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New HTPC Build

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#1 sk824249


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Posted 09 March 2011 - 12:17 PM

Hi All,

I am looking for a good amount of advice in the way of what to go with for my new HTPC. I am a computer/IT tech at a small university with a limited IT budget, so we don't deal with a lot of cutting edge equipment to say the least.

Recently my HTPC went down, a few too many power surges + capacitor fatigue on the mobo have just made it a good time to upgrade anyhow. It was an old gaming PC that I received for free for building a new gaming PC for a friend of mine about 2 years ago. I am only decided on a couple of things.

My budget is flexible, but I don't really want to throw too much money at this thing as it doesn't get too much use and most of the use is just streaming from the web or torrenting TV shows / occasional blu-ray download (but very infrequent) .

Processor/Mobo: I'd like to go AMD, primarily because of brand loyalty - but if anyone has any opinions on why to go Intel please let me know

Cooling: The case itself has about 7 fans, however I'm VERY open to suggestions for a good processor cooling system

RAM: I was thinking about going with anywhere from 6-8 GB, depending on the mobo that I buy

Power Supply/Case: I have a nice Thermaltake case, with some crapola/no name 550w max PSU (I'm looking for suggestion for a new PSU if you guys think its needed)

Graphics: I have a GeForce 9800 GT Card that I got really cheap off craigslist. I think 1GB of graphics memory + that GPU will be good enough for pretty much everything I watch. I usually only watch stuff in 720p, and most of it is just the regular compression that a lot of the TV show torrent sites put out. I am open to suggestions for a TV tuner card and info on good DVR software(but that's a different forum I believe)

HD: Another cheapo find, 500 GB 7200 RPM Sata, $20 bucks off craigslist - the guy bought it to upgrade and only had IDE interfaces (Oh how I love craigslist) I might add a bit more later but I'm pretty good about cleaning up, and I have about a TB of extra IDE drives for long term storage.

Optical Drive: I still have the old cd/dvd burner from the old comp, blu-ray would be nice - however that is more of a "only if there is a great deal" item.

Sound: I just have a 3.5mm stereo cable plugged into the back of my LCD (I have a HDMI input that has an audio in as well, I use DVI out of the current box and i'm pretty sure the new video card only has DVI as well) I don't know if I need anything more than onboard sound, any suggestions?

Well that about sums up all I can think of right now, let me know if I forgot anything major. Thanks for your time and consideration in advance!


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#2 DJBPace07


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Posted 09 March 2011 - 11:15 PM

HTPC's are an interesting breed, you want them powerful enough to run high definition content, but not so powerful you need loud cooling. This is more of a traditional HTPC setup:

Case: SILVERSTONE Black Aluminum front panel, 0.8 mm SECC body LC17-B - It's designed to lay flat and comes with pretty good specs for an HTPC. $129

Motherboard: MSI 890GXM-G65 AM3 AMD 890GX - I would have suggested a Sandy Bridge motherboard and CPU, but the real benefits of that platform only come into play using the "K" series of CPU's, which are more expensive. This PC comes with on-board graphics. I suggest using the on-board stuff to keep power and noise down, unless the video becomes choppy then go for a low-end AMD card. $129

CPU: AMD Athlon II X4 640 Propus 3.0GHz - You don't need a high-end CPU, in fact, this may be more than you need. Also, the stock cooler will work. $99

Power Supply: CORSAIR Builder Series CMPSU-500CX 500W - You're probably good with that no-name PSU you have. Remember, a HTPC is not supposed to have a high-end, power hungry GPU, unless it is passively cooled. $59

Graphics: Use the on-board, unless the video becomes choppy, then go for a dedicated card. You would probably want the SAPPHIRE Ultimate 100289UL Radeon HD 5670 1GB or, for a little more cash, the PowerColor Go! Green AX5750 1GBD5-NS3DH Radeon HD 5750 1GB.

TV Tuner: AVerMedia AVerTV Bravo Hybrid - PCI-E MTVBHPCIR - I had one of their tuners and like them. Do note that if you have digital cable, it will pick up Clear QAM, not the encrypted stuff. Only a Cablecard or additional set-top box will decrypt those. Other than that, this picks up NTSC and ATSC. I suggest the media center software built-in to Windows 7, it is really nice. $54

ODD: Lite-on Blu-ray Reader Model iHOS104-08 - I'm surprised how cheap these things are. You may as well get one now and enjoy the high-def goodness. Remember, Windows does not come with native Blu-Ray playback and you may need to install the playback software to get that feature to work. $54

RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 - This is a single stick of DDR3-1333 RAM. For a HTPC, you don't need much more than this. $40

HDD: I take it you already have one?

Sound: ASUS Xonar DS 7.1 - If you see yourself getting a home theater setup, or use high-end speakers/headphones, you may want to get this. Otherwise, it is entirely optional. $50

Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit - Since you are in college you may get special pricing or the OS for free through MSDNAA. $99



#3 dpunisher


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Posted 10 March 2011 - 11:39 AM

Absolute solid build DJBPace07 posted above.

Only thing I can add is make sure of your case measurements. I "bought before I thought" with my current HTPC case and am kicking myself as it doesn't fit in my audio stack, besides it is a PITA to work on as well.

One thing I have been looking at is the new AMD Zacate CPU/MOBO combos http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&DEPA=0&Order=BESTMATCH&Description=zacate+motherboard 28watts idle/35 watts playing back Blu-ray/1080P. That intrigues me for some reason. You could have a complete system that pulls less than 80 watts total with hard drive/optical disc, plus you could use a really thin (maybe even 1U) sized case, it would be about the size of a DVD/Blu-ray player. Only drawbacks, not a great gaming platform, and lack of expansion ability on some configurations for TV tuners etc.

I am a retired Ford tech. Next to Fords, any computer is a piece of cake. (The cake, its not a lie)

3770K @4.5, Corsair H100, GTX780, 16gig Samsung, Obsidian 700 (yes there is a 700)

#4 sk824249

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Posted 24 March 2011 - 09:18 AM

Thanks a lot for the info guys, gives me a good amount of insight into what to look for. That HTPC case seems real cool as well as those CPU MOBOs. I appreciate it

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