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New HTPC rig, worth my time and money?

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July 17, 2009 11:52:25 AM

Hi,

Long time reader (-98), first time poster.
I have built a few PC's for various usage scenarios over the years but I haven't played around for a few years.
I managed to miss the Core2 era and descided to jump on the Core iX-wagon instead.
I haven't had the time/energy to read up on Core i7 920 and its thermal issues so I'm not sure if it's suitable for HTPC use but i descided to give it a try.

The purpose of the HTPC is as usual to handle 1080p output and in my case also some gaming but do it completely silent. I haven't included a CPU fan because I don't know how much space I will have once I've pieced the PC together.

If I understand the tech in the Radeon 4850 correctly it will be able to output quality sound via the HDMI port as part of the AVIVO plattform.

So the major components for this build is below and I would greatly appreciate your input.
Pricing is not important but I aim to keep the total price around 1500-1600 euros.


Case:
ORIGEN AE S14V M-ATX ~390 euros

Motherboard:
ASUS RAMPAGE II GENE X58 S-1366 M-ATX ~250 euros

Processor:
INTEL CORE I7 920 2.66GHZ 8MB S-1366 ~300 euros

Graphics:
GIGABYTE RADEON HD4850 1GB GDDR3 PCI-E VGA/DVI/HDMI SILENT ~150 euros

DVD/Blu Ray
PIONEER BDC-S02BK BLU-RAY black SATA RETAIL ~140 euros

HDD:
2x WESTERN DIGITAL CAVIAR GREEN 1TB SATA/300 32MB ~140 euros (2x70)

Memory:
OCZ DDR3 PLATINUM XTC 6GB PC3-10666 (3X2GB) ~130 euros

PSU:
COOLER MASTER SILENT PRO ATX12V 2.3 500W ~100 euros

Happy for all the input I can get :) 
July 17, 2009 12:31:07 PM

The i7 would not be a very good HTPC CPU given the amount of power it consumes and the heat...
But would serve you well in most of the tasks...though not for gaming as i7 has no significant performance gains over the C2Ds/ Phenoms II...

You can switch to a lower TDP CPUs like these, which can offer good overall performance and consume less power...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
July 17, 2009 12:59:42 PM

Yeah i almost firgured as much.
I was going for an Antec HTPC case at first which has many mounting points for fans.

Parallel to this build I've spec'd out an AMD-rig with the same case but different mobo, cpu and RAM.
That build i centered around a Phenom II 905E, 4 GB OCZ Platinum RAM but I'm having trouble finding an AM3 mobo in M-ATX form factor.


Do you recommend I go that route instead?
I am a bit worried that the rather small case (which i love the look of) would be difficult to get good enough airflow in.

Since i haven't played around with any modern builds for a few years I've mainly read reviews of hardware which paint a rather bleak picture for the AMD-route but people seem to be buying them and they seem to be performing rather nicely.
Whichever route i take, everything on the market today will be faster than anything I have right now. I've taken the right computer for the job route for a few years and am now eager to get my hands on some computing power that will put a smile on my face :) 
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July 17, 2009 1:27:51 PM

The P II X4 905e is based on the latest gen archietecture, which has performed very well...
So you can go wrong going with these CPUs...
And that too you get an Quad with a 65W TDP, which is apt for a HTPC...

And as for the cooling, there are many CPU coolers, that are specifically designed for HTPCs...And the 65W TDP CPUs don't give out much heat, so you wouldn't have to worry about the heat issues...
http://www.frostytech.com/top5_lowprofile_heatsinks.cfm

But I would clarify that the performance of this CPU is no where near the i7...but they are meant for different segments and i7 is generally for the Desktop market
and the 905e for the HTPCs, low power PCs...

So first decide about the form factor that you want to go and then decide on the CPU...
July 17, 2009 1:35:23 PM

gkay09 said:
The P II X4 905e is based on the latest gen archietecture, which has performed very well...
So you can go wrong going with these CPUs...
And that too you get an Quad with a 65W TDP, which is apt for a HTPC...

