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HTPC build

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April 5, 2010 10:48:04 PM

Hello,
I am trying to build a moderately priced HTPC with a wide variety of options. I think I am aimming two hi on the CPU and motherboard and that is making my cost go much higher then I wanted. I would like to spend $650-700, have it in a HTPC case, with HDMI, fiber optic, duel channel TV tuner, Blu-ray, and large hard drive so I can use it as a DVR. could you give me some info on a MB, and processor to base this on. I have always built with Intel but am willing to try AMD if it will keep the cost low but still give me what I need

Thank you

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April 6, 2010 12:14:36 AM

What if any parts do you have? Are you wanting to start from scratch? New egg can help you build a system with their wish list feature. I have a Asus M4A785-M for my HTPC Mo-Bo and it has been trouble free. I wasn't happy with the On-board video. I like a HD 5450 video card. Do you have cable or satellite? I have Direct TV with a HDMI from the box to the TV and a cable broadband connection to the HTPC and then a HDMI cable from the PC to the TV. I have not had any reason to have or use a TV tuner card.
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April 6, 2010 12:48:20 AM

My recommendation is to go with a low-end i3 530 and a decent 1156 motherboard. The onboard video and HDMI out will easily handle bluray with DTS-MA and TrueHD output (if you have the stereo for it). I was using an HD5570 with an AMD Phenom II and, while I liked it, it was always a little flakey with recording and playback of my TV (especially Fox for some reason) and I had occasional issues with getting PowerDVD to work correctly. Oh, and the power usage was horrible at around 230W idle. With the new i3 530 and it's onboard video, I haven't had a single issue - all shows record great, PowerDVD works (and the sound output is excellent), my BeyondTV Link works, and I'm at only 82W total power at idle.

I use an HDHomeRun for my OTA HD, a dual-tuner Hauppage WinTV PCIe card for cable, and another USB tuner for OTA HD - 5 tuners in all. I have an internal 160Gb drive for the OS and apps and a 1Tb eSATA drive for movie/TV storage. I'm SO much happier with this config than the last one, and it cost about $625 total.
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April 6, 2010 12:53:36 AM

An Athlon IIx2 240 at 2.8GHz will give you what you need for HD and anything else. If you feel you want some extra power, go for an Athlon IIx3 440 at 3GHz. Both options are under $100. I'm not sure if any are dual channel but the ATI all in wonder things are good tuner cards. western digital black are good HDDs but samsung spinpoint F3s are better if you can find them.
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April 6, 2010 1:22:43 AM

topper743 said:
What if any parts do you have? Are you wanting to start from scratch? New egg can help you build a system with their wish list feature. I have a Asus M4A785-M for my HTPC Mo-Bo and it has been trouble free. I wasn't happy with the On-board video. I like a HD 5450 video card. Do you have cable or satellite? I have Direct TV with a HDMI from the box to the TV and a cable broadband connection to the HTPC and then a HDMI cable from the PC to the TV. I have not had any reason to have or use a TV tuner card.



I was planning to build from scratch because the parts I have are from a P4 3.0 ghz with HT, LGA 775. Its on an ASUS board but it only has AGP 8X video, which is terribly outdated kind of the whole reason i want to build new. I only have cable but wasn't worried about HD TV at this point, just wanted blu-ray, and decent quality netflix etc. I was going to get a hauppauge dual tuner card for TV in. I was also curious about the onboard video of these new MB. Some have on-board chips and some I am assuming utilize the CPU. For a HTPC i don't think it would be too bad to use the CPU but after what you pointed out I might go for a separate video card.
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April 6, 2010 2:25:48 AM

As Enzo said, the Athlon IIs are more than powerful enough for HTPC duties. However, they suck power like nobody's business and require the an add-on card of at least a 5570 or above for full bit-streaming of TrueHD or DTS-MA. You could, quite literally, use twice as much power with an x2 and a 5570 as you would with just an i3 and not gain any features. Plus, you can make a very good point that the i3 is faster overall anyways (see the article today http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/core-i3-gaming,2588... )

In terms of the on-board video of any AMD board, they're okay, but they don't have the DTS-MA and TrueHD that the Intel i3/i5 chips have. You need a dedicated card for that. They're more than enough for DVD playback but SUCK when it comes to BR playback. The i3 is about twice as much as a low-end 240 ($65 for the 240 vs. $120 for the i3 530) but minus a dedicated 5570 it's cheaper. The 5450 would work, but it doesn't have all the audio features of the 5570...and even that's $60. So, the i3 is the same price with excellent BR decoding and full-featured audio capabilities. I'm an AMD/ATI guy through and through, but the i3 is the best proc for an HTPC, especially given a power usage of half to 1/3 of an Athlon and dedicated graphics card.

