HTPC new build options / help

I’d like some advice from you experts here about HTPC options/recommendations. I’ve read through quite a few posts on the subject, but I don’t have the expertise to know which ones to apply to my exact intended use/expectations … especially given how quick technology changes. My goal is to drop my cable service and switch to a combo of streamed and OTA content. Current thought is to establish a Windows-based box (Win 7 or 8, TBD) running WMC, or XMBC/Plex -- leaning towards WMC right now.

- Netflix/Amazon Prime
- Over-the-air via antenna for network TV (want to be able to record/watch at least 2 channels at a time), including DVR functionality
- Occasional web browsing (maybe Youtube videos, watching shows from network websites if not available OTA/Netflix/Amazon, etc.)
- Possibly some downloaded shows not available via the above methods
- Simple music playing / photo viewing
- No gaming really, maybe load some kids games on sometime (or maybe a Nintendo emulator or something), definitely not primary use
- Probably use media extender to view content on a second TV (low use)

Concerns/other considerations/questions:
- Hard drive/overall system being able to keep up with watching something HD (streamed or recorded), plus recording 2 HD streams simultaneous without suffering quality issues
- Do I need SSD primary drive + data drive or ok with just single traditional drive?
- Data drive 5400 or 7200 rpm (balance speed, power consumption, etc.)?
- Pass through 5.1 surround audio to home theater
- Quiet
- Low power
- Aesthetics of case not important, but pretty is better than ugly … if needed I can even hide any ugly case behind the TV. If the case looks ok it can sit with other home theater components.
- No need for wireless (router nearby to hardwire)
- Remote options and bluetooth for keyboard/mouse
- Already have a good Blu-ray player, so only marginal need for internal drive

Options considering:
- Build from scratch
- Dell 660s
- Barebones systems: Intel NUC, Asus Eeebox, Zotac, Foxconn

Any advice or system builds are appreciated! No specific budget ... as cheap as i can get an effective system. Maybe $500-600ish? Let me know if any additional information would be helpful.


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  1. PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

    CPU: AMD A8-5500 3.2GHz Quad-Core Processor ($98.64 @ Outlet PC)
    Motherboard: ASRock FM2A75 Pro4-M Micro ATX FM2 Motherboard ($59.99 @ Newegg)
    Memory: Crucial Ballistix Sport 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($37.99 @ Microcenter)
    Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($64.98 @ Outlet PC)
    Case: nMEDIAPC HTPC 1080P HTPC Case ($57.98 @ Newegg)
    Power Supply: PC Power & Cooling Silencer MK III 400W 80 PLUS Bronze Certified ATX12V Power Supply ($60.01 @ Amazon)
    Optical Drive: LG GH24NS95 DVD/CD Writer ($15.98 @ Outlet PC)
    Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (OEM) (64-bit) ($89.98 @ Outlet PC)
    Other: Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 Dual TV Tuner w/Remote ($124.99 @ Newegg)
    Total: $610.54
    (Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
    (Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-06-29 20:34 EDT-0400)

    So I busted your budget by just a little bit, but this is about as low as I would go. to do all that you're looking to do. A few points:

    1) While I would prefer to go with an SSD for the OS drive and a traditional hard drive for storage, it's just not in the budget. If I were looking, I'd probably add this Crucial M4 128GB SSD to the build above.
    2) Since you're looking to being able to record two shows while watching a third, I have to recommend nothing slower than a 7200RPM drive. Mine doesn't have any problem recording three shows while watching a fourth.
    3) I went with this motherboard as you can go with either HDMI or Optical S/PDIF out for audio. I use HDMI connected directly to my HDTV for regular use and Optical S/PDIF out, connected to my Home Theater system for 5.1 surround sound when watching movies on my projector.
    4) The TV Tuner card includes an IR Remote Control. You could also add an IR keyboard if you think you need it. I only use mine for logging in and windows updates, but then I don't search Hulu or YouTube on that system. I have a couple of wireless keyboards for multiple systems. This Microsoft Wireless IR Keyboard is my preferred keyboard (though I paid half as much for it). This Bluetooth Adesso WKB-3000UB Keyboard would have been better if it worked properly.

    -Wolf sends
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