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Review my HTPC build, pretty please!

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June 6, 2007 9:19:12 PM

Hey guys first off a big thanks, I just built my first computer around 4 months ago. Thanks for all of your help with my first time build.

Now my living situation has changed and I would love to build a HTPC for all of my digital media.

I am not planning on building for at least a few months, want to wait for Intel's price drop and my funds are drastically low. So unless money falls from the sky or somebody takes pity on me and gives me cash I will have to wait.

Anyways here is a list of components I have put together, and I would like your guys input. Would love to be able to play HD DVD and Bluray movies in the future when the drives prices come down from the heavens. Also will be playing ~12mbit x264 files, so need a little bit of power. Absolutely no gaming on this build, only for my music, movies, and photos to be displayed on my 32" Samsung (LNS3251D).

With out further to do here is the list.
Case: SilverStone Lascala SST-LC20M
Mobo: ASUS P5B-E
PSU: ENERMAX Liberty ELT500AWT 500W
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E6420
GPU: ASUS EN8600GT SILENT
RAM: SUPER TALENT 2GB (2 x 1GB) DDR2 800
HDD(OS): Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 320GB
HDD(Storage): Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 500GB
Audio: AuzenTech XPlosion 7.1
Case Fans: MASSCOOL 80mm Case Fan

I still need to find a good basic wireless desktop, nothing fancy just the basics. Also maybe a good low profile after market CPU cooler, and will the generic case fans listed above give the smaller case adequate air flow while keeping the noise to a minimum? If not any other recommendations?

So far the build is around $1250. I would like to bring it down maybe closer to $1000. By the time I will be able to buy it all I suppose prices will have dropped maybe bringing it closer to my target price.

Thanks again guys for your time and help.
JuGgErS out.

More about : review htpc build pretty

June 7, 2007 3:24:12 AM

Seeing as I just built one of these, I'll give you my feedback.

1) CASE
Looks good, wish I had gone with it instead of a Thermaltake Bach. I plan on using it in my next HTPC build. Make sure you shop around, that's pretty high. I'd get the non-vfd one and buy a Microsoft remote.

2) MB
Also looks good. I went with the 965p-ds3 by Gigabyte to save some money, but that MB will also work.

3) PSU
WAY too much power supply! Save some money, buy a nice ~$50-$60 PSU. That's pretty expensive for 500w. I bought a 550w Antec TruePowerTreo for $65 and it's far more power than I need.

4) CPU
A good CPU, can't really complain. I used the E4300 to save money again and OCed to 3.2 with a small volt bump. Temps are below 60c load and it's silent with an S-Flex 63 CFM fan

5) GPU
I used that same GPU, but by Gigabyte. No noise, works great, but might be even more than you need. 8500GT would work just as well and save you some money

6) RAM
Not sure on the RAM. I bought A-DATA RAM, and while it works great at 800, it BOMBS at anything much higher. Look into G-Skill RAM, I hear it OCs well.

7) HDD
I used the same HDD too! I like it, fast and relatively quiet. The seek is a little crunchy, if you know what I mean, but it's not really noticeable.

8) 2 HDD
Plenty of size, can't go wrong.

9) AUDIO
Thank you for picking something OTHER than Creative! I've heard good things about that card. I went with a Striker 7.1, but that card will probably be just as good.

10) FAN
Don't know anything about those fans, I'm using 120mm fans in mine. If www.silentpcreview.com gives them a thumbs up then go for it.

As far as an aftermarket HS, I used the Thermalright SI-128. It's huge and cools REALLY well, as you can see with my CPU OC. I'm pleased with it and it's low enough to use in an HTPC, unlike Tuniq's 120 or Tr's 120 towers.

If you use the price saving parts that I did you can probably buy it now for under $1000.
June 7, 2007 5:10:24 AM

Thanks for your feedback nvalhalla.

1.) I will look around for a better price on the case, and it does look awesome.

2.) I like the P5B-E, it is in my current build so I know how everything works, plus I have the ability to raid over the 965P-DS3.

3.) Too much power? Is there such a thing? I was wanting to go with a good PSU that might last several upgrade cycles. Is this wrong? Still a nub and definitely don't know enough.

