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BestConfigs - Home Theater PC

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August 30, 2010 8:07:44 PM

We're updating the Tom's Hardware BestConfigs and are opening the field to user recommendations! Post the best configuration you can put together for the following build category and our editorial team will pick 5 recommendations in each category to put to a public vote. The top-ranking build will go on to become one of Tom's Hardware's BestConfigs, and you'll get the credit for having put together a brilliant build with special notice in the feature article.

Post your entries to this thread for the category of Home Theater PC, stay within $700 and be sure to list the following components-

Processor:
Motherboard:
RAM:
Graphics Card:
Hard Drive:
Case:
Power Supply:
DVD Burner:

Good luck, and may the best builds win!
August 31, 2010 2:13:27 AM



2x Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
$179.98
($89.99 each)

ASUS M4A77TD AM3 AMD 770 ATX AMD Motherboard
$79.99

SAPPHIRE 100253HDMI Radeon HD 4650 512MB 128-bit GDDR2 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Low Profile Ready ...
$63.99

COOLER MASTER eXtreme Power Plus RS-500-PCAR-A3-US 500W ATX12V v2.3 Power Supply
$39.99

G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ
$89.99

AMD Phenom II X2 550 Callisto 3.1GHz Socket AM3 80W Dual-Core Desktop Processor
$85.99

LG Black Blu-ray Disc Combo SATA Model CH10LS20 OEM LightScribe Support
$79.99

nMEDIAPC Black Aluminum / Acrylic / Steel HTPC 6000B ATX Media Center / HTPC Case
$69.99

$689.91
Related resources
August 31, 2010 2:17:28 AM

For this build I wanted to go with a low power, low noise computer while still having the most powerful hardware possible under $700.

CPU: Intel Core i3-530 $114.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Mobo: Intel BOXDH55TC LGA 1156 Intel H55 HDMI Micro ATX $89.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
RAM: G.SKILL ECO Series 4GB $95.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
GPU: PowerColor Fanless HD 5450 $39.99 ($24.99 after MIR)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
HDD: Western Digital Green 1TB $69.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Case: Silverstone Grandia GD04B $99.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
PSU: SeaSonic 400W Fanless 80+ Gold $139.00
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Optical Drive: ASUS BD-ROM $59.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Total: $709.93 ($694.93 after MIR)
August 31, 2010 5:32:35 AM

so far, what I see here lacks the THEATRE part of home theater.

We'll start with a classy Wood case that looks like an old fashioned radio, for $89.99:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

This AS Rock 880G Motherboard will suit out needs at $59.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

We'll fill it with a 3-core AMD Athlon II X3 Rana 440 processor: $74.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

and 4GB of Mushkin DDR3 1333 Ram: $77.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

the speedy, inexpensive Samsung F3 Spinpoint 1 TB Drive for large amounts of data storage: $74.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

a basic, low temp video card, HD 5570, which can even play some games at low/medium settings: $81.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

a Rosewill wireless keyboard and mouse, so we can handle everything from the couch: $29.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

and Power everything from the highly reliable Seasonic 350W 80+ Bronze PSU:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Now we add the HDTV:

a Dual-channel HDTV receiver. So you can watch & record HDTV on 2 different channels, either from cable or over the air, $56.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Blue ray Burner, to record those shows, $109.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

$696.90.
August 31, 2010 6:10:43 AM

The i3 530 is also a very good choice for HTPC...

CPU - i3 530

Mobo - ASUS P7H55D-M EVO

RAM - Mushkin Enhanced Essentials 4GB

CASE + PSU -
Antec MicroFusion Remote 350 Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case

Boot - Intel X25-V SSDSA2MP040G2R5 2.5" 40GB

HDD - Samsung F3 1TB

BD Combo - SAMSUNG Black 8X BD-ROM
August 31, 2010 11:38:01 AM

Processor: I3 530 (115$)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Motherboard: MSI H55M-E33 (99$)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

RAM:Kingston ValueRam 2GB DDR3-1333 CL9 kit (45$),No need for more then 2 GB for all multimedia applications
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

CPU Cooler:Scythe Big Shuriken(38$)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Graphics Card: Integrated in the i3

