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Please review $650 non-HD non-Gaming HTPC build

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January 31, 2007 5:57:46 PM

Hi, I'm looking to build a small htpc in a microatx desktop format for the main purpose of watching dvd's, divx/xvids, playing mp3's and audiocd's. The parts I'm looking at are:

1) Case: Antec Solution Series NSK 2400 Black MicroATX w 380W Power Supply.

http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1681...

2) MB: Asus P5L 945G Micro ATX

http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1681...

3) CPU: C2D E6400 Conroe

4) RAM: 1GM 240 Pin DDR2 667 (1 stick so later I can dual channel)

5) GFX: XFX 7300GS 512MB Low Profile

http://www.newegg.com/product/product.asp?item=N82E1681...

6) Misc: I have a 320GB SATA 1.5GB HDD I'll use and a PCI Mystique sound card I want to use. I also have an external wireless card. The computer will be kept in a closed media cabinet which should reduce sound.

I'd like to hear suggestions on components, assembly, any thing else really. The main use of this PC will be to drive a 1080p 37" LCD to watch DVD's on, maybe browse the net, play music on. I dont see any HD sources or gaming for atleast a year.

Any help is appreciated, thanks.

PVJ
January 31, 2007 7:23:30 PM

Quote:
3) CPU: C2D E6400 Conroe

I guess if it were me I'd be considering using an E4300. You'd save a few bucks, get good enough performance for the nominal task, and have the possibility of a mild overclock if/when more was needed. Probably would also run a bit cooler at stock speeds.

Any reason why you think you'd want an E6400 for a HTPC?

-john, the ostensibly clueless redundant legacy dinosaur
Related resources
January 31, 2007 7:30:06 PM

Quote:
I can only see one problem with that build, the graphics card. Spend slightly more and get something like a 7600GT:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681... which is only $100 after MIR.

I'd actually go the other way and suggest skipping the graphics card altogether ... at least as a first try. The motherboard you selected comes with integrated graphics. Try that first and see if it is adequate to your task. If not, then buy a graphics card. Before you jump to solve a problem, just make sure you actually have a problem. No?

OTOH, if you're already convinced you need a video card, then pick another motherboard that does not include integrated graphics. Don't pay for something if you are not going to use it.

-john, the ostensibly clueless redundant legacy dinosaur
January 31, 2007 9:34:19 PM

QuantumSheep:- You have many many more posts than I, but seemingly have nbot grasped the concept of a low-profile bracketed card. A full card such as the 7600gt you suggested would not fit in the case. I suppose you could install a low-profile bracket on it but you did not mention it, if it is at all possible.

I agree with zjohnr in that you should skip the GPU. The obvious issue with doing that is that you would lose direct DVI support. You might be able to use an adapter, however If you find you are having issues the gpu that you selected should be excellent.

Also, I agree that the e6400 would not be my first choice. The e4300 or the e6300 would be good choices at a lower budget. Considering you are working at a 650 dollar budget, that 40-50 dollars should be helpful. Get a 3.5" external drive Media card reader. Theres nothing like a good memory card reader to transfer off of memory cards. I just wish my Dell XPS Gen 3 had a 3.5" external slot for it. All it has is one with a floppy drive in it that is enclosed behind a proprietary floppy panel that is fused with the case. I must say though, it is quite discreet, I only remember every several months that I own a floppy drive. Only by looking at the front of the case for several minutes would one find that a floppy drive is there at the top.

I seem to have gotten hopelessly OT so I will leave you to your own mechanisms now. Good Night and Good Luck

Good luck with your HTPC
January 31, 2007 10:54:05 PM

Hi everyone, thank you for your replies.

You guys are right about the processor. Should I get the E6300 or E4300 since they're almost the same price right now?

I chose the videocard because it had all the hardware features that NVIDIA listed as required for using their PureVideo decoder properly. From what I've read on hardware forums, having a videocard that supports PureVideo is important for high quality DVD playback. I'll be hooking it up to a 37" Westinghouse 1080p LCD so I'd like the GPU to support that easily.

Is there a cheaper more appropriate MicroATX mb I could get? I just sorted newegg's list by price and chose the one with the highest ratings.

