HTPC under $500

I want to build a HTPC for under $500. Please help me pick the best gear for my $$. thanks in advance.

I like this case, but really am open to any black micro.

I have a HD DVR so not sure if a tuner card would be in my best interest or not.


SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Stream audio, video and surfing the net

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: newegg? tigerdirect?


MONITOR RESOLUTION: I have a Samsung LN40A550b 40-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV

22 answers Last reply
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  1. I'm assuming you'll use HDMI vid. What about audio? (dedicated receiver?)

    First off, Win 7 with Media Center. Win 7 MCE is absolutely superior to previous versions.

    Phenom II ready and DDR3. You may be fine w/ the on-board HD 4200. On-board vid sometimes has probs w/ HDMI and HDMI-switching receivers in my experience. Worth a try, if probs get a dedicated vid card.

    More than you'll need for this project. If you want to save $40 get the X3 720.

    Tuner: Useless IMO since the digital conversion. More problems than you'll need. You're better off getting a DVR.

    Mem: pick a compatible set of DDR3. 2GB is fine for what you're wanting to do but 4 wouldn't hurt.

    Case: Just be sure of the airflow. #1 prob for HTPC cases is poor airflow.

    Audio through HDMI: You'll have to do some research, not sure if the on-board can do it.
  2. For well less than $500, I built my HTPC. If you are primarily using it for playback, even a 780G and a low end AMD chip will work. If you want to do some gaming, you might want to get a more powerful processor and GPU.

    I disagree about the tuner - there are plenty of digital tuners out there, some with that allow recording of 2 digital streams simultaneously.

    +1 to DDR3 suggestion and Windows 7 Media Center.

    Personally, I went with the Antec Microfusion case that comes with a 350w PSU in it and has great airflow.
  3. thanks. Yes HDMI for vid and I have a Klipsch cs-700 receiver for audio.

    how do I be sure of the airflow? any suggestions on black cases. After reading some reviews I don't think I will go with the one listed above.

    what are the benefits to these remotes I keep seeing? I have a wireless keyboard with mousepad on it.

    If I stick with that processor I may be looking at $600 with everything else but I'm willing to extend budget to do this right.

    Mem: G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800)

    Power Supply: COOLMAX CX-350B (Black) 350W ATX Power Supply
  4. Are you planning on playing games with this HTPC? What kind of games? What else will you be doing with it?

    Do you have space restrictions as it relates to case size? I know you said black, but anything else necessary.

    I'd go with a better brand of PSU - PC Power and Cooling, Corsair, Antec, etc, especially if it'll be 24/7 type of PC.

    HDMI audio will work on as long as the board is 780g/785g or above or 48xx series of GPU from ATI. Make sure your received does HDMI pass through, though I believe many of the modern ones do.
  5. ^ Agreed. DO NOT get a CoolMax PSU! They are a death trap.
  6. i will not be gaming at all on the PC. Just using it for surfing the net and streaming/playing media.

    Size wise I just want it to look good on my entertainment center. not too bulky but I have a bit of room. I have a comcast HD DVR so something comparible to that size, but it could be higher of course. any specific links to what I should be looking into is appreciated.
  7. Maybe you want to start with these....

    CPU: AMD Athlon II X2 240 Regor 2.8GHz
    GPU: GIGABYTE GV-R435OC-512I Radeon HD 4350 512MB

    RAM: Patriot G Series ‘Sector 5’ Edition 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333

    Mobo: ASRock M3A770DE AM3 AMD 770 ATX AMD Motherboard

    HDD: SAMSUNG EcoGreen F2 HD103SI 1TB 5400 RPM 32MB

    PSU: Antec Basiq BP500U 500W

    Optical: LITE-ON Black 4X BD-ROM

    Case: nMEDIAPC Black Aluminum

    Total: $501.92

    It comes with some mail in rebate but personally I don't trust mail in rebate.
    I see you don't want to use that case but most of the time case is personal preference.
  8. I just ordered all the pieces for an HTPC build based on lots and lots of research, the right sales, etc. I am not sure this will come under $500 for you because I got pieces on Black Friday and when things were on sale. Now it looks like prices have gone up, free shipping gone, etc. I got most everything at Newegg.

    Case: nMEDIAPC Black Aluminum panel & Steel HTPC 1000B Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case - Retail //

    PSU: Antec EarthWatts Green EA-380D Green 380W Continuous power ATX12V v2.3 / EPS12V 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply - Retail //

    Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-MA785GPMT-UD2H AM3 AMD 785G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail //

    CPU: AMD Phenom II X3 705e Heka 2.5GHz 3 x 512KB L2 Cache 6MB L3 Cache Socket AM3 65W Triple-Core Processor - Retail //

    RAM: G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL8D-4GBHK - Retail //

    HDD: Western Digital Caviar Blue WD3200AAJS 320GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive //

