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1st Time HTPC Build

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September 11, 2009 4:58:55 AM

So this is my 1st forum post, and I'm asking all the people here for some help today.

I've built my fair share of computers, but it's been years. So, I'm a little uninformed about the current family of CPU's, Video Cards, RAM, etc.

I'm looking to build my 1st HTPC, that:
-Supports a 720p LCD TV with HDMI output
-Is Geared toward:
1)Gaming
2)Music
3)TV Recording/Playback
-Can play Blu Ray
-Isn't slow
-Is low budget
-Is ABOVE ALL ELSE, QUIET. (without being water cooled...been down that road)

Any components, help, or advice would be GREATLY appreciated.

(huge fan of the sight and forum, thank you all!)

More about : 1st time htpc build

a b B Homebuilt system
September 11, 2009 5:13:32 AM

It would help to know what form factor you are using, if you will need low profile expansion cards etc. Also a budget is helpful.

I recommend looking at some motherboards. Take a look at the AMD 785G series, 780G, or Nvidia 9000 series.

If interested in an Intel cpu, I think the G33 mobos are for home theater.

For gaming I would look beyond the integrated video for a low power solution, such as the ATI HD 4650 or 4670. They make HTPC friendly models that are low profile and may be silent as well.
a b B Homebuilt system
September 11, 2009 1:38:44 PM

We just built this type of machine using a Gigabyte mobo with AMD chipset, an AMD Athlon II X2 240 CPU, and a XFX low-profile video card built on the ATI 4350 chip. The CPU is 65 W (relatively low power, so we use a modest cooling system and replaced the fan there with a quiet Noctua unit). The video card is fanless. Built it in a low-profile Apex DM-317 mATX HTPC Case, replaced the supplied case fan with another Noctua unit. Have installed a pair of WD Green 1.5 TB drives, and one DVD reader. The machine is on our home network, and any disk burning will be done on other machines that have access to this machine's disks. Using an Nmedia Black Wireless Keyboard & Remote Combo RF 2.4 GHz with trackballs in both the keyboard and Remote Control. We are about to cancel our cable TV service and go with this unit as our TV entertainment source, with an OTA antenna for local TV access.

That video card is certainly more powerful than needed for HTPC and video work, etc, but it is NOT a powerful gaming card. In fact, I think it's pretty difficult to find a powerful gaming card that does not use a cooling fan and require a power supply in the 500 W range or more. Those two factors will have some impact on your noise level.

One wrinkle I realized on the video card is the combo of output ports. ATI's 4350 chip is capable of several outputs, but not all are used in each card. For example, we don't have an HD TV, so we made sure to get a card that has an S-Video output (we're using a simple adapter to derive Composite Video from that), but no HDMI. On some cards, HDMI can be obtained from a DVI output connector, but not all such outputs include audio to feed through the HDMI adapter, so you have to check that carefully. Other models of this same card from XFX do have HDMI, but not S-Video out. The card we got is a low-profile card with a full-height plate on the end containing the VGA, S-Video and DVI output connectors. It comes with an alternative low-profile back plate you install yourself, but that plate has no space for the VGA connector so you just disconnect that. If you need to have the VGA connector available in the low-profile form, basically you have to find or make another low-profile back plate adapter on which the VGA connector can be mounted in another slot opening.

The Apex case I mentioned, like a lot of low-profile cases, comes with a PSU that is NOT the common ATX type, but TFX type instead. Its physical dimensions are smaller. This one has 275 W output, just enough for our setup; the largest output in TFX format I see is a 300W unit from SeaSonic. So if you're wanting your machine to use a video card with lots of gaming power, check the PSU requirements and how that impacts your choice of case. Of course, for modest gaming use, the 4350-based video card may well be quite enough. I'm no gamer, so I can't give you advice on that.

The machine has been running 24/7 downloading torrent files of TV shows for a couple of weeks, and CPU and case temperatures all seem to be quite reasonable. It is very quiet - minimal noise in a quiet room, cannot notice it when watching TV to see the files it downloaded.
!