Not sure if that's changed recently or not, but I personally won't be leaving Windows 7 for a good long time. So I can't comment if Win8 needs more power or not. I know the components are more than enough for Win7.

As far as HD space, the 64Gb SSD in my HTPC is sitting at about 36Gb used. That's with everything installed that is need fore doing everything I want with the HTPC. Unless you install a lot of programs that aren't necessarily for an HTPC, there's no way you should need a bigger OS drive. Again, don't know about Win8.

I think the 2125 is the best HTPC cpu out right now, so I agree with the masses. I don't know anything about the amp you listed, as I have a nice Yamaha receive that I bitstream too.

On a side note, what kind of NAS setup do you have? That's something I'm currently wrestling with as well. I think I have my hardware figured out, but finding the right OS is the problem. WHS 2011, FreeNas, Amahi, etc..

Very tempted to go with a prebuilt solution, like a Synology, just to alleviate the headaches. :D

I've played with Win8 and I liked it a lot. Not a Vista2, but more like a nice upgrade from Win7 with "touch" capabilities built in. And Metro is very nice for HTPC use.
Here's what I've found for Win8 spec's (which, as far as I can tell are the same as Win7):
  • CPU with 1 GHz
  • 20 GByte Hard disk space
  • 2 GByte RAM
Taking those spec's into consideration I think 64GB is the minimum HDD size I'd be comfortable with installing so maybe I'll get the 64GB SSD you all recommend instead and add a spare 500GB drive if I need it later.

RAM is almost always a good idea, but after some more research I agree that 16GB is definitely overkill. I'll do 8GB instead, just to avoid future upgrade needs.

I think my mind is made up on the CPU. i3-2125 is the winner.

No further thoughts on the MoBo?

I'm still undecided on the amp. Any advice/help here is appreciated.

So, to sum up, here's what my current shopping list looks like:
  • Case: SilverStone GD50B - $88
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte Intel Z68 (GA-Z68MA-D2H-B3) - $119
  • CPU: Intel Core i3-2125 - $148
  • PSU: SeaSonic X series SS-400FL - $130
  • RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) - $48
  • HDD: Crucial 64 GB SSD - $85
  • HDD Bay Converter: SilverStone SDP08 3.5" to 2 x 2.5" - $9
  • BD-ROM: LITE-ON Black 12X - $60
  • AMP or Receiver: Undecided
That's $687 without the amp/receiver which seems like a really inexpensive, yet powerful, HTPC to me. Any more thoughts/ideas/advice would be very welcome, but I think we're getting very close to trigger-pulling time.
 

Drawmonster

2[H]4U
Joined
Jun 9, 2007
Messages
3,301
I've played with Win8 and I liked it a lot. Not a Vista2, but more like a nice upgrade from Win7 with "touch" capabilities built in. And Metro is very nice for HTPC use.
Here's what I've found for Win8 spec's (which, as far as I can tell are the same as Win7):
I may have to look into it some more then.

No further thoughts on the MoBo?
The Z68 seems like overkill for an HTPC to me. It's more of an enthusiast/gaming board. Something you'd use for an I5 2500k or I7 2600k. I don't see any real benefits to having it in a system that isn't going to be overclocked or used for gaming.
 

Jetster

n00b
Joined
Mar 28, 2012
Messages
33
So, after looking around on my own and taking into account officer921's excellent advice, I came up with the following:
All of the above comes out to $835. Adding taxes and any extras I might need (cables, shipping, etc.) and I'm still under $1,000. Does this seem like a good HTPC rig? Is there something I'm overlooking/forgetting? Any other suggestions?

To answer the amp question; I figured the little T-Amp would be good enough for my needs since it's small and I can leave it on all the time. My only concern is sound quality, but for $40 I'm willing to give it a shot and if it sucks I'll return it and buy a cheap receiver like the Yamaha RX-V371BL for $220. I can't think of a reason not to try the Pyle, but if anyone wants to convince me to forgo buying it and get the receiver instead, please state your case!


Why such a big SSD? You can get by with 32Gb. After you shut off hibernation, restore, prefetch and so on W7 only uses 20Gb

And bye the way Im using the Yamaha RX V571
 

Dangman

Ninja Editor SuperMod
Joined
Dec 15, 2005
Messages
46,062
I have to disasgree with the masses and say that the Core i3 2125 is not the best bang for buck HTPC CPU. Again, what exactly do you need the extra power of the HD 3000 for if you're not gaming? Seems like you're spending $20 for nothing.

