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Dedicated HTPC build - $600ish

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August 22, 2010 4:45:55 PM

My old HTPC is slowly killing me, it's time to update to something new.

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: By the end of the month, most likely. Unless newegg traditionally has Labor Day sales?

BUDGET RANGE: $600ish, not a hard limit

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: HTPC, no gaming - I already have a gaming rig built.

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: Case, keyboard, mouse, speakers, monitor/display. Separate budget for case, looking for something with built-in remote capabilities, like the Antec Fusion Remote Black for use with my Logitech Harmony remote.

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: newegg, willing to grab single parts elsewhere if the price is significantly better

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA

PARTS PREFERENCES: None, gaming rig is AMD, considering going Intel i3/H55 for HTPC build. I'm most likely to just rebuild this when it can't handle anything, not too concerned about 1156 being a dead socket.

OVERCLOCKING: No

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: No

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

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: As this is an HTPC build, I want it quiet. Considering a 60ish GB SSD for boot/apps.

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

I have a PS3 for blu-ray, again no need for it in the HTPC to start with. However, I do have a couple of non-US region DVDs (purchased legitamately from amazon) that I'd like to play. Thoughts on regionless DVD drives or just switching the DVD drive on the HTPC permanently would be welcome.

TV has HDMI, DVI, & component inputs. I have an HD audio receiver that I will route the audio & video from the PC through.

USB 3.0 & SATA III are a plus, though I'm unsure if SATA III is on any H55 mobos. Will probably work on a NAS device next year at some point.

Here's what I'm thinking so far, very interested in different opinions, alternatives, combos, etc.

CPU - Intel i3-530 & Gigabyte GA-H55M-USB3 - $207
Mobo - see above
RAM - G.Skill ECO Series 1333 MHz CL7 4 GB kit - $103 - paying more for the 1.35V CL7 memory, not too concerned about the $10 over other memory.
SSD - Mushkin Callisto 60 GB - $150 for a 60 GB SandForce 1200 SSD.
HDD - Samsung Spinpoint F3 1 TB - $75
ODD - Cheapest SATA DVD burner with free shipping - $20
PSU - Seasonic X 400 Fanless - $140 - modular, fanless, pricey. Looking for recommendations on other quiet PSUs.
OS - Win 7 Home Premium OEM 64-bit - $100

Total: $795 without shipping. Looks like I went a little over. Could cut $150 off by removing the SSD. Could cut some cost by going with a less expensive PSU.
August 22, 2010 7:35:38 PM

I may end up getting an i3-540, as I will be in range of a Microcenter next weekend, and they're $99 in-store-pickup. Of course, the Gigabyte mobo will then be full price, but that should end up only $2-3 more for a better processor.

May also pick up the Spinpoint F3 at microcenter for $10 less.
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August 22, 2010 7:45:31 PM

That looks beautiful. Only thing worth considering is a bluray drive with a known region-free/copy protection firmware mod.

Also, consider getting a CPU cooler as the stock i3 is loud and obnoxious in an HTPC setting.
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August 22, 2010 7:47:33 PM

I've already got my PS3 for Blu-ray, so I'm not really thinking I need it at this point on the HTPC. (Will probably consider it as prices come down.)

I suppose another option would be to keep the internal DVD burner as region 1 and get an external DVD player for my small collection of region 2 DVDs.
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August 23, 2010 8:49:07 AM

Hi There,

I have just submitted my own post for an HTPC build right here on this very forum.

You've not said what you budget is for your case, but have you considered one of these for a more AV look?

Moneual Moncaso 312
Moneual Moncaso 320
Or for that really high end look the OrigenAE s10v?
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August 23, 2010 3:59:49 PM

I actually had considered the Moneual cases, but based on research on silentpcreview.com, while they were good, it didn't seem like they were that much better than the Antec case (the Fusion is one of the Editor's Choice picks). The Antec is a little bigger, but it looks like it'll just appear to be a receiver, rather than a DVD player or something. On the plus side, it will also accept full-height cards, which could be a bonus in the future. There are apparently some issues with the LCD panel, but I suspect I can work around that if there are problems.

Thanks for the tip on the OrigenAE s10v, though I probably won't end up getting it. :) 
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August 23, 2010 6:54:31 PM

I have been pretty pleased with the Silverstone Grandia GD05. It's almost exactly the size of my receiver -- a little taller and slightly less wide. There are issues if you install an aftermarket heatsink as the chip sits directly under the optical drive tray. The fans can be a little loud if they're really working, but that hasn't happened to me except when I came home to a 90 degree apartment after I had been gone for the weekend (they quieted down after the AC went back on). This case will accept full size video cards as well (I'm running a 5570 in it, which gives me acceptable frame rates with SC2 at 1920 by 1080).