4.) Currently I have the E6600 running stock and some of the x264 movies use upwards of 50% CPU time. Really don't want to have to OC and introduce added heat. Plus with Intel's price drop nearing maybe it will get even better. Another thought would be me upgrading to a quad-core and using my e6600 in my HTPC build.

5.) Will wait till closer to build time, the HD 2600 XT might be even better although I would love to stick with Nvidia. For the time being the passively cooled 8600GT looks kick ass.

6.)Again same RAM I am using on my current build, I got it because it is supposed to OC well. Haven't got the chance to check that yet as I haven't been able to sit down and learn about OC'in and pushing my system. Have used the E6600 @ 3.0 GHz with no problems, but I want to learn more about it before I start going crazy and damaging components.

7.) Heard the 7200.10 series was awesome, so I am gonna give it a try. And what do you mean about the seek being a little bit crunchy?

8.) Add it to my 2x500GB and 1x400GB already full :wink: I want to go with a 750GB but the price/GB still isn't there.

9.) I too have heard good things about this sound card, was thinking about getting it for my current gaming rig, but have been told to go with a X-Fi card instead. I will stick w/ the AuzenTech XPlosion 7.1 for the HTPC though.

10.) I checked with www.silentpcreview.com and found some Nexus Real Silent 80 mm fans. Sounds like they will work, but only 20 CFM at maximum speed x 5 in the case will this be enough to keep things cool?

11.) For the after market HSF I am not sure how much room will be afforded in the case. I will probably build it with the stock HSF and upgrade later when I see how much room I have to play with.

Thanks again guys, any other suggestions would be awesome.
JuGgErS out.
Related resources
June 7, 2007 7:38:04 PM

Those are nice specs for an HTPC, maybe even slightly overkill. Contrary to popular belief, an HTPC does not have to be a powerhouse machine. As a matter of fact, a nice and fast single core proc with 2GB memory is still more than enough power for an HTPC.

If I were to build a new HTPC today, I would go with an Athlon64 X2 4400 ($140) on an Asus A8-VM micro-ATX mobo ($60) with 2GB PC3200 Corsair Value RAM. While these selection aren't as sexy as what you've spec'd out, it's more than enough to play any media, record, and web surf. Being able to watch x264 video is as much a software player issue as it is a hardware issue. If you use a quality codec and well supported player then hardware is even less of an issue.

The video and sound card choices are a matter of personal preference, and depends on whether you are connecting your HTPC directly to the TV or if you are channelling A/V through a stereo receiver. Got an HDMI connector? DVI? S-Video?

One thing missing from your list is a Analog/HD tuner card at which I recommend either the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-150 or the WinTV-PVR-500 for analog and the ATI HDTV Wonder.

As a comparison, my HTPC was slapped together with left over parts from previous builds and currently exists as an aBit IC7-G mobo, P4 Skt 478 2.4GHz 533FSB, 1GB Corsair Value RAM, an ATI AIW 9600 8x AGP, an m-Audio 7.1 Revolution, DVD-RW, and is housed in an Antec Overture. I use this thing as a PVR, to watch any and all media files, play MAME, and web surf using a wireless kb with a built in mouse.

Good luck!
June 7, 2007 10:04:47 PM

Any of you HTPC guys ever use a disc media changer, like this one? Or this one?

Just wondering because I'm considering building an HTPC too and have an extensive movie library. HDD storage would be awesome but currently much more expensive - $315 for 1.7 terabytes is hard to beat :) .
June 7, 2007 10:29:24 PM

i will take that info into consideration, but I kind of wanted to future proof this build as much as possible, and I know for a fact that anything under a dual core x2 4800 will have difficulties playing the high bit rate x264 files i am intending to watch.

The tuner is something that i have overlooked. I will be checking in on what HD content is aired in my area and if their is anything good, i will be looking at picking up a OTA HD tuner.

Thanks again for the ideas.
June 8, 2007 10:00:01 AM

Hey nice choice of spec i just got finished building my own one too this is what my initial build was....


