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Former gamer looking to build budget blu-ray HTPC

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August 12, 2008 5:49:53 PM

Hi guys,

First time poster, and I think I got a challenge for you guys :) . Here's my story: I used to play a lot of War3/SC and some FPS... about 5 years ago. Since then, I've largely abandoned PC gaming, and so I pretty much stopped paying attention to what was going on as far as PC tech.

...but I still kept up with some stuff. I recently bought a 42-inch 1080p screen that I mean to turn into the centerpiece of a home-theatre set-up. After I got my Wii and 360 hooked up, it was time to start building a HTPC for movies, music, DVR, and very light gaming -- that is, just StarCraft 2, when it comes out.

And that's where I got lost. So, I've turned to you guys to help me out.

Here's what I need:
-Blu-Ray Capable
-Somewhat upgradable -- if I get enticed back into PC gaming, I would like to have the ability to upgrade my graphics card, buy a stick of RAM, and go.
-Micro-ATX... it's gotta fit in the home-theater set-up
-cool and silent... heat drove me NUTS as a gamer (as I imagine it does for most) so I want to head in the complete opposite direction so I never have to worry about it. This means I would like a processor that will stay relatively cool with a fanless heatsink; ideally a GPU in the same boat (or even one on the motherboard, if one exists that can process Blu-Ray codecs)
-I already have a case and power-supply, so the budget for everything else is $600.

The main thing this rig will do (read: 99% of the time it is in use) is 1080p video playback, HD audio to match, and StarCraft2. Now, Blizzard hasn't released any specific system specs, but here's the best estimate of minimum and recommended settings I could find. I'm willing to compromise somewhere between minimum and recommended.

Minumum Requirements
GFX: GeForce 7/8 Series or Radeon 1000/2000 with 256 MB RAM
CPU: Pentium 4
RAM: 1 GB
Internet: ADSL 1 Mbit

Recommended Requirements
GFX: GeForce 8000 or Radeon 2000 series with 512 MB RAM
CPU: Core 2 Duo or Athlon X2.
RAM: 2 GB
Internet: ADSL 3 Mbit


...seems like a tall order, but there's a lot of room for flexibility.

You have $600. Go.


August 12, 2008 6:10:29 PM

Name the case and power supply you already have please.
August 12, 2008 6:21:52 PM

I got a challenge for you. Make your own list of parts, then post it here so people can critique/ improve it. Start with a 780G motherboard and Newegg.com. Go!
Related resources
August 12, 2008 6:27:16 PM

amd 780g chipset paired with a x2 4850e and 2 gbs of ram.
Its micro atx
its upgradable - has a pci 2.0 x16 slot if you want to buy a gfx card in the future
its very quiet. stock heatsink is not fanless but its quiet, i have one.
its perfect for HTPC, has hdmi output and optical audio out.
It has built in gigabit ethernet.
That should run you no more than $200 + hard drive + OS
August 12, 2008 6:42:15 PM

Thanks for the quick replies!

Ha, I've thrown my hands up after about 3-4 different attempts at a build.

Case: Silverstone SG01 (silver) http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PSU: Silverstone ST50EG http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
(wanted the 400W version but couldn't find it)

This list is what I had, but as I was finishing up reading reviews and such online I found out that the onboard GeForce 7 was spotty for HD video at best, which kind of threw the whole thing out. So please note the following list is not really workable... which taught me I'm pretty bad at this game. That's why I'm here, right?

Mobo: Gigabyte GA-73PVM-S2H Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?item=N82E168...

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 2.53GHz
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?item=N82E168...

Blu-Ray: LITE-ON Black 4X Blu-ray SATA
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?item=N82E168...

RAM: A-DATA 4GB(2 x 2GB) DDR2 800 Dual-Channel
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?item=N82E168...

HD: Western Digital Caviar SE16 640GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

This build was using the on-board video and audio. I found a cheap HD3450 that I was going to use to offset the bad reviews I read about the onboard GF7100, but the board didn't have PCI-e 2.0 x16... which, as I said, called into question the whole Intel set-up. Does AMD have better options for what I need?

Thanks for your help guys!
August 12, 2008 6:45:18 PM

Not to spam my own post, but two hits on the 780G... I suppose I'll scrap the list I just posted and start working on one with the AMD board. Any recommendations for a cool, efficient, mid-range AMD processor? Again, I need it to process Blu-Ray, 24/7 torrents, and SC2... that's it. So I don't think I need anything too flashy... right? Or am I underestimating the decoding necessary?
August 12, 2008 6:54:44 PM

With the 780G, the decoding gets off-loaded onto the integrated GPU so you don't need a lot of CPU horse-power. Take a look at the Gigabyte 780G with 128MB sideport memory (it's a little more $$$ than the 780G without).

For CPU, go with any AMD 4xxx dual core, or perhaps a low-end phenom if you plan on doing any video encoding.

And BTW, a Radeon 3450HD will work fine in a PCI-e 16x 1.0 slot if you still want to go the Intel route.
August 12, 2008 7:03:51 PM

After looking at your case and PSU choice Im really wondering why you're insisting on a fanless heatsink. By my count you have 3 fans in the case/PSU combo already and you want to skip putting a fan on what maybe the hottest component in your system?

