Need advice on a Budget HTPC build.

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: in the next couple of weeks BUDGET RANGE: $400-500 Before / After Rebates

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Watching movie downloads, streaming video from sites or a local windows home server, HULU, HD Content, DVR capabilities, internet usage, gaming

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: all new parts will be purchased

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: Newegg, Microcenter, ewiz

PARTS PREFERENCES: I'd like this to be a MicroATX unit, kind of undecided if I should go with an i3 based system or AMD one.


MONITOR RESOLUTION: will be hooked up to a 42" 720p LCD via HDMI routed through an Onkyo receiver.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: The wife and I have decided to cancel our cable and move towards only having a HTPC. The system I want to build should be able to handle HD Flash sites as well as any downloads of movies, tv shows, DVD rips etc. Blu-ray will probably be avoided at first to keep cost down but could always be done later. I am caught between going the intel i3 route or an AMD Athlon based system with either onboard video (if adequate) or an add on video card. Ram will most likely be 2GB and I'd like to stick at least a 1TB hard drive in. I would also like the ability to hook up an OTA HD antenna to receive our local channels and record them if necessary. I don't want the system to have any problems playing back 1080p flash content or stuttering on other files. I haven't gamed in several years but wouldn't mind if this computer could do that. Thanks in advance for any input.
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  1. What size do you want the case holding everything to be. Thats going to pretty much decide alot of what goes into the HTPC. You can do something as small as the following. My personal HTPC is as follows and it works for me.

    Coolermaster Elite 360 Case

    AMD Sempron 140

    MSI K9n6pgm2-v2 motherboard

    Seagate 1tb Hard 7200 rpm hard drive

    2gb of ddr2

    Radeon HD 4550 512mb Video Card


    I shopped around and waited for deals and was able to build this setup for around 200 dollars after rebates and bing cash back. I also happen to live near a Frys (works wonders for mobo/proc combo deals). I run with with a pair of mygica a680bs from meritline (paid 20 dollars a piece during a sale). Its not the smallest case but has plenty of room for additional hard drives if I chose to do so in the future. It runs boxee,xbmc,hulu and netflix just fine and have not had trouble with my 720p MKV files. If you wanted to go the Intel CPU route something like the E3300 would be more than enough for a HTPC.
  2. $472AR. 785G IGP would have sufficed if gaming was not on the table hehe
  3. as for batuchka's suggestion: He paired a Intel CPU with an AM3 board, 500 watts is overkill for a PSU, and for HTPC use you'd be much better off with a HD5670 than a 9800GT.

    I would start with the case. Do you want a case that looks like a typical stereo component or would a standard computer case be ok? After that, see what motherboard form factors your case is compatible with. Are SATA 6Gb/s or USB 3.0 important to you? case $59.99 motherboard $124.99 CPU $70.00 Memory $96.99 PSU $39.99 HDD $99.99 Optical drive $19.99

    Total: $511.94
    You could modify the list to include a video card or just wait and add it on at some point in the future if you feel it's something you want. I included a 3 core CPU which is kind of overkill for a HTPC but can be useful for gaming. Look around, newegg is constantly changing their combo deals, discounts, and free shipping. By the time you decide to buy there might be better choices that fit within your budget. As I said earlier, a newer AMD video card would be an infinitely better choice for HTPC use than any of the older Nvidia cards such as the 3yr old 9800gt. They run significantly cooler, use far less energy, direct X 11 (not really useful though at such a level of performance), and have features specific to HTPC's such as Bitstreaming Encoded Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.

    Edit: I just noticed the case comes with a PSU. I wouldn't use a bundled PSU, especially with such a cheap case. I was looking around and there aren't many other inexpensive options but by the time you buy that may change. You could always keep the PSU and use it in a system you don't care about or sell it on craigs list.

    Maybe something like this
    but that would add about $28 to the cost.
  4. motherboard $124.99

    I wonder if the mobo might be overkill (just in terms of cost), especially if there's going to be videocard anyway.
  5. lugalbanda said: motherboard $124.99

    I wonder if the mobo might be overkill (just in terms of cost), especially if there's going to be videocard anyway.

    I might be, he could easily go with something like an 880G board and chop off $15-$20. I mainly suggested that because of the USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s.
  6. Thanks for the input so far guys. As far as case goes I'd like to stick with more of a HTPC component type case and shy away from using a tower. Looks wise the wife would be happier with it being part of our component cabinet.

    I've leaned towards going ahead and grabbing this case to start with:

    I do think I would like a MicroATX setup, possibly MiniATX and am now intrigued as far as the Sempron 140 option goes. Microcenter does have a decent combo right now with a Gigabyte board and i3 530 processor though.

    And for the time being gaming can be left out. If the integrated graphics chipset can handle 1080p Flash and any other playback duties without stuttering it will be good enough.
  7. ausch30 said:
    as for batuchka's suggestion: He paired a Intel CPU with an AM3 board, 500 watts is overkill for a PSU, and for HTPC use you'd be much better off with a HD5670 than a 9800GT.

    1. Err the AthlonII X3 440 is an AMD CPU :lol:
    2. 500W, healthy amps on 12V and modular for confined space/mATX casings promotes better cable management hence aiding better airflow.
    3. Usually i would agree but not at this pricepoint for the 9800GT
  8. lugalbanda said: motherboard $124.99

    I wonder if the mobo might be overkill (just in terms of cost), especially if there's going to be videocard anyway.

    Definitely - HTPC/720p gaming and a 8/8 CFable board sounds not too bright to me ^^
  9. So I pulled the trigger on a CPU/MOBO combo today thanks to a Newegg Shellshocker. I figured for $80 shipped it was a great starting point: AMD Sempron 140 processor and an ATX MSI 785G mobo.

    Now I figured I would pick up a 1TB or better harddrive, a cheap SATA dvd drive (or possibly Blu-ray) a decent power supply and a HTPC case :

    I could use some tips on the best ram for the money would be for this mobo, as well as a tuner card so we can watch local HD channels.

    Is this cpu/mobo combo a good starting point for a budget build? And will it play hd rips, live tv, hulu, boxee, without a hitch?
  10. Good deal. The CPU is basically free with that combo. Maybe you can unlock the 2nd core with the motherboard. G.Skill makes some good, cheap RAM from my experience.

    For a TV tuner, try to get a true dual tuner. That way, you can watch one channel while recording another.

    Here are two candidates:

    AVerMedia AVerTVHD Duet
    Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 Dual TV Tuner

    The first one is cheaper and can only tune ATSC and clear-QAM signals. This one may be a gamble because some of the stock have a bad track record with disappearing spontaneously. Google "A188 Disappear" and you'll see what I mean. That said, I personally have this tuner and it works great, although I had to RMA a 'disappearing' tuner to get a working one.

    The second tuner actually has 2 hybrid tuners and can tune NTSC, ATSC, and clear-QAM as well as FM radio. But it's more expensive and your budget may not allow it.
  11. Thanks for the input rwpritchett. I am hoping to unlock the second core, but if not no biggie.

    For ram, should I be fine with DDR2 800 or step up to the 1066?

    I had been eyeing the AverTVHD duet and may end up pulling the trigger on it.
  12. For this (these) builds would ubuntu work, or are you planning on Window7 or ??
  13. Planning to use Windows 7.
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