New HTPC Build Advice

MightyGeekMan

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Hey all,
18 months ago I came to this board asking for advice on my very first HTPC build. You can find that thread here, but the end result has been an HTPC that has been absolutely flawless for me and my family. So much so, that my lovely wife is insisting that we install another HTPC in the downstairs home theater room.

However, being that I'm completely out of the loop on components I am once again in need of some advice/help. Especially since the new HTPC will sit in an equipment rack inside a closet. That means there are a few more restrictions on the HTPC than the one I built 18 months ago. So, without further ado, here's the important notes;
  1. Budget is under $1,000
  2. Case must be less than 17.4 inches wide and 18 inches tall. Depth is unimportant.
  3. The HTPC needs to run as cool as possible since it will be in a rack in a closet with restrictive airflow. Fan noise isn't a real issue (it's in a closet).
  4. The HTPC will be used primarily for video streaming consumption. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and also movies and music via my NAS on my wired home network.
Here's the component list I would like advice on:
  • Case
  • Motherboard
  • CPU
  • 8GB Memory
  • Power Supply
  • Fans (is it necessary to replace stock case fans?)
  • Blu-Ray drive
  • SSD Hard Drive (reusing current 128GB drive from another PC)

I appreciate any and all help. Thanks.
 

qbanb8582

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If its for mainly music video you don't need a whole lot of horse power. It can be done well under $1000

I would probably opt for a something like a pentium or i3 based on haswell that should run pretty cool and shouldn't need much airflow. You could probably get away with going with a mini ITX motherboard if you're going to use two sticks of memory.

As far as case a I don't know if you want actual HTPC or a rackmount case. Either way it shouldn't be an issue since it would be low power low heat. I would go with something that would convenient for you. If you use the on board video you could easily get away with using something like 300W PSU to power it.

As far as blu ray drive I would say get whatever you like, there shouldn't be much variance between them. One thing you could consider is that if your other HTPC or PCs have a blu ray drive, you can rip them into an ISO and stream over a network.

Also one thing to consider is something like a Roku or WDTV. Or a blu ray player that does Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon prime.
 

SheHateMe

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Why dont you give us a list of parts you had in mind so we can get some perspective?

It shouldn't be hard to put an HTPC together nowadays.
 

MightyGeekMan

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SheHateMe:

I'd love to give some parts that I'm looking into, but the real roadblock for me seems to be the case. Once I have a case in mind then it shouldn't really be too hard. I was originally thinking the SilverStone GD07B or the Fractal Design Node 605, but both of them are nearly 17.4" wide so I'm not sure if they would fit in my equipment rack. I also can't seem to find any reviews of rack-mount HTPC cases. I'm not really familiar with other HTPC cases other than my SilverStone GD05B, so I really need some help in this department.
 

GeorgeHR

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A 55w I3 will do a reasonable job. 80-90% efficiency power supply.

Any small case - even a cardboard box..

It is really not the hard.
 

MightyGeekMan

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OK, after some research I think I have narrowed my case options to the Lascala series of cases from SilverStone. Specifically, the LC 10-E, 13-E, 17 or 20. I haven't made a decision on which of those four would be "best" for me, but at least I now have some cases in mind.

So, now I'd like to know opinions on MB/CPU recommendations. Currently, I'm thinking a Haswell i3 CPU fits my needs nicely, but I keep reading that the AMD A8 or A10 might be better. And I have absolutely no idea what MB to look at.

Suggestions?
 

qbanb8582

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If you go with the A8 or A10 you wanna make sure you get the 65W TDP version. I think you'll be fine with either option. I think it will come down to preference more then anything.
 

MightyGeekMan

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So, after much research today I've come up with the beginnings of a build list. However, I have one glaring omission. A motherboard. What I'm looking for is a good micro ATX board that has very good onboard audio.

Here's where my build currently stands:
Case: SilverStone LC10E
CPU: Intel I3-4130T
Power Supply: SeaSonic Platinum Series SS-400FL2
RAM: 8GB
HDD: SSD Hard Drive (reusing current 128GB drive from another PC)

Here's what I still need:
Motherboard: ???
Extra Case Fans (maybe replace stock?): ???


Any advice?
 