Makes more sense IMO to go after a low-noise HSF like the Scythe SCMNJ-1000 80mm Sleeve "NINJA MINI" CPU Cooler.
You can always change out the included (very quiet) fan with a super quiet Sharkoon "golfball" fan.
August 12, 2008 7:12:38 PM

You might have mentioned that and saved me some time looking at cooling solutions.
August 12, 2008 7:16:06 PM

=( Sorry about that... I thought I included it in my list but seem to have omitted it... thanks for the advice, though, because I'm going look into those golfball fans as case fans.
August 12, 2008 7:27:06 PM

Alright, after mulling over some responses and digging through newegg, here's what I've got so far:

Case: Silverstone SG01 (silver)

PSU: Silverstone ST50EG

Processor: AMD Athlon X2 4850e 2.5GHz

CPU Heatsink: SILVERSTONE NT06-LITE CPU Cooler

Mobo: GIGABYTE GA-MA78GPM-DS2H AM2+/AM2 AMD 780G HDMI Micro ATX

HD: WD Caviar SE16 640GB

Blu-ray Drive: LITE-ON Black 4X Blu-ray DVD ROM SATA


...which leaves memory. The board supports DDR2 1066, but has this disclaimer under the specs on newegg. * Whether 1066 MHz memory speed is supported depends on the CPU being used. I assume the CPU I selected does, but I can't find anywhere that says whether or not it does. Anyone here know for sure?

And, I would obviously like to get 4GB worth of DDR2 1066 in here. What's the best brand to go with?
August 12, 2008 7:37:30 PM

Looks good. I'd go with an Antec earthwatts or Corsair brand psu. Better quality and lower price. As for ram, the 1066mhz is only supported when using a Phenom cpu. You should just get ddr2-800CL4 ram. And you'll be fine with the stock heatsink for the cpu. It's quiet wonks works well with the cpu at stock speed.
August 12, 2008 7:59:05 PM

shening: According to the manufacturer's website, the memory standard for the mobo is 1.8V DDR2... the sticks you linked to are 2.1V. I don't know much about memory voltages, but I figured I'd ask. Does it matter?
August 12, 2008 8:18:19 PM

+1 on the Corsair PSU suggestion. They're reliable, well-built and quiet power supplies. I'd suggest the 520HX for its modular cabling (you are in a very small case).

Consider the low speed Kama Flex fans from Scythe for the case fan replacement. Link

Also, are you completed decided on that case? There are many other options that could be quieter. Please let me know if you would like suggestions.
August 12, 2008 8:35:53 PM

KyleSTL: Well, I'm always open to suggestions. I've just been really impressed with Silverstone's quality and design... the interiors are so well thought-out. I didn't mention it since my PSU was already selected, but I'm in the market for 80+ cert PSUs, and the cheapest Corsair that fits that bill is this one:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

...that guy, while closer to the wattage I'm after and $15 cheaper, has extra-long cables -- bad for the SFF case(s) I want -- and the Silverstone has modular cabling, which is a definite plus with the lack of video/sound cards and only one optical and one hard drive for the moment. Also, the Silverstone case + heatsink + power supply combo were designed together, so that makes it a little more appealing, though I'm sure the Corsair is the same size.

However, I just noticed the rebate makes it only $59.99... so that might persuade me.

So, what other cases were you thinking? I love SFF cases that look great in hometheater setups.
August 12, 2008 11:55:28 PM

I bought the Corsair 450VX for my HTPC (which takes full size ATX motherboards) and found the unused cables were too much to deal with and impeded airflow. So, I swapped it for the Enermax Liberty from my desktop which is modular and silent too and I'm very happy with that model. I really do love that 450VX PSU in my desktop though.

IMO definitely go for a modular PSU in that SFF case. Shop around for the modular Corsair's, Seasonic M12's, or Enermax Liberty/MODU82's. Its really nice only having the cables that you really need in a tight space. Or stick with the Silverstone you selected... I've heard good things about Silverstone PSU's.
August 13, 2008 1:00:58 PM

You can adjust the memory voltage in BIOS if it doesn't detect the right voltages so dont worry.
August 13, 2008 1:56:51 PM

+1 for the modular suggestion. I have an HTPC (Antec NSK2480 case) and an Enermax Liberty 400W, best selection I have ever made. Enermax Modu82+, Corsair HX, and M12s are also very good units.

Case suggestions:
Lian Li C31 $150 (dual 120mm fans, looks like a piece of high-end AV equipment)
Lian Li V350 $115 (SFF style with better cooling than the Silverstone) also in black
Silverstone LC17 $115 (an awesome case to work in, bigger than a typical piece of AV equipment) also in black
Antec NSK2400 designed for superior cooling with 2 120mm fans, same as NSK2480 with different PSU, which of course you'll replace
Antec Fusion same as NSK2400 with remote and LCD screen, also in black

Any way you go you should replace the factory fans with these:
Scythe Slipstream 800 rpm 120mm
Scythe Kama Flex 1500 rpm 80mm
!