Hard Drive: Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB (75$)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Case: Antec Fusion Remote Black (140$)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Power Supply:
IF YOU LIVE IN EUROPE
Be Quiet Pure Power L7 300W
http://www.be-quiet.net/be-quiet.net/index.php?StoryID=...
OR IF YOU LIFE IN THE US
SeaSonic SS-300ET Bronze 300W (40$)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Optical drive: Lite-On iHOS104 Black (50$)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Tv Tuner: AVerMedia AVerTVHD Duet (57$)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Total:659$
August 31, 2010 3:01:47 PM

Going for an inaudible setup with entirely sufficient performance as this is mean't to be an HTPC not an all round desktop solution

Case: Antec Fusion Remote Black Micro ATX - $139.95

CPU: AMD Athlon II 240 65W - $50.99

Mem: G-Skill Ripjaw 4GB DDR3 - $83.99

Mobo: GIGABYTE GA-880GMA-UD2H - $99.99

SSD: Intel X25-V 40GB - $99.99

GPU: ATI 4250 onboard with D-sub, DVI and HDMI output

BD: LG 4x Black - $49.99

PSU: CORSAIR 650HX - $119.99 ($20 MIR)

CPU Cooler: Silverstone NT06-E - $47.99

Case fans: Arctic Cooling AF12 Pro PWM - 2 x $9.99 = $19.98

2.5-3.5" adaptor: Btecc bracket - $5.99

Total: $718.85 - $20 MIR = $698.85

Authors notes:

Would prefer the 450W version of this 650W PSU, however I'm british and don't know more than 2 major US E-tailers, neither of which had it in stock. This would lower the power usage, tempuratures and overall cost slightly.


Replacing the included fans in the case with the arctic cooling fans due to the inclusion of PWM function as no dedicated CPU cooler included (one will JUST fit atop this cooler, however additional vents would need to be cut in the top of the case to allow air through).

Cpu cooler should have its black cover removed for increased cooling.

Case includes front screen and remote which work well with windows and Linux (with a little work).

This is making the assumption that media files are to be stored separately on a server or NAS drive.
August 31, 2010 3:24:18 PM

Processor: Intel Core i3-530 $115

Motherboard: ASUS P7H55-M PRO $90

RAM: CORSAIR XMS3 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1333 $75 after MIR

Graphics Card: ASUS GeForce GT 240 512MB1GB $80

Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Green 1TB $80

Case: SILVERSTONE Black GRANDIA Case $100

Power Supply: CORSAIR 600W $80 with MIR

DVD Burner: LG Black 10X BD-ROM $80

Total: $700 (I rounded all prices up, $114.99 = $115)

This is my personal build, I went with the 240GT so it supports 3D BluRay playback, I mean honestly, what would a HTPC be without BluRay? I would have liked to go with the Asus 240GT with passive cooling but that would have put me over my price range. This is actually my personal build I have at home with the exception of the PSU, I have a 650W in mine.
Anonymous
August 31, 2010 6:16:00 PM

Processor:
AMD Athlon II X2 245 Regor 2.9GHz $58
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Motherboard:
Foxconn AMD 740G Micro ATX $45
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
RAM:
Crucial 2GB (2 x 1GB) DDR2 800 $40
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Graphics Card:
SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 5450 512MB 64-bit DDR2 $41
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Hard Drive:
Boot
Corsair 32GB SATA II SSD $80
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Storage
Western Digital Caviar Green WD20EARS 2TB 64MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5 $120
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Case:
nMEDIAPC Black Aluminum / Acrylic / Steel HTPC 5000B $70
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Power Supply:
Antec EarthWatts Green EA-380D Green 380W 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified $45
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Bluray Drive:
LITE-ON Black SATA Internal 4X Blu-ray Reader $50
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
TV Tuner:
Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1600 ATSC/ClearQAM/NTSC TV Tuner PCI w/Remote $90
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Total: $640

This is a variation on my current htpc. I've never needed to burn a dvd on mine so I just went for the bluray reader. Radeon HD 5xxx gives you HD bitstreaming for your blurays. I'd recommend keeping cpu/mobo/ram as cheap as you feel comfortable if you are only using this for media recording/playback. The SSD is something I'd like to add to mine because I don't leave mine running 24/7 and it'd be nice to have quicker startup times. This machine has plenty of storage and enough power to for mythtv with xbmc/boxee.
September 2, 2010 5:23:39 AM

Case: Silverstone GD05B (99.99)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
A solid receiver-form factor case. Includes 3 80mm fans and has space for two additional 60mm fans. The optical drive bracket is above the motherboard, which limits the size of aftermarket coolers. Aftermarket cooler doesn’t really seem to be necessary.

