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Need Advice on Budget HTPC (first build)

Last response: in Systems
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November 9, 2009 1:11:19 AM

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APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: See below BUDGET RANGE: See below

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: watching movies, playing music, gaming, general web surfing, occasional simple programming

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: See below

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: newegg.com COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA

PARTS PREFERENCES: none strong enough to mention

OVERCLOCKING: Maybe SLI OR CROSSFIRE: Maybe eventually

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1920x1080 or 1920x1200

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: My goal is not to need to upgrade for a few years, but to be able to do so when necessary, without breaking the bank. I'm also trying to be reasonably energy efficient to reduce the need for noisy cooling fans, etc.

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I'm currently using an old eMachines T6520 desktop and would like to replace it with a machine designed primarily as an HTPC, but also capable of decent gaming. (Dragon Age: Origins, for example) Being a student on a limited budget, I'm hoping to sort-of upgrade my current machine incrementally, as I scrounge up the money for parts. That's why I listed "see below" for purchase date & budget range. My budget isn't a set amount; it'll just take me longer to find the money for a more expensive part. I figure I can probably set aside about $20-$25 a week for parts and would like to have a complete new system by Christmas 2010. Am I crazy or does this actually sound feasible?

Here's the configuration of my current machine:
AMD Athlon 64 3400+ Processor (512KB L2 cache, 2.4 GHz, 1600 MHz FSB)
ATI RS480 Chipset (with integrated ATI Radeon Xpress 200 graphics)
2GB DDR-400 RAM
200GB Segate Barracuda 7200.7 (P)ATA Hard Drive
Two optical drives, both of which are flaky and need to be replaced anyways
eMachines 15" (1024x768) LCD monitor w/ D-Sub connection
I do have one PCIe x16 slot free, as well as multiple PCI slots.
Windows 7 Ultimate x86 (RC1, not RTM)

Here's the configuration I'm looking at for the replacement:
AMD Phenom II x4 945 (95W) Processor
ASUS M4A79XTD EVO Motherboard (AMD 790X Chipset)
Cooler Master Silent Pro 600 PSU
Mushkin DDR3-1333 4GB (2x2GB) kit (CAS Latency 7, 7-7-7-20)
XFX Radeon HD 5750 1GB GDDR5 Video Card
ASUS My Cinema-PHC3-100 PCI TV Tuner Card
WD Caviar Black 1TB 7200RPM HDD
Sony Optiarc 24x DVD±RW/CD-RW Optical Drive
Thermaltake Tsunami VA3000BWA Mid-tower Case
Windows 7 Professional x64 (RTM :D )
Blu-ray drive, keyboard, mouse, card reader, etc. are all TBD after getting the rest put together.
Monitor TBD by the time I get the video card.
Audio isn't too important - I can rarely tell the difference between simply adequate sound and really good sound. To start with, audio will go out through my old stereo. Down the road, I'll probably buy a set of 5.1 speakers.

I'm thinking of getting and installing the parts in several stages:
1st: TV Tuner, HDD, DVD/CD Drive, Power Supply, Monitor(?)
2nd: Video Card, Case, Monitor(?)
3rd: Processor, Motherboard, RAM
4th: Everything else

For the monitor, I'm torn between buying a TV and buying a regular monitor. I currently live in a studio apartment, where a huge screen would be absurd, and I do own a PlayStation 2 that I want to connect to the same screen. I'm currently leaning toward a 20 or 21-inch TV with several different inputs (including HDMI, VGA, composite and component), which can eventually move to a bedroom in a larger apartment and be replaced by a large LCD on my HTPC. Are there any significant drawbacks to using a TV as a primary monitor? I'd keep my old LCD as a secondary monitor for the routine surfing/admin type stuff.

I hope that I've provided enough information for you to be able to make sense of what I'm thinking. I'd appreciate any comments or recommendations on my proposed configuration, as well as thoughts on the feasability, advisability and/or sanity of my plan. Thanks in advance for your help!

-Joe
November 9, 2009 1:21:16 AM

Hmm. Sounds good. Looks from here like everything would fit together nicely. You might also want to invest in a HTPC case, like this one:

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

You might not even need a phenom II x4. You could go with an Athlon II x4 or a Phenom II x3.

BTW, SLI/Crossfire is not really OCing! It's just using multiple graphics cards.

As far as monitors, a TV is fine. You might find it a little annoying writing a quarterly report, essay, etc., on the TV, so a monitor would be a good idea.

Check out this:

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

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

Hope that helps! :) 
!