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Trying to build my first HTPC: help needed please

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June 20, 2013 5:14:19 AM

Hi all,

I'm new here on the forums. I've been reading a lot about the hardware needed to buld a XBMC HTPC but I'm still unsure about what to buy. I don't know enough to make a good decision and that's why I'm asking your help.

I'd like to build a HTPC that would allow me to listen to HD movies and TV shows (1080p) that will be accessed from a media server through my network. I don't plan on gaming, not at all. Maybe I'll stream a little bit from Internet, but not that much. Ideally, my HTPC would be in a small form factor and totally quiet. It would connect to my TV through HDMI (for video) and through my audio tuner to provide 5.1 sound. I would like my system to be evolutive enough to allow me to watch 3D movies in the futur (but not now) by upgrading some hardware if necessary, but not all of it if possible. Finally, I would like for my HTPC to be a low consumption build as muh as possible.

Here are a few (ok, a lot!) questions regarding my project.

1. How much power supply would my HTPC need? Which brand/model is reliable and quiet?

2. For my purposes, is a GPU needed or is an onbord GPU is enough? What about the futur and 3D movies? If I choose an intergrated GPU, but a motherboard with a PCIe port, will it be "futur proof" as it would allow be to upgrade the GPU in the futur if needed (via the PCIe port)?

3. However, about 3D, is it more the CPU or the GPU that limits the ability to watch 3D movies? If it's GPU, what is the minimum needed to watch 3D movies? If it's the CPU, what is the minimum needed to watch 3D movies?

4. About GPU, I've read that sometimes GPUs have problem with some fps (23.976) and Linux. Is it still the case? Is there a way to get rid of tha issue? Are there brands/models that don't have this problem? Should I look more on ATI's, Nvidia's or Intel's side?

5. Also, is a Celeron CPU powerful enough for my needs? What about the futur and 3D movies? Would I be better with something more powerful like an i3 CPU? Should I get a low-powered processor? Should I get a desktop or a mobile CPU? Also, would it be of any use to get a Haswell Celeron processors? I also saw many builds with an i3 processor. Why should I choose a Celeron over an i3? Does an i3 consume less power than a Celeron, does it run cooler than a Celeron?

6. I don't really care about the heat, but I wouldn't want my system to be too hot as, I guess, this would make it louder (fan going on and everything). So, should I look more into a fanless system or is it possible to have quiet HTPC with a fan. Would it still be better to get a small CPU fan or a 120 mm fan? Why should I get one or why shouldn't I get one? Does a fan mean the system won't be totally silent anymore? In fact, would I need a fan at all considering the parts of my build (will it create enough heat to justify the need of a fan)? And would I need a fan more if I put my HTPC in a cabinet (front door, but no back panel)?

7. What connection do I need from my HTPC to my audio tuner to get 5.1 sound?

8. Regarding the SSD, Do I need to look at something specific (except storage)? Power consumption, read and write speeds, etc.? Will I notice a difference between a SATA III SSD and a SATA II SSD for my HTPC?

9. Is there something (except quantity) to look for before buying RAM (frequency, latence [I heard about it somewhere], power consumption, etc.)? Moreover, is it better to get 2Gb of RAM in one stick (of 2Gb) or in two sticks (of 1Gb each)?

10. If I opt for a low powered system with a small PSU, will this prevent me from upgrading in the futur as newer/more powerful hardware may need more power than what's already in my low powered HTPC (small PSU)? If so, would it be as simple as changing for a bigger PSU to be able to upgrade to hardware needing more energy?

11. Regarding my media server, it will also serve as a NAS (I will do my backups on this server and I will access to my files through this server, both, from my network and from outside via a cloud service). I was wondering what kind of HD you suggest me to put in. I've know the WD Green series since a long time, but now with the Red series, I'm not sure. What's the benefit of the Red series over the green one regarding a NAS. Also, I heard there might be a problem with the head parking reducing the lifetime. Is it widespread? What causes this problem and is it possible to avoid it? How long of a lifetime is reduced by this issue? Also, would 5400 rpm be good or would I be better with 7200 rpm HDs? Moreover, I heard someone said to avoid WD Green series for a ZFS file system; why's that?