As for the mobo, you really don't need a Z68 mobo for a HTPC unless you need every bit of SSD performance possible (the Z68 has slightly faster SATA 6.0Gb/s performance). However I would not drop as low as an AsRock. I recommend this:
$100 - Intel BOXDH67BLB3 Intel H67 mATX Motherboard

Intel quality, Intel NIC, higher quality than the Asrock, and a longer warranty than the AsRock.

As for the SSD, 64GB should be fine. But considering the low pice of the 128GB Crucial, I'd spring for it if you can afford to. The only bad thing about having a larger SSD is the price. But I wouldn't go lower than 64GB as Jetster since a lot of sub 64GB SSDs out there are of low quality and low performance. Nor are they that much cheaper to justify their costs.
 

AQ_OC

2[H]4U
Joined
Jan 23, 2011
Messages
2,131
What is the advantage on win8 on an htpc's? I see no good read to make that change. Will win8 even have WMC? And will there be a touch interface or your htpc? What is the payback for moving from win7 to win8 for htpc?

IMO, there are other important costs involved in owning an htpc. Wasting money in ways that give zero payback is not wise? The op is using an amp? Geez.....get an av receiver and at 5.1 sound system with that left over cash. Get cat5/6 to your htpc so yo can stream blu. And let us not forget the cost of content!

Win8 is a complete waste here unless I'm missing something.
 

kac77

2[H]4U
Joined
Dec 13, 2008
Messages
2,788
I have to disasgree with the masses and say that the Core i3 2125 is not the best bang for buck HTPC CPU. Again, what exactly do you need the extra power of the HD 3000 for if you're not gaming? Seems like you're spending $20 for nothing.

Pretty much. Whenever you offload video to the GPU if you look at the CPU most of time it's just sitting there around 10%. If you have an discrete video card your CPU utilization will be 0%. Even for BR quality titles. That's right 0%.

The need for so much power really isn't there unless you've got a complicated backend which transcodes/reencodes recorded video. If you are not doing that then most of those cpu cycles go wasted.
 

Jetster

n00b
Joined
Mar 28, 2012
Messages
33
Not exactly wasted and it wouldn't be 0% with a discrete card. It would be 100% for 15 second at boot up which is nice and I have a i3 550 and a discrete card and its not 0% when playing video. But it is more then you need for an HTPC but without a GPU it works out.

But for a HTPC you cannot beat the new AMD Fusion chips if your looking for an APU. The A6-3500 Llano is the perfect balance of price and performance. And I not a fan of AMD but they nailed this one. I have over $600 in my HTPC and if I had gone AMD Fusion it would have been more like $400
 

MightyGeekMan

Weaksauce
Joined
Feb 11, 2008
Messages
69
So, just to keep this thread as up-to-date as I can, I've ordered the following parts and am planning on putting it all together this weekend or next week. Thank you everyone for all your advise and support, it was all greatly appreciated. Once I have this baby put together I'll probably need to start a new thread asking for software advice, but for now I'm pretty darn happy.
  • Case: SilverStone GD50B - $88
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte Intel Z68 (GA-Z68MA-D2H-B3) - $119
  • CPU: Intel Core i3-2125 - $148
  • PSU: SeaSonic X series SS-400FL - $130
  • RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) - $48
  • HDD: Crucial 128 GB SSD - $150
  • HDD Bay Converter: SilverStone SDP08 3.5" to 2 x 2.5" - $9
  • BD-ROM: LITE-ON Black 12X - $60
  • Receiver: Yamaha RX-V373 - $250
 

ghostdunks

n00b
Joined
Jun 16, 2011
Messages
30
Just to toss another wrinkle into the discussion. Perhaps consider buying one of the barebones ASROCK HTPC style computers(http://www.asrock.com/nettop/index.asp), which comes with a reasonable CPU for HTPC use and add whatever RAM/SSD/HDD you want. I bought myself one of the older models a year ago(a Core100HT-BD), whacked 8gb of ram in there(overkill ftw), a SSD and a 1gb HDD, installed Win7 and XBMC on it and love it. Can't remember exactly the final cost, but it was around 5 or 600 at the end. I was on holiday in Hong Kong at the time, so I got quite a bit of stuff cheap.

Does everything I want it to do(all HTPC duties, downloading torrents, usenet, running a few servers) and from what it sounds like, what you would like it to do as well. Runs silent under my TV, comes with remote that works well with XBMC.

Of course, there probably is a premium because its not fully DIY, but was easy to get it all up and running.

