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HTPC / Light Gaming / Storage Build

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August 25, 2009 11:46:09 PM

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Next day to week

BUDGET RANGE: Under 1000 USD (Current Build is sitting just under 900 USD.)

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: DVR, HD playback, Light Gaming (Source, L4D, potentially D3 and SC2,) Multimedia Server.

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: GPU (HD 4850) Monitor (50" Hitachi Plasma Screen)

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: www.newegg.com (current build through newegg, but open to new suggestions.)

OVERCLOCKING: Maybe (after a year, or light OC for fun.)

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Maybe (using a single GPU, don't figure I'll ever need to dual-GPU.)

MONITOR RESOLUTION: System will run prodominantly headless, but will output to a 50" Plasma when needed.

BUILD:

1 LIAN LI PC-A71F Black Aluminum ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - Retail
Item #: N82E16811112244
$229.99

1 Western Digital Caviar Black WD5001AALS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive - OEM
Item #: N82E16822136320
$59.99

1 ASUS M4A79XTD EVO AM3 AMD 790X ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
Item #: N82E16813131402
$119.99

1 Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 Dual TV Tuner / Encoder 1229 PCI-Express x1 Interface - Retail
Item #: N82E16815116037
$112.99

1 CORSAIR CMPSU-650TX 650W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 ... - Retail
Item #: N82E16817139005
$99.99 (with $20.00 Mail-In Rebate)

1 G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL8D-4GBHK - Retail
Item #: N82E16820231189
$79.99

1 AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Deneb 3.2GHz Socket AM3 125W Quad-Core Processor Model HDZ955FBGIBOX - Retail
Item #: N82E16819103674
$195.99

Subtotal: $898.93

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

This build is going to see standard use (near 24x7, but off/idle/hibernating most of the day) as a PVR. However, most of the time, recorded shows will be streamed to Xbox 360's on each TV in the house versus displayed directly. It is going to start off with the single Cavair Black as the primary, and add Cavair Green (500GB - 1TB) drives as needed, probably in a RAID array. Some gaming, listed above, will be done, and I would like to play in HD on the plasma screen. I have a HD 4850 to use. I want the overall rig to be fairly futureproof, with solid upgradability in storage and RAM over the next several years, before dropping the system as a pure server.

How does it look? Any suggestions or changes or other information you need from me? Thanks!
August 26, 2009 6:54:06 AM

Overall, it looks good.

A quad core for an HTPC is probably a little overkill unless you are gonna use to encode H.264 video. Then again I shouldn't be nitpicking because when I upgrade to next time, my C2Q 9450 is going into my HTPC. My current HTPC has an C2D E6600 which was at the heart of my former primary PC.

As for the case, I prefer my HTPC not to look like a PC. Therefore, I picked up the SILVERSTONE Black Aluminum Crown Series CW02B back in 2008. When my friends first saw it, they did not know it was a PC. Cool!!! The only bad thing about it was the $399 price tag.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


As for the hard drives... Here's my take...

I recommend you start off with three (3) hard drives:

1) 320GB HDD for OS, games and other stuff, but not media. Partition the HDD give whatever you want to the OS; I guess I would do 25GB for WinXP or 40GB - 50GB for Vista/Win 7. The rest will be a partition for games and other miscellaneous crap.

2) A 1TB HDD "permanent storage" for all your media files after you have encoded them. You don't really need a fast drive, so a WD Green HDD should suffice.

3) 320GB HDD for all captures and DVD/BD rips. This is what I call the "thrash drive". This is the workhorse of your HTPC because it will be accessed the most. The page file should be written to this drive as well. This drive will essentially have all your temporary video files waiting to be encoded to H.264 or whatever video format you desire. Once your video or audio files have been encoded move them to the 1TB HDD.


Reasons for the above configuration:

- This is to minimize a "catastrophic" loss by separating the different types of data. Adding in another 1 TB HDD in RAID 1 would be a good idea especially as you accumulate more and more data on the 1TB drive.

- Isolating the OS onto it's own partition means if you needed to reinstall the OS, you will not loose any data you saved to the partition or the other drives.

- Installing games on a separate partition is actually an old habit. Most games now save to the 'My Documents' so you would probably loose all your saved games in an extreme case. In the past most games allowed you to choose where you want to save your games to. If you backup your OS drive from time to time, saving games and other stuff onto the partition should decrease the size of the HDD image.

- The 1TB drive is considered "permanent storage" because this is probably the drive that will be used the least. Less wear and tear technically means this drive should last longer. The only time you should be accessing this drive is when you are playing back a media file, transferring a media file, or deleting a media file.

- The "trash drive" will most likely be the most used HDD and therefore be at the highest risk of failure. All captures, rips and encoding should be done on this drive. The page file should be written here as well to decrease wear and tear to the OS HDD. In the worst case scenario, you will have large amount of "temporary" media data that will be lost should the drive fail. Once you have encoded a media file to your satisfaction, move it over to "permanent storage".
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August 26, 2009 1:06:57 PM

Thanks for the info. That is a great idea. I hadn't thought of that. Since I am running a dual tuner, would you also recommend getting two (2) 'thrash drives' in order to have no errors when recording two shows at the same time? Or would it either 1. Be ok writing both to the same drive simultaneously, or 2. Write the second show to the primary 'random crap' drive? I am trying to keep my initial costs in HD lower since the 1-2TB drives have just released and prices should continue to fall, allowing me to purchase additional storage down to the road.
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August 26, 2009 2:22:10 PM

As a second comment, I was looking at the WD line of drives, and would there be any reason for me not to drop to a WD Caviar Blue 250/320GB drive in lieu of the Black series? (For the Primary and Thrash drives.) The Black doesn't come in the lower sizes, but I don't want to suffer a significant performance loss in gaming or encoding/decoding/capture. I can get Black's for the all the non-storage drives if need be, but I feel like I'd be wasting a lot of their capacity.
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August 26, 2009 3:19:21 PM

I use WD blue drives in my HTPC. I have both a HVR-1600 and HVR-2250. I am able to record 4 shows at the same time (3 HD and 1 SD), so you should be fine recording 2 at the same time. If you go with a blue drive, stick to the 320GB model since it uses a single 320GB platter and is faster than the 250GB models.

Using multiple drives like jaguarskx suggested is a good idea. I think I currently have 5 hard drives in my HTPC. You can never have enough storage space once you start messing with HD content! :) 
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