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Building my first HTPC -- how are these components?

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April 12, 2010 5:18:59 AM

Hi everyone, I was looking for a little advice on purchasing components to make a HTPC. I haven't put together my own pc for over a decade (have been relying on dell), but I thought I'd give it a try for fun and to save a little $$$ while getting decent performance. My main priorities are to build a machine that will play 1080p blu-ray movies, Hulu, Netflix while also being my main desktop for applications (mainly microsoft word, excel). The display will be a 47" LCD HDMI TV. I don't really game at all, but I do often have multiple browser windows open at once with many tabs open in each (so yeah RAM is a good idea, I know). I do want something that will last me 3-4 years, so I'd like to buy fairly good/fast components that will not be too slow in 2 years. Please let me know what you think of the following configuration. I'm going to run Windows 7 on this machine -- possibly something Linux based later on, but not anytime soon. I'd like the machine to be quiet and cool with a reasonably small form factor. I don't have much need for a huge hard drive at this point and I was planning on just using the onboard video and sound -- possibly upgrading later. Any thoughts? Thanks!


Case: LIAN LI PC-V351A Silver Aluminum MicroATX Desktop Computer Case

Power Supply: SeaSonic SS-300ET Bronze 300W ATX12V V2.31 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply

Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-785GMT-USB3 AM3 AMD 785G USB 3.0 HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard

Optical drive: LG Black Blu-ray Disc Combo SATA Model UH10LS20 LightScribe Support

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

CPU: AMD Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition Heka 2.8GHz Socket AM3 95W Triple-Core Processor Model HDZ720WFK3DGI (might try to overclock/unlock core)

CPU fan: ARCTIC COOLING Freezer 64 Pro 92mm CPU Cooler - Retail

HD: SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
April 12, 2010 5:22:52 AM

daveatronic said:
Hi everyone, I was looking for a little advice on purchasing components to make a HTPC. I haven't put together my own pc for over a decade (have been relying on dell), but I thought I'd give it a try for fun and to save a little $$$ while getting decent performance. My main priorities are to build a machine that will play 1080p blu-ray movies, Hulu, Netflix while also being my main desktop for applications (mainly microsoft word, excel). The display will be a 47" LCD HDMI TV. I don't really game at all, but I do often have multiple browser windows open at once with many tabs open in each (so yeah RAM is a good idea, I know). I do want something that will last me 3-4 years, so I'd like to buy fairly good/fast components that will not be too slow in 2 years. Please let me know what you think of the following configuration. I'm going to run Windows 7 on this machine -- possibly something Linux based later on, but not anytime soon. I'd like the machine to be quiet and cool with a reasonably small form factor. I don't have much need for a huge hard drive at this point and I was planning on just using the onboard video and sound -- possibly upgrading later. Any thoughts? Thanks!


Case: LIAN LI PC-V351A Silver Aluminum MicroATX Desktop Computer Case

Power Supply: SeaSonic SS-300ET Bronze 300W ATX12V V2.31 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply

Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-785GMT-USB3 AM3 AMD 785G USB 3.0 HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard

Optical drive: LG Black Blu-ray Disc Combo SATA Model UH10LS20 LightScribe Support

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

CPU: AMD Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition Heka 2.8GHz Socket AM3 95W Triple-Core Processor Model HDZ720WFK3DGI (might try to overclock/unlock core)

CPU fan: ARCTIC COOLING Freezer 64 Pro 92mm CPU Cooler - Retail

HD: SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive


I just replaced my ARTIC COOLING Freezer Pro 64 92mm CPU cooler yesterday. On my quad core it performed worse than my stock Heatsink. I recommend not getting it.

TBH, you wont need any more than a stock HSF for an HTPC.

Whats your budget, because alot of your components are overkill for a non-gaming rig.
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April 12, 2010 5:44:55 AM

I was shooting for around $600. Pricing all the stuff above at newegg comes out to around $800. I originally had planned on an athlon II rather than a phenom. I was thinking I could probably go with a cheaper mobo/cpu combo, but then the onboard graphics might not cut it and I'd need a separate video card? My biggest fear is that I'll start feeling that it's sluggish after a year or two, but maybe it would just be cheaper for me to upgrade again at that point? Thanks for the advice on the HSF
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April 12, 2010 6:06:59 AM

daveatronic said:
I was shooting for around $600. Pricing all the stuff above at newegg comes out to around $800. I originally had planned on an athlon II rather than a phenom. I was thinking I could probably go with a cheaper mobo/cpu combo, but then the onboard graphics might not cut it and I'd need a separate video card? My biggest fear is that I'll start feeling that it's sluggish after a year or two, but maybe it would just be cheaper for me to upgrade again at that point? Thanks for the advice on the HSF


Get an Athlonx3 435 imo.

