First Time HTPC Build under $800

First off, I want to thank any of you in advance for taking the time to respond. I have read a lot of the threads on here, but none really hit exactly on point and I have to make a pretty fast decision on this so forgive me if I ask something that's already be questioned several times.

I have recently canceled my cable and plan on installing an OTA antenna for local channels. I have a PS3 and don't need a blu-ray player right now but might add one later on. I have a 65in DLP t.v. that I will hook the system up to through the HDMI connection and I will be using Win 7, but I'm not sure what edition I'll need. I would like the ability to eventually hook the system up to an a/v receiver and surround sound system, but that can all come later.

I am intrigued by the fact that I may not need to use a videocard/soundcard on this machine, but instead depend on integrated hardware. I would like to know your ideas on whether you think I should go ahead and install these to get the very best picture and sound for my purposes as I know 4 years ago I would not have depended on integrated anything. I guess I'm just afraid of a stuttering or crappy picture and sound when I hook it up to a t.v. of this size.

Here is a list of my needs/concerns:


BUDGET RANGE: under $400-800 After Rebates

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Strictly web streaming of shows through Hulu and such, Recording OTA signals, watching movies, surfing the internet, NO gaming needed.

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: speakers, keyboard, mouse

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: newegg, zipzoomfly and other known reputable sites in the US

PARTS PREFERENCES: by brand or type I have no preference to CPU, but would prefer an ATI videocard. I would also like the case to be one that looks more like an entertainment center piece

TV RESOLUTION: Whatever HD is; 16:9 1080i

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: The HTPC needs to be fairly quiet.

Thanks again for your thoughtful responses.
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  1. Best answer
    Here's a HTPC build that would do everything you want to do at your budget.

    Intel Core i3-530 Clarkdale 2.93GHz 4MB L3 Cache LGA 1156 73W Dual-Core Desktop Processor

    ASUS P7H55-M PRO LGA 1156 Intel H55 HDMI Micro ATX Intel Motherboard $214.98 (CPU + motherboard combo)

    Antec Black M FusionRemote 350 Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case $99.99

    G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL8D-4GBHK $108.99

    Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST31000528AS 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive $79.99

    Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 Media Center Kit Dual TV Tuner 1213 PCI-Express x1 Interface $124.99 - $30.00 MIR

    LITE-ON Black 4X BD-ROM 8X DVD-ROM 32X CD-ROM SATA Internal 4X Blu-ray Disc Reader Model iHOS104-08 $64.99

    Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit 1-Pack for System Builders - OEM $99.99

    Total $793.92 - $30.00 MIR

    I included a BluRay drive. If you don't need that you can substitute in a cheap DVD burner and save some money.

    Sony Optiarc 24X DVD/CD Rewritable Drive Black SATA Model AD-7240S-0B - OEM $21.99

    I picked the Intel i3 530 because it offers the best performance for a HTPC and allows lossless Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio bitstreaming. There is absolutely no reason to get a sound card or GPU for a HTPC. The on-board audio and GPU are plenty for your intended use.
  2. Thanks for the reply. I was leaning that way in terms of MB and CPU. Any particular reason you chose that case over a Silverstone one?
  3. Just because the price is right, it's an Antec, and it includes an 80 PLUS Certified 350W PSU. A lot of the Silverstone cases I've seen don't include a PSU and cost as much or more than the Antec one. Cases really come down to personal preference. I was just trying to stay under your $800 budget.
  4. Oh ok. Just curious. I have an Antec case for my desktop and have only a couple of issues with it. I didn't realize it came with a PSU. What's the max wattage PSU you suggest putting on a HTPC?
  5. There isn't really a max wattage to worry about since the system will only pull what it needs. All those components are low-wattage parts and will run fine on a quality 300W - 400W PSU. Here's an excellent PSU for a HTPC:

    Antec EarthWatts Green EA-380D Green 380W 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply $39.99
  6. I'm having a real hard time selecting a I know it should be probably a lower priority than the rest but none of the HTPC cases on Newegg get really great reviews. Any personal experiences anyone wants to share about HTPC cases?
  7. I think an HTPC case needs more careful scrutiny with respect to aesthetics than any other build because it is meant to be seen, out in the open, right in a living area.

    My own HTPC experience is with a Moneual Moncaso 832P. Great case, with two flaws:

    #1 It has an iMon display, just like the Antec above. Unlike the Antec, it has a backlit screen with black LCD characters. I regret not getting a case with a dark background and lit up characters because the backlight is too bright in a dark room when watching movies.

    #2 It can only fit 2x 60mm fans for exhaust in the back. I have really struggled with heat because small fans have horrible noise/flow ratio and my HTPC is in a cabinet.

    Other than those two gripes, I like it a lot. The build quality is superb (all aluminum), it has good hard drive space, fits a full-size ATX mobo and PSU, doesn't require half-height cards, and it fits in with my other HT equipment.

    What are your case needs?
  8. Might I suggest you might be interested in the Coolermaster Elite 360. I have it with an Antec Green power supply myself. You can pick up the following HD pretty cheap atm.

    If you happen to have a Frys near you they have the i5-530 with a motherboard for 115 and a 15 dollar rebate making it 100 bucks and solid for a HTPC. Honestly depends on whats available to you. My HTPC is a Sempron 140 cause I found out it was more than enough to handle what I needed to do with it.
  9. Case needs?

    Well my case does need to fit aesthetically into an entertainment center, but my fear is not having the room to upgrade should I feel the need in the future. I honestly don't anticipate using the system to game on, but would like to have some extra room and I like the fact that this might cut down on heat if everything listed above is crammed into a smaller case.