Also, for an HTPC, you do NOT need a Caviar Black or an F3. I've recorded 5 shows at the same time and had no issue doing it over eSATA to a Caviar Green. Find any ol' cheap HD that has the size and reliability you need. I would recommend keeping your data drive separate from the O/S on an HTPC build, though, because it makes it FAR easier to move that drive to another PC if needed and it keeps the compression/recording away from the O/S drive. That said, I actually record to my O/S drive, but do commercial skip and compression to the external drive (and delete as the compression is done). Again, that's my opinion, though, and you could probably get away with a single 1Tb drive for both. Just sayin...an HTPC doesn't need a fast HD. If I can record 5 shows (3 HD and 2 cable) at one time and do commercial skip/compression immediately after the recording from a plain ol' 160Gb HD to an external eSATA green drive...with no issues...you have no worries.
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April 6, 2010 10:23:39 AM

I think I am going to go with an I3-530 or 540 core. At this time I will get a MB with the HDMI out but if need be I can get a separate video card later. Good call on the HDs my current system has pretty old HDs at least 5 years and they record just fine with my TV tuner. I priced a system out last night that was an I3 core and it came out to $706 with tax and all. A bit pricey still but $170 of that is from the case, I want a decent case though for venting and because this is going to be sitting in my living room staring at me everyday. Thank everyone for your input, it helped me make a decision on a system I think will work great. ill let you know how it goes, hopeing to get the parts this week.
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April 6, 2010 2:34:29 PM


Mostly correct and I agree the i3 has these features and whatnot that the radeons lacked before the 5xxx series (which currently there are still no integrated versions of), but I wouldn't think them necessary.
I dunno about you but I have no problems running 1080p blu-ray on my desktop with integrated radeon 4200.
The power efficiency in the article you mentioned is for the phenom II series. The Athlon II, although still drawing more power, will not draw nearly as much as the phenom II series. If you are really worried about power consumption, you could got with an Athlon 240e. But only if it is less expensive than an i3 because otherwise it wouldn't be worth it.
Yeah totally right about the hard drive. My current drives are an old seagate and a relatively new 1TB WD green with only 8mb of cache. Great drive.
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April 6, 2010 3:07:53 PM

enzo matrix said:
Mostly correct and I agree the i3 has these features and whatnot that the radeons lacked before the 5xxx series (which currently there are still no integrated versions of), but I wouldn't think them necessary.
I dunno about you but I have no problems running 1080p blu-ray on my desktop with integrated radeon 4200.
The power efficiency in the article you mentioned is for the phenom II series. The Athlon II, although still drawing more power, will not draw nearly as much as the phenom II series. If you are really worried about power consumption, you could got with an Athlon 240e. But only if it is less expensive than an i3 because otherwise it wouldn't be worth it.
Yeah totally right about the hard drive. My current drives are an old seagate and a relatively new 1TB WD green with only 8mb of cache. Great drive.

Oh, I definitely had no issues playing blu-ray on my old integrated 780G (the HD3200) or the newer 785G (HD4200) - both worked great. I actually had three issues with them, though.
One, I bought a new stereo that supported Dolby TrueHD and DTS-MA (and a plethora of other things I'll probably never use). So, I had to upgrade if I wanted that sound since the integrated ATI graphics still can't handle those audio formats. If you don't have a stereo that supports those, then absolutely - any 780/790/785/890 will do Dolby Digital and DTS just fine. I ended up getting the 5570 when it came out.
Two, with my Athlon II X2 240, 4Gb of memory, a 785G, an internal 160Gb drive and an external 1Tb Phantom Green drive, along with Win7, my PC was using around 230W at idle. My i7 heavily overclocked with 12Gb of memory and 3 HDs only uses 250W at idle. I just thought that seemed excessive for an HTPC that was on 24x7. Switching to the i3 530 on an H57 mATX board (using the same PSU from my old build, mind you) dropped idle power to the low 80s. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't make that big of a difference, but over the course of a year, that's a lot of saved electricity $.
Three, the HD3200/HD4200 didn't quite have the level of graphics filtering (AA, Stream, etc...) that I was hoping for, though the 4200 is quite a bit better. That said, I'll be honest and say that overall crispness seems to be better with the i3, but I'm not convinced it's not all in my head. I don't think most people would even notice.

The 5xxx discrete cards, especially the 5450 and 5570, are PERFECT for an HTPC if you want to go AMD. I swear there was something the 5450 was lacking (and IIRC was just a minor issue) but danged if I can find the article where it was detailed now. I know it was why I ended up going with a 5570 when they finally came out. THs review didn't specify it, so I'll go ahead and say the 5450, at $50, is perfect if you need the audio capabilities that BluRays usually contain.

It really just depends on what kind of stereo you're going to hook it up to and what sort of audio it's capable of decoding, how picky you are with the video quality, and whether you're concerned with power usage or not. Even a 240e using a dedicated lowly 5450 is going to use more power than a i3, it will be slower than the i3, and end up costing about the same ($60 CPU and $50 graphics card, or $120 i3). I'm totally cool with either one. If it wasn't for the overall flakiness I was experiencing with BeyondTV for the past year on my Athlon II setup, I'd still be using it and not knowing any different. I'm just totally ecstatic about the i3 and how nicely everything just works.
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April 6, 2010 3:39:00 PM

You can get the Athlon II X2 235e or Athlon II X2 240e - 45W (compared to the 73W the i3) + a 790GX mobo, it has UVD and you can run any movie format you want including Blu-Ray.