CPU: Athlon II X3 440 (74.99)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Enough power to handle encoding tasks as you move your collection to your hard drive(s).

RAM: GSkill 4GB kit (76.99)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
More than enough for an htpc.

Optical Drive: BD-ROM (59.99)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Go cheap and OEM. Don’t forget an extra SATA cable and your BD playback software (TMT3, $59.99, http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $40 cheaper than buying it directly from Arcsoft. Make sure to download the trial version to make sure you like it.)

Hard Drives: 2 Samsung F3s, 1 TB (74.99x2 / 149.98; available for ~60 with code until 9/6))
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
The consensus choice on Tom’s. In fact, go ahead and get two. You’ll need the space to transfer your Blu-Rays to the hard drive.

Video Card: MSI 5570 (84.99 / 69.99 after rebate)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Handles full suite of post processing abilities (http://www.anandtech.com/show/3601/the-final-word-on-th... ).
Really, a video card is optional, unless you want TrueHD sound, which requires an HDMI input on your receiver. The on-board 4200/4250 is more than enough to handle Blu-Ray.

PSU: OCZ ModXstream Pro (59.99 /39.99 after rebate)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
A modular PSU isn’t a requirement for an HTPC, but it does make things easier.

Motherboard: MSI 88GM-E43 (79.99)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
A solid motherboard that has given me no problems.
However, if you’ll be plugging into a receiver without HDMI passthrough, then you want a motherboard with S/PDIF, since the brackets are difficult to track down. In that case, go with the ASUS M4A785TD-M EVO AM3 (79.99)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Total Cost: 686.91 (636.91 with rebates; 566.92 without video card; sub 500 if you start with one hard drive)

Of course, chances are you still need an OS (100 for Win 7 Pro), a 10ft interface keyboard (50-150), Blu Ray playback software (60), 2 extra SATA cables if you don’t have them laying around, and possibly a remote (use a $5 dollar program for your smart phone as a temporary workaround if nothing else).
September 2, 2010 9:10:32 PM

I recently built this for my brother-in-law. Prices are adjusted for what I've found today.

Processor:
Intel Core i3-540 Clarkdale 3.06GHz 73W Dual-Core Desktop Processor BX80616I3540
$99.99 @ MicroCenter

Motherboard:
ASUS P7H55-M PRO LGA 1156 Intel H55 HDMI Micro ATX
$80.99 @ NewEgg.com

RAM:
G.SKILL 10666CL8D-4GBHK 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333
$89.99 @ NewEgg.com

Hard Drive:
Western Digital WD3200AAJS 320GB SATA II
$47.99 @ NewEgg.com

Case:
LIAN LI Black Aluminum PC-C37B Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case
$149.99 @ NewEgg.com

Power Supply:
SeaSonic SS-350ET Bronze 350W 80 PLUS BRONZE
$39.99 @ NewEgg.com

DVD Burner:
LITE-ON Black 4X Blu-ray Disc Reader SATA Model iHOS104-08
$64.99 @ NewEgg.com

Keyboard/Mouse:
IOGEAR GKM561R Black 2.4GHz Wireless HTPC Multimedia Keyboard with Laser Trackball and Scroll Wheel
$49.99 @ NewEgg.com

The total for hardware, without shipping or any combination discounts comes to $623.92. For my brother-in-law I also installed Windows 7 Home Premium and took advantage of some combo discounts at the time which brought the total just around $700.

This is a pure home theater build with no intention of gaming (they already have XBox, PS/3, etc.). They plan to store their media on a NAS appliance. They also wanted to be able to bitstream HD audio formats like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-MA. If it had been within the budget, the one change I would have made give the NAS is to install an SSD instead of the HDD.