Finally, with that being said, do any of you have recommandations on hardware for my build. I'd like to know what are my options. I'm guessing a 64GB or even a 32GB SSD, 4GB or even 2Gb RAM, a motherboard with 802.11n, gigabit ethernet, HDMI ports for HD audio (TrueHD) and HD video (2D, maybe 3D in the future) outputs and a PCIe port, PSU, CPU, case...?

Thanks in advance for your help, I really appreciate it. As I said, I'm new to the world of HTPC and I want to build a nice system. However, I don't have the full knowledge to achieve that. That's why your help is needed.

Blaccko

P.-S. I'm in Canada.

More about : build htpc needed

June 20, 2013 6:33:57 AM

1. How much power supply would my HTPC need? Which brand/model is reliable and quiet?
Depends on the hardware. Anywhere from 400-500 watts should be plenty.

2. For my purposes, is a GPU needed or is an onbord GPU is enough? What about the futur and 3D movies? If I choose an intergrated GPU, but a motherboard with a PCIe port, will it be "futur proof" as it would allow be to upgrade the GPU in the futur if needed (via the PCIe port)?
Depends on the CPU. If you want something as you described, I would strongly consider an APU.

3. However, about 3D, is it more the CPU or the GPU that limits the ability to watch 3D movies? If it's GPU, what is the minimum needed to watch 3D movies? If it's the CPU, what is the minimum needed to watch 3D movies?
For playback, that's more GPU bound. An intergrated GPU can probably play it.

4. About GPU, I've read that sometimes GPUs have problem with some fps (23.976) and Linux. Is it still the case? Is there a way to get rid of tha issue? Are there brands/models that don't have this problem? Should I look more on ATI's, Nvidia's or Intel's side?
Can't answer this.

5. Also, is a Celeron CPU powerful enough for my needs? What about the futur and 3D movies? Would I be better with something more powerful like an i3 CPU? Should I get a low-powered processor? Should I get a desktop or a mobile CPU? Also, would it be of any use to get a Haswell Celeron processors? I also saw many builds with an i3 processor. Why should I choose a Celeron over an i3? Does an i3 consume less power than a Celeron, does it run cooler than a Celeron?
I wouldn't pick a Celeron.

6. I don't really care about the heat, but I wouldn't want my system to be too hot as, I guess, this would make it louder (fan going on and everything). So, should I look more into a fanless system or is it possible to have quiet HTPC with a fan. Would it still be better to get a small CPU fan or a 120 mm fan? Why should I get one or why shouldn't I get one? Does a fan mean the system won't be totally silent anymore? In fact, would I need a fan at all considering the parts of my build (will it create enough heat to justify the need of a fan)? And would I need a fan more if I put my HTPC in a cabinet (front door, but no back panel)?
I'll ensure the build I propose is quiet.

7. What connection do I need from my HTPC to my audio tuner to get 5.1 sound?
What type of input does your tuner have?

8. Regarding the SSD, Do I need to look at something specific (except storage)? Power consumption, read and write speeds, etc.? Will I notice a difference between a SATA III SSD and a SATA II SSD for my HTPC?
Shouldn't be an issue get a cheap SSD.

9. Is there something (except quantity) to look for before buying RAM (frequency, latence [I heard about it somewhere], power consumption, etc.)? Moreover, is it better to get 2Gb of RAM in one stick (of 2Gb) or in two sticks (of 1Gb each)?
Speed and Latency will affect performance. 2 X 1GB

10. If I opt for a low powered system with a small PSU, will this prevent me from upgrading in the futur as newer/more powerful hardware may need more power than what's already in my low powered HTPC (small PSU)? If so, would it be as simple as changing for a bigger PSU to be able to upgrade to hardware needing more energy?
Correct. That's why I say 430- 500 watts.

