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Dedicated HTPC build, $600ish, brainstorming

Last response: in Systems
June 23, 2010 10:03:50 PM

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: likely within the next few weeks

BUDGET: $600ish, not firm, does not include case

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard, mouse, monitor

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: prefer newegg, but whatever works

PARTS PREFERENCES: prefer mATX, thinking of going with the Antec Black Fusion case based on good reviews at silentpc.

OVERCLOCKING: No - shouldn't be necessary for an HTPC
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: No - see above

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 720p/1080i, upgrade to 1080p in the future

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Since it's an HTPC, silence is preferred.

Now that I've got my gaming rig built, I'm looking at building a new HTPC. I have an older one that sounds like a wind machine. While I could keep it/the parts/etc. I'd like to build something new using newer tech. Should I go i3/H55? Or a low-end AMD chip with a 5670 (or similar)? Feel free to suggest away.
June 23, 2010 11:19:44 PM

Do you need to record TV? If so, what source?

Do you want blu-ray?

Also, what kind of inputs do you have on your TV? HDMI, DVI, component?

And lastly, will you ever connect this HTPC to a receiver? Does/Will it support HD audio?
June 23, 2010 11:35:15 PM

All good questions that I should have remembered to answer. :) 

I have a TiVo (2nd gen), going to run it into the ground, then I might consider switching to the HTPC, no need for a cablecard at the moment.

I have a PS3 for blu-ray, no need for it in the HTPC to start with.

TV has HDMI, DVI, & component.

I have an HD audio capable receiver that I will route the audio & video from the PC through.
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June 24, 2010 4:19:12 AM

Since you won't be gaming, don't need a tuner, and can make use of HD audio, I suggest you go with the i3/H55 setup.

Intel Core-i3 530 + Gigabyte GA-H55M-UD2H Combo $197

LITE-ON Black 4X Blu-ray Disc Reader SATA Model iHOS104-08 $60

G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-10600CL8D-4GBHK $102

SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive $70

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit 1-Pack for System Builders - OEM $100

That's $529, not including your case. It has a BD drive, but why not... save $40 by going DVD. I don't know if 1TB is enough for your media. You could drop the BD and go for 1.5-2TB if you need more. I also highly recommend using a second hard drive for your OS and apps and keep the media on a separate large drive. So maybe add another $60 for a good mechanical boot drive, $120 for a small SSD.

You can get a windows 7 license for a lot cheaper too to save money if you shop around. has them for $20 but I can't verify if they're legit. has them for $78 and they are legit.
June 24, 2010 5:15:21 AM

Well if this combo is available till you make the purchase, then certainly I would pick the AMD Athlon II X3...

RAM - Nothing fancy...a good set of sticks...
G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333

HDD + Free cable...

Card - I would suggest this closed cooler type as the hot air would be blown out of the case rather than back inside...

And a SSD + OS...Why not??

BD Combo

Total - ~$640 Without rebates or coupons...
June 24, 2010 3:59:26 PM

Assuming I went with an AMD build, I'm wondering if a 5670 would be overkill for just doing 1080p movies. I suppose I can do the research on that on my own. :)  Might be nice to do as much passive cooling as possible.

Still very up in the air on storage. My current HTPC just does iTunes & a little web browsing, so storage requirements are not that high at the moment. I suppose if I needed something much larger for storing blu-rays, I could build a NAS setup. But then again, an SSD + 2 TB setup wouldn't suck either. :) 
June 24, 2010 4:29:40 PM

I've had an HTPC for 3 years now and upgraded to SSD for boot OS/apps back in March. I love the complete silence and snappiness an SSD brings to an HTPC. I can't stand the grinding of a HDD in my home theater. If I could do it all over again, I would have a single SSD in the HTPC and a RAID5 NAS for the media. The NAS will have to wait, for now all my media is stored locally.

For AMD you could skip the HD5670 and get a 785G motherboard, but you'll lose HD audio bitstreaming that a discreet card or intel H55 can do.
June 24, 2010 4:45:10 PM

Yeah, my gaming rig has a Crucial C300, and having an SSD is awesome.

I have been leaning i3 (just to mix it up, my gaming rig is AMD), but I'll continue doing research (maybe passively cooled 5450?), as well as continuing to solicit opinions. HD audio bitstreaming is important.
June 24, 2010 5:01:41 PM

Hey sucker! I just built one of these using the same case! You want some pics?

HTPC specs are in my member config
June 24, 2010 5:15:59 PM

So here's mine. In the 1st pic you can see how well it blends in with my entertainment center

In this pic below you can see how it barely fit as well. I had 1/4" clearance on each side and it was utterly choking the airflow. I ended up adding 2 more 80mm fans, one as an intake in the hard drive cage area, and 1 as an exhaust in the rear.

Overview of the motherboard area

Here you can see 2 holes I drilled for the 120mm fans on the side to breathe easier

I highly recommend a modular PSU as it is a bit tight.

Overview of everything

I drilled an extra hole in the back for the add 80mm fan to vent out the rear of the entertainment center.

June 24, 2010 5:38:42 PM

cmcghee, good to finally see your setup. I've followed your HTPC project for a while.

You reminded me, we totally forgot a PSU in the lists! I thought that case came with one. Oh well...

CORSAIR CMPSU-400CX 400W ATX12V V2.2 80 PLUS Certified Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply $50

If you go modular, then:
ENERMAX Liberty ELT400AWT-ECO 400W ATX12V / EPS12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply $70

P.S. for you Antec Fusion (or iMon LCD) people out there, Soundgraph has now made available a film that will correct the iMon display as it was designed to have the backlight filtered. Here is the part:

You can see examples of what the problem is and how the filters look on this thread.
June 24, 2010 6:07:39 PM

That 500W OCZ got a good review at HardwareSecrets. I would have bought one for my mini-ITX, but the day I pulled the trigger there was a coupon or shellshocker deal on a 550W Antec Truepower New for the same price.
June 24, 2010 9:56:59 PM

Oooooh...passively-cooled 5670 announced. I thought I've read that the 54nn & 55nn series cards aren't always able to keep up with 1080p quality source, so maybe this would be the way to go (again, assuming AMD build).
June 24, 2010 10:05:58 PM

I don't think that HD5670 would fit in the antec fusion case with that biga$$ heatpipe on the side. Wouldn't fit in my case either. :cry: 
June 24, 2010 10:09:14 PM

B'oh, that's probably a good call.

I'm probably going to end up going i3 anyway, just exploring the options for a little while. :) 
June 25, 2010 4:53:39 AM

^ Thanks...fixed in my post too...
June 25, 2010 5:55:47 AM

i would suggest a mac mini, small and efficient plus it has good resell value for when it gets old
June 30, 2010 4:30:13 PM

Best answer selected by coldsleep.
June 30, 2010 4:31:55 PM

Does this mean you ordered it, or are done brainstorming?
June 30, 2010 4:32:20 PM

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. Looks like I'm delaying the build a little bit, decided to divert some of the $$ to making my gf's birthday a little fancier. Well, and I solved a problem I was having with the current HTPC. Will probably revisit this in the fall.

EDIT: Still looking at options, but I think I may go i3 unless something drastically changes between now and my build. No real preference though, will probably depend on price & any market shifts that occur.