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Enthusiast/HTPC Build - Future Proof/Gaming Ready - Need your help!

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May 7, 2010 3:42:01 AM

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Soon

BUDGET RANGE: $1200 +/-

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: HTPC / Graphic-Video Editing / General

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Memory (see below), Secondary Hard Drive (see below), Monitor

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: newegg.com, anything with the best prices

PREFERRED B&M FOR PARTS: Micro Center, Fry’s

PARTS PREFERENCES: Intel Core i7, Asus/Gigabyte Mobo, the best parts for the money

OVERCLOCKING: Maybe

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1920x1080 or 1920x1200

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

I am looking to build a system that is not only capable to handle whatever tasks I throw at it but also to be future proof. I want the flexibility to upgrade components in the future as needed. For example, turning this into a gaming machine is not a priority today but I will most likely upgrade my Graphics Card down the road.

I put a budget of $1200 on this but that is not set in stone. I don’t need to go all the way up to $1200 if I am not getting any real value out of it but at the same time, if I need to go over then I am ok with that.

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Motherboard:
ASUS P6T Deluxe V2 LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
OR
GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD5 LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX Intel Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Note – Open to suggestions though I feel that I going with either Asus or Gigabyte is my best bet. USB 3.0 and SATA 6 would be nice but I suppose not necessary. This is one item that I don’t mind splurging on.


CPU: Intel Core i7 930, $200 (Micro Center)
Note – Definite purchase based on the performance I can get for the price.
http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...


Memory: Crucial Ballistix 6GB DDR3 1600
Note – Already Purchased (Great Deal)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


Graphics: Radeon 4850?
Note – Open to suggestions. A gaming graphics card is not necessary right now but is a definite upgrade down the road. For now, I just need a capable card for use in an HTPC.


Primary HDD: WD 1TB Caviar Black
Note – Already Purchased. I can either keep this as the main Primary drive or move it to the secondary one if you believe I should opt for a SSD.


Storage HDD: WD 2TB Caviar Green
Note – If you suggest a SSD for the primary drive, I will move the Caviar Black to this spot.


Optical: Open to suggestions. Just need a good deal on a DVDR


PSU: Corsair or ??
Note – How many watts do I need for this system to be good now and in the future?


Case: Need suggestions for a good mid-tower ATX case.
Note – Considering COOLER MASTER HAF 922
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


CPU Cooler: COOLER MASTER Hyper 212
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


TV Tuner: Need suggestions

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Additional Items:

Router: Linksys WRT610
NAS: D-Link DNS-321 - Already Purchased
HD Media Player: WD TV Live - Already Purchased
May 7, 2010 3:48:10 AM

Judging by your talk of future proofing I'd like at something along the lines of a 650W PSU, by Antec or Corsair.

SSD is really a luxury at this point and isn't necessary for a great system. I suggest the Samsung Spinpoint F3 500 GB for your primary drive.

Also I'd keep a 2 TB HDD as your storage drive. Saved Television eats up alot of space (5-8GB per 30m of 480 SD television)

As for your TV Tuner card, I'd shy away from USB2.0 stuff and I recommend a PCI card of somekind.

I personally use a Hauppage 1600 TV tuner card. It has 2 Coax inputs 1 digital, 1 analog.
May 7, 2010 3:57:49 AM

Thanks for the quick reply. Maybe I will use my 1TB drive and add another 2TB to give me even more space. Do you think the WD Green is a good drive?

Also thanks for the suggestion on the TV Tuner Card. Do you know what the differences are between these three cards?
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...
Related resources
May 7, 2010 4:13:33 AM

WD Green is a fine drive as a big file storage type. I use a 750 GB, which filled quickly recording The Office Season 6 in High Defintion.

Give me a sec looking at those cards. I did alot of research on it a year ago but I dont remember specifics. I do remember the term white box for the 1600, but I dont remember if it was really good or really bad.

I'll get back with you in about 5-10mins

May 7, 2010 4:16:16 AM

What kind of stereo do you have? Do you plan on piping the HTPC through the stereo or just directly to the TV? If it's going to be an HTPC, you need to think about BluRay - at least a $60-$70 reader (you don't need burning on an HTPC unless you plan on burning any recorded movies). I ask because what you want for sound matters in your video/processor needs.