11. Regarding my media server, it will also serve as a NAS (I will do my backups on this server and I will access to my files through this server, both, from my network and from outside via a cloud service). I was wondering what kind of HD you suggest me to put in. I've know the WD Green series since a long time, but now with the Red series, I'm not sure. What's the benefit of the Red series over the green one regarding a NAS. Also, I heard there might be a problem with the head parking reducing the lifetime. Is it widespread? What causes this problem and is it possible to avoid it? How long of a lifetime is reduced by this issue? Also, would 5400 rpm be good or would I be better with 7200 rpm HDs? Moreover, I heard someone said to avoid WD Green series for a ZFS file system; why's that?
Never heard of the issues. Green spins slower.
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June 20, 2013 12:21:09 PM

Hi,

Thanks for your time and your help.

Quote:
1. How much power supply would my HTPC need? Which brand/model is reliable and quiet?
Depends on the hardware. Anywhere from 400-500 watts should be plenty.


I'm surprised, I thought HTPCs were not consuming that much energy. I've read that some even use small 90 watts PSU for their HTPC... Why that much difference between PSUs?

Quote:
2. For my purposes, is a GPU needed or is an onbord GPU is enough? What about the futur and 3D movies? If I choose an intergrated GPU, but a motherboard with a PCIe port, will it be "futur proof" as it would allow be to upgrade the GPU in the futur if needed (via the PCIe port)?
Depends on the CPU. If you want something as you described, I would strongly consider an APU.


I'm not familiar with the terme "APU". Do you mean a dedicated GPU?
If so, why would a dedicated GPU be better than an integrated GPU?
What would be the benefits of such GPU?

Quote:
3. However, about 3D, is it more the CPU or the GPU that limits the ability to watch 3D movies? If it's GPU, what is the minimum needed to watch 3D movies? If it's the CPU, what is the minimum needed to watch 3D movies?
For playback, that's more GPU bound. An intergrated GPU can probably play it.


Ok, so the CPU would not really impact on the playback of a 3D movie?
What is the minimal GPU needed to watch some 3D movies?

Quote:
5. Also, is a Celeron CPU powerful enough for my needs? What about the futur and 3D movies? Would I be better with something more powerful like an i3 CPU? Should I get a low-powered processor? Should I get a desktop or a mobile CPU? Also, would it be of any use to get a Haswell Celeron processors? I also saw many builds with an i3 processor. Why should I choose a Celeron over an i3? Does an i3 consume less power than a Celeron, does it run cooler than a Celeron?
I wouldn't pick a Celeron.


Why no Celeron CPU?
What do you suggest me instead, an i3?

Quote:
6. I don't really care about the heat, but I wouldn't want my system to be too hot as, I guess, this would make it louder (fan going on and everything). So, should I look more into a fanless system or is it possible to have quiet HTPC with a fan. Would it still be better to get a small CPU fan or a 120 mm fan? Why should I get one or why shouldn't I get one? Does a fan mean the system won't be totally silent anymore? In fact, would I need a fan at all considering the parts of my build (will it create enough heat to justify the need of a fan)? And would I need a fan more if I put my HTPC in a cabinet (front door, but no back panel)?
I'll ensure the build I propose is quiet.


Would it be better to get a small CPU fan or a 120 mm fan or to go fanless?
Does a fan mean the system won't be totally silent anymore (I mean, do you hear the fan while listening to a movie?)?
And would I need a fan more if I put my HTPC in a cabinet (front door closed, but no back panel) than if it's on the floor (in "open air") next to my TV?

Quote:
8. Regarding the SSD, Do I need to look at something specific (except storage)? Power consumption, read and write speeds, etc.? Will I notice a difference between a SATA III SSD and a SATA II SSD for my HTPC?
Shouldn't be an issue get a cheap SSD.


Great, thanks!

Quote:
9. Is there something (except quantity) to look for before buying RAM (frequency, latence [I heard about it somewhere], power consumption, etc.)? Moreover, is it better to get 2Gb of RAM in one stick (of 2Gb) or in two sticks (of 1Gb each)?
Speed and Latency will affect performance. 2 X 1GB


Why is it better to get two smaller sticks of RAM instead of one bigger?
Wat speeds and latencies should I be looking for; what are good speeds and good latencies?

