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For a cheap HTPC

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January 27, 2008 2:26:47 PM

I'll try to do it fast.

I want to build a cheap HTPC system. I'm looking for a cheap CPU (maybe Celeron E1600 or A64 3800+) with around 2GB of memory. I wil then add an ATI HD3400 VPU to take HDTV decoding off my "weak" cpu.

My question is, what part do you suggest (cpu, memory, case and VPU specificly) and will it be better to get it from the like of HP or Dell?

Thanks for your input.

More about : cheap htpc

a b B Homebuilt system
a b à CPUs
January 27, 2008 3:06:39 PM

What kind of budget are we talking?

Also, do you plan on doing any video encoding?
January 27, 2008 11:12:32 PM

Budget would be less then 500$ (i know it very low) and no video encoding at all. I do have a very powerful desktop to take care of it. I'll use that system to hold my movies, play them, and HD Movies when I'll be able to put my hand on a cheap HD_DVD and or Blu-Ray player (no burner needed) to put in my HTPC.
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a b B Homebuilt system
a b à CPUs
January 28, 2008 12:14:02 PM

That's a tight budget. A couple more questions:

What front end are you planning to use? MythTV, MCE2005, Vista Media Center, etc? (Hopefully you already have the OS if you plan on using Microsoft!)

Do you plan to use the HTPC as a DVR?

For a case, your best bet would be to go with nMediaPC's lineup or perhaps Vtech. They are aimed at budget HTPC's.
January 28, 2008 3:54:04 PM

I'd say any Athlon X2 (AM2) with a M2A-VM-HDMI board ($85 board with DVI/VGA/HDMI Out), there are really good specials on RAM at Anitec.ca & NCIX.com so you can get premium 2GB sets for $20-$40 after rebate. NCIX also has good specials on cases if you keep an eye on the weekly specials.

Jo
January 28, 2008 4:30:29 PM

Antec New Solution NSK2480 Black/Silver 0.8mm cold-rolled steel MicroATX Desktop Computer Case 380W Power Supply - $115
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

AMD Athlon 64 X2 4000+ Brisbane 2.1GHz Socket AM2 65W Dual-Core Processor Model ADO4000DDBOX - $60 w/ free shipping
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

GIGABYTE GA-MA69GM-S2H AM2 AMD 690G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - $80
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Kingston 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model KVR800D2K2/2GR - $45 w/ free shipping
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD3200AAKS 320GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive - $80 w/ free shipping
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

SAMSUNG 20X DVD±R DVD Burner with LightScribe Black SATA Model SH-S203N - $34 w/ free shipping
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

That's $414 before shipping (probably around $25) and you have a high efficiency power supply in the case (380W Earthwatts). You can add on an HD 3600 when they come out, and use the onboard til then.

Or, you can get this (that has UVD in it) right now:

SAPPHIRE 100206L Radeon HD 2600PRO 256MB 128-bit GDDR2 PCI Express x16 CrossFire Supported Video Card - $58 after MIR w/ free shipping ($73 before)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

or

SAPPHIRE 100208L Radeon HD 2600XT 256MB 128-bit GDDR3 PCI Express x16 HDCP Ready CrossFire Supported Video Card - $93
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

For a little more pixel-pushing power.

That should be a decent start. $500 isn't an extreme budget, that was easy, quiet frankly. And it should handle HD/BluRay easily.
a b B Homebuilt system
a b à CPUs
January 28, 2008 4:47:56 PM

^Great list above by KyleSTL.

You might need to add Vista Premium ($110)and a HDTV tuner card (~$100) to the list if the OP needs them, that's what makes the $500 budget tight. MythTV plus no tuner card and the budget is met though.

I use the GA-MA69GM-S2H in my HTPC. It's a good board with everything under the sun included onboard. I found that the northbridge heatsink is insufficient though to cool the chipset in an HTPC setting (small case inside a media cabinet) and the onboard video heats up and starts to show artifacts like crazy. I had to install a Zalman heatsink to cool the chipset better. Now I only get artifacts during encoding after an hour or so(100% CPU load on both cores).

I suggest the OP waits a bit for the RS780 chipsets to become available. That way the onboard video with UVD can decode HD just like the 2600 and 3400 cards can.
January 28, 2008 5:07:54 PM


Not very good suggestions, IMO. A budget of $500 just SCREAMS AMD platform. Rosewill = not good (in anything). Furthmore, you don't have a power supply. :pfff:  Awfully hard to turn on your new HTPC with no PSU.
rwpritchett said:
You might need to add Vista Premium ($110)and a HDTV tuner card (~$100) to the list if the OP needs them, that's what makes the $500 budget tight.

Oops. DUH! :pt1cable: 

That is true the RS780 should be good, it's probably worth the wait.
a b B Homebuilt system
a b à CPUs
January 28, 2008 5:18:41 PM

KyleSTL said:
Not very good suggestions, IMO. A budget of $500 just SCREAMS AMD platform. Rosewill = not good (in anything). Furthmore, you don't have a power supply. :pfff:  Awfully hard to turn on your new HTPC with no PSU.

