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HTPC Questions and Recommendations

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May 17, 2010 1:42:05 PM

Hi,

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?

Thanks for your feedback!
May 17, 2010 1:50:51 PM

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.
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May 17, 2010 2:03:45 PM

Thanks - Here's the additional information...


APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: 1-2 months

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: dedicated HTPC. Win 7 Media center OTA DVR, Netflix and DVD Ripping/Converting

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: hard drive (3.5"), tv tuners (usb), bluray/dvd drive (normal height), keyboard & mouse, os

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: newegg.com

ORIGIN: US

PARTS PREFERENCES:None

OVERCLOCKING: No

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1920x1080

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Quite would be nice, though it doesn't need to be silent.

For budget, I'd like to keep it around $400 for the case/mb/processor and memory, if that's feasible.
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May 17, 2010 4:19:00 PM

Here's what I would build for a HTPC at your budget:

Intel Core i3-530 Clarkdale 2.93GHz 4MB L3 Cache LGA 1156 73W Dual-Core Desktop Processor
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ASUS P7H55-M PRO LGA 1156 Intel H55 HDMI Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite... $209.98 (CPU + motherboard combo)

G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-10600CL9D-4GBNT
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $102.99

Antec Black M FusionRemote 350 Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $99.99

Total - $412.96
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May 17, 2010 7:13:49 PM

You could go with the CAS 7 RAM. I picked the CAS 9 kit on purpose to stay close to the budget, and due to the fact that you won't notice the difference in everyday use.

The case is personal preference, so I'll leave that completely up to the OP.
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May 18, 2010 12:49:49 AM

Cool - thank you for the feedback.

So, you'd recommend an mATX format over Mini ITX? And the Core i3 is a good selection for my intended use?
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May 18, 2010 3:44:19 PM

As you said, mATX does give you a lot more motherboard options. It's also cheaper. If you want mini ITX and are willing to go over budget here's a nice motherboard:

ZOTAC H55ITX-A-E LGA 1156 Intel H55 HDMI Mini ITX Intel Motherboard $144.99 - $15 MIR

Yes, the i3 530 is a good option for a HTPC.

I don't know what style of case you like, but here's a quality Lian Li mini ITX case for a decent price:

LIAN LI PC-Q07 Black Aluminum Mini-ITX Tower Computer Case $69.99

Here's a quality PSU you could put in the Lian Li case:

Antec EarthWatts Green EA-380D Green 380W Continuous power ATX12V v2.3 / EPS12V 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply $39.99
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May 21, 2010 2:24:08 PM

Best answer selected by technikal.
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May 21, 2010 2:25:36 PM

Thanks - I've placed the order for the parts with a few tweaks, and hopefully will have everything in and up and running next week.
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