Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in
Your question

Hybrid HTPC/light gamer

Last response: in Systems
Share
August 2, 2009 9:17:20 PM

Hey everyone.

I finally managed to convince my girlfriend that what we really needed in our lives was a 50" 1080p plasma TV hooked up to a computer. Here are the things I have promised her this will accomplish: Central Music and Movie Library (media server), BluRay player, Hulu, Netflix. I will also attempt to do some gaming on this machine (when time permits), and would love to be able to play Starcraft II when it comes out, as well as maybe champions online when it comes out. While the games I play are usually not the graphically most intensive, I do want to be able to play the current crop of games like resident evil 5 etc...at full HD resolution.

I am thinking about building an AMD rig (x3 720 probably) because they are a little cheaper and more energy efficient and was thinking that I might want to go for an ATI HD 4870, both for sound and video over HDMI, but also because they are getting relatively cheap.

This leaves me with a couple of questions:

Graphics: Not enough, too much?

Sound Card: Do I even need to bother?

RAM: is 4 GB enough?

Bluray: What is the best software for playback? Is getting a burner worth it? Is getting a super multi drive that also plays HDDVDs worth it?

Mobo: I am thinking about getting an AM3 board just to be safe for future upgrades, but does this really make any sense? Would a mATX board make sense (more on why later) if it limited me to 1 pci 2.0 x16 slot?

CPU cooler: I will be honest, the likelihood that I will overclock is not very high, simply because my biggest roadblock with games is likely to be the graphics card anyway, and I am trying to keep heat, powerconsumption and stability in the forefront of this build, because as soon as I get a bluescreen my GF will start yelling at my to buy something simple like a VCR...oy...This being the base should I even bother with a non-stock cooler?

Case: Strangely enough, I am having the most trouble with the case, and that is making some other decisions more difficult. I originally wanted the Antec Skeleton, because I think it looks cool, but my GF has vetoed it. She wants something that lays flat, but I am having trouble finding something that doesn't suck that is priced reasonably, has room for a full sized graphics card, is relatively quiet etc...I was thinking about the coolermaster elite 360, but I am not sure that a 4870 will fit in it, and it would only let me put one HD in. I was also thinking about the Antec Sonata III (with the 500watt earthwatts powersupply), but it stands up and I am not sure that a larger graphics card will fit in there anyway. Advice on this would be great.

This is not even close to my first build, but it is the first time I am trying to accommodate someone else (and certainly the first time I am trying to make this a permanent fixture with the TV), and I thank you guys ahead of time for your kind and sage advice.

August 3, 2009 1:19:30 AM

Also, one more question.

When I am setting this up do I need to have a normal monitor, or can I use the TV as the monitor straight from the start?
August 3, 2009 1:24:26 AM

Depends what the inputs on your TV are, it wouldnt hurt to have a normal monitor on standby. The antec skeleton is a bad idea, someone will walk by and a spark will come off their leg and the whole system will die. Also dont waste the money on HDDVD support, that got dropped by every one long ago, i dont even know if there are even any HDDVD drives out there, there really shouldnt be.

Whats the budget and where are you going to be buying from?
Related resources
Can't find your answer ? Ask !
August 3, 2009 1:27:16 AM

Graphics: too much in my opinion
Sound Card: no, onboard should be fine
RAM: yes, plenty
Bluray: I wouldn't get a HD DVD
MOBO: Yes AM3/DDR3 and Micro-ATX sound good for your uses
CPU cooler: aftermarket unnecessary

Also, a 720 and a 4870 is very powerful for an HTPC.
August 3, 2009 1:41:40 AM

To Hunter: My budget is probably around 1000.00 USD, and I am likely to buy everything from Newegg, I have had lots of good experiences with them in the past. Also, I don't currently have a monitor, but maybe I can borrow one from a friend.

To Jbaker: The reason for the power is for gaming. Given that I want to do some, do you still think it is overkill, and that maybe I should go for a 4850 or something..?
August 3, 2009 2:04:25 AM

A 4850 could be fine, but Resident Evil is a pretty graphics intense game... I would consider building a $200 HTPC and an $800 gaming PC, it would work out much better...

Edit: Italicized "could," but pay more attention to my second suggestion.
August 3, 2009 2:08:41 AM

I disagree with jbakerlent, for 1080p gaming I would suggest a 4870 1GB at a minimum. The 4850 does best at 1680x1050.
August 3, 2009 7:30:41 AM

First I want to apologize for any mistake or misspelling in my message because english is not an oficial language in my country.

I am very interested in HTPC world. I would throw some thoughts about the rig you are trying to build, i hope some will be useful to you.
Building an HTPC you always search for low power, low heat and low noise if you add a high-end graphics card you are adding more power comsumption, more heat and more noise. If you can live without gaming i would recomend you AMD780G(can find good ones on microatx format)+low power AMD CPU like 5050e+ DDR2. This combo is cheap and can do all you need except gaming (780G onboard graphics can play some DX9 games with very low settings).

