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First HTPC Build

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August 6, 2010 6:16:04 AM

I just began researching building up an HTPC and would love some input, build suggestions, etc. I don't really have too much experience building up computers, so don't consider any advice too basic for me.

I'm intrigued by the new Ceton CableCard offering and would potentially like to run the HTPC with two Xbox 360s as media center extenders. If I understand correctly, I'd be able to watch TV on all three of those simultaneously (and one more) with the Infinitv card (assuming other necessities, i.e. cable provider card and network).

Purchase Date: Soon -- within reason.

Budget: $800 to $1000 (or maybe a little more for a build with a CableCard seeing as those are more expensive)

System Usage: Recording/Watching (HD) TV, playing stored media, DVD (basic Blu-ray support potentially), light web use. I see no need to accommodate gaming. It would be nice for the machine to be relatively quiet.

Parts not Required: Monitor

Preferred websites: I have no problem supporting newegg. Open to any reasonable suggestions.

Country: USA

Parts preference: At this point I'm pretty sold on using Windows 7 with the Media Center. I saw that an Intel i3-530 build with a H55 motherboard is one common suggestion. I wouldn't mind using that as a starting place.

Possibly something like:

Intel Core i3-530 Clarkdale 2.93GHz 4MB L3 Cache LGA 1156 73W Dual-Core Desktop Processor BX80616I3530
BIOSTAR TH55B HD LGA 1156 Intel H55 HDMI Micro ATX Intel Motherboard

In terms of hard drives, I've seen recommendations for a smaller OS drive and then a bigger media drive. Does this generally make sense? I've had good experience with WD in the past so I considered something like this, for example:


Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD3200KSRTL 320GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive
Western Digital Caviar Green WD20EADS 2TB SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

I'd love some suggestions on cases and power source as well as keyboard and mouse. I'd prefer a black case, but color and size aren't true deal breakers. Obvious I'd prefer a wireless keyboard/mouse combo.

Here is a case and power supply I was looking into (although why I selected them is relatively baseless):

APEVIA Black SECC Steel / Aluminum X-MASTER-BK/500 ATX Media Center / HTPC Case
Antec EarthWatts Green EA-380D Green 380W Continuous power ATX12V v2.3 / EPS12V 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power ...


Again, I'm not heart-set on any of the specific products I've listed. If there are better products out there for my needs, feel free to let me know it.

I appreciate the time.

More about : htpc build

August 6, 2010 7:33:06 AM

Well I would suggest an Athlon II X3 based PC for such a setup...
The onboard video of the i5 chips will have a hard time processing 1080p video...

X3 440 + ASUS M4A88TD-M/USB3 AM3 AMD 880G HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

And for OS - After shipping, this comes cheaper and is faster and more efficient...
Samsung F3 500GB
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Some other case options -
With PSU
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Cheaper and better
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
(Though the above comes with a PSU, better to get the Antec EA 380 that you had linked)
This case would also be good - Would be broader though, but comparatively better airflow and the Cooler Master emblem can be oriented straight if you use it as a desktop type or tower type...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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August 6, 2010 12:24:07 PM

gkay- what is it about the Clarkdale integrated video that you've heard struggles with 1080p? All of my reading indicates the Clarkdale CPU's are perfect for HTPC because of the hardware acceleration combined with HD audio bitstreaming. Anandtech, in particular, highly recommends the i3/H55 combo for HTPC, although AMD is cheaper if you don't need the HD audio.

I'm curious, as my next HTPC was most likely going to be i3/H55.

-rwp
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August 6, 2010 5:01:27 PM

gkay09 said:
Well I would suggest an Athlon II X3 based PC for such a setup...
The onboard video of the i5 chips will have a hard time processing 1080p video...