Quote:
10. If I opt for a low powered system with a small PSU, will this prevent me from upgrading in the futur as newer/more powerful hardware may need more power than what's already in my low powered HTPC (small PSU)? If so, would it be as simple as changing for a bigger PSU to be able to upgrade to hardware needing more energy?
Correct. That's why I say 430- 500 watts.


I see, now I'm starting to understand. Thank you.

Thanks a lot for your input mastrom101 and if anyone else has somethig to had, feel free to jump in! ; )

Blaccko

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Related resources
June 20, 2013 12:43:37 PM

Blaccko said:
Hi,

Thanks for your time and your help.

Quote:
1. How much power supply would my HTPC need? Which brand/model is reliable and quiet?
Depends on the hardware. Anywhere from 400-500 watts should be plenty.


I'm surprised, I thought HTPCs were not consuming that much energy. I've read that some even use small 90 watts PSU for their HTPC... Why that much difference between PSUs?

It all depends on the hardware. I always would recommend getting a higher wattage PSU. PSUs deliver less power under heat, and they are most efficient when not under full load.
I also recommend at least a semi-modular design for airflow.

Quote:
2. For my purposes, is a GPU needed or is an onbord GPU is enough? What about the futur and 3D movies? If I choose an intergrated GPU, but a motherboard with a PCIe port, will it be "futur proof" as it would allow be to upgrade the GPU in the futur if needed (via the PCIe port)?
Depends on the CPU. If you want something as you described, I would strongly consider an APU.


I'm not familiar with the terme "APU". Do you mean a dedicated GPU?
If so, why would a dedicated GPU be better than an integrated GPU?
What would be the benefits of such GPU?
An APU is an AMD processor that has a built in graphics card. They are brandes as AMD A10/A8/A6 etc. They're a good solution for HTPCs, and another graphic card can be combined with them in what is called CrossfireX (Should it be needed.
Quote:
3. However, about 3D, is it more the CPU or the GPU that limits the ability to watch 3D movies? If it's GPU, what is the minimum needed to watch 3D movies? If it's the CPU, what is the minimum needed to watch 3D movies?
For playback, that's more GPU bound. An intergrated GPU can probably play it.


Ok, so the CPU would not really impact on the playback of a 3D movie?
What is the minimal GPU needed to watch some 3D movies?
The CPU is more for recording. HD playback alone should be fine on an a8 or a10 APU, Intel HD 4000 or a 7750/650 discrete card.

Quote:
5. Also, is a Celeron CPU powerful enough for my needs? What about the futur and 3D movies? Would I be better with something more powerful like an i3 CPU? Should I get a low-powered processor? Should I get a desktop or a mobile CPU? Also, would it be of any use to get a Haswell Celeron processors? I also saw many builds with an i3 processor. Why should I choose a Celeron over an i3? Does an i3 consume less power than a Celeron, does it run cooler than a Celeron?
I wouldn't pick a Celeron.


Why no Celeron CPU?
What do you suggest me instead, an i3?
APU or i3

Quote:
6. I don't really care about the heat, but I wouldn't want my system to be too hot as, I guess, this would make it louder (fan going on and everything). So, should I look more into a fanless system or is it possible to have quiet HTPC with a fan. Would it still be better to get a small CPU fan or a 120 mm fan? Why should I get one or why shouldn't I get one? Does a fan mean the system won't be totally silent anymore? In fact, would I need a fan at all considering the parts of my build (will it create enough heat to justify the need of a fan)? And would I need a fan more if I put my HTPC in a cabinet (front door, but no back panel)?
I'll ensure the build I propose is quiet.


Would it be better to get a small CPU fan or a 120 mm fan or to go fanless?
Does a fan mean the system won't be totally silent anymore (I mean, do you hear the fan while listening to a movie?)?
And would I need a fan more if I put my HTPC in a cabinet (front door closed, but no back panel) than if it's on the floor (in "open air") next to my TV?

