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New HTPC build...

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Last response: in Home Theatre
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January 25, 2014 11:58:08 AM

I'm considering a new build...a Home Theater PC (HTPC) that doubles as a file server for High-Definition Media Players (HDMP) scattered around my home. It download and seeds torrents. It would also trans-code media, rip videos, and do some video editing.

I could split all this up to different systems, but then I would have files everywhere. I'm trying to consolidate everything into one computer. Some would say I need to store all my files on a NAS, but this computer will act as the NAS for all other systems.

I build systems to last. My current Pentium-M based socket 775 machine is on its last legs. It overheats when transcoding video (as shown by beeps, not instability) so I keep external fans pointing in the open case at the processor when I'm giving it a big workload. It's a PITA to get a hard disk out...they are blocked by the expansion cards and RAM. I just can not justify upgrading it past Windows XP.

This new system will run Windows 7 x64.

CASE
Rosewill RSV-L4500 Black Metal/ Steel, 1.0 mm thickness , 4U Rackmount Server Chassis, 15 Internal Bays, 8 Included Cooling Fans
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
I started my build with a rack-mount case. If your home theater is not rack-mounted, You are missing out. Most components have the holes already there for 19" racks, and the few that don't have holes for 14" racks. I use a 14" rack in the middle, and two 19" racks on the sides. That seems like a lot, but I move old videos to hard disks with other equipment, so (for example) I've got x4 rack-mounted VHS machines. The 15 drive bays are nice, but I'm worried that it is missing a 5.25" drive for ripping DVDs/BluRays. I'll probably use one of the eSATA ports for a BluRay drive, and save the other for SATA-to-SATA backups and imaging.
I'm not sure how hard it will be to replace a drive. I'm saving $100 by not going with the version that has hot-swap bays for hard disks. In my experience, such bays limit the capacity of Your hard drives.

MOTHERBOARD
ASUS Sabertooth X79 LGA 2011 Intel X79 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
I picked THE motherboard that seems to have the most SATA ports. (10 internal + 2 eSATA.) That forced me to socket 2011, but all those PCIe lanes cann't hurt in this role.

HARD DISKS
(x6 to start) Seagate Desktop HDD.15 ST4000DM000 4TB 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive Bare Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
I'm currently storing 20TB spread across a ridiculous number of 1TB, 1.5TB, and 2TB drives. I hope to consolidate all of that inside this machine. My old HDDs will be relegated to USB enclosures, to act as off-site backups. (I do not trust online backups...they are often corrupted by the same thing that killed the first drive.)
I've had good luck with Seagate drives. 4TB seems to be the biggest currently available, so (with luck) I might be able to fit 40TB in this case before I have to start adding PCIe SATA cards.

RAM
I've heard that machines like this benefit from ECC RAM. I have used lots of ECC RAM, but that was in servers and workstations that only accepted ECC RAM. I hear that Socket 2011 machines can take either ECC or standard RAM. Is this true, with my selected motherboard?
I'm going to start with 4x8GB DDR3, and leave 4 more DIMMs open. Should I pay more for ECC?

PROCESSOR
Intel Core i7-3820 Sandy Bridge-E 3.6GHz (3.8GHz Turbo Boost) LGA 2011 130W Quad-Core Desktop Processor BX80619i73820
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Xeons are out there, but they seem expensive. I don't think I will be moving enough data to justify such an expense. (My current machine is a LGA77.)
If this processor ever does lag, I can upgrade. There are lots of expensive LGA2011 processors out there, and the cheaper Xeons will be available used in a few years.
What do You think?

CPU COOLER
I have no idea, except that this will be air-cooled. With all the air that gets to the processor being pre-heated by the hard disks, I will need a substantial cooler.

SSD (BOOT)
SAMSUNG 840 EVO MZ-7TE500BW 2.5" 500GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
I hate spending this much on a SSD to boot from, but after I install all my software, I will need the room. I really don't want to run out of room on my C: drive, and then to have to image and upgrade.
Also, downloading torrents off a spinning hard disk at 30 Mb/s can severely overload the drive. So my torrents will reside on this drive until they are finished. Torrents can seed quite happily from spinning hard disks...it's rapid downloading that taxes the drive.

VIDEO CARD:
ASUS HD7770-2GD5 Radeon HD 7770 GHz Edition 2GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
I was looking for a cheap video card that would to 4k resolutions. I don't have a 4K screen yet, but I will soon. I don't even know if it will be connected by HDMI or a DisplayLink to the (future) 4k screen.
I could only find 3 or 4 video cards that said they supported true 4k, and this one looked much cheaper than the others. People were reporting 60fps with some games (I am not a gamer...my idea of a game is the original Civilizations, or King's Quest from the 1980's in a VM.) If it performs well, I can standardize on this video card in all the system I support (for new builds and upgrades) for a year or two.
If it lags a little, I can CrossFire a pair of them and see what happens.
What CrossFire connector would I need to make 2 of these cards work together?

POWER SUPPLY:
I have no idea.
I know that I need to plan ahead: x14 spinning hard disks, x1 SSD, a faster processor, and CrossFired video cards. I will need to pus some effort into checking out how many amps are drawn on what rails.

FAN CONTROLLER:
I just realized...8 fans...and my current system sounds like a jet engine. I will not be managing the temps by hand, so what's a good controller that keeps everything in balance? In the past, I just bypassed the RPM controls, and connected red-to-red and black-to-black. The fans spun.

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January 25, 2014 1:07:52 PM

I think you could probably save yourself a bit of change by going with more consumer level components. Here's what I'd be looking at:

Case: Rosewill RSV-L4500
Power Supply: CORSAIR Professional Series Gold AX1200
Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-Z87X-D3H
CPU: Intel Core i7-4770 Haswell
RAM: G.SKILL Sniper Gaming Series 32GB
Solid State Drive: SAMSUNG 840 Pro Series MZ-7PD256BW 2.5" 256GB
Hard Drives: Seagate Desktop HDD.15 ST4000DM000 4TB
Controller Card: SYBA SI-PEX40071 8 Internal SATA III Ports PCI-Express Card
Graphics Card: ASUS HD7770-2GD5 Radeon HD 7770

The power supply is certainly overkill, but it's one of a very few that has enough SATA power cables.
I seriously doubt you'll ever need more than 16GB, let alone 32GB of RAM.
I really don't think you want your torrents/rips being written to your SSD. The typical hard drive has been working just fine for years.
The controller card allows you to save money on the motherboard and (x2) gives you all the SATA ports you'd need for all the eventual drives in your case.

-Wolf sends
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January 25, 2014 9:56:14 PM

Thanks for Your input, WolfShadow.

I will look into that SATA controller card.
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March 4, 2014 2:00:10 AM

I did not select that as a best answer. I was being polite in not mentioning that Wolf's answer was a drastic step down in performance, which would save very little money.
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