Dangman

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So, after much research today I've come up with the beginnings of a build list. However, I have one glaring omission. A motherboard. What I'm looking for is a good micro ATX board that has very good onboard audio.
While there are mATX motherboards out there with onboard audio that's better than most other onboard audio solutions, the price premium for those better audioed motherboards are so high that it's simply more cost-effective to get a moderately priced mATX motherboard and a dedicated sound card that'll more than likely be way better than any onboard audio solution.

So for the seperate sound card, I recommend taking a look at the Asus Xonar DX at a minimum. As for the motherboard, take a look at the ASRock H87M Pro4.

Case: SilverStone LC10-E
My biggest gripe against Silverstons's ATX HTPC cases is that their cooling is a lot shittier than their mATX HTPC cases. Like how most of the Silverstone's current mATX HTPC cases can mount two 120mm fans easily whereas the ATX cases are usually limited to 80mm or 92mm fans. SO my question to you is: Are you absolutely sure your GD05 won't fit into that rack? I'm more than willing to bet that your current GD05B is going to have way better cooling than any of the Silverstone ATX cases out there. Hell probably better than most other ATX HTPC cases out there.
CPU: Intel I3-4130T
Not a good choice: The T series CPUs are just lower clocked Intel CPUs. Nothing really special. At idle, the Core i3 4130T is going to use the same amount of power as the regular Core i3 4130. However, what tips the battle into the Core i3 4130's favor is that since it's clocked higher, it can get things done faster and therefore back faster to that idle state. So in many cases, the Core i3 4130 will probably end up using less power than the Core i3 4130T when the system is being moderately used. So go with the Core i3 4130 instead.
 

MightyGeekMan

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Dangman,
Awesome, detailed advice! I really appreciate it.

Not a good choice: The T series CPUs are just lower clocked Intel CPUs. Nothing really special. At idle, the Core i3 4130T is going to use the same amount of power as the regular Core i3 4130. However, what tips the battle into the Core i3 4130's favor is that since it's clocked higher, it can get things done faster and therefore back faster to that idle state. So in many cases, the Core i3 4130 will probably end up using less power than the Core i3 4130T when the system is being moderately used. So go with the Core i3 4130 instead.
Your thoughts on the CPU are tracking my own, I just didn't know enough about the processor differences to make up my mind until you explained them. Based on your advice, I'm switching to the i3-4130.

My biggest gripe against Silverstons's ATX HTPC cases is that their cooling is a lot shittier than their mATX HTPC cases.
I understand your criticism of the LC10E, but since I'm using a fanless PSU and don't expect the HTPC to really ever run hot, I'm hoping the airflow will be sufficient. BTW, I just pulled my GD05b from the upstairs theater and it does fit (barely) into the rack downstairs. The issue it might have is the intake fan on the left side of the case will be almost completely blocked, since it's right up against the side of the rack where a support beam is located. If that fan was just 5" further back on the case it would be free and clear of the support beam. With the LC10E (as far as I can tell from the specs) the fans are mostly in the front and back of the case, so the support beam shouldn't be an issue. Does that make sense?

While there are mATX motherboards out there with onboard audio that's better than most other onboard audio solutions, the price premium for those better audioed motherboards are so high that it's simply more cost-effective to get a moderately priced mATX motherboard and a dedicated sound card that'll more than likely be way better than any onboard audio solution.
I am aware that I forgot to mention this previously and for that I apologize. My current home theater uses a receiver which accepts HDMI for audio and video. So, while I am completely out of my depth on the issue of computer audio, it's my understanding that all audio coming from the HTPC would go to my receiver via HDMI negating the need for a separate sound card (as long as the onboard HDMI works). So if I want to listen to music the computer will pass through the audio to the receiver which will then use its DAC and clean up any "noise" before I hear the music. Am I wrong in this? And if I am, how would I connect the computer sound card (let's say an ASUS Xonar Essence ST) to my receiver so that it works whether I'm watching a movie, surfing the web or listening to music?

Thanks!
 

htpc_user

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Use the HDMI on the motherboard. You are correct on the hook up; one HDMI output should not be better than any other HDMI output. So pick the motherboard with the other features you want and don't worry about the audio part of it.
 

MightyGeekMan

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OK, so now I have a pretty good idea of my build list and would like opinions on the components. You can see the full list on PC Part Picker here, but for those who want it inline, the HTPC is as follows;

At slightly under $900, does this look like a "decent" build for an HTPC for consuming music and movies? Am I missing anything (keyboard will be Logitech K400)? Opinions are encouraged!
 