Have you seen the Microcenter deal on chip + free MSI 785 mobo (they knocked down the price on the mobo and then rebate the remaining $20 from MSI; I think it's the P45 mobo)? With Athlon 635, it would be $100, which would free up some cash for the SSD. It's a 785, but that is more than enough to handle HD playback. For 1/2 the price of your proposed chip+mobo, that doesn't seem like too much of a trade-off.
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August 23, 2010 7:38:53 PM

One of my primary concerns is being able to do full HD audio bitstreaming, and I'm unsure if the 785 can do that. I know the 5nnn series ATI GPUs can, but then I'm back in the same (or close to) ballpark on price.

I think I had ruled out the Grandia previously due to the lack of a built-in IR port. Nice-looking case, though.

Checking microcenter's website for deals now to see if there are any cpu/mobo specials.
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Best solution

August 23, 2010 8:26:39 PM

The 1600 mhz Ecos are cheaper counting shipping. Speed doesn't matter in this case, but might as well get the better ones for the same price.

You could change to an X3 440/8xx build (or even an X2). That could easily save a fair amount of money. The X3 440 and Asus M4A88TD-M/USB3 is $163. That gets you down to $750ish.

I really don't see a way to get it cheaper than that without getting a different PSU or dropping the SSD.
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August 23, 2010 8:34:15 PM

I'll probably just drop the SSD and see how it goes.

Honestly, pretty much anything would be quieter than what I've got now. I've got an old, loud, pre-built PSU in a poorly-ventilated case (an old Alienware full tower), and I'm probably overreacting trying to go all out for nearly-silent operation. Though I think I'll stick with the fanless PSU, just for the awesome factor.

Nice find on the 1600 MHz sticks. I hadn't even bothered looking at 1600 MHz, since I'm not going to overclock at all.
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August 23, 2010 8:42:45 PM

I always look just because RAM prices are always funny...
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August 24, 2010 5:18:01 PM

About your region problem-

Take a look at Slysoft's AnyDVD. This will solve your problem, but it is rather expensive if you get the lifetime license without any coupons. You could wait until December, they usually have a Xmas/New Years deal where you can get the lifetime license much cheaper. I got my lifetime license for around $80 if I remember right with it on sale.

Also, a heads up on the Antec Fusion-
The iMon display has many complaints about the backlighting being too bright. You can read about the problem here: Antec Fusion Remote Black

Soundgraph sells a filter set that is supposed to correct the problem. You can purchase the filters here.
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August 24, 2010 6:18:54 PM

rwpritchett said:
About your region problem-

Take a look at Slysoft's AnyDVD. This will solve your problem, but it is rather expensive if you get the lifetime license without any coupons. You could wait until December, they usually have a Xmas/New Years deal where you can get the lifetime license much cheaper. I got my lifetime license for around $80 if I remember right with it on sale.


Yeah, I've also looked at AnyDVD. I believe it's currently $55, but the HD version is +$80 or something. Thanks for the suggestion, always good to hear recommendations from satisfied customers.

And thanks for the reminder about the Fusion. You mentioned that when I was searching for ideas on this build a few months ago, I appreciate you pulling up the link again.
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August 31, 2010 3:37:48 PM

Have had to delay the build a little due to needing to spring for a new set of tires, but I made a couple of initial purchases today.

Bought the Antec Fusion Remote Black and got in on a Shell Shocker for a WD Caviar Green 2 TB and an LG SATA DVD burner for a total of $109.

I may buy a new PSU in the next day or two and put my current HTPC guts into the new case, and then wait a little bit on the rest of the build.
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September 14, 2010 2:46:09 PM

Best answer selected by coldsleep.
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September 14, 2010 3:02:10 PM

So I went for it today, got a couple of deals with newegg's 48-hour sale.

Total spent including the case was a little more than $900.

The final build:
CPU - i3-540 (in combo with the SSD)
Mobo - Gigabyte GA-H55M-USB3 (in combo with Win 7)
RAM - G.Skill ECO Series 1600 MHz CAS 7 4 GB kit
SSD - OCZ Vertex 2 60 GB
HDD - WD Caviar Green 2 TB (shellshocker with the ODD)
ODD - LG SATA DVD Burner
PSU - Seasonic X400 Fanless
Case - Antec Fusion Remote Black
OS - Win 7 Home Premium 64-bit

No really significant changes from my original proposal. Went with the cheapest SSD at the time, which was conveniently combo-ed with the next step up CPU, so that seemed like a no-brainer, especially as the i3-530 doesn't have a ton of useful (for me) combos at the moment.

I may end up buying a cooler, but I'm going to see how the stock cooler performs to start.

Went with the 1600 MHz ECO series as MadAdmiral suggested, even though I'm not going to overclock, they're slightly cheaper than the equivalent 1333 MHz kit.
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