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HTPC – What parts?

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September 19, 2009 12:07:35 AM


Hi guys great site. I am currently thinking of building a new media centre as my current one is just old bits latched together and it is slow, noisy and struggling. I haven’t built a PC for a couple of years and not sure what CPU, motherboard and hard drives I should be looking for as the market changes so fast.

It will be my main PC so I will also use it for normal applications but mainly for playing music and watching movies.



Prerequisites

Must have an optical digital output on the motherboard. This connects to my D to A converter which in turn connects to my amplifier. (£100 ish)

Fast video card. Must have HDMI and be quiet and cool. (£50 -£120)

Large fast quiet hard drives typically 1 to 1.5 TB (£60 to £100)

Fast but cool CPU as to keep case cooling to a minimum. (£100 ish I think)

Fast Memory.



This will all be housed in my existing HTPC Thermalake DH 101 case which takes ATX/MATX

I know this is a tall order but if anyone can help you guys can.

Thanks in advance for your tips and advice.

Jazzy.

More about : htpc parts

September 19, 2009 2:47:18 AM

jazzysweet said:
Hi guys great site. I am currently thinking of building a new media centre as my current one is just old bits latched together and it is slow, noisy and struggling. I haven’t built a PC for a couple of years and not sure what CPU, motherboard and hard drives I should be looking for as the market changes so fast.

It will be my main PC so I will also use it for normal applications but mainly for playing music and watching movies.



Prerequisites

Must have an optical digital output on the motherboard. This connects to my D to A converter which in turn connects to my amplifier. (£100 ish)

Fast video card. Must have HDMI and be quiet and cool. (£50 -£120)

Large fast quiet hard drives typically 1 to 1.5 TB (£60 to £100)

Fast but cool CPU as to keep case cooling to a minimum. (£100 ish I think)

Fast Memory.



This will all be housed in my existing HTPC Thermalake DH 101 case which takes ATX/MATX

I know this is a tall order but if anyone can help you guys can.

Thanks in advance for your tips and advice.

Jazzy.


This is not really a tall order as there are a lot of parts out on the market that will work well for you:

1. CPU: pick just about any CPU with a 95-watt or lower TDP. Something like a Phenom II X4 945 or a Core i5 750 would work well for you as they are not overly hot and will perform well in general usage. HTPC duties don't take much CPU grunt unless you are transcoding, and these CPUs would do well at transcoding since they're quad-core units.

2. CPU heatsink: ditch the stock cooler and go with one of the quiet ones here. The low-profile Scythe units should be a good fit in a slimmer HTPC case, else go with a 120 mm tower unit like the $30 Xigmatek HDT-S1284EE I have in my machine. It is almost dead quiet and keeps an 89-watt old-school Socket 939 Athlon 64 X2 4200+ at a touch over 35-37 C full-load with only 1000 rpm on the fan. The stock heatsink required about 2200 rpm and only kept the CPU at about 50 C full-load, so putting in a bigger heatsink with a bigger fan will lead to much lower noise and temperature levels.

3. Motherboard: many Socket AM3 and LGA1156 micro-ATX motherboards have optical S/PDIF ports. I generally get ATX boards, but I built a unit for somebody with a Gigabyte 780G board (GA-MA780GM-S2HP, Socket AM2+) and it worked very nicely. The only recommendation I would have is to get a micro-ATX board with four RAM slots rather than only two, particularly if you want to run 64-bit Vista or Windows 7. You'd ideally want 8 GB of RAM with such a setup and 4 GB DDR3 modules are about 10 times as expensive as 2 GB ones, so you'd want 4x2 GB if possible. 4 GB (2x2 GB) of RAM would work, but I don't know what exactly you'd want to do with such a system and 4 GB may be a little constraining.

4. Fast, quiet video card: I would say go with an ATi Radeon HD 4770. It is a 40 nm card that is a decent performer (although not the absolute fastest out there) and also dissipates very little heat compared to a lot of other popular higher-end GPUs. If you want it to be quiet and space is an issue, cool it with a Zalman VF900. If you want an absolutely silent setup, go for a Radeon HD 4670 (GDDR3) with a passive cooler. The 4670 is about as warm of a card as you'll be able to cool passively with a passive cooler that will fit in an HTPC case. I have an absolutely massive Arctic Cooling passive cooler on my much warmer Radeon x1900GT, but it's a very tight fit in my Antec Nine Hundred and I would highly doubt it would work with many HTPC cases.

5. HDDs: Seagate's Barracuda 7200.12 drives get my nod of approval. They are very quiet for full-speed 7200 rpm drives, pretty fast, cool-running, and reasonably priced. I have a small 500 GB 7200.12 in my HTPC (Athlon XP 3200+, ASUS A7N8X-E, GeForce 6200- yes, it is very old) and it is an excellent hard drive.

6. Memory: get yourself 4-8 GB of DDR3-1333. Since it is an HTPC, just get inexpensive JEDEC-standard DDR3-1333 as you won't want to overclock and DDR3-1333 is all that is supported on mainstream new computers.

That should be a decent start for you.
!