Need HTPC and fileserver advice

[Updated with some clarifications]

Hey All,

Since I want a storage solution as well as an HTPC I thought I'd try and combine the two... I would ideally like to end up with a machine that can put HD video on my TV via HDMI, and has a decent amount of storage in a RAID (1).

I've done my research, but it would be great if I could pick your brains :)

Budget is flexible, around US$500 for a very minimal system I think. If it takes more for a nice rather than a half-baked solution, that's more than ok. I have sampled options and prices at, but happy to go to another shop or buy south of the border.

1. What's the right CPU for this? It doesn't have to be the absolutely cheapest one but it should be cool and quiet. Intel, AMD, either is fine.

2. If I want to transcode videos to a PS3 in a different room, what kind of CPU in that case?
Is the Celeron E3200 good enough, or even a tiny Celeron 430 single core (or the AMD equivalent)? The latter running at only 37W, that's pretty good...

3. What mobo would you recommend? I see some with on-board graphics that offer HDMI, incl sound - good enough for HD?
Good enough for transcoding to PS3 (if the GPU is involved at all)?
Ideally a small form factor, like microATX, so I can use the smallest feasible case.
Ideally eSata or Firewire (or USB3?) in case I want to add external storage in the future.
Optional: Bluetooth for remote (can just use a USB plug).

4. I'm guessing, 2 Gig of RAM should be more than enough?

5. Case. Needs enough space and ventilation for two drives, ideally the drives should be replaceable without breaking my fingers - easy access, either through racks that let me slide them in, or some other easy way to access them. I will not need any space for optical drives.

6. PSU. How much power will I need? If the case doesn't come with one, I would like a recommendation here too.

7. RAID / HDs. I'm leaning towards a software raid, because if a hardware controller dies, you need the exact same type to get your data back. Any thoughts on this? Performance is not a huge consideration I think.

I had this idea to put the OS on a small cheap SSD and the data on the two RAID HDs. I'm hoping this makes starting up quicker, and also leave me more flexible with the RAID / to replace the data drives etc. Any thoughts? Would a third normal HD make more sense, bang for buck? What's the right lowcost SSD for this?

Edit: Forget about this idea, so this one item doesn't not screw up the budget :). I have a system disk and only need 2 RAID disks, 1TB. If there is money left, I can still go for it.

I know this is a long list, but I'm unsure some of the components and would love to hear a few second opinions. Thanks!
7 answers Last reply
More about need htpc fileserver advice
  1. You are going to need a boot drive, in addition to your RAID1

    You need an Operating system ... there goes $130 ...

    Your budget is too small. Add $150

    This is definately gonna be an AMD build.

    If there is a way to do this, for $500, somebody else is going to have to pull the build. I can't see it ... There is a new ATOM 5xx Server dual-core that is exactly designed to handle both of the tasks you are needing ... it is about the only way you are gonna get all that for $500 (IMO).

    = Al =
  2. Thanks Alvin, Atom is very interesting for energy efficient builds, will definitely have a look at it!

    For this one, I think I want to stick with what I know. I have updated my OP to clear up some parts that were misleading. I have removed the budget limitation, which I agree was way too tight if you include the SSD and the Antec case I posted. Have removed those too.

    I would still love to see what people come up with, since it's been a while since I last researched and built a box myself.
  3. bump

    ... so would I ... It would have to be some slow AMD 2 or 3 core with paltry ram and bargain drives. Not what I would call a "fun build" but others, here, do relish that sort of challenge. They might chime in and if their Avitar says "addict" under it, ... You would do well to heed any advice they can agree upon ... whether it was what you hoped to hear, or not.

    ... Like I said ... "I can't help ya" as "ultra bargain builds" are not my forte nor my recommendation.

    ATOM D510 ... wait 2 months ... my final (pretty sure) word. I'll keep watching, as I would also like to see what others may say.

    = OUT ! =

  4. Thanks mate, I will see if others have any ideas. I actually looked into Atoms some more, and even the ones out now seem more than capable of HD streaming, at least on ION boards. So I might change my mind...
  5. ATOMs

    Dual core is a must. Fast as you can get. The (very) latest versions are also optimized (fairly well) for transcoding (important). Get the latest and the fastest dual core ATOM ... ION graphics are also HIgHLY desirable for multimedia functions.

    Really, the ATOMs just announced this week are the first that I would even take seriously.

    Quite frankly, there are quite a few dis-satisfied "early adopter" ATOM owners, out there. You can read net-top reviews to get a taste ... start with "show worst reviews first" option to see what the issues and the "statistical support" for any detractions are.

    = g'luck ! =
  6. nVidia "ION2" graphics, to be exact (coupled with the latest ATOMs).

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