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HTPC Build Questions

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June 23, 2009 4:58:04 PM

I was considering building a HTPC but I don't really have any idea which way to go about it. I've built PC's before and i'm assuming that it's generally the same but I wanted a few opinions beforehand. If i built the HTPC it would strictly be for playing 1080p/720p media files (probably .mkv), and probably web browsing.

So my questions are :

1. How much should a decent HTPC for my specified uses run.
2. What are some component suggestions, because i'm assuming you wouldn't need extreme processing power.

After i receive some general feedback i should be able to peice together some parts. Thanks in advance!

More about : htpc build questions

June 23, 2009 5:12:05 PM

I think my HTPC, used for the same things, ran me about $400 a few months ago. I popped in an AMD 5050e, 4gb RAM, and a 640gb HDD. I always highlight the Hauppauge 2250 tuner in my HTPC because it has worked wonders for me, and plays very well with Windows 7, if you're planning on going that route [which I highly recommend]
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a b B Homebuilt system
June 23, 2009 5:14:20 PM

+1 to the Hauppauge HVR-2250 if you would like to be able to record OTA HD content. I have both the HVR-1600 and HVR-2250 in my HTPC and they work great in Windows 7.
June 23, 2009 5:21:03 PM

Hmm.... I don't think a Hauppauge would be necessary. I don't really watch that much TV. But it would be a good thing to consider for future uses. Also, i was wondering if it worth it to buy a sound card for a HTPC since most PC's these days just use the onboard sound.
June 23, 2009 8:21:44 PM

I came up with a quick list of items. Any suggestions would be appreciated and i'm sure there is much to be critiqued.

CPU
Intel Pentium E5200 Wolfdale 2.5GHz
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Motherboard
Foxconn G45M-S LGA 775 Intel G45 HDMI Micro ATX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

RAM
G.SKILL PI Black 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

CASE
SILVERSTONE Black Aluminum / Steel LC13B-E ATX Media Center
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

DVD Drive
SAMSUNG Black DVD Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

HDD
Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 ST3250410AS 250GB
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PSU
Antec earthwatts EA380 380W Continuous Power ATX12V v2.0 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
a b B Homebuilt system
June 23, 2009 10:31:00 PM

Are you planning on using the TV speakers or will you connect to a receiver?

Get at least a 500GB drive... they're only $5 more than the 250GB drive you selected. For any system storing media, bigger is better. Consider a 750-1000GB drive.

PSU is good.

Maybe consider one of the Nvidia 9300/9400 motherboards instead of the G45?

June 23, 2009 10:52:00 PM

I would plan on using the TV speakers. I would eventually want to connect them to a receiver but that wouldn't be till the future. The reason i wasn't too concerned with the HD space was because i have a external storage unit that contains all my media. I'm not really too concerned with space as I am with HD performance.

I'm not too familiar as far as the 9300/9400 vs the G45. Is there a considerable advantage?

Also, do you guys think that the CPU i have would be enough for a HTPC?
June 24, 2009 12:58:51 AM

greyghost0 said:
I was considering building a HTPC but I don't really have any idea which way to go about it. I've built PC's before and i'm assuming that it's generally the same but I wanted a few opinions beforehand. If i built the HTPC it would strictly be for playing 1080p/720p media files (probably .mkv), and probably web browsing.

So my questions are :

1. How much should a decent HTPC for my specified uses run.
2. What are some component suggestions, because i'm assuming you wouldn't need extreme processing power.

After i receive some general feedback i should be able to peice together some parts. Thanks in advance!



Since you said Only video files (HD) and some browsing, this is more than enohgh:

Intel Celeron E1400 Allendale 2.0GHz 512KB L2 Cache LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Cheapest dual core at 50$ with free shipping. I bought for my HTCP a 45W AMD dual core processor (2300-BE) for less, but it's not available anymore at newegg.

Foxconn G31MXP-K LGA 775 Intel G31 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
43$+S&H.

GIGABYTE GV-R435OC-512I Radeon HD 4350 512MB 64-bit GDDR2 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready Low Profile Ready Video Card
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
35$ - 15 rebate= 20$ and free shipping can't get better than this. I bought this one and got the rebate after around a month. It's a much better solution than onboard graphics, more support, and up to 8 channels of LPCM audio.

Kingston 2GB 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Desktop Memory Model KVR800D2/2GR
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
26$ Free S&H

or

G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F2-6400CL5D-4GBNT
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
45$ Free shipping. 2GB is enough

Both ram run at 800 MHz, so even if you overclock 100% your CPU (2 GHz to 4 GHz at 10x multi) it'll still work. By the way I'm a fan of kingston in terms of reliability and durability, and you don't need the fancy RAM you proposed.

Any 500-640 GB HD you like for 50-70$ and Free Shipping (I have a 640 WD caviar green and love it (68$)).

you choice of DVD burner (28 + S&H) or the plextor (more reliable) at 50$ with free shipping

Any case with PSU from 30 (if you don't mind a big one) to 80$
I like this one at 50$:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

That would be 250 plus some S&H minimum
but I would pay about 300 - 330$ (shipping included to get the plextor DVD burner and the rosewill case I recommend.

How you like it?
June 24, 2009 1:14:12 AM

By the way you can buy a very good (entry level) Receiver for around 300$ and 5.1 speakers for 200$
June 24, 2009 3:28:08 AM

Thanks for the input and suggestions. It gave me a lot better idea of what i would want/need for my setup. The only thing is that i'd want a case that i could lay flat because it'd probably go under the TV. would you be able to recommend any receivers? I'm still not 100% how i would hook up all the audio to work with the cable box and pc/tv. I have a general idea but nothing concrete.