I will get one of those 3.5"FDD + internal memory card readers for one slot, a DVD burner for the other.

thanks again,

PVJ
January 31, 2007 11:10:29 PM

Im glad you are responding. I personally would choose the motherboard that you picked. I decided upon this by the same method as you, filtering through newegg. However, I seem to remember anandtech.com recommending the same motherboard for a mid-range system.

About the Processor, the only difference between the two seems to be a slight clock speed difference, a major FSB speed and different voltage ratings. The E4300 has voltage ratings of 1.225V-1.325V, while the 6300 has 0.850V-1.3525V.

Now, I do not know what this means. Both are most probably excellent, however when the E4300 came out, everyone was wetting themselves over the fact that after OC'ing, it would outpace the X6800 EE at stock speeds. However as far as I know the 6300 could do this already. The headline-maker was that Its price is rumored to drop down to $133 making it competitive with AMD's X2 3800+.

I was thinking about PureVideo when I was writing the previous post; I remember reading the TH review of the video capabilities of the X1000 and 7000 series from ATI and Nvidia. Since I ordered an eVGA 7900gs several days ago (It shipped this morning, I expect to get it tomorrow!) I will be getting the PureVideo end of the deal. It looks good for me. Just make sure that PureVideo is supported in the 7300 that you chose.

What RAM are you planning to use? I dont plan on criticism, I just would like to know. Also tell me more about your sound card, I just ordered a wonderful Creative competitor the Bluegears b-enspirer. I also look forward to installing and testing that out tomorrow night as well.

Well I suppose I should stop here before I overstay my welcome.

THE END
January 31, 2007 11:13:57 PM

Quote:
I will get one of those 3.5"FDD + internal memory card readers for one slot, a DVD burner for the other.


I assume that you dont know that the DVD burner fits into a 5.25" bay, while the memory card reader/FDD combo goes into a 3.5". The case you chose does have 2 of the former but is absent of the latter. I would suggest researching a 5.25" to 3.5" adapter. Tell me about It for I could surely use one.

Good night and Good Luck
February 1, 2007 12:03:42 AM

I think I'll stick to the E6300 processor then, since I wont be overclocking this machine.

With the money being saved, I'll get the 7600GT video card and maybe play the fun games from the last year.

For RAM, I had decided on pqi TURBO 1GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5400) for $110. Its one stick so later I can add 3 more later on if needed.

I found a 5 to 3 adapter: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

which might do the trick?

thanks

PVJ
February 1, 2007 12:10:09 AM

Quote:
when the E4300 came out, everyone was wetting themselves over the fact that after OC'ing, it would outpace the X6800 EE at stock speeds. However as far as I know the 6300 could do this already.

People get so excited about the E4300 because you don't have to go very high with the FSB and memory speeds in order to get a potentially large performance increase.

Of course, you are not likely to be able to OC the 945 chipset motherboard much if at all. Not really a problem because you wouldn't expect to OC a HTPC. Instead you'd want a HTPC to run cool and quiet. But if you did need extra performance you'd have more options with the E4300 and its 9 multiplier than you would with the E6300 with its 7 multiplier.

Heck, just running the E4300 at 266MHz (1066 FSB) instead of its stock 200Mhz (800 FSB) would boost it to 9*266 = ~2.4GHz, the stock speed of an E6600. While that's probably not practical for the system you're putting together, it still seems worth mentioning/considering. :) 

The main reason I'd recommend an E4300 is because I think it will give you plenty of performance for a HTPC, save you some money, and maybe run a little cooler than an E6300.

-john, the ostensibly clueless redundant legacy dinosaur
February 1, 2007 12:25:06 AM

Quote:
With the money being saved, I'll get the 7600GT video card and maybe play the fun games from the last year.