Just something to consider.
 

pcgeekesq

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 23, 2012
Messages
1,399
We are building a new HTPC ourselves, to replace our existing one, but ours is actually both an HTPC and a gaming rig. Since we always have the ceiling fan going in the room, we are looking to build something that just produces a ceiling-fan-ish woosh, at worst. Primary uses are OTA PVR, Hulu, and Skyrim -- we will try Skyrim in 3D eventually we think, when we upgrade our curent 55" TV later this summer. Skyrim from a couch is pretty awesome. We are patiently acquiring parts as they go on sale or become available:

Case: Antec Sonata Solo II -- we originally planned on using mATX in a Temjin TJ-08 because in our setup, the best place for the PC isright behind the flat-panel TV on its cabinet -- our current system is there, and it is easy to access an put Blu-Rays into. We will be adding a couple of 120mm PWM fans in the front to change the case to positive pressure, probably Noiseblocker, Noctua or Scythe. Got it priced-matched to newegg at Fry's so ot risk of damage in shipment. Solo II has the power button on the front not the top, so our cats cannot turn it off when they walk on it.

PSU: Seasonic X-750. Modular, quiet, was on-sale at newegg. Mounted it fan-down in the top of the Solo II, and blocked off the Solo II PSU vent on the top with a rubber-backed black carpet piece fitted tot he cutout/ That's one less hole for dust to enter and noise to exit. Based on testing here at [H], I am not worried about the heat from inside the case bothering it, and it will help form a chimney for moving air through the case.

So we have those. Planned acquiaitions from here:

GPU: GeForce GTX 680, either a WindForce, Twin Frozr or Direct CU model. Power efficient, top performance, 3D capable. Might go to an equivalently-cooled 7970 if availablility on the GTX 680 does not improve.

CPU: Core i7-3770K. Ivy Bridge. Chosen over the i5 for the larger cache and HT. As a former microprocessor architect, I like HT and large cache. I don't need the security and virtualization capabilities of the regular i7-3770, and I have been overclocking since the original 60MHz Pentium days, so of course I want the K.

HSF: probably a Coolermaster Hyper 212 Plus EVO. Relatively compact, should not block DDR slots. Like all the fans I'll get, I want PWM -- no need to suck dust into the case when there is no need for cooling.

MB: MSI Z77A-GD55: has what I want, not much I don't. Better build quality than the GD45. Has Intel GB ethernet and no PCI, no extra controllers for USB3 or SATA, and no on-MB USB3 hubs. 3 PWM fan headers will be enough. I'll be using an external hub on a long cable for most USB devices anyway so it has plenty of USB. I don't care about on-MB sound because we are sending the sound over the HDMI cable to the AV receiver.

SSD: 120/128GB Samsung 830 or Intel 520, leaning towards Samsung but I have good experience with Intel SSDs (been using 80GB Intel G2 SSDs in all our machines since 2010).

HDD: Probably will transplant the 500GB Momentus XT in the current HTPC. It is only used to record TV. I don't think recording TV to an SSD is a good idea. The Momentus XT is practically silent.

DRAM: 8GB 1.35v PC1600 CAS9 - low voltage means less heat. With 8GB I can turn off paging to disk (as I have done on our current gaming HTPC), which seems to result in a slightly more responsive system. We have not had any trouble running without a page file, which only exists to make up for not having enough real memory anyway. Probably will go 2x4GB, though I have read on Intel's datasheets that peak bandwidth is higher with all 4 slots in use. I won't bother over-clocking it, because my use-model doesn't benefit from it.

We'll use the same PCIe 1X OTA HDTV tuner we use now, and the same Blu-Ray writer we have now. OS will be either Win8 or Win7 -- probably try Win8 since I can do that for free.

I think the total cost winds up around $1600 -- much cheaper than the Sony XBR or Sharp Elite TVs my wife is considering as a replacment for our current LG 55" LED LCD. :D
 

kac77

2[H]4U
Joined
Dec 13, 2008
Messages
2,788
We are building a new HTPC ourselves, to replace our existing one, but ours is actually both an HTPC and a gaming rig. Since we always have the ceiling fan going in the room, we are looking to build something that just produces a ceiling-fan-ish woosh, at worst. Primary uses are OTA PVR, Hulu, and Skyrim -- we will try Skyrim in 3D eventually we think, when we upgrade our curent 55" TV later this summer. Skyrim from a couch is pretty awesome. We are patiently acquiring parts as they go on sale or become available:

Case: Antec Sonata Solo II -- we originally planned on using mATX in a Temjin TJ-08 because in our setup, the best place for the PC isright behind the flat-panel TV on its cabinet -- our current system is there, and it is easy to access an put Blu-Rays into. We will be adding a couple of 120mm PWM fans in the front to change the case to positive pressure, probably Noiseblocker, Noctua or Scythe. Got it priced-matched to newegg at Fry's so ot risk of damage in shipment. Solo II has the power button on the front not the top, so our cats cannot turn it off when they walk on it.

