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Need Advice on Budget HTPC/Media Server Build

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March 19, 2014 7:57:33 AM

Hello everyone,

It's been a really long time since I've attempted to build a computer and look at components and was hoping some of you might be able to help.

Right now I'm in the process of trying to build an HTPC that will be used primarily to play videos, netflix, hulu, etc. Additionally, I would like this new box to hold all backups of my computers and serve as the main hub for all media storage until I finally get a NAS server setup.

I do some light gaming usually fifa or something like that so while gaming isn't a priority it would be something I might want to include now or have room for expansion for a better graphics card in the future.

My main priorities are:
1. Play any file type without difficulty on a 1080p screen.
2. Low power consumption and quiet, box will be on 24/7 and all downloads will be going to this box
3. +/- light gaming
4. Storage for my network
5. Decoding? I may want to be able to stream videos through my game console ps3 or xbox360 and would like to get a processor that would be able to handle that without causing much lag.

Things that I’m confused about OS and front-end with XBMC. I know that I would use windows because I have easy access to it. I’ve messed around with XBMC and like the look and feel. If XBMC is started on default how easy is it to change back to make it look more like a pc is there just a simple setting to use it like a regular desktop or even as simple as turning the program off? Any tips or advice about components to consider I would really appreciate. I’ve been doing my own reading and just keep getting lost in the sea of choices.

Approximate Purchase Date: this week

Budget Range: $600-700, somewhat flexible but the name of the game is cheaper the better
System Usage from Most to Least Important: watching movies, streaming to other computers on the network and over ps3, surfing the web, light gaming

Parts Not Required: new build but have all peripherals and TV

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg.com, got prime so amazon is awesome but whatever is a reasonable site with a good deal.

Country: USA

Parts Preferences: I’ve had some bad luck with AMD in the past so would like to try intel for the first time but I’m flexible

Overclocking: NO

SLI or Crossfire: not sure what this is so probably not?

Monitor Resolution: 1080p

Additional Comments: low power, quiet
March 19, 2014 9:03:11 AM


Form Factor ?
Any aesthetic needs/wishes for the case ?

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March 19, 2014 10:36:01 AM

Wisecracker,

Not too picky. Looking for something quiet and with good ventilation or ability to add a good quiet case fan from the like of noctua. This will be placed in my living room so I would prefer it to look more like a dvr box and not a PC. I've been looking at mini-atx form factors and not micro to give me some more room to add another hard drive in the future if need be.

I have a spare 2.5" ssd that I was going to use for the os and a western digital 3tb green drive for all of the content.
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March 19, 2014 1:25:37 PM


This is slightly against your wishes, but really makes for a great rig (so, don't curse me too badly :)  ) ...

AMD A8-5500 Trinity APU 65w: $89 with code EMCPGWB93
(ends today!)

ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+ FM2+ Bolton D4: $90

Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced - Mini-ITX Computer Case: $50

Corsair CX430M 430w PSU: $53 before $20 rebate

That case is 8 inches tall ... there is a similar '"all-black box" version for another $5 if you are so inclined. I've got two HDDs and an SSD in mine (comes with an SSD bracket), and 2 case fans are included. Either version will give you the wherewithal for a dual-slot full-length discreet video card vented to the exterior along the side.

As far as your gaming exploits, the 'thing' with AMD APUs is gaming performance scales in a linear fashion with the speed of your RAMs. So, if this build is heading in the right direction my advice to you is to select some DDR3 1866MHz or 2133MHz on the AsRock QVL list. I'm running the Crucial Ballistix 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 1866 in my AsRock with no issues using the XMP memory profile, but a 2x2GB kit should work great for you.

I also picked a 'tweener' in the A8-5500 Trinity APU. The *Radeon HD 7560D* graphics engine has 256 shader cores and a quad-core CPU. For your uses a dual-core will work just dandy but I suspect you want a bit more graphics power for your gaming. I've got an A10-5700 Trinity 65w APU with the *Radeon HD 7660D* graphics engine (386 shader cores) and it works just dandy for my gaming needs.

