I'm looking to build a cheap HTPC. I will run Windows 7 Media Center, use it as a DVR for OTA HD TV, stream netflix, and store and play back my DVD collection. I'd also like to add a Blu-ray drive. It will drive a 32" 720p LCD via HDMI, though I want to ensure 1080p capability should I ever decide to update the TV.
I'm currently using a Dell Studio Hybrid to do this and it works fine - though it's slow when transcoding DVDs (t4200 processor). It also struggles with 1080i TV playback on my 23" 1080p monitor. I'd like to transition the Studio back to a general use computer and build a purpose specific HTPC.
A few questions:
- Mini ITX vs Micro ATX? I want to ensure I have room for a 5.25" normal height DVD drive and internal 3.5" hard drive. My TV tuners are USB, so no concerns there. I have plenty of room for the system in my entertainment system. Micro ATX seems to offer a lot more choices in the motherboard area, so I'm leaning towards that. Any reason to choose one format over the other in my case (pun not intended!)
- Processor? Planning on Core i3 530. Seems to be a good balance of price, performance and energy use, and the integrated graphics should drive anything I need. Anything else to consider?
- Motherboard? I'm not looking to do anything esoteric - no overclocking, etc. I see prices ranging from $70 to $300. Given my usage, is there any reason to not go with one of the lower end ones?
- Memory? I plan to start with 2gb and upgrade if needed. Do machines still require memory to be paired, or can I run a single 2gb module?
What's your budget for the build? I wouldn't waste your time with 2GB, especially since you're going to be using Windows 7. Just bite the bullet and get a nice 2x2GB kit right off the bat. You'll thank me later.
The i3 530 and a H55 motherboard make an excellent foundation for a HTPC. If you post your budget we can help you choose the specific components for your system. In fact, it would help a lot if you would fill out all the information in the "How to ask for new build advice" sticky at the top of the forum.