X3 440 + ASUS M4A88TD-M/USB3 AM3 AMD 880G HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

And for OS - After shipping, this comes cheaper and is faster and more efficient...
Samsung F3 500GB
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Some other case options -
With PSU
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Cheaper and better
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
(Though the above comes with a PSU, better to get the Antec EA 380 that you had linked)
This case would also be good - Would be broader though, but comparatively better airflow and the Cooler Master emblem can be oriented straight if you use it as a desktop type or tower type...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


Thanks for the response. I'd love to read an article or post about the i5 chips if you have something available. I'll keep that recommendation in mind.

With regards to a PSU, will a PSU that's marked ATX12V fit in a micro ATX case? For example the Antec in the hec.

I also need to consider memory. I've seen Corsair recommended a lot for it's reliability although beyond that I don't really know where to start. Is 4 GB overkill? I feel that if I was going to pony up an extra $50 or so (to go from 2GB to 4GB, say), memory wouldn't be a bad place to do so. No clue if that's a logical way of thinking, though.

Thanks again.
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August 7, 2010 7:01:57 AM

@ rwpritchett I had seen some members of another forum saying that uncompressed HD gives a hard time for the onboard video chipset...But I could be wrong though...So better to go by those reviews...

@JBS103 My bad that I gave a recommendation just based on 1 user on another forum...
I also went through so many articles based on the i5 and all have suggested that they are very good for a HTPC...
http://www.anandtech.com/show/2921
http://www.guru3d.com/article/core-i3-530-processor-rev...
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/core-i3-gaming,2588...

So i3 530 seems to be a very good option...

As for the RAM, well I wont say 4GB is an overkill...?It is actually becoming a norm for a good PC, but though you could get away with just 2GB, 4 GB is fine...
Some good kits -
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

And again my bad on the PSU with that HEC case so sorry...Though there are several mATX cases that support ATX PSU like that Antec with the 380W PSU, but that HEC doesnt...It supports only TFX PSUs...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Maybe this case ?
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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August 7, 2010 7:14:59 AM

Will you output your audio to a receiver? If so, what sort of inputs does the receiver have? I just put together a HTPC with a MSI 880 m/b, and I wish like heck that I had gone with a board (which I'm otherwise pleased with -- no USB 3, but sub $80) with optical SPDIF, since the add-on bracket has been a booger to find.

I've also read great reviews of the i3-530, but the price can't compare with a AMD build, in my opinion. The on-board video with the 785G is more than enough for HD video. I would recommend 4GB though in you're going to go with an on-board solution.

I have the first RAM kit linked it gkay's post. It's fine so far (knock on wood).

Remember also that you'll need software to play Blu-rays, especially if you buy OEM, and that runs around $100.
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August 7, 2010 3:37:49 PM

No harm done at all gkay. I really appreciate all the help and the follow-up articles. I was shopping around newegg and found the same g.Skill you suggested. With Lugalbanda's vote that sounds like a solid choice. Thanks again.

Lugalbanda, thanks for the heads up on both the receiver and the software. I didn't really think about using a receiver to this point. That said, I should at least look into options with optical S/PDIF output while I'm at it-- I don't think it's a deal breaker at the moment though. Out of curiosity what board would you go with if you were to do it over? Did you find the add-on you were looking for?

Thanks everyone.

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August 7, 2010 6:14:45 PM

JBS103 said:
No harm done at all gkay. I really appreciate all the help and the follow-up articles. I was shopping around newegg and found the same g.Skill you suggested. With Lugalbanda's vote that sounds like a solid choice. Thanks again.

Lugalbanda, thanks for the heads up on both the receiver and the software. I didn't really think about using a receiver to this point. That said, I should at least look into options with optical S/PDIF output while I'm at it-- I don't think it's a deal breaker at the moment though. Out of curiosity what board would you go with if you were to do it over? Did you find the add-on you were looking for?

Thanks everyone.




I have found the add-on bracket, through ebay from someone in Australia. I sent in a request to MSI, so I'm waiting to hear back from them (hoping against hope that they'll just sent me one). I just bought a 1080P TV (had an old 1080i before that) yesterday and watched my first Blu-Ray. It makes the htpc totally worth the effort (which, to be honest, was worthwhile in-and-of itself).