    ODD: LITE-ON Black 4X Blu-ray Reader SATA Model iHOS104-06 - OEM //

    The case I got a great deal when it was on sale for $69.99 when Newegg was having a nMediaPC sale. I chose this one because of the size, price, ratings and what would fit in my cabinet. I also wanted something that looked very much like my AVR. I have a HTPC with an Antec NSK1380 case that looks very out of place with the rest of my equipment. I got the PSU when that one was a daily deal. I've had great luck with the 350W Antec PSU in the NSK1380 so I wanted something along the same lines. As for the motherboard, I wanted DDR3 support and sideport memory this time. For $5 more than the non-sideport model it made sense. I have no plans for a discrete graphics card for this HTPC so I wanted the best IGP solution in a 785g board I could get. I also wanted the best audio codec with content protection which in the ALC889A, the Gigabyte has. ASUS has the VIA1708S which does not have content protection so depending on the driver, Bluray audio might be downmixed to 2.1. Unfortunately, with 785G still no 7.1, not even LPCM. The CPU was the hardest decision. I wanted something no more than 65W. I read A LOT of reviews and at the time, the 705e seemed the best bang for the buck. Now that the prices have gone back up I am not sure what I'd choose for that price point. Maybe I'd go up to 80W TDP and chose the Phenom II X2 550BE? Or, try to find a 45W Athlon II X4? In all the reviews, the Athlon II X2s seemed way slower than the Phenoms. Sure, video playback is handled by the GPU but I want W7MC and other apps to fly. The RAM was also a lot of research and coordinated with my CPU choice which supports up to DDR3-1333. I know it will *work* with DDR3-1600 but somewhere (I wish I had a link) showed some issue with the higher memory speed causing some bottleneck. Anyway, there was a $1 difference between 4G of 1333 and 1600 so I got the one that the specs called for. The motherboard specs at the Gigabyte website also had this RAM in the list. I went with 4G over 2G because a lot of review I read said the best way to increase Windows 7 performance was to throw RAM at it. I'll probably install W764 to get the full 4GB. The HDD was based mostly on price and speed. I have a Windows Home Server so my HTPC doesn't need much storage. I've always had good luck with Western Digital. The ODD I chose I found a great deal at and got 10% off for using PayPal to pay but most of all it came with a copy of PowerDVD 8 believe it or not so no extra $$$ needed to spend on Blu-ray software.

    One more thing about the CPU/Motherboard choice. After I'd settled on these I found a blog at the AMD site that made me feel pretty good about the decision:

    Have fun and good luck!
  9. Some things to add: any of the 785G boards with HDMI will do audio over HDMI. Again, beware the audio codec if you want to play protected content. Realtek ALC885 and ALC889 and VIA 1718S/1728S claim to be the ones that support it. I couldn't find the VIA in any micro ATX boards.

    If you really want something the size of your Comcast DVR vs. something the size of your AVR you're going to have to reconsider the path you're going down with a micro-ATX size mobo. I was looking at a mini-ITX build before I settled on what I did and those cases were more the size of a DVR or DVD player. There are some high-end (Lian Li for instance) slim micro-ATX HTPC cases but they're pretty expensive and you really have to limit the TDP on your processor because of the size of the case and therefore the limit on cooling. You're still looking at something 16.5"-17" wide though (not coincidentally, the width of your typical AVR).

    Something Comcast DVR size would be more like this:

    However, if that gets your thinking NVIDIA ION, while great for video playback, I've read a lot of complaints about how slow the Atom 330 is for things like surfing the 'net and navigating in Windows.
  10. dystopias said:

    IMHO, the discrete video card here is a waste of money if you're building an HTPC. You might also want to take a look at the reviews for the GT220. While it's nice that it's built on a new process and has reduced power needs, it didn't seem to stack up all that great performance-wise. I think I also read it doesn't have it's own audio so you need to connect it to the mobo's SPDIF header to get audio over HDMI. The HD4200 IGP on that motherboard will be great for HTPC use (playing videos, surfing the web, etc.). If you want to game as well, check out the ATI HD5xxx series of cards which apparently now let you bitsteam 7.1 over HDMI (at least the 57x0 cards anyway).

    As for the mobo, if you care about sound, read the reviews on the VIA audio. I've read about issues playing DRM content with the VIA drivers and other issues. I guess that won't be an issue if you do want a discrete graphics card that has on-board audio (again, the GT220 doesn't according to what I've read).

    Finally, is that PSU 80+? I wouldn't go on the cheap when it comes to the PSU. Spend some more money and get a 80+ power supply like one from Antec. That's the last place you want to go on the cheap because w/o power what do you have?
  11. +1 - for a HTPC, the integrated video is plenty for even HD playback.

    Another +1 for the PSU suggestion - never go cheap there.

    You'd be all set with a Regor 240 or 245 if there isn't a combo on the 250. Mine (240) does just fine as a HTPC CPU.
  12. wow, thanks for your suggestions. I picked out a gpu because i didn't think the onboard one would be sufficient. as far as the psu goes, does anyone have a specific suggestion? i'm so lost on how to calculate how much wattage i would need - i picked 400 because it was not too much and not too little . . .

