I'm currently reviewing HTPC build options. I originally was going down the pre-built Atom 330 options for a basic Boxee set up, but then after speaking with a friend, he recommended pursuing a i3/H55 solution instead. I usually build my own machines, so he knows I'm accustomed to the process, but this time was considering the easy-straight-out-of-the-box setup. However, based on his advice, the custom build will have longevity over a small-ish bump in price (not a surprise, but was taking the lazy way out originally).
This said, I'm looking for a i3/H55-based set up for around $500 if I can keep it there. Below are some thoughts about it.
Any recommendations from the community would be helpful. Thanks in advance!
APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: This week.
BUDGET RANGE: $500-$600
SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Media serving (Boxee, Win 7 Media Center, etc.) some light gaming if possible
PARTS NOT REQUIRED: No need for a DVD/Blu-Ray player (already have these in my desktop, 360 & PS3), hoping to avoid a separate PSU (hope the case PSU is serviceable). No need for a tuner & would like to use on-board video to avoid extra GPU costs.
PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: Newegg.com
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
PARTS PREFERENCES: i3/H55-based. The ASRock H55M/USB3 mobo is getting some decent reviews- was looking to base the system around this if possible.
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: No
MONITOR RESOLUTION: 1920x1080 - output to a Sony Bravia 40"
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Would love a quiet machine with some aesthetically pleasing design (preferably black in color), as it will be visible with the rest of my home entertainment hardware.
Not bad, RW! I was already eye'ing the 540, so that lines up exactly. I maybe able to purchase Corsair 2x2GB DDR3 sticks off a co-worker for $90, so I can save there if he still has it available. If not, the CPU & OCZ combo looks to be a good deal.
Case, remote & keyboard all look good as well.
On the drive, I was considering a 1TB drive - are most folks finding that 500gb fills up fast? I don't see myself recording shows in the future, though I suppose it's a possibility.
Ok, finished building the machine - everything was pretty much smooth sailing, with the exception of the stock heatsink/fan that came with the i3. Intel wrapped the fan's wiring too close to the blades and made a terrible noise each time I fired the machine up. Once I had that resolved, the machine is whisper quiet.
The Moneual case a bit larger than I expected (even after reading the dimensions), but aesthetically it's still a nice one.
Win 7 install was coming from an upgrade disk. I've read that you can install Win7 on a fresh HD from an upgrade disk, but I didn't find this to be the case. My experience was you can install Win7 fresh (Custom), but it will ask for the product key before the install completes, to which the upgrade key won't work. Thankfully, I have a Vista Ultimate install disk, so I went down the double install path, which went off without a hitch, if not a bit of a snooze with both installs.
Once up and running, machine itself works like a charm. Snappy and quick, running the HDMI out into my Bravia set.
I installed Boxee soon afterwards. Really like Boxee as media center software. However, the first big glitch I stumbled over is Netflix & Silverlight. Having enjoyed Netflix on my 360 since it was first offered, I expected a similar experience on my new HTPC. Unfortunately, all the HD video I'm watching from Netflix stutters. It's not unwatchable, but when comparing to the 360, its very different. I've read that its issues with Silverlight not taking advantage of video acceleration...who knows? All I know is that my fiancee took one look at Netflix on the new machine and immediately commented "Your old 360 works better than your new PC?" And she was right. )c:
Anyway, still happy with having a HTPC/media server to centralize and serve media to my LCD. Hopefully, these little niggly issues will get addressed over time.