Oops. DUH! :pt1cable: 

That is true the RS780 should be good, it's probably worth the wait.


Wolfseeker's list also forgot to include video, onboard or otherwise.

Any idea when the RS780 will be in the US? I saw it made it's debut in China already and all I can find online is "January" which is nearly over. I might have to switch out my GA-MA69GM-S2H for one when they get here.
a b B Homebuilt system
February 8, 2008 2:41:50 AM

Case: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
(cheap $47)
MB: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
($75 with an HDMI port built in)
CPU: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
($60 AMD 64 X2 4000+)
RAM: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
(2Gb for $44 DDR2 800 at 1.9V)
HDD: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
($150 for a 750Gb)
PS: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
($50 Modular is great for a HTPC)
Vid: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
($55 Not necessary, but better than onboard)
OS: your choice of Vista, or XP media center
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
(XP $115)

I still prefer XP, so total is: $481 + S&H, no OS (vid card not nessecary, but preferred)
$596 + S&H, with OS (vid card not nessecary, but preferred)
a b B Homebuilt system
a b à CPUs
a b } Memory
February 8, 2008 4:34:34 AM

If you don't need an HTPC case, I can personally recommend Antec NSK6580 which comes with a 430W PSU for $79.95. I just used it in a build, and it will not disappoint you.

If you need an HTPC case $60, 400W look at: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811190105, or try to use the 270W that's in the case IH8U recommended :) 

This saves $17 to $37. Otherwise, his suggestions are not too bad.
February 20, 2008 2:48:01 PM

I'm trying to build an HTPC out of a pre-existing computer I have lying around. I was wondering however if the processor and video card are strong enough to handle the load. My processor is an AMD sempron 2.04 Ghz in a MSI K8N Neo3-F motherboard. My video card is an Radeon X800GT. I have 1 Gig of RAM. My processor and board are socket 754 and if so let me know some upgrades (ie. another stick of RAM, another socket 754 processor). I have been looking around and found an AMD Athlon 64 2.4 Ghz.. would that be much better? The TV tuner I want to use is the Hauppauge 1600... Let me know what I need to get this wannabe HTPC off the ground and displaying TV on my new 22" LCD computer monitor (Envision 22" widescreen)
a b B Homebuilt system
a c 132 à CPUs
a b } Memory
February 20, 2008 4:09:59 PM

since this is here....anyone have a list of matx boards with tv out?(s-vid, not HD for me:(  )

I know biostar has one for AM2...anything else?
a b B Homebuilt system
a c 133 à CPUs
a b } Memory
February 20, 2008 5:04:29 PM

Coolmax PSUs are on tier-5 ("Do not buy") of the list at http://www.tomswiki.com/page/Tiered+PSU+Listings?t=anon. FSP makes some tier-3 models that are relatively inexpensive and should be sufficient for a HTPC.
a b B Homebuilt system
a c 132 à CPUs
a b } Memory
February 20, 2008 5:54:36 PM

rwpritchett said:
The Gigabyte GA-MA69MA-S2H has onboard HDMI, DVI, VGA, and comes with an addon pci bracket (plugs into a motherboard header) that includes component, composite, and S-video. It's an AM2 board.

http://www.giga-byte.com/Products/Motherboard/Products_Overview.aspx?ProductID=2579

Cool, thanks. for only 2$ more then biostar with better features....
If there are any 775 boards i would be interested too....cpu means less with SD vid's(its all price :) )
a b B Homebuilt system
a b à CPUs
February 20, 2008 6:08:12 PM

If you want to go intel, your best bet is to buy a video card with s-video out. That will open up all sorts of options, but it will affect the budget. Maybe consider a X3450 or X3470 for ~$50.

BTW, I use the above mentioned Gigabyte board for my HTPC. Believe the reviews that mention how hot the NB chipset gets. I had to replace the stock heatsink with an aftermarket one.
a b B Homebuilt system
a c 132 à CPUs
a b } Memory
February 20, 2008 6:14:51 PM

thanks....since i am gonna loose the pci-e x4 slot anyway(if i add a fan to it...)...i guess a big nb cooler is best...and quietest...

I will stop hijacking now....
February 20, 2008 7:22:35 PM

An HTPC on a $500 budget is really tough. I started with an Athlon 64 3500 and 9800 Pro in a DVINE case, Audigy 2, ATI TV Wonder elite + ATI HDTV Wonder. CPU was too hot and overall system was noisy. Installed fanless heat pipe on vid card and then fanless power supply. Noise was good but system was too hot. Then installed Thermaltake Big Typhoon and heat issues were gone. Started recording over-the-air HDTV and ran out of disc space (about 8GB/hour in best quality and only 320 GB HDD). Installed 2 TB file server and space issues were gone. Bought new 1080p TV and decided to go with HD DVD/Blu Ray. Ended up getting x2 4200 and fanless 2600 pro as old CPU and Vid card could not play HD.