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April 6, 2010 3:43:06 PM

mosox said:
You can get the Athlon II X2 235e or Athlon II X2 240e - 45W (compared to the 73W the i3) + a 790GX mobo, it has UVD and you can run any movie format you want including Blu-Ray.

Again, only if he's not concerned with bitstreaming DTS-MA or TrueHD. If he doesn't have the stereo equipment to support it, this would be great, though I'd argue a 790G is overkill for an HTPC. A cheap 785G has a better chipset (the 790G is only an HD3300, while the 785G is an HD4200) and they're generally cheaper than the 790G.
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April 6, 2010 4:33:06 PM

I do plan in the near future to add a higher end stero/home theater system but I figured most of my other additions (stero, LED TV) would be based on the outputs I can get from the HTPC so i am starting there.

I am looking at 2 motherboards right now, one is about $40 more then the other

First MSI H57M-ED65 LGA1156 it has the H57 Northbridge and better auido chipset, and 2 PCIeX16 slots, not sure I would ever need that. 159.99 before 20 dollar mail in rebate

second: Biostar TH55XE LGA 1156 obviously the H55 Northbridge and a lower quaility but still good audio.

I am not familer wither either of these brands I used ASUS and gigabyte in the past and those seemed to work great, although I have started hearing bad things about gigabyte. But MSI has been around a long time and never heard terrible reviews. Don't know about biostar though.
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April 6, 2010 4:59:37 PM

ebukov980 said:
I do plan in the near future to add a higher end stero/home theater system but I figured most of my other additions (stero, LED TV) would be based on the outputs I can get from the HTPC so i am starting there.

I am looking at 2 motherboards right now, one is about $40 more then the other

First MSI H57M-ED65 LGA1156 it has the H57 Northbridge and better auido chipset, and 2 PCIeX16 slots, not sure I would ever need that. 159.99 before 20 dollar mail in rebate

second: Biostar TH55XE LGA 1156 obviously the H55 Northbridge and a lower quaility but still good audio.

I am not familer wither either of these brands I used ASUS and gigabyte in the past and those seemed to work great, although I have started hearing bad things about gigabyte. But MSI has been around a long time and never heard terrible reviews. Don't know about biostar though.

The audio chipset is totally irrelevant if you're using HDMI to carry the audio. The graphics subsystem actually handles piping the sound to your stereo and it's bitstreamed to your stereo to decode. The sound card and quality will only come into play if you plan on either a) using an S/PDIF out to your stereo or b) using the 7.1 speaker outputs. If you're using HDMI to your stereo, you don't have to worry about that at all.

I bought this board:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Sadly, it's $20 more now than what I paid for it in the beginning of March, but still cheaper than the MSI. Plus, it's ASUS - better quality board in most cases than a BioStar (though I've never had a problem with any of their boards and I've bought a lot of them). For MY computers, though, I've always used ASUS, Gigabyte or MSI and have been quite happy with all of them adn despite what you've heard, Gigabyte is still a top tier company with some of the best boards out there. The prices on H55/H57 boards are coming down quite a bit, though, and you can find some really good ones for far less. I'd probably go with this one if I was building it today.

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

That's only $95 after rebate and is great for an HTPC build.

You definitely don't need 2 PCIe slots and remember that they wouldn't run in dual 16x mode as the CPU (any of the i3/i5 with integrated graphics) has only 16 lanes of PCIe available, and USB3 and SATA 6Gb both use a lane each leaving only 14 for the two to share. That said, they come in handy if you want to use multiple PCIe TV Tuners and need the slots. The likelihood of you ever needing a discreet graphics card in an HTPC build, though, are very slim (unless you decided you wanted to game, too).
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April 6, 2010 5:22:15 PM

mosox said:
The i3 integrated graphics won't work on any 1156 mobo from what I know.

The integrated GPU on the i3 chips will work just fine when paired with any H55 or H57 chipset motherboard. There are currently 43 motherboards on Newegg that would allow video output when paired with an i3 chip.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...
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April 6, 2010 5:39:04 PM

2089518,14,605729 said:
Nope, HD3300 > HD4200, but HD4200 should be just as fine.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/amd-785g-chipset,23...

The HD4200 is a newer tech part with DX10.1 support and Stream support which the HD3200/3300 does not have. Yes, the 3300 can be faster given it's 200MHz clock advantage, but the 4200 can EASILY be OC'd to 900-1000MHz (the 3300 usually has a limit of around 800). Did you even read that link? The 800MHz (OC'd) 785G beat the 700MHz 790G in every test except 3dMark Vantage and for some reason they didn't test it OC'd. But yes...at stock speeds...the 3300 (790G) is faster, but it's older tech. Regardless, in an HTPC, I'd rather have the HD4200.

And, as stated, the i3/i5 works in any H55/H57 motherboard and will work in ALL 1156 boards - you just don't get the onboard graphics in anything other than the H5x boards.
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