And that's the thing ... if you want more graphics power you can simply work your way up the APU chain (using the A10-6700 Richland APU as an example of a bit more graphics power) --- all the way up to the new Kaveri APUs with 'GCN' graphic engines (think discreet Radeon HD 7750 in graphics vroom as a comparison).

AND, rumor has it the next-gen Carizo APUs with Excavator cores and GCN (a year or so out) will work just dandy on the Bolton D4 FM2+ motherboards.

Have you considered an eSATA external enclosure for your media library? A 4/5-bay box should work well for you.

Share
April 2, 2014 12:48:22 PM

Wisecracker said:

This is slightly against your wishes, but really makes for a great rig (so, don't curse me too badly :)  ) ...

AMD A8-5500 Trinity APU 65w: $89 with code EMCPGWB93
(ends today!)

ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+ FM2+ Bolton D4: $90

Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced - Mini-ITX Computer Case: $50

Corsair CX430M 430w PSU: $53 before $20 rebate

That case is 8 inches tall ... there is a similar '"all-black box" version for another $5 if you are so inclined. I've got two HDDs and an SSD in mine (comes with an SSD bracket), and 2 case fans are included. Either version will give you the wherewithal for a dual-slot full-length discreet video card vented to the exterior along the side.

As far as your gaming exploits, the 'thing' with AMD APUs is gaming performance scales in a linear fashion with the speed of your RAMs. So, if this build is heading in the right direction my advice to you is to select some DDR3 1866MHz or 2133MHz on the AsRock QVL list. I'm running the Crucial Ballistix 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 1866 in my AsRock with no issues using the XMP memory profile, but a 2x2GB kit should work great for you.

I also picked a 'tweener' in the A8-5500 Trinity APU. The *Radeon HD 7560D* graphics engine has 256 shader cores and a quad-core CPU. For your uses a dual-core will work just dandy but I suspect you want a bit more graphics power for your gaming. I've got an A10-5700 Trinity 65w APU with the *Radeon HD 7660D* graphics engine (386 shader cores) and it works just dandy for my gaming needs.

And that's the thing ... if you want more graphics power you can simply work your way up the APU chain (using the A10-6700 Richland APU as an example of a bit more graphics power) --- all the way up to the new Kaveri APUs with 'GCN' graphic engines (think discreet Radeon HD 7750 in graphics vroom as a comparison).

AND, rumor has it the next-gen Carizo APUs with Excavator cores and GCN (a year or so out) will work just dandy on the Bolton D4 FM2+ motherboards.

Have you considered an eSATA external enclosure for your media library? A 4/5-bay box should work well for you.



Thanks so much for your advice Wisecracker. I've been looking through the pro and cons and have reviewing all the data I think AMD should work well for me. At the price point I'm going with a bit more juice than what you have suggested AMD-5800K. I like that I will be able to upgrade the graphics card at a later date should I choose to do so.

I was wondering what you guys thought of this motherboard for this rig http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EG1RJTE/ref=as_li_s...

I would like to have built in wifi and it looked like a good combination for the processor I selected.

I have looked into external enclosures but not something I want to consider right now. I like a 2-4tb hard drive in this system will be more than enough for the moment but in the future my needs may change.

I think you have this case already wisecracker? Is it difficult to fit everything with a bluray optical drive also?
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April 3, 2014 7:49:37 AM


I use an LG BD-ROM optical with no issues (with this SATA cable). The 'red flat' 10-inch cable is $1.00 with free shipping.

My PSU is 5 5/8-inches deep ... that leaves 3 1/2-inches 'in the clear' to the back of the LG optical drive.

The 'Hudson D4' 85X motherboard has been supplanted by the 'Bolton D4' 88X motherboard and will provide a future upgrade path to the new Kaveri (and likely next-gen Carizo) APUs.

I've got 2 HDDs along with my SSD in the case with no issues -- with enough room to snake cables (or store unused power connectors) between them when necessary.

The AMD 5800K 'Trinity' APU should work just dandy and so happens to be on sale at the Egg this week (with some good looking RAM combos). With fast RAMs it will be silly-fast with 'older' gaming titles.

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April 4, 2014 7:56:36 AM


Just a check ...