End result is nowhere near $500 :( 
a b B Homebuilt system
a b à CPUs
February 20, 2008 7:45:54 PM

Sounds a lot like my story. I just yanked my full 320GB drive out and replaced with 1TB drive, and now that HD-DVD threw in the towel I was thinking of getting a blu-ray drive, but then I'd probably have to get a UVD video card to replace the onboard x1250, and then encoding Hi-Def video would make a quad-core CPU a must-have, which will fill up my new 1TB drive in no time so I'll need more storage..........

and it goes on and on......

My wife thinks we should just get TiVo and a stand-alone player :cry: 
February 20, 2008 8:33:22 PM

I just finished by HTPC build and learned the hard way that if your using Vista you really need a Core 2 processor. I have a 2.8 Ghz Celeron and it wont play HD without massive stuttering. Once I upgrade my processor I'm still not sure it will all be worth it. In the end my Comcast HD/DVR box was a hell of alot cheaper and the picture quality looks better on the Comcast box as well.
a b B Homebuilt system
a c 132 à CPUs
a b } Memory
February 20, 2008 9:16:10 PM

HD on a 2.8 Celeron(P4 based) is always gonna suck no matter what the OS...
February 20, 2008 10:13:14 PM

Watching HDTV with the HD TV Wonder via cheap antenna on either my old 9800 pro or the current 2600 pro has always been better then via my Comcast or Millenium cable. I'm guessing it's the compression used. I get far less artifacts, and more detail.

I think the vid card is going to do more for HD than the CPU (celeron doesn't count as a real cpu).
February 20, 2008 11:02:43 PM

Interesting....I'm watching HD over cable using QAM on my computer and the quality does not look as good. I'm using the HDHOMERUN tuner. I also have the ATI2600 pro video card.
February 20, 2008 11:34:29 PM

Since blu-ray has unofficially won the format war, u MAY want to look at a cpu (from thg benches) that can handle blu-ray.
Its my understanding that anything less than an e4300 will NOT be able to handle it at stock speeds.

Im also SLOWLY building an HTPC around a 4300 which ive OC'd to ~3.4Ghz in the past.
1Gb ram should be fine, but ram is so cheap anyways...
500Gb hdd
Mobo: Micro ATX: TBA
GFX: May use the 8800GTS 320 if i upgrade, or look at the new 9600's
February 21, 2008 12:56:55 AM

wolfseeker2828 said:
I was in a rush.


So you went out the door and forgot you didn't have any pants on. :p 
February 21, 2008 1:26:54 PM

bigbubba139 said:
I'm trying to build an HTPC out of a pre-existing computer I have lying around. I was wondering however if the processor and video card are strong enough to handle the load. My processor is an AMD sempron 2.04 Ghz in a MSI K8N Neo3-F motherboard. My video card is an Radeon X800GT. I have 1 Gig of RAM. My processor and board are socket 754 and if so let me know some upgrades (ie. another stick of RAM, another socket 754 processor). I have been looking around and found an AMD Athlon 64 2.4 Ghz.. would that be much better? The TV tuner I want to use is the Hauppauge 1600... Let me know what I need to get this wannabe HTPC off the ground and displaying TV on my new 22" LCD computer monitor (Envision 22" widescreen)



you should have no problem at all.

i have very similar specs on my leftover parts.

amd64 3200+ socket 754
MSI K8TNeo MB
ATI Radeon 9600 128mb card
1 GB PC3200 Ram
Chaintech or something 7.1 sound card with SP/DIF out
Hauppauge 1600

I use Vista's Media center. No Lag, or choppy video. (because of Hardware enc/dec on the Hauppauge).

only thing i can complain about is the start up time and maybe a bit of the time between switching applications... but that is pretty much due to only 1 GB of ram and using vista ultimate.

Otherwise... it works great. I use mine on a 42" LCD.

hope that helps a bit.
February 22, 2008 1:02:07 AM

Just thought I'd add that the HDMI implementation on the ATI 2600 and up cards seems to be much neater than the Nvidia cards. With Nvidia, if I'm not mistaken, you have to connect your SPDIF ouput via cable to the vid card, whereas the ATI has a built in 5.1 audio processor.

Just some FYI for those that want nice and neat HDMI.
February 22, 2008 1:57:23 AM

I dont wanna sound like a broken record, but with blu-ray drives being so cheap... why would u build a dedicated HTPC without one?
Just buy a 2nd hand xbox for $50.

Your beloved AMD 64 3800x2 will take 60.0 sec to playback 60sec of bluray movie, leaving you exactly 0% margin for any other processing tasks.

An e2140 on the other hand will take 44sec to play 60sec. So u can still watch if ur virus scanner/bit torrents/wifi etc start cranking.
!