The WD green drives are PERFECT for HTPCs as they don't use a lot of power and a HD doesn't need to be fast at all for HTPC recording. And 5-8Gb for SD is way off. It's 5-8Gb per HOUR of HD recording. 30min SD shows are only about 1Gb.

My HTPC is a Core i3-530, 4Gb DDR3, a 160Gb internal and a 1Tb external WD Green drive (via eSATA). I have 5 HD tuners - 1 network based HDHomeRun (OTA HD), 1 internal PCIe Hauppage (cable), and a USB stick (OTA HD). All recorded shows are direct to the external drive. Believe me, between my shows, my wife's shows and the mutual shows, there are many nights (Monday and Wednesday primarily) that we record 5 shows at once. Not once has the WD Green drive not been able to keep up. I went with a i3 for my HTPC rebuild in March due to the awesome BR sound/video decoding capabilities and the fact that I have a high-end Pioneer stereo that I use to do HDMI switching and it's capable of DTS-MA and TrueHD (which 90-95% of BR disks use). No need for a discrete video card - saves money and power. My old HTPC was an AMD quad-core - totally unnecessary for an HTPC. It drew 240W at idle and 320W at load and that was with only a 5570 graphics card. The i3? Only 82W idle and 120W load. For a device that's on 24x7, low power usage is key. Obviously, it also functions as the BR/DVD player and Hulu/NetFlix player, too. I don't intend on gaming with it, but if I did, I could drop in an ATI HD5xxx card and have the same capabilities (sound wise) but with graphics to boot. Plus, using the old parts (TV tuners, HD, memory) the whole setup was only $425 (with a new rack case, too). And, it's wonderful on the performance side. No more choppy FOX (never could figure that out), no more video corruption (nor that), and it's FAR quieter than the old setup.

If you went with an H55/H57 setup and a Core i3, you'd be fine for the HTPC. If you want, upgrade the video card when/if you start playing games. Now, if you don't have a stereo capable of anything other than DTS (AC3) or Dolby Digital, then your choice of video cards can be whatever you want. Onboard sound makes no difference since you're not using it - you video/audio is routed through the graphics card via HDMI.

cmcgee is right on the power supply IF you plan on being totally future proof. I only have a 450W PSU with a PCIe connector just in case, but if you're really going to, maybe...one day...put a hog of a graphics card, you'd want a minimum of 600-650W. Otherwise, save the money and get a cheap, but decent (and effecient) 400W-450W PSU.

Oh, and in case you're worried about gaming performance with a "lowly" i3...
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/core-i3-gaming,2588...

You'll be surprised.
May 7, 2010 4:21:15 AM

I could be remembering wrong about the size of the files. But Windows Media Center also saves them in that weird format, uh .wtv-ms or something. I have yet to find a free program that converts them to MPEG-2.

May 7, 2010 4:27:52 AM

I can see what you're saying about the i3, but for me, when I went to "try" to convert the videos from .wtv-ms to mpeg I really wished I had hyperthreading.

Thats just me though. He might use the horrific Win2000 program the Happauge comes with, but I personally wouldnt. And the Media Center format frustrates me, so I am always trying to change it. And when you really start to fill up, all that hyperthreading will pay off into hours saved.
May 7, 2010 4:50:13 AM

Thanks so much for the replies! I really appreciate the different perspectives people bring to the table.

I agree that if the system is strictly for an HTPC, then an i3 will suffice but I do considerably more with my system and therefore don't mind paying the extra for the i7. Plus, an Core i7 930 for $200 from Micro Center is a great deal.

OK, I think I am just going to wait for a good deal on the Caviar Greens. They were on sale on newegg for $110 a piece a while back so I will wait for something like that and pick up a few. Not only do I plan to have at least on in this system, but I am going to put two into the D-Link NAS I purchased.

I agree with you both on the Power Supply and will probably just go with a 600W+ Corsair to be safe. Better to spend the small difference in price now than to replace the whole unit later. Is there a specifc Corsair you recommend?

As far as my sound system, currently I just have a Sony Home Theater setup but I am planning to upgrade to a Denon ACR-1910 in the very near future.


What about the Motherboard & Case?

Thanks!
May 7, 2010 5:12:45 AM

In my opinion the case my be a bit flashy for HTPC.