    I didn't even consider the sound issue . . . if i just want to watch videos on the web, hulu desktop, boxee, play mp3s etc, would it work? is there a better motherboard with built in audio and graphics i should consider?

    thanks for all your help!

    p.s. i don't know if it matters, but I plan on running Ubuntu on this machine.

    pps. and no, i don't plan on doing any gaming with this computer.
  13. ^ Yes, the ATI 4200 is more than enough for HD/HTPC duty.
  14. Yes, the 785g is great for a HTPC build. My 780g (slightly lower performance than the 785) is great for mine.

    Good PSU brands are Corsair, Antec, PC Power & Cooling.

    The reason I chose the case I did ( is that I liked the look, the form factor, the cooling, and that it came with a decent 350w PSU
  15. thanks for the responses, it is good to know that i'm not completely off base. so assuming i went with:

    GIGABYTE GA-MA785GMT-UD2H AM3 AMD 785G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail

    AMD Athlon II X2 250 Regor 3.0GHz 2 x 1MB L2 Cache Socket AM3 65W Dual-Core Processor - Retail

    G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-10600CL9D-4GBNT

    Western Digital Caviar Green WD5000AADS 500GB 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive -Bare Drive

    Sony Optiarc Black 24X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 12X DVD+R DL 24X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 12X DVD-RAM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA DVD/CD Rewritable Drive - OEM

    how large of a power supply do i need? would 350 be enough? i tried a few online calculators, but they asked some questions i didn't know the answers to.

    assuming i'm going to get lazy when the time comes, i might just buy a case instead of making one - i'll look into that one you suggested.

    thanks again!

    i'm holding off on everything until at least after CES - see if anything is coming out that would be a better deal than this homebrew. specifically, the just announced boxee box might be an option. although it lacks basic computer functions like word processing etc, it would do what i need it to do for under $200.
  16. I used this case for my HTPC a few months ago - got it for about $100us shipped: Antec NSK2400 / Fusion Media PC Case (Some peeps don't like the silver bevel and paint it black.)

    I used this 785G motherboard
    with an Athlon II X2. It's been working great and is very cool and quiet
  17. dystopias said:
    how large of a power supply do i need? would 350 be enough? i tried a few online calculators, but they asked some questions i didn't know the answers to.

    I have basically the same setup (mine's 780G/AMD 5050e/4GB/400GB WD/LiteOn Bluray) running in an Antec NSK1380 which has a 350w power supply and there's no issues whatsoever wrt power. I am building another HTPC which has the same mobo you list (except with the sideport), Phenom II X3 705e, same memory you list, a 320GB HDD and LiteOn Blu-ray. I got a Antec EA380D/nMediaPC 1000B for it and expect it to be plenty. I have no plans to add a discrete graphics card though.

    dystopias said:

    i'm holding off on everything until at least after CES - see if anything is coming out that would be a better deal than this homebrew. specifically, the just announced boxee box might be an option. although it lacks basic computer functions like word processing etc, it would do what i need it to do for under $200.

    Yeah, I wish I'd done that. The new i5-661 / H55 stuff that was announced just this week looks pretty amazing. I'd like to see what AMD's answer to that will be (Fusion?) However, I am not sure I'd want to be an early adopter. I am turning my old HTPC (the 780G/NSK1380 setup) into my PC for working-at-home so it's not like I could wait until it all settles out anyway. I just wish I'd known about it and maybe then I could have done a bit more wait-and-see.

    BTW, for $5 more you can get that same mobo but with 128MB of DDR3-1333 sideport memory. I am not sure if it's a huge performance impact but for $5 I decided it was worth it. Some of the reviews seemed to show HD4200 with sideport doing a bit better.
  18. That looks like a nice configuration for a HTPC. There's a nice PSU calculator here:

    You should be OK with 350 - I've never had any issues - in fact, I'm sure it's more than enough.
  19. here's what I went with:

    1 nMEDIAPC Black Aluminum / Acrylic / Steel HTPC 5000B Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case - Retail
    Item #: N82E16811204035

    Standard Return Policy

    1 GIGABYTE GA-MA785GMT-UD2H AM3 AMD 785G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - Retail
    Item #: N82E16813128397

    Standard Return Policy

    1 Thermaltake TR2 W0070RUC 430W ATX12V V2.2 Intel Core i7 Compliant Dual 80mm Fans Full Cable Sleevings Power Supply - Retail
    Item #: N82E16817153023

    Standard Return Policy

    1 AMD Athlon II X4 620 Propus 2.6GHz Socket AM3 95W Quad-Core Processor Model ADX620WFGIBOX - Retail
    Item #: N82E16819103706

    CPU Replacement Only Return Policy

    1 G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ - Retail
    Item #: N82E16820231193

    Memory Standard Return Policy


    1 Western Digital Caviar Green WD5000AADS 500GB SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive -Bare Drive
    Item #: N82E16822136358

    Standard Return Policy

    1 LG Black 8X BD-ROM 16X DVD-ROM 40X CD-ROM SATA Internal Combo LG Blu-ray Reader & 16X LightScribe DVD±R DVD Burner - Retail
    Item #: N82E16827136162

    Standard Return Policy

    Subtotal $551.94
    Tax $0.00
    UPS 3 Days $21.68
    Order Total $573.62
  20. Nice! Congrats!
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