Low profile brackets are a limit of most small HTPC cases
research it throughly. However after looking at the Pictures at newegg, I can guess that the expansion slots are full size. That means that the 7600gt and your sound card will most probably work. I am not sure if the 7300gs that you chose is lowprofile bracketed or not. If it is not, I fully apologize for what I said earlier to QuantumSheep.
/
My advice:
E4300 $180
Asus Mobo $95
Antec Case $100
RAM $110
7600gt $92 after rebate

total: $577 before tax or shipping, where I live (NY) there is no Newegg tax, however If I lived in NJ or Cali then because of the business having offices and warehouses there I would have to pay tax. Good for NY, keep them out ;) 

Good night and Good Luck to all who seek it
February 1, 2007 1:16:13 AM

Other than the Asus mobo it seems like a decent little system. Gigabyte and Abit would be better selections for a mobo.
February 1, 2007 4:37:34 AM

Thanks for all your advice every one. I've decided on the following:

1) Gigabyte GA-965GM S2 motherboard
2) C2D E6300
3) 1GB (2 x 512) DDR2 800
4) 7600GT DDR3 (I think I might play some games after all)
5) Antec Solutions case w 380W PSU
6) NEC DVD Burner

The total cost so far is: $675.

Would I need a different PSU? Will the 380W power the C2D, 7600GT, some 7200RPM SATA HD, DVD burner, FDD+Memory Card reader?

How about external USB HD's that draw power from the USB as well? What power PSU would you recommend if I need one?

thanks

PVJ
February 1, 2007 5:52:26 AM

nope as configured you're looking at about 200w of power draw.
February 1, 2007 8:31:42 AM

so there you go. The OP comes in with a HTPC idea, and leaves with somewhat resembling a ghetto gaming rig.
I can understand that most of us/you here are bent on overclocking, but read again: HTPC. Yet you start the usual FSB/multiplier trash talk.

No need for 7600 if you're gonna watch Divx movies. If there's no HD content expected - 7300 or low-profile x1300 will do just fine. Plus, those are passively cooled unlike 7600gt

Drop the DDR2 800 if you ain't gonna overclock. Core 2 does not benefit much from 800, 533 or 667 will be about the same in terms of performance.

Heat is your worst enemy in a HTPC so think about quiet and efficient cooling.
February 1, 2007 10:17:32 AM

if u want experience the best quality in videos, and gaming get a ATI Video Card (X1xxx series). This cards have much much better image quality over nvidia since ATI has AVIVO. will convert image and videos in hd. ATI will be a smart choice for a HTPC.
February 1, 2007 1:34:15 PM

Thanks for bringing the original topic back to mind, I was starting to get carried away alas.

So for the videocard, I should return to the original 7300LE for $47.99 and get DDR2 533 for $86, total system being $567 w/o shipping.

Should I do anything special about the cooling? The case has 2 120mm fans, the GFX has a fan, I'll add some heat spreaders to the RAM maybe.

I also cant find many sources showing AVIVO to be better than PureVideo. Why is AVIVO better?

thanks

PVJ
February 1, 2007 1:41:49 PM

They're pretty much equal, that's fanboy talk you got there. Just don't forget to enable pulldown detection in AVIVO settings if you get an ATI card (can't remember the name Nvidia uses for it).

7300le with a fan? There's gotta be a version w/o one.

Two 120mm fans appear to be ok. Check to make sure that the harddrive is gonna get adequate airflow in that case.
February 1, 2007 3:05:04 PM

For reference material, you may want to look at:
Silent PC Review
Endpcnoise.com
The first is about all things quiet and the second sells complete quiet systems for specific tasks, although for about twice what you want to spend. You could use them for a "recipe" for your own build though. I'd try to use as few fans as possible, especially on the video card as those are notoriously noisy.
I wish Intel would get their heads out of their a** and put a DVI connector on their G965 boards. It would be interesting to see how the integrated X3000 graphics would work for this application.
My main advice: Pay close attention to noise.
February 2, 2007 4:23:21 AM

Well I think a fanless GPU is in order.

A Very Long Link

I just picked out the low end and midrange of both company's offerings in fanless. Gigabyte tops the list in reviews for its 7600gs for 105 and its 7300gt for 85, but the 7300 is out of stock.

Both of those have Purevideo which by the way is the equal of AVIVO.
Just read it here:Avivo VS Purevideo

If I were you I would get a fanless video card, its a very good Idea, and those two choices are a bit pricey but it pays off in lack of noise. I guess.