PSU: Seasonic X-750. Modular, quiet, was on-sale at newegg. Mounted it fan-down in the top of the Solo II, and blocked off the Solo II PSU vent on the top with a rubber-backed black carpet piece fitted tot he cutout/ That's one less hole for dust to enter and noise to exit. Based on testing here at [H], I am not worried about the heat from inside the case bothering it, and it will help form a chimney for moving air through the case.

So we have those. Planned acquiaitions from here:

GPU: GeForce GTX 680, either a WindForce, Twin Frozr or Direct CU model. Power efficient, top performance, 3D capable. Might go to an equivalently-cooled 7970 if availablility on the GTX 680 does not improve.

CPU: Core i7-3770K. Ivy Bridge. Chosen over the i5 for the larger cache and HT. As a former microprocessor architect, I like HT and large cache. I don't need the security and virtualization capabilities of the regular i7-3770, and I have been overclocking since the original 60MHz Pentium days, so of course I want the K.

HSF: probably a Coolermaster Hyper 212 Plus EVO. Relatively compact, should not block DDR slots. Like all the fans I'll get, I want PWM -- no need to suck dust into the case when there is no need for cooling.

MB: MSI Z77A-GD55: has what I want, not much I don't. Better build quality than the GD45. Has Intel GB ethernet and no PCI, no extra controllers for USB3 or SATA, and no on-MB USB3 hubs. 3 PWM fan headers will be enough. I'll be using an external hub on a long cable for most USB devices anyway so it has plenty of USB. I don't care about on-MB sound because we are sending the sound over the HDMI cable to the AV receiver.

SSD: 120/128GB Samsung 830 or Intel 520, leaning towards Samsung but I have good experience with Intel SSDs (been using 80GB Intel G2 SSDs in all our machines since 2010).

HDD: Probably will transplant the 500GB Momentus XT in the current HTPC. It is only used to record TV. I don't think recording TV to an SSD is a good idea. The Momentus XT is practically silent.

DRAM: 8GB 1.35v PC1600 CAS9 - low voltage means less heat. With 8GB I can turn off paging to disk (as I have done on our current gaming HTPC), which seems to result in a slightly more responsive system. We have not had any trouble running without a page file, which only exists to make up for not having enough real memory anyway. Probably will go 2x4GB, though I have read on Intel's datasheets that peak bandwidth is higher with all 4 slots in use. I won't bother over-clocking it, because my use-model doesn't benefit from it.

We'll use the same PCIe 1X OTA HDTV tuner we use now, and the same Blu-Ray writer we have now. OS will be either Win8 or Win7 -- probably try Win8 since I can do that for free.

I think the total cost winds up around $1600 -- much cheaper than the Sony XBR or Sharp Elite TVs my wife is considering as a replacment for our current LG 55" LED LCD. :D

Seems sensible and well thought out. On the video card though I don't know if it's worth the wait considering the resolution. Sure, you could turn up every feature in every game......eh on second thought go for it. It's a power build so screw it. Go with what you like. I too would like a 680 for my main, but the availability or more precisely the lack thereof is ridiculous... and no I don't want to buy one from Iceland.
 

pcgeekesq

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 23, 2012
Messages
1,399
Updates and acquisitions:

Changed CPU fansink to Gelid Tranquillo Rev. B, it was on sale at DIrectron.
While I was there, picked up 3 Gelid Silent 12 120mm PWM fans for the case fans.

Got my Samsung 830 SSD on sale at Newegg courtesy a [H]ardforum code. :)

Also picked up 16GB of G.Skill PC1600 CAS9 1.35v DDR3 (4x4GB) for $80 at Newegg. According to Intel's datasheets, you get maximum bandwidth from the Z77 with all DDR3 slots populated. And with 16GB, I should never need a swap file. Swap files are evil, they hit performance and they wear your SSD. They should only be needed if you don't have enough real memory.

I'll be doing an all-PWM build: dust is a problem here, so I want airflow when only when needed. Current plan is 2 120mm fans case for intake through filters (we will probably augment the Solo II filters with something better, maybe from an auto air filter), 1 120 mm case fan for exhaust, and the Seasonic PSU is also configured to exhaust air from the case -- but I do not expect the PSU to run its fan much, since the PSU will probably never be running above 50% of capacity.