Not to derail your thread but now Im pricing an HTPC for myself.

I use my current computer as a central file server and then use my PS3 on the home network to access the saved files from my primary computer.

I picked out an Antec HTPC case so it looks good with my entertainment center.

If you will also use it for gaming, then the 922 is a good case for airflow during gaming.

I've never done an Intel build so I dont feel comfortable chiming in on the motherboards.
May 7, 2010 2:35:14 PM

Which Antec case did you go with?
May 7, 2010 2:42:40 PM

They're both GREAT boards. FAR too powerful for an HTPC, but if you're going to be using it for other things, then I suppose it's justified.

If you're eventually going to upgrade the stereo, then a 4850 (or any 4xxx card) is not what you want. Only the HD5xxx (and Intel's i3/i5 integrated) cards can do DTS-MA and TrueHD. If you want to save the money now and you're not going to be doing really heavy gaming, the 5750 is the equivelant of the 4850. I'd spend the extra $20-$30, though, and just get the 5770 (roughly equiv to the 4870) now as there's a decent gap between the two of them. The 5750 is pretty solid and I was very impressed with it on a machine I built recently, but the price difference between the two is pretty minimal. For an HTPC, you'd need nothing more than than a 5450.

cmcghee - in regards to the wms-tv or whatever format Media Center uses - yeah...that's why I don't use WMC. I use BeyondTV. I bought it a few years back when Vista's WMC was a disaster and couldn't handle more than two tuners. Now, I wouldn't go without it. $99 and no annual fee. Records to MP2/4 and can handle as many tuners as you can throw at it. And no DRM - I can move it to wherever I want and it even has a built in DVD burning software. WMC works great if you're only ever going to watch TV on that machine and you don't want to move them or burn them. Otherwise...no thanks.

Finally, if he's going with an all-out, essentially, a gaming rig that will also be used for an HTPC (because looking at it the other way is overkill), then there's no reason not to get a PCIe TV tuner card, especially when you're dealing with HD. My old PCI card worked most of the time, but occasionally video just looked like crap. I always suspected it was due to recording HD on CBS (best quality) and some other HD station and the bandwidth just wasn't there, but who knows. I've got the 1850 now (only $10 more than the 1600) and haven't had any issues with it (though, honestly, it is doing only cable duties now). The HDHomeRun handles all my OTA HD duties.
May 7, 2010 6:58:57 PM

Point well taken on the mobo. Do you have any suggestions that might save me some $$ but not give up too much on performance? Keep in mind this isn't a dedicated HTPC.

I also appreciate the points about the graphics card. After looking into, I would agree that the 5770 might be the way to go. I was definitely not aware of the audio limitations of lesser cards.


And on a side note, talking about the 2TB Caviar Green drives, they are on sale for $100 at Tiger Direct. Thought its limited to one per customer and you have to deal with a $40 rebate. I think I will hold off until something a little better comes along.
http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/searchtools/ite...
May 10, 2010 3:12:39 PM

I saved some money (at the time) by going with an MSI X58 Pro-E which was only $169. Of course, now that it's up to $199, it doesn't make as much sense, but that's still far cheaper than the v2 deluxe and, personally, I love the board. The ASRock X58 Extreme is well regarded, especially given the $169 price. Also, you can't go wrong with the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R. I really wouldn't worry about USB3 or SATA3. As an HTPC and gaming rig, you'd rather hook up external hard drives to eSATA (due to bandwidth) and unless you're going with an SSD (which is silly on anything HTPC related due to storage) SATA3 won't come into play and, even with an SSD, it's going to be another year before the SSDs start even using that. So, if you want to save some money, don't worry about those features.

A 2Tb drive for $100 is a great deal if you're willing to wait on the rebate. Heck, for $140 it's a great deal. As an HTPC, I don't think you'll ever use even 1Tb - at least I never have, and that's with recording probably 20 shows a week in HD. With my O/S on a cheapo 160Gb drive and the shows being recorded to the 1Tb drive (on eSATA) I've yet to see it use more than 300Gb and that's when we fell about a month behind on watching our shows. Figure 8Gb max on an hour HD show, to hit 320Gb you'd have to have 40 hours of TV that you haven't watched. 1Tb...you're looking at 125 hours.
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