My Wonderful New Specs:
Dell XPS Gen 3
P4 3.2ghz Prescott with HT
2gb (4x512mb) ddr2 533mhz ram
160gb seagate
eVGA 7900gs ko 256mb gpu
Bluegears B-enspirer sound card
lite on lightscribe burner and teac burners
460 watt psu dual 12v rails 17a each

Oh glorious times, I just upgraded hours ago

Anyone want to buy an ATI X800GT 128mb or a Creative Audigy 2 5.1?
Cheap...
February 2, 2007 7:24:05 AM

If you are looking for quiet fans to replace the two 120mm fans that comes with the case, then you can buy some pretty good ones at SVC.com. However, before dropping down extra cash for quieter fans just test out the one that comes with the case.

Should you decide to buy replacement fans then click on the following link to SVC.com:

http://www.svc.com/stfa120.html

Fan that I would recommend are the Global Win, Nexus, Scythe, and Yate Loon. Nexus fans are really quiet and they are cherry picked Yate Loon fans, but they are more than twice the cost. I uses Yate Loon fans and I am satified with their performance and low noise.
February 2, 2007 8:06:34 AM

Quote:
I can only see one problem with that build, the graphics card. Spend slightly more and get something like a 7600GT:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681... which is only $100 after MIR.

I'd actually go the other way and suggest skipping the graphics card altogether ... at least as a first try. The motherboard you selected comes with integrated graphics. Try that first and see if it is adequate to your task. If not, then buy a graphics card. Before you jump to solve a problem, just make sure you actually have a problem. No?

OTOH, if you're already convinced you need a video card, then pick another motherboard that does not include integrated graphics. Don't pay for something if you are not going to use it.

-john, the ostensibly clueless redundant legacy dinosaur

G945 onboard graphics are subpar. The G965 onboard graphics is a much better choice....X3000. It scored on par with a 7600 GS 512 card.
February 2, 2007 9:25:56 AM

http://www.nexfan.com/

is cheaper for the same goods. SVC kills you on the shipping as well. Yate loon fans are cheap and quiet with good airflow. The evercool is real quiet but has much less airflow. Get the rubber silencers they really work.
February 2, 2007 2:55:30 PM

Quote:
G945 onboard graphics are subpar. The G965 onboard graphics is a much better choice....X3000. It scored on par with a 7600 GS 512 card.

Good point. The ASUS P5B-VM Intel G965 Express Micro ATX is about $30 more. Not sure if that's an issue for the OP or not. (Or how "locked into" Asus he is, for that matter).

OTOH, this change would also mean going from an ICH7 to an ICH8 Southbridge. The ICH7 is ever so slightly slower in disk benchmarks but it still provides support for PATA. OTOH, the JMicron JMB363 Asus throws on the P5B-VM also gives it an eSATA connection, which doesn't suck.

-john, the ostensibly clueless redundant legacy dinosaur
February 3, 2007 5:11:22 PM

Thanks for your suggestions, every one.

The board I think I'm going with is the Gigabyte GA-965GM-S2-LGA. The motivation being that its one of the better MicroATX G965 boards out there and newegg has it in stock for 110.

For the videocard, I found an ASUS 7300LE with 128MB on board 512MB support fanless card for $51. It'll run all the PureVideo goodies etc and if I ever decide to replace it with some DX10 card, it'll only be 50 bucks down the drain.

I'm saving some money on the RAM, getting a DDR2-533 2*512MB for $86. Its cheap enough that I could double it without spending much if needed.

For cooling, I was only going to add aluminum ram heatsinks and go with the 2 stock fans. The HTPC case will be kept in a closed TV stand but if its still noisy, I'll replace something.

So in summary,
1) G965MAtx MB + E6300 + 1GB DDR2-533 RAM : $384
2) 7300LE GDDR2 Fanless : $051
3) HTPC case + Burner + Cables + Heatsink : $141
Total HTPC cost : $576

I'm going to order it in a week or so, along with a 37" Westinghouse for 1080p playback.

Any final suggestions please?

thanks

PVJ
February 3, 2007 5:15:10 PM

I have a question though, will the onboard video be better than the 7300LE? In that case, the issue would be comparing purevideo on 7300LE with the onboard cards DVD displaying capability.

Thanks

PVJ
February 4, 2007 2:45:48 AM

It looks perfectly fine.