    Another thing that worries me is quality. I have had Antec desktop cases in the past where the front panel didn't work correctly and the workmanship just seemed to be lacking. So I really want a good quality case with a little room to grow if necessary. I have no need for an LCD as it seems too many people have little quirks with them (and cost/annoyances usually outweigh cool factor).

    Off case topic. I would also like to know your ideas for what I need to do to control this from the couch with minimal use of keyboard and mouse. So if you guys have some IR or remote suggestions that would be great as well.
  10. Ok so I really need your help in selecting a micro atx motherboard. There are so many out there to choose from it's crazy. I will be installing a dedicated videocard in the ati 5570 and will be building on the Core i3 platform.

    Any other motherboard ideas aside from shortstuff's generous contributions?

    Btw, I've gone ahead and selected a case that I think will fit my needs.
  11. Is there a problem with the micro ATX motherboard I suggested? You don't need the 5570 for a HTPC. The integrated GPU on the i3 chip works great for a HTPC. You really don't need anything more than that.,2514-5.html
  12. I am not trying to knock your suggestion Shortstuff and I have no real problem with the board that you picked out. I guess I'm still just a little jaded by my asus laptop and the lack of customer support I received from the company. I have had good luck with Asus motherboard's in the past (as the comp i'm using now has one), but I had a real problem with them about a year ago with a G1s that I bought. There was a known product defect and they denied there was a problem and just replaced the component with another faulty part that will last just until outside of warranty period. That and speaking with a representative that is actually helpful is near impossible.

    That being said, if this is the best board for my situation, I guess I will give them another shot. But I just wanted to see if there were others out there that had had extremely good luck with a particular micro atx board that I could depend on.

    Shortstuff, have you used this board or just read good things about it?

    As far as the GPU goes, I think I'll listen to your suggestion and build the system without it for now and then purchase the Ati 5770 if I'm not happy with the performance. Do you currently have a Core i3 setup without a GPU?

    Thanks again for taking the time to respond
  13. I suggested that motherboard because it's a quality board with a lot of features for a low price in the combo deal. I actually prefer Gigabyte motherboards, but there aren't currently any good combo deals on Gigabyte H55 motherboards.

    Most of the systems that I build are for customers. No, I don't personally own an i3 setup without a GPU right now. My personal HTPC uses an old Core 2 Duo. You can look at any competent review of the i3 to see that it doesn't need a GPU for HTPC use, though.
  14. Yeah, I've been trying to read all that I can, but trying to study for the bar exam leads to me not having as much time to do the research that I would like. I haven't built in 4 years either (when nothing integrated was good) which has lead me to some of my skepticism too. I trust your judgment and knowledge though.

    So you've had good luck with Gigabyte stuff then?
  15. Hey shortstuff....what do you think about this RAM instead? I just noticed it was the same price as the RAM above and I think it may be a little faster RAM (think being the key word). :-) I looked at Asus's site and the DDR 3 1600 stick that was on the Qualified Vendor's List was a different model, but the only difference was the CAS latency. Will that make a difference as to it working in the Asus motherboard you suggested?

    Btw, this is the one from Asus' QVL, and I wouldn't pay $50 more just for this
  16. That RAM would work too, but CAS 9 DDR3 1600 isn't really any faster than CAS 8 DDR3 1333. I normally recommend this CAS 7 DDR3 1600 RAM, but I recommended the RAM without tall heat spreaders on purpose since HTPC cases can get a bit crowded.

    G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL7D-4GBRM $119.99
  17. HTPC Case -

    I noticed you saying that doesn't really need to be asthetically (sp?) pleasing...

    Can I recommend:

    for $30

    This is the case I went with for my HTPC build...and might I add that I am very pleased with it. It's a little larger than a standard HTPC case, but if it's not going to be seen anyway, I figured I was going to go with the cheapest, half-way decent case I could find.

    Everything went together very easily. It has a minamalistic appearance (nothing too flashy)... I will say that I had to replace the included fan...during shipping it came apart (well, I'm going to assume it was from shipping) and I added another fan in front of the hard drives.

    I am running and i3-530 on a Gigabyte USB3 1156 board with 4 GB of Crucial ram

    Win 7 Home Premium - there is no need for more OS in an HTPC

    3 - 1 TB HDD's (has my whole DVD collection)

    EDIT: +1 for on board graphics with the i3-530.... I have a blu-ray player that is supposed to "upscale" DVD's, well for grins and giggles I compared the picture quality of a DVD running in my blu-ray player and that of the DVD iso running on the HTPC...I can honestly say that there was almost NO difference in picture quality. Unless you're going to use your HTPC for gaming, there is NO reason for an additional video will not be getting anything extra out of it...especially if you're going with the DTS capabilities of the i3
  18. Well I finished the final build order. I know you guys have probably answered a thousand of these types of threads so I just want to say thank you for taking the time to respond and help me out.

    I changed a couple of things that Shortstuff recommended for specific reasons (PSU b/c it wasn't modular), but for the most part he was the major reason this all came together this quickly, so I would like to especially thank him. He was kind enough to listen to me about my specific concerns and give me objective responses as to why he chose the components he did which I appreciated.

    Let me know if you guys see anything I could have missed or any final concerns. I plan on ordering it all this weekend.
  19. Best answer selected by hogman.
  20. That build should work fine. The Basiq line of Antec PSU's aren't up to the same quality standard as most of the other models, but it should be fine. Enjoy your HTPC!
  21. You have a recommendation for a modular unit? I had read many people on newegg saying that for the case I picked out they wished they had gone modular. The reason i selected that unit was b/c it had the highest ratings on the Antec modular supplies and was rather cheap.
  22. I use a modular 500W Enermax Liberty in my HTPC. Very nice PSU. You can still find the reasonably priced 400W versions for sale:
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