Building A Custom HD HTPC/Gaming rig advice welcome

I'm going to buy an new 1080p HDTV and I'm planning on building my own PC to go along with it, as both a high definition HTPC (although without a HTPC case, a normal mid-tower is fine with me) that will also serve as a gaming PC.

I haven't finalized any of the specifications, other than it will not use any Asus parts whatsoever (i was burned in the past to the tune of $2000 in failed computer equipment that Asus wouldn't RMA for me, long story, suffice to say I'm allergic to Asus) I've built over 17 PCs in the past, so i do know a fair bit about custom building, but the HTPC realm is fairly new, and scary territory to me, especially getting the HDTV and stuff to all work right together.

I was looking at HDTVs in the 46" range, but I am flexible a little, and was trying to keep it under $2000, i have a few ideas on this, but nobody had actually hooked the TVs on the review sites i browsed to the kind of gaming rig i plan to build. so i don't know if the TV i liked is the best for my new HD HTPC (albeit in a mid-tower case) the TV i liked best was the Samsung LN-T4661F, which was around $1600

I am flexible, but i won't go below a 42" screen, and i won't accept anything below 'FullHD' 1080P yeah i know a lot of stuff is 720p or 1080i, but i won't accept hardware that won't support 1080P because that is my intended native output resolution from my PC to my TV.

I don't play a lot of FPSes, but RTS games are my favorite, this system will definitely play SC2, WC3TFT, Supreme commander, as well as Heroes V, and Civ 4.

okay the bare minimal configuration I'm looking at is as follows:

top end quad core CPU In the past i've been a faithful AMD fanboy, but religous wars aside, if it makes a big difference i might go Intel.

4 GB ram, preferablly 3:3:3:10 timings (there might be a 4 in there, on some brands)

high end gaming card, capable of outputing full HD, in the past i've been an ATI Fanboy, but as long as the games look as good, nvidia will work for me. I don't want to waste money, but i don't want a graphic solution that will be obsolete in 2 weeks, either, i plan on running this rig for 4 years, with no upgrades, even if i have to set games to 'low' to run them. i was looking at a pair of crossfire 3870 cards, but i'm pretty lost in the whole hype machine that is graphic cards, all i really care is that supcom and SC2 can run on high settings at 1080P resolution, if that's even possible with CPU limitations.

I already have a pair of SATA HDDs picked out (2 500 GB drives) ideas on if i should pick up a add-in sata raid card (i've heard built-in raid controllers can trash data quickly, ick) or just not do raid, i still need the pair of 500 GB drives even if i don't do raid.

I definitely am getting both a Blu-ray burner, and a DVD burner, even though blu ray burners can burn dvds, i find that often times it's better to buy 2 optical drives, because sometiems the 'best' of one type of burner is lacking what the 'best' of the other type of drive supports... plus, i'd like to hope that maybe i'd be able to say, rip to HD both a blu-ray movie and a DVD movie at the same time, to save time. no i don't sell pirate movies, but i hate the retarded move companies that put user prohibited codes into movies etc, plus i've on many times rented a badly scratched disc, that with a little cleaning, and some auto wax, can be read to a HDD by movie ripping programs, but stutter and freeze even on a quality movie player... I am lost again on which optical drives are the best of breed, and fwiw I only buy top grade optical disc media, even if i have to pay double for it. it's just not worth getting grade 4 media, or loosing data 2 years down the line because media was too cheap.

I've got no clue on what kind of video tuner to get, for media center capabilities, but so far people have been steering me towards a USB 2.0 based tuner, for the best quality captures. since i often use USB 2.0 hdds, this means i'll need an add-in board USB 2.0 to avoid saturation of the bus, i have ideas of what to get here, but suggestions are welcome.

OS, i was planning on dual-booting, Vista premium, and Windows XP.

I really can't afford to get burned on being an 'early adoptor' it's happened in the past when i didn't research stuff well enough, which is why i've posted here with so few specs, i've tried on google to try and get information on how to build an nice PC intended to hook into a nice HDTV, but it's been a real pain getting the kind of information i needed.
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  1. whoops, forgot to include my budget. my budget is $4,000 all told, for HDTV and gaming PC, and no i don't want a PC monitor, i plan on using the HDTV as the only display for the PC

    (if there is an emergency i have an old 20" monitor that my old PC is hooked into)
  2. Ok couple things. We are right on the cusp of the release of new ATI/nVidia video cards. Wait a few weeks until they are released and then evaluate the graphics cards. The new ATI cards are supposed to be pretty slick. Right now nVidia smacks AMD(ATI) around in the video card arena as badly as Intel smacks AMD in the CPU market.

    Intel CPU either Q6600 or Q9300. Buying a higher CPU is a waste of money, with the awesome overclocking potential of Intel CPUs. Intel dominates AMD is every possible way in the CPU arena. Go Intel.

    The only 4GB memory with 3-3-3-10 timings on Newegg is DDR2-533 RAM which is not what you want.

    I took some DDR2-800 RAM downclocked it to DDR2-667 (FSB1333- 3GHz on Q6600) and am running 3-3-3-10.

    The ideas of a tuner are good, USB is probably the way to go.

    The RAID controllers that lose data were mainly nVidia chipset motherboards overclocked, the built-in Intel RAID controller is solid. A card is never a bad idea however. I would consider RAID 5 over RAID 0. RAID 5 is RAID 0 with some fault protection built in. It would suck to lose all your HTPC content eh?

    Other posters might have more insights.
  3. on the ram, it helps if you go in '2gb' quantities on newegg, they had both corsair at 3-4-3-9 and at 800mhz, of course then i have to get a mobo with 4 ram slots, and not have the ability to upgrade, but seriously will i ever need to upgrade from 4 GB? as far as waiting goes, i don't have the money today, and i won't have it next month... i was trying to research in advance, sorry for not spelling that point out...

    i might not get the money for another 6 months or more. i just really want to have everything locked down when i get my money so i don't have to pray that the system i build will work.
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