Your 2TB HHD is a 2.5-inch notebook hard drive. You could purchase a 64GB SSD for your OS and Apps ... and a 2TB WD 'Green' 3.5-inch mechanical HDD for the same price as the HDD you selected.

And ... just as a personal preference ... I suspect the Gigabyte motherboard will have better support.

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April 7, 2014 10:39:10 AM

Wisecracker said:

This is slightly against your wishes, but really makes for a great rig (so, don't curse me too badly :)  ) ...

AMD A8-5500 Trinity APU 65w: $89 with code EMCPGWB93
(ends today!)

ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+ FM2+ Bolton D4: $90

Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced - Mini-ITX Computer Case: $50

Corsair CX430M 430w PSU: $53 before $20 rebate

That case is 8 inches tall ... there is a similar '"all-black box" version for another $5 if you are so inclined. I've got two HDDs and an SSD in mine (comes with an SSD bracket), and 2 case fans are included. Either version will give you the wherewithal for a dual-slot full-length discreet video card vented to the exterior along the side.

As far as your gaming exploits, the 'thing' with AMD APUs is gaming performance scales in a linear fashion with the speed of your RAMs. So, if this build is heading in the right direction my advice to you is to select some DDR3 1866MHz or 2133MHz on the AsRock QVL list. I'm running the Crucial Ballistix 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 1866 in my AsRock with no issues using the XMP memory profile, but a 2x2GB kit should work great for you.

I also picked a 'tweener' in the A8-5500 Trinity APU. The *Radeon HD 7560D* graphics engine has 256 shader cores and a quad-core CPU. For your uses a dual-core will work just dandy but I suspect you want a bit more graphics power for your gaming. I've got an A10-5700 Trinity 65w APU with the *Radeon HD 7660D* graphics engine (386 shader cores) and it works just dandy for my gaming needs.

And that's the thing ... if you want more graphics power you can simply work your way up the APU chain (using the A10-6700 Richland APU as an example of a bit more graphics power) --- all the way up to the new Kaveri APUs with 'GCN' graphic engines (think discreet Radeon HD 7750 in graphics vroom as a comparison).

AND, rumor has it the next-gen Carizo APUs with Excavator cores and GCN (a year or so out) will work just dandy on the Bolton D4 FM2+ motherboards.

Have you considered an eSATA external enclosure for your media library? A 4/5-bay box should work well for you.



Wisecracker,
how's the noise level/fan speeds with this setup. I'm looking to put together something similar, and curious on how loud it gets if transcoding or streaming, etc.
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April 8, 2014 7:16:45 AM


Can't help you much, there. I'm using an AMD copper heat-pipe cooler and not the stock HSF, but the case fans on the Elite 120 are near-silent. It can be a little tricky keeping the front fan clean as it's tucked behind the drive rack.

It's a little frustrating setting the fan profile on the AsRock motherboard I use (it is the early version that tended to catch fire!) but I got it done and have had no issues.

I did a Gigabyte build for a friend that worked much better !!

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April 8, 2014 1:57:06 PM

Wisecracker said:

This is slightly against your wishes, but really makes for a great rig (so, don't curse me too badly :)  ) ...

AMD A8-5500 Trinity APU 65w: $89 with code EMCPGWB93
(ends today!)

ASRock FM2A88X-ITX+ FM2+ Bolton D4: $90

Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced - Mini-ITX Computer Case: $50

Corsair CX430M 430w PSU: $53 before $20 rebate

That case is 8 inches tall ... there is a similar '"all-black box" version for another $5 if you are so inclined. I've got two HDDs and an SSD in mine (comes with an SSD bracket), and 2 case fans are included. Either version will give you the wherewithal for a dual-slot full-length discreet video card vented to the exterior along the side.

As far as your gaming exploits, the 'thing' with AMD APUs is gaming performance scales in a linear fashion with the speed of your RAMs. So, if this build is heading in the right direction my advice to you is to select some DDR3 1866MHz or 2133MHz on the AsRock QVL list. I'm running the Crucial Ballistix 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 1866 in my AsRock with no issues using the XMP memory profile, but a 2x2GB kit should work great for you.