I would recommend at least one quiet fan for the PC. You can buy a passively cooled discrete GPU if you want, or a fanless PSU. But you shouldn't really hear a fan roaring during a movie.

Quote:
8. Regarding the SSD, Do I need to look at something specific (except storage)? Power consumption, read and write speeds, etc.? Will I notice a difference between a SATA III SSD and a SATA II SSD for my HTPC?
Shouldn't be an issue get a cheap SSD.


Great, thanks!

Quote:
9. Is there something (except quantity) to look for before buying RAM (frequency, latence [I heard about it somewhere], power consumption, etc.)? Moreover, is it better to get 2Gb of RAM in one stick (of 2Gb) or in two sticks (of 1Gb each)?
Speed and Latency will affect performance. 2 X 1GB


Why is it better to get two smaller sticks of RAM instead of one bigger?
Wat speeds and latencies should I be looking for; what are good speeds and good latencies?

Two sticks will run in dual channel mode, which improves performance. For an intel CPU, CAS 9 1333/1600Mhz is fine. For an APU, CAS 9 1866 or 2133MHz is preferred.

Quote:
10. If I opt for a low powered system with a small PSU, will this prevent me from upgrading in the futur as newer/more powerful hardware may need more power than what's already in my low powered HTPC (small PSU)? If so, would it be as simple as changing for a bigger PSU to be able to upgrade to hardware needing more energy?
Correct. That's why I say 430- 500 watts.


I see, now I'm starting to understand. Thank you.

Thanks a lot for your input mastrom101 and if anyone else has somethig to had, feel free to jump in! ; )

Blaccko




Finally, if you give me a price range and specifically include your location, peripherals/OS needed and any part/store preferences, I can help you put together a build.
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June 20, 2013 4:46:53 PM

Hi,

Quote:
It all depends on the hardware. I always would recommend getting a higher wattage PSU. PSUs deliver less power under heat, and they are most efficient when not under full load.
I also recommend at least a semi-modular design for airflow.


I didn't know that, it's a good point. 400 watts seems a good thing then.

Quote:
An APU is an AMD processor that has a built in graphics card. They are brandes as AMD A10/A8/A6 etc. They're a good solution for HTPCs, and another graphic card can be combined with them in what is called CrossfireX (Should it be needed.


So it's an integrated GPU. If I chosose an i3 CPU, the HD 4000 would do the job?

Quote:
The CPU is more for recording. HD playback alone should be fine on an a8 or a10 APU, Intel HD 4000 or a 7750/650 discrete card.


Great, thanks.

Quote:
APU or i3


Why no Celeron CPU?

Quote:
I would recommend at least one quiet fan for the PC. You can buy a passively cooled discrete GPU if you want, or a fanless PSU. But you shouldn't really hear a fan roaring during a movie.


The quiet fan you recommend is in addition to the CPU fan?
Except PICO, which brand does fanless PSUs?

Quote:
Two sticks will run in dual channel mode, which improves performance. For an intel CPU, CAS 9 1333/1600Mhz is fine. For an APU, CAS 9 1866 or 2133MHz is preferred.


Excellent!

Quote:
Finally, if you give me a price range and specifically include your location, peripherals/OS needed and any part/store preferences, I can help you put together a build.


I still need to talk to my girlfirend about our budget for the project, but it's nice of you to offer and I'll sure get back to you when everything is decided for your help to chose parts.

Thanks a lot,

Blaccko
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June 21, 2013 8:52:58 AM

Hi mastrom101,

Thanks again for your help.

I know Celeron are not the most powerful CPUs out there, but I though that an HTPC, if only used to play videos files form a NAS (no transcoding, no downloading, etc.) didn't need that much power. I though that even old CPUs could do the job. Am I wrong?

About the HD 4000, I know it's a great integrated GPU, but I though, there again, that only to play videos files, the smaller HD 2000 or HD 2500 could be ok. Am I wrong?

Budget is not a major issue, but I'd prefer not paying more than I need to.

