Home theater PC (HTPC) build suggestions

Discussion in 'General Hardware' started by EvilPeppard, Sep 20, 2010.

  1. EvilPeppard

    EvilPeppard Master Guru

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    I am close to cutting the cord and going to purely on-demand or streaming television. I am sick of paying $1100 a year for HD television when we only watch about five different channels, period.

    I am looking to now start building my home theater PC (HTPC). I am looking for suggestions on what components to use, as well as any options I should consider. This is my first HTPC attempt and, although I a very tech-savvy, I want to make sure I have covered all the bases.

    Key components I am looking for:

    1. Small form factor, such as the size of an Xbox, or shoe box.
    2. Relatively quiet. No fans would be great, but low noise is the goal.
    3. Must support 1080p high definition with HDMI connectivity.
    4. Must have an optical out (S/PDIF) supporting at least Dolby digital 5.1.
    5. Must have a Blu Ray/DVD player and burner.
    6. Raid 1 would be nice, but not required. I can Ghost the computer on a regular basis as I do with my other computers.
    7. Small wireless keyboard with integrated touch pad.
    8. Must support a remote control. Need recommendations on the best remote to use as well.
    9. Must have a gigabit LAN connection. My home network is all gigabit switched.
    10. 4GB RAM, 8GB preferred.

    These are the initial things I am looking for. I want to keep the build in the $400 - $600 range. $600 is my max budget, though $500 is closer to the goal. I have seen some older articles (within last 12 months) showing HTPC builds for $400, but the motherboards were part of a mobo/cpu combo and no longer available.

    Thank you in advance for suggestions and ideas on how to proceed with this project.
     
  2. CHUCKIT

    CHUCKIT Master Guru

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    A Suggested Build

    Here is my Suggested Build. I chose Tri-Core because blu-ray software does not take advantage of quad core.

    1.SILVERSTONE Black Aluminum / 0.8mm SECC Grandia Series GD05B micro-ATX / Mini-DTX / Mini-ITX MB, 1x5.25", 2x3.5"+1x2.5"HDD ...
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811163166

    2. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136284
    Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

    3. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820145278
    CORSAIR 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 Desktop Memory Model CMV4GX3M2A1333C9

    4. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814161319
    HIS H567Q512 Radeon HD 5670 (Redwood) IceQ 512MB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card

    5. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103843
    AMD Athlon II X3 440 Rana 3.0GHz Socket AM3 95W Triple-Core Desktop Processor ADX440WFGIBOX

    6. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817341022
    OCZ Fatal1ty OCZ550FTY 550W ATX12V v2.2 / EPS12V SLI Ready 80 PLUS Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply

    7. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813136067&Tpk=DFI%20AMD
    DFI LANParty DK 790FXB-M3H5 AM3 AMD 790FX ATX AMD Motherboard

    8. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827106326
    LITE-ON Black 4X Blu-ray Disc Reader SATA Model iHOS104-08
     
  3. EvilPeppard

    EvilPeppard Master Guru

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    Thanks for the quick response! I'll start checking out your linked items now.
     
  4. jcgeny

    jcgeny Banned

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  5. Stingray

    Stingray Master Guru

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    I went with a MSI E78AUM-DS2H mobo, has an integrated nividia 9400 which is more than enough for HD, also has HDMI out. Think it's out of production now though.

    Also went with a honking big Silverstone case which I regret. If I had a redo, I'd go with the smallest mobo/case I could get.

    From my personal experience, get a good mobo with a good integrated video card. You reduce amount of space needed, eliminates a fan and keeps things simple/quiet.

    4GB min. Ram
    Cpu, good dual core AMD or Core2Duo and newer will be fine. Make sure it has at least dual cores with 2.4GHz or more. You don't need to spend a lot of $ here. Keep an eye on sales.

    Also using an RF type wireless keyboard with track ball build in. Works really well. Looks exactly like this one although manufacture is different.
    RF Keyboard
     
  6. EvilPeppard

    EvilPeppard Master Guru

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  7. EvilPeppard

    EvilPeppard Master Guru

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    I like that keyboard and trackball.
     
  8. fearsjohn

    fearsjohn Maha Guru

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    motherboard does not fit in the case you linked.


     
  9. fearsjohn

    fearsjohn Maha Guru

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    http://forums.guru3d.com/showthread.php?t=329162

    i posted some suggestions in here, they can be modified to your liking.
    i guess one ? i have is are you going to have a place other than your htpc were your stuff is stored or is it going to be on the htpc, my htpc is going to just have to stream the content from my desktop, so the htpc does not have to be very strong,
     
  10. EvilPeppard

    EvilPeppard Master Guru

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    I have storage options on my home network. My plan for the HTPC was just to run packages such as NetFlix, Hulu, Play.TV, Windows Media Center, and Amazon UnBox. I would also have MP3s on it for music play and use the Blu Ray player to play Blu Ray movies. It would all be over HDMI and S/PDIF as needed. It must be able to deliver high quality HD video and audio.

    I am looking to cut the cord with cable and satellite and go full streaming. My wife and I only watch about 5 HD channels, so it makes no sense for us to spend $1100 a year for channels we never watch.
     

  11. fearsjohn

    fearsjohn Maha Guru

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  12. fearsjohn

    fearsjohn Maha Guru

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    also i know what you mean about the cable, we just got rid of ours and have hulu and netflix. i am converting all of my dvds and will do blurays soon to hardrive. and i will be streaming it to an htpc, in my living room and bedroom.

    check out xbmc it is really nice and works well with remotes, also it does hardware acceleration now,

    also if you were not going to store alot of stuff on the htpc i would suggest an ssd, a 60 gig is around 130, but not needed.
     