However a bit of nit-picking:
The GPU is fanless, thats good, but its also 128mb with 512mb supported

You might or you might not know that TurboCache the nvidia tech that the 512 comes from, is a controversial tech.

It gets that from the main ram much like integrated graphics, in your 1gb config it might not get 512mb most likely 256mb.

As far as I know you can shut it down in some control panel somewhere
Its not a true issue as the 128mb is good for anything you need it for.
OMG i think you just posted, ill answer more now
February 4, 2007 2:56:38 AM

Ok... if you aren't still on your post ill PM you now

My EVGA box for my 7900gs says that the 7300 series is 5x faster than basic integrated graphics, which in the fine print says is the 945G integrated.

The 965 is better, but as someone said on this forum no integrated graphics so far have surpassed the Radeon 7500.

This said, the 7300LE, or as a true techie would say: 7300 Lame Edition is more than you need for your tasks. It is far superior to the integrated graphics as well as having a fanless setup as well as a DVI port. The DVI port alone is worth the investment.

I say go for it, it looks superb
February 4, 2007 1:57:51 PM

It might be worth making sure that your video card supports HDCP. The older models did not, but I haven't checked the most recent cards out. I just know that a few of them do support HDCP, and are known for it.

Also, are you planning on any kind of TV tuner? As long as you're making an HTPC, you might want to give it some Tivo / DVR capabilities. Of course then you'd need to connect up (or network) some more disk drives...
February 4, 2007 3:31:48 PM

TV tuner? OS?
February 5, 2007 2:54:19 AM

I expect the videocard to be fine for DVD playback and I might get 2GB RAM right off the bat so the shared memory shouldnt be a big issue.
I also didnt want to get an ADD2 DVI card either if I stuck with the integrated card.

The thing with the TV tuner is, I dont have a cable package and barely get any standard TV channels (yay, flatland Illinois) so all my viewing is DVD's and divx's.

I imagine in 2 years or so, I can build a bigger more powerful PC with a couple of GPU's and tuner cards and still salvage some parts from this build.

Right now, usenet is my source for all things digital.

OS will be XP SP2. The monitor for it is a 1080p with DVI input, so I'll be using regular mouse/keyboard to do things on it.

I get XP SP2 free from MSDNAA so thats good too.


PVJ
February 5, 2007 9:16:58 PM

If all you want to do for 2 years is watch dvds and play Divx, buy a DivX certified DVD player. It'll be a lot easier to install and give better picture.
a b B Homebuilt system
February 5, 2007 10:51:26 PM

Go with a 7900GT and you will be happy. Best bang for the $. :D 
February 5, 2007 11:50:38 PM

Sorry people I did not read all you messages, but the system he wanted to build is not for gaming

For what you want, here are my personal recommendations
In addition, yes I am a bad speller

Hardware:
CPU-either will do the job easy. Even the cheapest Intel cel will do, but I would personal go for c2d for TV recording and low heat

Motherboard - DVI integrated graphic motherboard are available but get one with agp/pci-e x16. PCI-E and onboard raid for storage and future upgrades

Graphics- ati does and all for most forever displayed a better picture quality then NVIDIA. But this has meant a performance hit. All X1xxx series ati have vivo. Divx and other codec’s are optimized for ati hardware too. (I am not slugging NVIDIA, I use a 6600gt)

Memory- 1 GB ram is fine

Hard drive- I prefer 320 GB drive for there cost per GB


OS
Windows Xp is fine, I would look at using Media Portal is a free open source media center. It has worked with all TV card remotes that I have used. Go to the web site to read more about it


Fan Noise Is Your Enemy!
Sub 20db for all fans, this include CPU and power
Allot of htpc case a known to have bad are flow the extra fan mounts should be used
I have always found when using a fan less graphics card to mount a low rpm/db fan
February 8, 2007 9:06:12 PM

Agree with much of your approach, esp. the ATI card for display, except I think a "cheap" video card would be better (for HTPC) any day, than built-in. Despite our affinity for ATI in this circumstance, you can pick up a 6600LE for chump change, and these used to be "state-of-the-art" for HTPC apps. This one is passively cooled and at only $55, worth the hit on the budget:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...
!