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Yet another new HTPC build

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Last response: in Systems
August 8, 2010 9:12:59 PM

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!


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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.

OVERCLOCKING: No

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.



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As I mentioned, I only have the mobo selected at this point - but I'll list it here again to follow guidelines:

- ASRock H55M/USB3 LGA 1156 Intel H55 HDMI USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard


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August 8, 2010 9:59:37 PM

How about this setup:

ASRock H55M/USB3 LGA 1156 Intel H55 HDMI USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit 1-Pack for System Builders - OEM
Combo = $185

Intel Core i3-540 Clarkdale 3.06GHz LGA 1156 73W Dual-Core Desktop Processor BX80616I3540
OCZ 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model OCZ3F1600LV4GK
Combo = $216

Moneual LAB EGI 0.8mm Y601B Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case w/300W TFX Power Supply
Rosewill Windows Vista Certified Media center Infrared Remote Control RRC-126
Combo = $78

SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
$55

Moneual MK701 Wireless Keyboard - Black / Silver
$35

Total = $569

Add another $20 if you decide you do want a DVD drive (at least to install software, right?)
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August 8, 2010 10:16:18 PM

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.

Thanks for the quick reply!
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August 8, 2010 11:34:02 PM

For the drive, HD tv is about 8GB/h, blu-ray are 20-40GB each, and DVD's are 4-7GB each. Yeah, 500GB will fill up fast.

Since you have some wiggle room on budget, you could up the hard drive to the Samsung F3 1TB model.
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August 10, 2010 5:19:00 PM

Ok, placed the order last night - here's the final components:


CPU INTEL|CORE I3 540 3.06G 4M R --- $124.99

MB ASROCK H55M/USB3 LGA1156 R --- $94.99

DVD BURNER SAMSUNG | SH-S223L --- $24.99

HD 1T|SAMSUNG HD103SJ 32M --- $74.99

HTPC CASE MONEUAL LAB| Y601B RT --- $77.98

VISTA CERTIFIED IR REMOTE RRC-126 - (part of the case combo above)

Also picked up the keyboard rwpritchett recommended.

Total cost for the above was $397.94 (not including shipping); I'm purchasing some RAM off a co-worker for $80 (4GBs) & already own an install disc for Win 7 Home Premium. Final cost is ~$540.00.

Thanks for your help, RW!
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August 10, 2010 5:24:25 PM

Post back your experiences with the build. Also, if you need any software, encoding, or media center tips, come back and let us know.
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August 15, 2010 9:31:42 AM

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.
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August 25, 2010 12:54:55 AM

Best answer selected by Roninson.
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