  13. EvilPeppard

    EvilPeppard Master Guru

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    Thanks. Some good info over on that post for sure.
     
  14. EvilPeppard

    EvilPeppard Master Guru

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    For what it is worth, I am not stuck on the idea of a mini ATX config. In fact, I think I have enough room and am considering building a mid-tower unit.
     
  15. fearsjohn

    fearsjohn Maha Guru

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    nothin wrong with a micro atx build for what you want, mini itx would work also, but your call
     

  16. deltatux

    deltatux Ancient Guru

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    I'm not going to lie, but you really need nothing more than a nice but cheap dual or quad core with the correct IGP for what you're doing. There's really no need for a dedicated GPU. All that GPU would do is to add more heat to your system and draw more power. I can easily watch full 1080p on my media centre's IGP (Radeon HD 3200).

    Here's what I recommend, quick and simple:

    AMD Athlon II X2 260 ($67.99)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103873
    ASUS M4A88TD-M ($94.99)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131649
    A-DATA 2 x 2 GB DDR3-1333 AX3U1333GB2G8-2G ($79.99)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820211410
    ASUS BD-ROM/DVD+/-RW Writer ($79.99)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827135220
    SAMSUNG SpinPoint F3 1 TB ($74.99)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822152185
    SILVERSTONE GD05B ($99.99)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811163166
    Thermaltake TR2 W0379RU 500W ($54.99)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817153113

    Total: $552.93

    All prices are in US Dollars and current as of September 20. Prices exclude any applicable tax and shipping. Prices subject to change without notice from retailer.

    The BluRay player I quoted comes with a DVD writer should you want to burn DVDs. Otherwise, get that Lite-On that others have quoted. Like I said, you don't really need anything more than an IGP if it's video playback is all you do. Else, you can fit a Radeon HD 5650 and you're all set. There's also no reason to get anything more than a dual core because video playback is not resource intensive.

    EDIT: I was going to recommend a 64 GB SSD as media centres should boot up fast like consoles (since they are entertainment systems), but your budget wouldn't allow it. However, I urge you to consider it in the future.

    EDIT 2: For reference this is my media centre and it works well as a home server AND a HD playback media centre:
    AMD Athlon X2 4200+ 2.2 GHz
    ASUS M3A78-EM
    ASUS Radeon HD 3450 (had this as spare part so I slapped it in regardless since it would be a waste if I just let it sat in storage)
    4 x 1 GB DDR2-800
    1 x 500 GB Western Digital Blue SATA II HDD (main HDD)
    1 x 1 TB Hitachi DeskStar SATA II HDD (recorder)
    LG GH22NP20 DVD-RW
    D-Link WDA-2320 Wireless G Card
    DEER 500W PSU (generic)
    iCAN case (generic)
    Diamond Multimedia TV Wonder 650 TV Tuner
    Windows 7 Home Premium x64
    FreeBSD 8.1p0 (home server OS running on top of VirtualBox)
    HTPC Specs Page

    EDIT 3: I just remembered, if you want, you can instead go for an ITX solution like this:
    ASUS AT3IONT-I Deluxe Intel Atom 330 PBGA437 NVIDIA ION Mini ITX Motherboard/CPU Combo ($189.99)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131635
    IN WIN BP655.200BL Black Mini-ITX Desktop Computer Case 200W Power Supply ($39.99)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811108196
    A-DATA 2 x 2 GB DDR3-1333 AX3U1333GB2G8-2G ($79.99)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820211410
    ASUS BD-ROM/DVD+/-RW Writer ($79.99)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827135220
    SAMSUNG SpinPoint F3 1 TB ($74.99)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822152185

    This solution's probably the cheapest too since it costs: $464.95. The motherboard comes with wireless N and Bluetooth support. It also comes with an IR receiver and a remote.

    deltatux
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2010
  17. EvilPeppard

    EvilPeppard Master Guru

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    Wow! Thank you for all this info. This is great! I will start looking it over now.

    The one thing I will say is, I have always been an Intel fan. I am not opposed to AMD at all, I am just not as familiar with it, so I don't want to inadvertently overlook something. As for the 'ION' and 'ATOM' products, they sound cool, but again I am concerned because I know next to nothing about them.

    I am doing all this research to get the best deal for the money, educate myself, and find a solid and satisfying solution to deliver content to my HD television so I can cut the cable/satellite cord once and for all.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2010
  18. EvilPeppard

    EvilPeppard Master Guru

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    I really like the AMD option. I am still a little leery of the 'ATOM' option, mainly because I like the idea of a full-blown mobo and CPU combo. I also like the flexibility the AMD would have over the ATOM, like adding a cross-fire video setup if I ever wanted. I also like I can add more RAM to the AMD.
     
  19. EvilPeppard

    EvilPeppard Master Guru

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    One question I need to answer now, setting aside costs, is if I lose anything going with an AMD setup over an Intel i3 with integrated GPU? Thoughts on that? I am not really biased, I just want to make sure I have the best performing, most flexible, and "future-proof" system.

    Thanks again to everyone for all their help and support.
     
  20. IPlayNaked

    IPlayNaked Banned

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    No, you won't. And with AMD, you can get a cheap quad core.
     

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