I also picked a 'tweener' in the A8-5500 Trinity APU. The *Radeon HD 7560D* graphics engine has 256 shader cores and a quad-core CPU. For your uses a dual-core will work just dandy but I suspect you want a bit more graphics power for your gaming. I've got an A10-5700 Trinity 65w APU with the *Radeon HD 7660D* graphics engine (386 shader cores) and it works just dandy for my gaming needs.

And that's the thing ... if you want more graphics power you can simply work your way up the APU chain (using the A10-6700 Richland APU as an example of a bit more graphics power) --- all the way up to the new Kaveri APUs with 'GCN' graphic engines (think discreet Radeon HD 7750 in graphics vroom as a comparison).

AND, rumor has it the next-gen Carizo APUs with Excavator cores and GCN (a year or so out) will work just dandy on the Bolton D4 FM2+ motherboards.

Have you considered an eSATA external enclosure for your media library? A 4/5-bay box should work well for you.



Hello Wisecracker,

I like your suggestions very much. I'm thinking in building a very similar system to the one posted by sublime323 http://pcpartpicker.com/user/wasefm/saved/4fWx

I don't know if it's better to create a new post for this, but since I want something very similar to what sublime323 has posted, I think is better to ask here.

We are two people at home, each one with a laptop, plus I have one powerful desktop PC and one 42" TV on the living room. I want an HTPC mainly to hook it to the TV via HDMI and play the movies directly from the HTPC, plus I want to store all my files in the HTPC and use it as a server so I can keep a common location for our files (therefore I would like the HTPC to be on 24/7). I don't need a lot of space, one 3TB hard drive it's enough for at least a couple of years, so at the moment I think a NAS is not necessary but I'm open to suggestions.

I don't play games on my computer and at the moment I don't need a Blu-Ray drive as I have a ps3 where I watch my blu-ray movies, but I will buy one in the future, so for now the HTPC will only hold an SSD and a 3TB 3.5" HD. I will backup to one external drive as I have been doing for quite a while. I will connect the HTPC to the router (wired).

Summarizing, I need:
1. Play movies/videos without difficulty on a 42" 1080p TV through HDMI.
2. Low power consumption and quiet, it will be on 24/7.
3. Storage for all my files and access from any computer in my network to these files.
4. Download torrents from this HTPC.

I've been reading a lot these days and a lot of people suggest a NAS and sometimes a NAS + HTPC. For given my needs I think its enough with an HTPC but I'm open to suggestions.

I have set up a system very similar to the one from sublime323 http://pcpartpicker.com/user/mr_vodoo/saved/4jbf

I appreciate any recommendations you can give me.

I'm still not sure about the processor. I don't know if it's better the AMD A10-5800K, the AMD A8-6500 or the AMD A8-6600K. They are about the same price, but only the A8-6500 is 65W. The A10 is trinity (I think older) than the A8 which are Richland (newer) so maybe better. What do you guys think?

Do you guys think is possible to play a BRRip (let's say 5GB) in one laptop that is accessing the server wirelessly?

Thanks a lot and sorry for the long post!
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April 9, 2014 8:06:44 AM


No worries.

For HTPC & NAS the 65w dual-core A4-6300 Richland will work just dandy. The graphics engine on the APU off-loads video encoding & streaming operations from the CPU effectively leaving the processor cores at idle ...



The AMD A10-5800K Trinity APU is more of a single chip solution with light gaming (or crushing older titles) though at $105 it's a great deal if that is of any interest to you.

I use a 65w A10-5700 Trinity APU with an idle total system load of 35w or so. Capturing a video stream while watching a show via my TV tuner uses roughly 20% of the CPU idle (or roughly 300MHz). A full load on the CPU cores will hit 65w total system, and when a full load from the GPU cores is added I approach 100w.

Your storage/streaming needs do not appear very demanding so the dual-core Richland will work well for you.

Edit: I fergit ...

2x4GB is a 'bunch' ... 4GB should be more than enough even in single channel.

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April 9, 2014 10:39:02 AM

Thanks a lot for your comments wisecracker!
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!