I'm used to building mid to high end gaming rigs but am now looking to build an HTPC. Unfortunately this has me completely lost as I know I don't need overly high end equipment for the most part and I'm not wanting to waste/spend a lot of cash.
I'm looking for recommendations on CPU, Motherboard, GPU, and sound. Cases, cooling, drives, memory, PSU, etc...I'm ok with. I just don't know how much uumph a machine like this will need. It will be connecting to my AV receiver through HDMI but I would prefer audio be handled through a separate digital audio connection. Primary purpose will be to store and play DVD's/Bluerays. I plan on running 4 1TB Western digital drives 3.0gbps sata. I would prefer Sata for the optical drives as well but can go IDE if a motherboard requires it.
Cooling is case dependent really, CPU cooling can normally be covered by going for a good quiet low profile cooler, Sycthe do one for about £35 ($40)
Onboard sound is normally good, it depends on your speaker set up as to whether you need an extra sound card
I would advise A lower end ATI card, I use a 4530 because It has onboard HDMI + ATI's Avivo processor which is excellent for Blu-Ray/HD Playback
PSU's are the hardest thing to pick, because you won't need more than 450-500w but silence is the most important thing, Xilence, OCZ StealthXStream and dependent on budget but PC Power + Cooling are also good.
Below are the current pieces I am looking at with newegg links and brief comments. I am wanting to make sure I haven't forgotten anything and see if anyone has suggestions on possibly cutting the price a bit. Total cost shipped is $446.78
1) You certainly want to upgrade the audio. The onboard audio is always poor quality. Try and hook up $250 Seinheisser headphones and tell me it doesn't crack and that you can't hear noise. Plus, the onboard audio can't handle DTS-HD and DD TrueHD which is what comes on every Blu Ray. Onboard audio will downconvert to regular dvd quality. I am not too up-to-date on current PCI/e sound cards because I use a professional M-Audio external setup but I do know that Creative does not have a good track record. From what I've just read on newegg, you should get something with 24-bit support and optical out. You are probably looking at $100+ range for good quality. I do know that the $70 Creative card is not very good as I have that in another pc and with my headphones, I can hear noise.
2) Is the onboard 9300 video capable of handling 1080p Blu Ray? If it can, then that would be great for you.
3) Are you not worried about noise level coming from your HTPC? because that case will only add to the noise levels. For a little more money, look at the Antec Sonata Elite($100) or P182($120), both are insulated with the P182 a little better. I set up a P182 as a HTPC for a female friend and she did not want a lot of noise, so it worked great for her. Plus, the P182 comes with 3-speed fans so you can adjust it down or up based on cooling needs vs noise.
4) You didn't include a Blu Ray player. The LG is only $100, which is ridiculously cheap.
5) Do you plan on using the 4 1TB drives in Raid 10 for speed and redundancy?
Thanks for the info on the card. I think at first I may see how the onboard video actually performs. I'm currently using the WD Black drives. Have 2 currently as storage in my main PC and love them.
2) From everything I can find the onboard 9300 handles 1080p no problems
3) Currently sound isn't a large concern for me. The PC will sit outside the sound stage and I have an external fan control (and third party fans) to knock down the RPMS on the fans if needed. The WD black drives aren't overly noisy either.
4) I don't actually plan on including any optical drives in the HTPC. My main PC will be used for all ripping/encoding and then transfered over the network. If I want to watch a bluray directly I'll just run it through the PS3.
5) I was initially planning on raid 0 but now that you mention it 1+0 wouldn't be a bad idea in the event of a drive failure I won't have to re-encode everything.
Thanks again for all the info guys this is turning into a beast of a machine =)