Antec Fusion Media Center Case, Aluminum front bezel, w/430W PSU

Samsung DVD±RW burner, SH-S182M, 18x, Dual, LightScribe, DVDRAM, Zwart OEM

Samsung SpinPoint T166 500GB SATA2 16MB 7200RPM

ABIT Fatal1ty F-I90HD, ATI RX1250, HDMI,m-ATX, DDR2, Socket-775, GbLAN, PCI-Ex16

Corsair TWIN2X 5400 DDR2, 2048MB PC5400 Kit w/two matched CM2X1024-5400C4 Dimm's

Intel Core 2 Duo E4300 1.8GHz Socket LGA775, 2MB, BOXED w/fan

Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium Eng OEM DVD 32bit

Belkin PCI 54Mbps Wireless Plus 802.11g


And it ran very sweet but sucked even for light gaming so now i have an 8600gts overclocked and its dam near perfect in a few weeks time i get my new blue ray drive (internal) and my new HDDVD drive (external the xbox one) so i should be sitting pretty with my new HD system :) 
June 8, 2007 6:01:16 PM

Thanks guys for all of the awesome help.

Couple of things.

1.) Can you give me a few ideas for a good low profile after market CPU HSF. The Scythe SCINF-1000 120mm that I have running in my current build is definitely way too big. Something that gets the job done with as little noise as possible. I have no idea how much room I will have to play with on the case I have chose to use.

2.) For the 320 GB OS HDD, I was planning on making ~15GB partition on which I would install the OS and just the rest for bulk storage. The mobo I am looking at is limited to 6 SATA II HDD and I don't want to run a smaller OS drive and lose valuable storage space. Let me know if this is wrong.

3.) I was told my PSU is too much, but I want a reliable good PSU that will last a couple of upgrade cycles. Again is this the wrong way of thinking? If so can you give me a few ideas for some lower cost good alternatives.

4.) Like I said this is strictly no gaming only HD DVD, Bluray, and HD x264 files so will going for the 8500gt be a poor decision over the 8600gt? Will I lose anything?

5.) Several of you have said go with cheaper RAM, what do you guys recommend? I would love to be able to OC in the future when it is needed (so the build will last longer).

6.) I will drop the audio card to save some dollars, maybe in the future I will look into getting a card. Do after market cards only improve game sound? With SPDIF pass through is there even a need for the extra card?

Thanks guys, I greatly appreciated you help, time, and ideas.

JuGgErS out.
June 8, 2007 7:30:47 PM

It's difficult to really offer some pratical suggestions if you don't spec the TV or monitor or verify if you are connecting the A/V thru a stereo receiver. But, with that said, here are some more thoughts...

1.) Check out the Zalman CNPS7000B-CU. Nice!

2.) Me personally, I recommend 2 drives rather partitioning on large one, for two reasons. A) if a drive fails then you've only lost that data, and B) if you plan recording/PVR, then the same physical drive will be spinning to cache and save the media which could possibly make for dodgy recording. Generally speaking, I recommend on smaller drive for the OS and a 2nd larger one for storage.

6.) Straight audio pass thru from the onboard sound will only sound as good as the audio source. If the media you are watching is 2 channel then that's all the pass thru will give you, same idea for DTS, AC3, 5.1 Dolby sourced media. With that said, going with onboard sound and straight pass thru is fine if you are connecting to a stereo receiver that offers some signal processing; i.e.; having the ability to turn 2 channel audio into 6.1 surround. I would not recommed going from straight pass thru onboard sound into the TV speakers, even if the TV offers "virtual" surround. Even if you are connecting the A/V thru a stereo receiver, a good sound card is still recommended, something like the Auzentech X-Plosion or the M-Audio 7.1 Revolution. I understand wanting to save a few bucks, but what good is a nice HTPC if the audio is sub-par, what good is an HTPC if you don't "feel" the explosions from the opening scene of "Saving Private Ryan" or "feel" the Sauron's eye explode at the end of Return of the King?

Check out these websites for more HTPC info, hardware, software, and build ideas.

Digital Connection
Home Theater High Fidelity
Home Theater Info

Good luck!
June 8, 2007 7:53:10 PM

TV is 32" Samsung (LNS3251D)

1.) The CPU HSF you mentioned looks awesome, sounds like it does a great job cooling and keeping the noise down. Plus it looks like it should fit in the case I want. Awesome find thank you. Make sure and get the needed clip if you are going to use a C2D processor.