If you still want to give the HTPC gaming capability I think its possible only sacrificing the low power part of the equation, but you have to carefully pick the components.

CASE: I have 2 recomendations, the only HTPC cases I know that can handle a high end graphic card.
Antec remote fusion-- pros: display, remote, volume knob, well build, good airflow, quiet with the fans at min (uses 2x120mm three speed fans). Cons: only fit microatx
Siverstone LC10E (is the evolution of the LC10)-- pros:well build, good airflow, fit ATX, can fit SIX 3,5'' drives. Cons:without remote (not an issue if you use the TV tuner remote or Microsoft remote) I recomend install the 2 optional front fans to cool the graphics area better.

CPU: The Phenom II X3 720BE is a good choice for gaming and is not very power hungry.

MOBO: If you want to go AM3 all the way you have 3 options, but is hard to find any of these in microatx
AMD 790GX (same 780G graphics but with 128MB on board, not the best choice if you want to use a discrete graphics card, but easier to find microatx)
AMD 790X (I think only handle DDR2 but not an issue because doble channel DDR3 with actual timings is not a great performance boost, is the cheaper chipset and can crossfire 8x-8x)
AMD 790FX (DDR3 and serious crossfire 16x-16x)
Look well at the specs of the mobo, investigate the power savings options of the BIOS and check if it has wake on USB for power on the rig with the remote. The fan headers for controlling fans, etc.

RAM: 4GB is enough, feel free to add more.

SOUND: The deciding factor is you, if you plan to use the TV speakers then the onboard sound is probably good enough. If you have a serious sound system you want serious sound card. If you want to enjoy the Dolby True HD and DTS HD the only option i know is Asus Xonar HDAV1.3 its a pci-e card but there is a cheaper model the 'slim' wich is pci (This may help you if the mobo topograhy is a nightmare or you are going microatx).

PSU: Do the math yourself because your graphics card choice can have a great impact, but search for Active PFC and quiet ones (Corsair, Coolermaster have some quiet series)

GRAPHICS: There are some options,
ATI RADEON HD4770 Performs very close to the 4850 and is less power hungry
ATI RADEON HD4870 1GB Good price, good performace but hard to find a silent cooling solution
NVIDIA GTX260 Good price, good performance and the reference model is fairly quiet and push the air out of the case.
I think you don't need more performance to play at 1080

CPU COOLER: Stock is good enough if you dont overclock but an aftermarket cooler can give you better performance and less noise i will recomend a blow-down cooler for cooling VRM to improve longevity and stability (there is no need for low profile coolers with the cases i recomended before)

Here is a list of the rig i think would do the job, i don't know the rate of change but is under 800€

CASE: Silverstone LC10E
CPU: Phenom II X3 720BE
MOBO: ATX form factor AMD 790FX chipset (its expensive but is AM3,DDR3, and crossfire 16x-16x)
RAM: 2x2GB DDR3 (its timings and prices are droping, go for the price of a brand you trust)
GRAPHICS: ATI RADEON HD4770 (less performance but the best choice to keep down the power, the reference model push the air to the rear of the case, and if its not enough graphic power, you can upgrade or go crossfire)
OPTICAL: Combo blu-ray DVD-R
HDD: 1TB has good price, samsung and western digital have quiet ones.
CPU COOLER: There are some good options under 30€ search for silent blow-down ones.
PSU: Corsair CMPSU-450VX (quiet and has enough power for this rig)
TV TUNER: your choice.
SOUND: your choice.

Hope this help you
August 3, 2009 5:54:08 PM

A 4850 would be fine for RE 5, but you may want to oc the 720 BE a little bit. Anyway, just to be ready for future games a 4870 would be a good choice since prices are so low on it right now. I say go with the Sapphire version with their funky dual slot cooler. As for blu ray prices have come down on it, but you don't really need a blu ray burner. Media is pretty expensive after all. Anyway CompUSA has a relatively cheap DVD burner/ blu ray reader from Lite-On so you may want to check it out. After all the boxed version comes with software ^_^.

You don't need a dedicated sound card unless you want to hook up a 7.1 setup or something. If you're just outputing the sound over HDMI to the TV then the Radeon will handle it just fine. Get 4GB of RAM since even though you can get by on 2GB now, it's better to have more RAM especially as apps use more and more memory.
August 3, 2009 6:51:31 PM

Bafur said:

MOBO: If you want to go AM3 all the way you have 3 options, but is hard to find any of these in microatx
AMD 790GX (same 780G graphics but with 128MB on board, not the best choice if you want to use a discrete graphics card, but easier to find microatx)
AMD 790X (I think only handle DDR2 but not an issue because doble channel DDR3 with actual timings is not a great performance boost, is the cheaper chipset and can crossfire 8x-8x)
AMD 790FX (DDR3 and serious crossfire 16x-16x)
Look well at the specs of the mobo, investigate the power savings options of the BIOS and check if it has wake on USB for power on the rig with the remote. The fan headers for controlling fans, etc.

Newegg has the AM3 785G boards for sale now. Check 'em out.


!