Parts should all arrive middle of next week. I can pick up the MB and CPU at Fry's Electronics 4 miles away, and they price-match Newegg. So I'll build it, probably without the GTX680, late next week. I'll use our existing Radeon HD 6870 until I either get the GTX 680 or change my moind -- like if a GTX670TI comes out before the GTX680's are actually in stock..
 

pcgeekesq

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 23, 2012
Messages
1,399
More updates and acquisitions:

Picked up a SiliconDiust HomeRun Dual for OTA HDTV for $89, and it works great and gets better reception than the previous PCIe tuner, so we'll be using that for getting TV into the box (as well as into all the other PCs in the house).

Also picked up a cheap Acer Aspire for my wife to use as a kichen computer. We pulled the 500GB 5400 RPM HDD out of it nd put in a 120GB Intel 330 SSD instead, so now I have the 500GB drive to use as PVR storage, in addition to the3 500GB Momentus XT on the old HTPC.

Picked up MSI Z77A-GD55 at Fry's, $169 before $20 mail-in rebate.
Picked up i7-3770K at Fry's for $339.
Downloaded Win8 Consumer Preview and stuck it on a bootable USB.

Now I just have to wait for the DDR3, SSD, HSF and case fans to arrive. It all should be here by the evening of May 2nd.

This is the most thoroughly researched PC I've assembled since I first built a 90MHz Pentium system. I am really looking forward to it.
 

pcgeekesq

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 23, 2012
Messages
1,399
So we have all the parts except a new graphics card. Put it together yesterday evening -- pictures to follow soon. All the parts fit will. You have to slide the fan up a little to get a low-profile memory in or out the first DDR3 slot, if you use it, so don't use big-haired -- uhm, I mean heatsinked -- memory if you are going to use all 4 slots.

We are using our old MSI 6950 Twin Frozr III for now. Skyrim performance is way up because the old CPU was the problem -- even the College at Winterhold with snow falling, a dragon, and a fireball spell in each hand is extremely smooth. However, the dragons with their enhanced smoothness are kicking my butt. I feel like the extra CPU power is improving their AI and how fast they move.

The Gelid fans are very quiet inside the Sonata II -- I can more easily hear the refridgerator in the kitchen even though it is in another room. Turning on the ceiling fan masks the Gelid completely. However, when the MSI card gets how, I can hear it if I'm listening for it. I'll be looking for a quieter solution as a replacement -- maybe the rumored GTX 670 ? But the noisiest thing is the BluRay writer when it spins up a disc. Fortunately, it's cannot be heard when playing a DVD or Blu-Ray, and other than rare SW installs we don't use it for anything else.

The SiliconDust HomeRun Dual was recognized as soon as I installed the SW for it, and is running fine.

I decided to install Win7 SP1 Home Premium instead of Win8 -- don't need the hassle of being an early adopter, and I had a spare Win7 license. I installed it off a USB drive and it was very quick.

All told, after an evening I'm pretty happy with the system -- it's notably faster and quieter than the old one.
 

MrGuvernment

Fully [H]
Joined
Aug 3, 2004
Messages
20,571
must say awesome thread, i am selling my PS3 since i never game on it and only stream media to build an HTPC to replace it and this thread is the best of all of the ones i have read!!

much appreciated
 

pcgeekesq

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 23, 2012
Messages
1,399
I am grateful. And I have the final piece of our new gaming/HTPC.

I am grateful that GTX 680 availability was so poor, and grateful to [H]ardOCP and the [H]ard forums for all the news about the upcoming, and now actually available, GTX 670. I just ordered a Gigabyte Windforce GTX 670 from Newegg for $399 and I think we am going to be very happy with it. This is the last part of our new build (see earlier posts) and right now, the fans on the old video card are the only thing I ever hear from the new system. Reviews say the Gigabyte GTX 670 card is almost silent . . . quieter and faster with higher IQ, that will be awesome.
 

pcgeekesq

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Apr 23, 2012
Messages
1,399
HTPC done, generally satisfied

The Gigabyte Windforce GTX 670 is everything we hoped. Skyrim is beautiful and fluid with all the IQ features turned on. We cannot hear the system at all over the ceiling fan, even with the ceiling fan on low. And if the fridge in the kitchen kicks in, fuggedaboudit.

There is one issue we haven't figured out: crackling noises that are now sometimes present (in menus and interiors like caves) that were not there before and are pretty loud. It could have been because of left-over ATI drivers so we reinstalled after cleaning those old drivers and software out, and we will see if that helps. Sound is through the GTX-670 to our receiver over HDMI.

I modified two Gelid PWM fans so that one is slaved to the other, and it works fine. Soldering the tiny wires was a pain, I wish I could have found a 4-pin PWM Y-cable at Fry's instead of adding a master/slave connector pair to the pans, but oh well. Now the case is positive pressure, which should help with dust.

I will get some photos up eventually, I promise.
 
Top