I probably would have ended up going with this board: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... (here's the link to the board that I did buy: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...; it had been part of a combo deal)

It looks like the i3-530 supports 7.1 audio and TrueHD. I had forgotten that.

There's a 10% off promo code for Antec power supplies this weekend (EMCYTZT84). I used the Silverstone GD05 case (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...), and I really like it. It comes with 3 case fans, accepts full sized PSUs and graphics cards. It's the size of a stereo receiver. I had also looked at the Lian Li PC=V351B (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...), which was a different look case. Changed to the GD05 at the last minute, and I do really like it.

I'm trying to think of other things you might consider. Some of this is stuff that is no doubt second-nature to others, but it had been a long time since I had built a computer from scratch. No condescension is meant if any of these things are obvious:

1. Make sure you get extra SATA cables for all of the stuff you need. It seems like a number of m/bs come with only one cable.
2. Consider a modular power supply if you end up buying a htpc case without a power supply. The extra cables can be a challenge to find space for. I didn't go with one because I found a really good deal on a PSU. I would not do that again.
3. Consider possible upgrades now. Will you install a graphics card at a later point? If so, consider both your PSU and your case. What will fit? What can the PSU handle?
4. My previous point about Blu-Ray software. I think retail BD players tend to be bundled with old/crippled software (others can correct me here if I am wrong). I decided to go OEM and pony up for the new version of the software.
5. www.avforums.com is a great place for help with all things htpc once your system is built.
6. Don't forget about your 10ft interface. I bought a logitech keyboard with built-in trackball (Buy.com has it $10 cheaper than I got it for: http://www.buy.com/prod/iogear-2-4ghz-multimedia-keyboa...). If you have an iPhone, check out the remote control apps that are available. I've been using HippoRemote, which is not too bad (I didn't want to pay for a fancy Harmony at this point).

Keep us updated on what you decide to do. I loved building my system (it also posted on my first try, so I got lucky there -- very little troubleshooting so far). With the support available on this forum, I don't think I'll ever buy a pre-built again.
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August 7, 2010 8:33:23 PM

lugalbanda said:
I'm trying to think of other things you might consider. Some of this is stuff that is no doubt second-nature to others, but it had been a long time since I had built a computer from scratch. No condescension is meant if any of these things are obvious:

The only experience I have building a PC was one I put together around 4 years ago. It works fine (in fact, I'm using it right now) but could I have probably done better? No doubt-- that's why I'm here. So seriously, don't worry about offending me.


lugalbanda said:

2. Consider a modular power supply if you end up buying a htpc case without a power supply. The extra cables can be a challenge to find space for. I didn't go with one because I found a really good deal on a PSU. I would not do that again.

The Antec supply I initially listed is not modular. I tried looking around newegg for a modular supply but most of them seemed to have rather high wattage ratings (500W+). Unless I'm mistaken I don't need that much, right? In the name of keeping the HTPC quiet and efficient, would using one of these be a detriment? I know the PC will only use as much as it needs, but do I run into efficiency issues?

lugalbanda said:

3. Consider possible upgrades now. Will you install a graphics card at a later point? If so, consider both your PSU and your case. What will fit? What can the PSU handle?

I can appreciate where you're coming from with the advice but I'm the kind of (indecisive) person that would probably go nuts trying to cover all the bases. As a first HTPC, I just want to a nice quality build set up that will get me going with minimal sacrifices to functionality/quality (from what I can tell I'm on the right track). After using it for a while I'll have a better grasp on where I fall on the spectrum between hobby and full-blown-addiction (adjusted for denial of course-- posting here is probably already a bad sign ;)  ).

lugalbanda said:

4. My previous point about Blu-Ray software. I think retail BD players tend to be bundled with old/crippled software (others can correct me here if I am wrong). I decided to go OEM and pony up for the new version of the software.