2.) I will probably go ahead and pick up a smaller HDD for the OS. I have noticed on my current build when raring large files that are on my OS drive and not one of my storage drives Windows does slow quite a bit. Again thank you for the suggestion.

3.) The HTPC will be connected to a Onkyo TXSR503 receiver, and the AC3 and DTS will be passed straight through. So for the time being (maybe for good) I am forgoing the audio card.

4.) Processor I am still up in the air about. Since I am flat broke and waiting for a while anyways I will just wait and see what Intel does with their price drop and then decide what processor to get.

Thanks for your help chunkymonster, it is greatly appreciated.
JuGgErS out.
a b B Homebuilt system
June 8, 2007 8:20:57 PM

My $0.02

For a tuner card, consider either the AverMedia M780 or the Hauppauge HVR-1600. Both are dual tuners that take analog (NTSC) and digital (ATSC) signals so you won't have to buy two separate cards. Excellent source for tuner and general HTPC info: http://www.hdtvtunerinfo.com/

I have the Liberty 500W you are considering, and it's a really good PSU, is very quiet, and is modular. That being said, it is kind of overkill, so you may consider the 400W version for less $$$ or take a look at Seasonic's S12 line of PSU's which are arguably the quietest PSU's unless you go passive. The 430W version can be had for $75 at XPCGear.com or you could possibly get the 380W for even less.

I also have the 320GB 7200.10 HDD and can confirm that it has an audible read/write, though it sounds like it's muffled compared to my 7200.7 drives in the same system. From reviews I've read, Samsung's spinpoint drives are the way to go for silence. Maybe consider a small 80-160GB single platter Samsung drive for your OS? BTW, what OS are you going to use? Vista Premium, MCE2005, or XP+3rd party?
June 8, 2007 8:57:21 PM

rwpritchett thank you for your $0.02.

I will keep those tuners in mind, as for now I am not planning on using a tuner, if i decide to in the future they will be where I start looking.

Exactly the kind of info I was looking for on the PSU, thank you very much. I decided to go with the Liberty 400W, but is this going to be enough power if I decide to do some light OCing?

I will do some digging into the Spinpoint series drives, I had no idea they even existed.

OS will be XP w/ some 3rd party media software. Any suggestions on them? I would love to still be able to use Media Player Classic, and I know MediaPortal will all this. Plus my case comes with iMon media center software, so I will probably give that a go first.

Still up in the air about the case fans though. Nexus Real Silent 80mm fans got a great review at www.silentpcreview.com but I am a little worried that running a passively cooled GPU and only having ~80-100 CFM air flow max in the case will result in hot components. Ideas, $0.02?

Thanks again
JuGgErS out.
June 8, 2007 9:43:41 PM

I say go with this fully setup htpc you can always add a discrete graphics card if you deem it necessary.
a b B Homebuilt system
June 8, 2007 10:21:06 PM

Quote:
Exactly the kind of info I was looking for on the PSU, thank you very much. I decided to go with the Liberty 400W, but is this going to be enough power if I decide to do some light OCing?

Go to Extreme Outervision and calculate what you need. If you have OC plans, you may need more. It all depends on everything you throw in there. The before mentioned website can take into account OC'ing.

Quote:
I say go with this fully setup htpc you can always add a discrete graphics card if you deem it necessary.

Awww... where's the fun in that? :p 
June 11, 2007 1:23:26 PM

already working, comes with the os, and you save a few bucks
June 11, 2007 4:12:47 PM

Quote:
already working, comes with the os, and you save a few bucks


Thanks for the idea, the money savings in enticing but I already have an OS and I would love to build it myself. The entire process is kind of fun.


@rwpritchett I completely forgot about that site. I entered in everything my HTPC might one day have and it came to 396W, so it looks like the 500W stays for now. Looks like it have a fairly good idea of what I am going to throw into the build, now I just have to wait for the money to play.

Thanks for all of your guys help. I will update this post whenever, if ever, i am able to build. Damn school loans coming due.....

JuGgErS out.
!