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First HTPC $600 Budget

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July 29, 2010 10:45:41 PM

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: August 2010

BUDGET RANGE: $600ish

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Media Storage, Media Playing (to TV via HDMI), DVR, Console Emulation

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Monitor (rear projection DLP TV), OS (Any through MSDN)

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: Amazon, Newegg

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA

PARTS PREFERENCES: None

OVERCLOCKING: No

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: No

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1920x1080

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: I'm looking for something that will look good sitting in my living room. It needs to be quiet. If it's small, that's definitely a plus, but it doesn't have to be as long as it looks good. The budget can slide. I'm more concerned with getting a good quality rig that I won't be unhappy with.

I want a lot of storage on it, as I'm going to be offloading my media from 3 preexisting desktop PCs to this guy. I'll probably only be buying one HDD for it right now, and I'll cannibalize HDDs from existing systems/buy more as necessary. So the only thing this paragraph really means is that I want more than 2 drive bays for expansion.

I also want to use it for console emulation, so I'll need some enough slots for 4 gamepads. As far as I know, that means I'll need 6/7 usb slots (4x gamepads, mouse, keyboard, remote?). I suppose I could use bluetooth for the gamepads if necessary?

As for the DVR functionality, I'm completely in the dark with how this works. I have digital cable with a cable box, and I read that if you bypass your cable box/card, you'll only get the unlocked channels. As I understand it, that setup is [ Wall-->Cable Box-->HTPC-->TV ]. If that's right, do I control my cable box via my PC? Do all modern tv tuner cards have that capability? (I've seen that tuner cards have been coming out with cablecard slots that let you replace a cable box with a cablecard, but apparently they're (the tuner cards) very expensive. I saw a card from Ceton with a 4xtuner, but it's also $400. That doesn't sound too appetizing.)

And finally, I haven't picked out a motherboard yet, so I'm not set on a socket/form factor. I'm leaning toward mini-itx, but if I'm looking for 4+ drive bays, that sort of defeats the point of going with a mini-itx case, right? Would it be worth it to upgrade to mATX to get a more powerful CPU/whatever else?

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mini-itx option

Motherboard:
ZOTAC NM10-B-E - $130
I'm not sure who makes good mini-itx boards, but I know that Zotac makes a lot of them and with a lot of features.

CPU:
Atom D510 (embedded)

Case:
LIAN LI PC-Q08B - $130
This is the only mini-itx case I saw that had 4+ drive bays.

GPU:
ZOTAC ION-GPU-A-E - $60
This is a card-based Ion 2. Everybody seems to be pretty excited about them. Is there a better option?

RAM:
CORSAIR XMS2 2x2GB DDR2 800 - $95

HDD:
Western Digital Caviar Green WD20EARS 2TB - $100

Capture Card:
Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 1850 - $100
I'm pretty much in the dark here... I read some of the posts on the TV Tuner Cards board, but I didn't get a lot out of it. Will this card let me do what I want?
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mATX option

Motherboard:
???

CPU:
???

Case:
nMEDIAPC HTPC 5000B
Looks good. Lots of drive bays. Reviews say it's quiet.

GPU:
???

RAM:
??? - Depends on mobo/cpu

HDD:
Western Digital Caviar Green WD20EARS 2TB - $100

Capture Card:
Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 1850 - $100
I'm pretty much in the dark here... I read some of the posts on the TV Tuner Cards board, but I didn't get a lot out of it. Will this card let me do what I want?

More about : htpc 600 budget

Best solution

July 30, 2010 11:49:35 AM

The Ion is capable of HD playback, but awhile back, I had read that the Ion2 was having issues. I don't know if they have been solved or not - I believe anandtech had an article about it.

If I were building and going for ITX, I would consider the i3 530 and an H55 ITX board - very capable of HD playback as well.

I have a Hauppauge 2250 tuner and love it. It was an easy setup in Win7 media center. It has a dual tuner, so it can record 2 shows at once, or let me watch one and record one - very nice.

You won't need a GPU if you are using the integrated graphics on the Ion board, or the H55 (or if you like AMD, the 785/880g boards as well).

If you choose to go mATX, I have had success with the 785g and a simple Athlon II x2 or x4 processor. I used the Antec Micro Fusion that comes with a 350w PSU and has a built in LCD/remote/receiver for remote. It's been good to me.

Unless you will definitely take advantage of 4GB, you could possibly save some money there, but it's not a huge deal. If you go for 4GB, I'd say go with Win7 x64

There are quite a few HTPC cases out there, but I have not found a lot of ITX cases that will hold a lot of drives - I am sure this is because the goal is small form factor. I know that Chenbro makes some interesting ones as well that often hold a few drives and sometimes offer hot-swap capability.

I would guess the setup would be from your cable box to the htpc, then HDMI to the TV.

Let us know if you choose ITX of mATX, as that will affect the choices. I think you'll easily be able to stay under the $600 budget - I think mine have been sub $400, but do have a smaller HDD.
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July 30, 2010 12:30:04 PM

Thanks for the input so far. I'll definitely check out your recommendations.

I just wanted to update that I ordered my tuner today. Woot has the SiliconDust HDHomeRun Network-based Dual Digital HDTV Tuner on sale for $85, so I figured I'd jump on it while it was available.

As this is network-based, it opens up my mobo options a bit, as I won't need a pcie slot for the tuner anymore. If I go with integrated graphics, I don't think I'll need any expansion slots at all?
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July 30, 2010 1:10:22 PM

That sounds like a nice tuner. The whole network tuner thing sounds pretty cool.

No, it sounds like you won't need a slot for anything at that rate. You'd be just fine with ITX and a small case.
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August 6, 2010 1:55:04 AM

Best answer selected by Kanenfawder.
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