And as for the cooling, there are many CPU coolers, that are specifically designed for HTPCs...And the 65W TDP CPUs don't give out much heat, so you wouldn't have to worry about the heat issues...
http://www.frostytech.com/top5_lowprofile_heatsinks.cfm

But I would clarify that the performance of this CPU is no where near the i7...but they are meant for different segments and i7 is generally for the Desktop market
and the 905e for the HTPCs, low power PCs...

So first decide about the form factor that you want to go and then decide on the CPU...


Thanx for all your input, greatly appreciated.

I bet the performance is going to surpass anything I have now either way so I don't think it'll be a problem in reality.
I began this project with a strict HTPC-oriented build in mind but got a litle too power happy with the components. The i7 wouldn't serve me particularily well since I will pair it up with the 4850 anyway.

Based on your input (no pressure ;)  ) I think I'll go the AMD route for this build and spec out a gaming rig later if I still feel so inclined.
I still have the Xbox360 hooked up to the same LCD to keep me company if my urge for gaming gets to powerfull :) 

Thanks for your input gkay09
July 17, 2009 1:37:31 PM

SweHtpc said:
Parallel to this build I've spec'd out an AMD-rig with the same case but different mobo, cpu and RAM.
That build i centered around a Phenom II 905E, 4 GB OCZ Platinum RAM but I'm having trouble finding an AM3 mobo in M-ATX form factor.
Just in case you didn't know, AM3 CPU's are backwards compatible with AM2/AM2+ motherboards so that should open up a lot of m-ATX options. Bear in mind that AM2 boards use DDR2 instead of DDR3 RAM though.
July 17, 2009 1:53:55 PM

rwpritchett said:
Just in case you didn't know, AM3 CPU's are backwards compatible with AM2/AM2+ motherboards so that should open up a lot of m-ATX options. Bear in mind that AM2 boards use DDR2 instead of DDR3 RAM though.


Oh so they are compatible, that part got me a bit confused when i spec'ed the AMD build as my etailer separated the AM2+ and AM3 versions of the Phenom II.
According to their present list they only carry Phenom II 920 and 940 "versions" for the AM2+ socket. The Phenom II 920 seems to have TDP of 125W which is in the neighbourhood of the Core i7 920 (130W) so that seems quite pointless from a heat perspective.

Are AM2+ and AM3 sockets pin compatible so I just need to update the BIOS or will the processor just work without hastle?
If I have to get into checking with the mobo companies which of their AM2/+mobos are compatible with AM3 I think I'll get tired quite quickly.

Will the Phenom II X4 905E work in for example this mobo: ASUS M4A78-HTPC/RC 780G AM2+ M-ATX
July 17, 2009 2:10:58 PM

rwpritchett said:
Just in case you didn't know, AM3 CPU's are backwards compatible with AM2/AM2+ motherboards so that should open up a lot of m-ATX options. Bear in mind that AM2 boards use DDR2 instead of DDR3 RAM though.


Lots of replies on my own posts but it seems like the mobo "ASUS M4A78-HTPC/RC" is compatible with AM3 CPUs so I guess it'll be a good match.
http://se.asus.com/products.aspx?l1=3&l2=181&l3=902&l4=...

Thanks for your input rwpritchett :) 
August 9, 2009 3:59:53 AM

So, I'm wondering how much farther you are with your project. I'm thinking about putting something together for my mother's office -- twin SFF computers, one for her office work and one for an HDTV feed in the waiting room.

What did you finally decide to do?
August 9, 2009 6:05:02 AM

Well just for games and HTPC i'd hit a 720BE actually - far better idle/load temps and had been the chip of choice in my SFF/mATX gamers for clients with awesome results to date! Your choice of GPU if assuming gaming on Full HD worries me though so i'd get more teeth in that department but feel free to tone down if u feel your games do not demand it ^^

!