Thanks a lot in advance,

Blaccko
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June 21, 2013 11:13:50 AM

A celeron could probably do the job, but i wouldn't choose it in my own HTPC. You wan't components that can handle the load with ease. The harder a CPU has to work, the more heat generated.

If you're getting an i3, it's definitely worth the extra money to pick one with the HD 4000.
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June 25, 2013 3:38:30 PM

Hi,

Thank you for that precision, good to know.

For the integrated GPU, is it the same thing? I know the HD 4000 is a great integrated GPU, but I though, there again, that only to play videos files, the older HD 2000 or HD 2500 could be ok. Am I wrong?

Thanks and have a good evening,

Blaccko
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June 25, 2013 5:40:08 PM

Hi,

I have another question though. If I want to be able to shut down completly my computer and then to start it with my remote, do I need a special kind of remote or something (I heard about CIR) special on my motherboard?

Also, what kind of remote would work?

Would an Harmony remote like the Harmony 650 work?

Thanks,

Blaccko
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June 25, 2013 7:05:00 PM

Blaccko said:
Hi,

Thank you for that precision, good to know.

For the integrated GPU, is it the same thing? I know the HD 4000 is a great integrated GPU, but I though, there again, that only to play videos files, the older HD 2000 or HD 2500 could be ok. Am I wrong?

Thanks and have a good evening,

Blaccko


Still the 4000 is a better choice. It's not much more expensive. You don't want laggy video on a HTPC.

As for the remote, I'm not sure. I thought there were apps to turn on a PC via smartphone. Not sure though.
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June 26, 2013 6:54:10 AM

Hi,

Thank you mastrom101! You're right, I doN,t want taggy vieo on my HTPC. For about 500 $, what would be a good build (I live in Canada, so stores are mostly : Newegg.ca, Tigerdirect.ca, DirectCanada.com). I don't need any keyoard/mouse nor do I need an OS.

Thanks,

Blaccko
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June 26, 2013 8:56:42 AM

First off, I found a product you may be interested in:
http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1688...

Two ideas:
1. Typical builds:
PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i3-3225 3.3GHz Dual-Core Processor ($141.98 @ Amazon Canada)
Motherboard: ASRock B75M-DGS R2.0 Micro ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($49.98 @ NCIX)
Memory: Crucial 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3-1333 Memory ($27.98 @ NCIX)
Storage: Samsung 840 Series 250GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($170.98 @ Newegg Canada)
Case: Apevia X-Master Blue HTPC Case w/500W Power Supply ($88.98 @ Newegg Canada)
Optical Drive: LG CH12LS28 Blu-Ray Reader, DVD/CD Writer ($54.99 @ NCIX)
Total: $534.89
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-06-26 11:27 EDT-0400)

Do you need a blueray reader? How much hard drive space do you need?
Tigerdirect has a sale on Blueray readers, so knock another $20 off the above rig.


AMD build:

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD A8-5600K 3.6GHz Quad-Core Processor ($98.50 @ Vuugo)
Motherboard: ASRock FM2A75M-DGS Micro ATX FM2 Motherboard ($49.99 @ NCIX)
Memory: Crucial Ballistix 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3-1866 Memory ($32.98 @ NCIX)
Storage: Samsung 840 Series 250GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($170.98 @ Newegg Canada)
Case: Apevia X-Master Blue HTPC Case w/500W Power Supply ($88.98 @ Newegg Canada)
Other: Blueray ($35.00)
Total: $476.43
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-06-26 11:41 EDT-0400)

Your other option is an Intel NUC build:

http://www.tigerdirect.ca/applications/SearchTools/item...
http://ca.pcpartpicker.com/part/patriot-memory-psd38g13...
http://ca.pcpartpicker.com/part/crucial-internal-hard-d...
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June 27, 2013 3:12:55 PM

Hi,

Thank you so much for those suggestions! I'll think about it this week-end and make a choice soon.

Have a good evening,

Blaccko
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June 27, 2013 7:47:20 PM

Alright, sounds good! Enjoy your long weekend!

I can further optimize the builds if I know how much HD space you need, and whether or not you need blue-ray capability.
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!