If you plan to use it as a full HTPC, meaning also a DVR you will need a bigger HDD

I record The Office in High Definition, a few movies and all Man vs. Wild. My 750 GB HDD is down to 400 GB.

So IF you want to save video, get a bigger HDD.

Also if this HTPC is going to be in your living room, I recommend getting a TV card as well. just my 2c
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April 12, 2010 6:37:39 AM

gkay09 said:
Check out this setup...A powerful Tri-Core at 3GHz with the same mobo
X3 440 + Gigabyte 785G
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

RAM - Crucial - High quality @ low price...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PSU - Yes that 300W would suffice...but this is a better deal -
Corsair 400CX - After rebates, costs lower...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


Rest same...



That mobo/cpu deal looks great -- nice price and prob still faster than i need... I'm guessing you all don't think USB 3.0 will be useful for at least another year? And what about 1600 vs 1333 RAM? Thanks!
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April 12, 2010 6:39:55 AM

cmcghee358 said:
Get an Athlonx3 435 imo.

If you plan to use it as a full HTPC, meaning also a DVR you will need a bigger HDD

I record The Office in High Definition, a few movies and all Man vs. Wild. My 750 GB HDD is down to 400 GB.

So IF you want to save video, get a bigger HDD.

Also if this HTPC is going to be in your living room, I recommend getting a TV card as well. just my 2c


I will probably eventually want to record... But do you think it's better to start off with a big HD or just add another one later? And if I'm connecting this to an HDTV rather than a monitor, will a TV card be very useful? I'm guessing I can record with it while I'm watching a different channel on the TV? Thanks for all your help
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April 12, 2010 6:45:23 AM

And one more question (sorry, I'm obviously a novice)... Does anyone know how much longer AMD is going keep using the AM3 CPU platform? Are they going to switch to another generation anytime soon? I'm hoping I'll be able to upgrade the CPU down the line without having to buy a new motherboard... but that's probably wishful thinking
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April 12, 2010 6:48:54 AM

OK, here's my thoughts:

CPU: AMD Phenom II X3 720 2.8GHz? Overkill for an HTPC - an Athlon II X2 240 will be more than enough to decode 1080p video, I'm not sure about recording it or anything of that stuff lol.

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

Motherboard: Fine I guess, but nVidia has better Linux support for their graphic card drivers - I'm guessing integrated graphics included, but I could be wrong.

RAM: I'd say one stick of 2GB DDR3 RAM would be enough - even though it will be running in single channel, there is very little performance difference, and also, it wouldn't be noticeable at all, especially because you're mainly going to be watching 1080p movies. In terms of latency and speeds - 1333MHz CL9 would be OK...

HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 500GB is a good choice, but why not get the 1TB, only like $35 more for double the storage.



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April 12, 2010 7:06:44 AM

@daveatronic as for the DDR3 RAM speeds, that 1333MHz is just fine for normal PC...
And as for a bigger HDD, Yes, like Lmeow said, get the 1TB...for $35, you get double the storage and actually the 1TB is slightly faster than the 500GB version...

Regarding the AM3, dont worry about that...AMD is going to launch Phenom II X6 CPUs in few weeks time...And also atleast till 2011, they dont have any plans to launch a newer platform...Even if they do launch a newer platform then, they wont phase out the AM3 immediately...And there will still be Quad Phenoms and these X6s then to which you can upgrade... ;) 
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April 13, 2010 3:52:43 AM

^ Not a bad deal but limited upgrade options though...
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April 13, 2010 7:41:26 AM

Thanks for all the advice, everyone! I ended up getting the 1TB HDD and the original mobo I'd listed combined with an AMD Phenom II X2 550 Callisto 3.1GHz... I decided to go with something on the fast side that will be able to run Starcraft III if I end up getting addicted to that. May end up needing a video card, too. Do I typically have to purchase more cables or should enough come with the case and motherboard? I have a couple of HDMI cables. Thanks, again!
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April 13, 2010 8:19:12 AM

^ No the mobo will come with a SATA and an IDE cable...Maybe you would need another SATA cable for the DVD drive if it is an OEM drive...
And try unlocking the cores of that CPU...Search phenom II X2 core unlocking in net...
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