I guess i'm just wondering how other people have it set up.
June 24, 2009 6:19:22 PM

The case I suggested can perfectly sit horizontally, in fact, I believe it's made for that. It's only 50$ and comes with PSU (a low power one, but enough for your components).
what do you mean when you say go under the tv? No case can support the weight of a tv when laying flat. If you mean on a cabinet, remember the case needs decent airflow, so it needs access to fresh air on all the places where air comes in (in this case's case top and one side).
About the receiver, try the Denon AVR-590, I believe it's the best bang for the buck at 314$ with free shipping on amazon. Don't worry about the connections, they're easy:
1 hdmi with both audio and video from the computer and maybe 1 audio and 1 video connection from cable box.


June 24, 2009 9:10:18 PM

I did mean that i would put it under a cabinet. I would probably still get a HTPC case for aesthetic reasons. I think i could find one for 20 dollars more that comes with a PSU too. Thanks for all the input and advice for the components. I think i should be good from here on forward. Your knowledge is much appreciated!
a b B Homebuilt system
June 24, 2009 10:10:41 PM

I've been planning to build one for years and have the experience. However:

1. The new generation of netbooks and other similar devices being released Q3 and Q4 of 2009 are being designed with HTPC specs in mind. Most notably the video hardware decoders in graphics chipsets such as the NVidia 9300/9400.

2. There are lots of reviews on this subject if you Google.

My advice is to hold off a little bit longer. I feel your pain. The only thing holding me back form getting a netbook when it comes out is lack of BluRay (sure I could do USB).

Once these more efficient chipsets come out you should see a lot more review come out on the best methods.

One of the trickiest parts of building a HTPC is ensuring that the audio comes out the HDMI. For this you want a graphics card that has SPDIF input. The GTX 275 does. Do any low-powered ones?

My dad has HDMI out on his laptop but getting audio requires changing the audio device from onboard audio to "HDMI" (despite the fact it's still using the same audio hardware). Sigh!

What I'm saying is that it's trickier than it looks and there likely isn't a great solution that would satisfy you.

If you didn't need Matroska (MKV) or DTS I'd say mess around with the WD HD TV.

As for me, I'm still waiting and hope to see a solution by the end of this year. It's mostly that darn audio problem.
June 24, 2009 11:50:44 PM

Although it has no web access have you considered Western Digital's WDTV? I picked one up and can say that it plays 1080p (MKV, MT2S etc.) beautifully and without a problem. It's been reported that a newer unit is scheduled for release in the September time frame and will have network access so you can stream files from your computer rather than an attached USB device. I realize that building your own HTPC can be more rewarding but I've found myself quite attached to this little box. Although not as versatile as a good HTPC it accomplishes quite a lot of what people typically are looking for and at around $90 it's pretty affordable. Obviously, you need to supply an MSD such as a passport or flash drive but most people have these already. Beyond video it also plays most music files (including playlists) and has a digital photo feature. Anyway, it may be something to consider.
June 25, 2009 12:59:47 AM

1) If you're only connecting the HTPC to 1 device (receiver or tv), meaning not using computer speakers, it's perfectly ok (in some cases better) to use audio over hdmi. The ati 4000 series do that.
2) If you ever get a blu-ray rom and don't have the audio/video solution I suggested (everything via HDMI), you won't be able to get 5.1 or 7.1 uncompressed (LPCM) audio, meaning it's not a future proof solution.
3) WDTV doesn't decode DTS, so a lot of movies out there won't play correctly until you get a receiver that does it (about 1/3 of HD mkv movies on the web only have DTS audio). I love everything else of it, but I believe an HTPC would adapt easily to any changes of standards on the future
a b B Homebuilt system
June 25, 2009 12:30:08 PM

photonboy said:
One of the trickiest parts of building a HTPC is ensuring that the audio comes out the HDMI. For this you want a graphics card that has SPDIF input. The GTX 275 does. Do any low-powered ones?

ATI GPU's have had the capability of passing audio over HDMI for a long time. The 4000 series will do 7.1. Even my lowly 2600XT passes audio over HDMI with no SPDIF input.
June 25, 2009 11:18:56 PM

While it is true that the WDTV won't run DTS audio directly simple solutions such as Popcorn (or eac3to) exist. Obviously if you want to convert 100 movies to run immediately I can see a problem but otherwise I find this type of conversion reasonable and pretty much effortless. The only problem I've encountered was if the video was improperly encoded with too many reference frames. WDTV can only handle 4-5. If you do the encoding yourself this should never happen. If you rely on someone else's encoding then while it is rare to find a high reframe number you can always re-encode it. Anyway, I agree that an HTPC is more versatile I just think that many people don't always need the extent of control an HTPC offers and the WDTV would be a worthwhile consideration. Note that Western Digital has been quite responsive to improving the product through firmware updates (there are even people who have taken it upon themselves to provide their own firmware with enhancements).
June 26, 2009 4:12:29 AM

I have looked at the WDTV and it did interest me. I just felt that i would want the versatility of a HTPC box. I was also looking at some of the netbooks that they were releasing later that were geared toward the HTPC nature. I most likely won't buy a HTPC immediately and will hold out for a while but i did still want to try and familiarize myself with the knowledge of building a HTPC just in case i go that route. I suppose i'll have to wait and see what developments unfold and go from there.
!