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Dangman

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Now that I have a better idea of your case situation, I do have one recommendation: Buy two 92mm fans for the front of the case. I do not think those 80mm fans will be enough. This fan seems to be decent enough:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B002KTZJOQ/?tag=extension-kb-20

As for the RAM, I would recommend lower profile RAM just in case in the future you want to add a 3rd party HSF to your HTPC. The heatsink on that G.Skill RAM will interfere with many low profile HSF out there. So I recommend this RAM:
$76 - Crucial Ballistix BLS8G3D1609ES2LX0 8GB DDR3 1600 RAM
 

MightyGeekMan

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Now that I have a better idea of your case situation, I do have one recommendation: Buy two 92mm fans for the front of the case. I do not think those 80mm fans will be enough. This fan seems to be decent enough:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B002KTZJOQ/?tag=extension-kb-20

As for the RAM, I would recommend lower profile RAM just in case in the future you want to add a 3rd party HSF to your HTPC. The heatsink on that G.Skill RAM will interfere with many low profile HSF out there. So I recommend this RAM:
$76 - Crucial Ballistix BLS8G3D1609ES2LX0 8GB DDR3 1600 RAM

Adding extra case fans was something I was thinking of doing, so I'm glad you mentioned it. However, I was looking at the Vantec Thermoflow, which is $2 cheaper than the Cooler Master you mention. Not a great savings, I know. But the Vantec has better ratings on the Egg so that's what I was basing my choice on.

The RAM idea is interesting, but I'm not sure I need low-profile RAM. Looking at the MB layout and the amount of room I should have in the case I don't think the size of the RAM will interfere with a reasonably-sized 3rd party CPU cooling heatsink/fan. And hopefully, with the additional case fans and easy load of typical HTPC use, I won't ever need anything more than the stock heatsink/fan.
 

Dangman

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Adding extra case fans was something I was thinking of doing, so I'm glad you mentioned it. However, I was looking at the Vantec Thermoflow, which is $2 cheaper than the Cooler Master you mention. Not a great savings, I know. But the Vantec has better ratings on the Egg so that's what I was basing my choice on.
I linked an Arctic Cooling fan, not a Coolermaster fan. That Vantec is cheaper but significantly noisier than the Arctic Cooling.
The RAM idea is interesting, but I'm not sure I need low-profile RAM. Looking at the MB layout and the amount of room I should have in the case I don't think the size of the RAM will interfere with a reasonably-sized 3rd party CPU cooling heatsink/fan. And hopefully, with the additional case fans and easy load of typical HTPC use, I won't ever need anything more than the stock heatsink/fan.
I think the inclusion of a 3rd party fan is likely considering the situation of the case's placement. i.e the limited airflow may hamper the stock HSF's cooling capability. Not to mention the lower noise. As for the interference, I know for a fact that G.SKill RAM (it's the exact same set I have in my main rig listed in my sig) will interfere with normal tower style HSF (like the Coolermaster Hyper 212+ I have now) in ATX cases. Hence why I think that same G.Skill set will interfere with low profile style HSF in HTPC style ATX cases.
 

MightyGeekMan

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Dangman,
I mistyped about the fan. I know you mentioned the Arctic Cooling fans, I have no idea why I wrote Cooler Master. I must have been more tired than I thought.

I get what you're saying about the RAM, but I like to have my RAM in pairs, so I've done a little more research and think I'm going to go with these Kingston modules. They're low-height and very well reviewed, plus the pair cost about the same as the single Crucial stick.

Overall, this build is nearing final, so unless there's a compelling reason to make a change, or if there's something someone thinks I'm missing, I believe I'll be placing my orders Monday.

Thanks a lot for all your help!
 
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MightyGeekMan

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That's weird. HardForum keeps altering my bitly links by removing half the link info. Fixed it by pasting in the full Amazon link to the Kingston RAM in question.
 

MightyGeekMan

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I want to thank everyone for all their help. After mulling it over in my head over the weekend, I've decided to pull the trigger and order the following:


Thanks again for all your advice and help. I'm planning on making a YouTube video (or series) of the actual building process. Will post here when that happens.
 
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