From the fragments I've read, it seems that going for PowerDVD or the like is the recommended route. Sure it would be nice to save $100 but if that's what it takes, I can't fight it.

lugalbanda said:

6. Don't forget about your 10ft interface. I bought a logitech keyboard with built-in trackball (Buy.com has it $10 cheaper than I got it for: http://www.buy.com/prod/iogear-2-4ghz-multimedia-keyboa...). If you have an iPhone, check out the remote control apps that are available. I've been using HippoRemote, which is not too bad (I didn't want to pay for a fancy Harmony at this point).

I recently got an Android phone, so I think I will have similar options to the iPhone. I tested out the RemoteDroid app on my desktop, and it seems to work nicely.

Thanks for the input!
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August 8, 2010 3:37:47 AM

JBS103 said:
The only experience I have building a PC was one I put together around 4 years ago. It works fine (in fact, I'm using it right now) but could I have probably done better? No doubt-- that's why I'm here. So seriously, don't worry about offending me.



The Antec supply I initially listed is not modular. I tried looking around newegg for a modular supply but most of them seemed to have rather high wattage ratings (500W+). Unless I'm mistaken I don't need that much, right? In the name of keeping the HTPC quiet and efficient, would using one of these be a detriment? I know the PC will only use as much as it needs, but do I run into efficiency issues?

I have to admit I'm not sure about issues of efficiency. I looked it up, but it seems you'd need to know what sort of wattage you'd be drawing with your system. Here is the Antec PSU calculator: http://www.antec.outervision.com/PSUEngine / Goofing around with what you already posted, I got 321 watts, which means peak load would be 85% of your output. Do you want even a 400 watt PSU just to be safe? Others will know more than I.


I can appreciate where you're coming from with the advice but I'm the kind of (indecisive) person that would probably go nuts trying to cover all the bases. As a first HTPC, I just want to a nice quality build set up that will get me going with minimal sacrifices to functionality/quality (from what I can tell I'm on the right track). After using it for a while I'll have a better grasp on where I fall on the spectrum between hobby and full-blown-addiction (adjusted for denial of course-- posting here is probably already a bad sign ;)  ).

I hear you.


From the fragments I've read, it seems that going for PowerDVD or the like is the recommended route. Sure it would be nice to save $100 but if that's what it takes, I can't fight it.

TotalMediaTheater3 gives you a 15 day trial. I'm going to check out PowerDVD after that.


I recently got an Android phone, so I think I will have similar options to the iPhone. I tested out the RemoteDroid app on my desktop, and it seems to work nicely.

Yes, these programs seem like pretty good substitutes, though I do like having a keyboard as well. Evidently, some Blu-rays don't interact so well with the mouse, but the TMT3 has an on-screen remote gadget that works fine.

Thanks for the input!


Like I said, I'm curious to hear what you go with on your build.

Best,

Lug
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August 8, 2010 8:47:54 PM

lugalbanda said:
Remember also that you'll need software to play Blu-rays, especially if you buy OEM, and that runs around $100.
Newegg sells the downloadable version of Total Media Theatre marked down substantially ($55):

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

TMT3 integrates perfectly with WMC, I've been using it for years. Just a tip in case you are heading down the blu-ray path.

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August 9, 2010 12:15:51 AM

Thanks for the heads up rwpritchett. I plan on using an Xbox 360 as an extender so I will probably be using WMC exclusively. What operating system are you using TMT3 on? It's interesting to see the newegg reviews where it's either 5 eggs and perfect or 1 egg and completely unusable-- some reviews suggest there could be an issue with W7 64-bit. I assume you haven't run into any issues; any experience?
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August 9, 2010 4:40:58 PM

rwpritchett said:
Newegg sells the downloadable version of Total Media Theatre marked down substantially ($55):

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

TMT3 integrates perfectly with WMC, I've been using it for years. Just a tip in case you are heading down the blu-ray path.



Thanks for the info. That is fantastic.
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