September 6, 2010 9:03:56 AM

Here is something a little different: an old time radio cabinet. Usually you see these as one of a kind works of art from Jeffrey Stephenson. nMedia has come out with a model that copies that style which anyone can assemble.

Case: Awesome looking old time radio case for $105.

Gotta get the LCD display for this cabinet - $36

CPU: AMD Athlon II X3 445

RAM: OCZ Platinum 4GB
Combo CPU and RAM for $146

Motherboard: ASUS M4A88TD

Optical: ASUS Internal Blu-ray drive
mobo/Blu Ray combo for $157

Graphics: Integrated HD 4250 for $0

HDD: Spinpoint F3, 1 TB for $60.

Heatsink: Low profile, quiet (per Frostytech ) Scythe SCSK-1100 for $38. Need to make sure there is adequate cooling, especially when you unlock that 4th core.

PSU: SeaSonic 400W for $51 (Thanks MadAdmiral)

Optional infrared: Rosewill remote controller for $27.

Optional TV Tuner: Hauppage USB 2.0 HDTV tuner for $67. Don't believe in spending high dollars here, since FCC has promised new regs for cable companies this year.

Total: $687 including options, shipping, combo prices and mail in rebates.

September 15, 2010 3:16:11 PM

@eloric: thanks for the link to the Jeffery Stephenson gallery. Those designs are just awesome.

I can't wait to use that nMediaPC case to build a PC for someone, even if it's not an HTPC it would look very cool sitting on a desk in an office too.
September 15, 2010 4:15:57 PM

Thanks, and I swear I did not steal from ScrewySqrl. I did not even notice until later that he had used the same case in an earlier build in this thread. If there ever is a winner declared, and it comes down to his or mine, pick his!
September 22, 2010 9:28:32 PM

Here is my attempt. The goal of this build is to provide a fully capable HTPC in a very small form factor and a power consumption to match. I take advantage of the many USB ports available but leave enough for other devices like external drives and other peripherals. I know this is cheating a little but if it's available, might as well put it to use. There's no point buying a MOBO with two PCI-Ex16 slots if you're gonna use one, right? Same theory with the USBs (actually just an excuse to justify myself, haha.) The whole system is about the size of a textbook and runs under 100W.

Processor/Motherboard/Graphics Card: ASUS AT5IONT-I Intel Atom D525 (1.8GHz, dual-core) BGA559 Intel NM10 Mini ITX Motherboard/CPU Combo $179.99 + $6.98 Shipping
  • This board was chosen over the ASUS AT3IONT-I Deluxe because it houses a more recent processor and has USB 3.0 support. The only drawback is lack of a free remote and integrated wifi but those are minor compared to the gains from the newer technology. The IGP on this board, Next-Gen Nvidia ION, is more than plenty for a HTPC fully capable of 1080p HD playback.

    RAM: 2x Kingston 2GB 204-Pin DDR3 SO-DIMM Unbuffered DDR3 800 System Specific Memory Model $48.99 +$0.99 Shipping ea = $97.98 + $1.98 Shipping
  • Not much to say, this is the only type of ram the mobo accepts possibly being the only real drawback but is plenty fast for the system. There are two of these for a total of 4GB in case someone didn't catch the little "2x".

    Hard Drive: SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive $74.99
  • Surprisingly, the case has room for one 3.5" HDD and when it comes to 3.5" HDDs, this drive offers plenty of space and speed at a very affordable price.

    Case/Power Supply: hec Black 0.7mm Thickness SECC (Japanese Steel Metal) ITX ITX200B Mini ITX Media Center / HTPC Case $49.99 + $9.99 Shipping
  • Can be placed vertically or horizontally but vertically its only 10.5" tall, 2.76" wide and 12.4" deep, about the size of a textbook. The 200W power supply is more than plenty for the system.

    DVD Burner: LG Black 8X DVD+R 5X DVD-RAM 6X BD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA Internal Blu-ray Super-Multi Combo DriveModel CT21N - OEM $139.99 + $5.99 Shipping
  • Not only is this a DVD burner it is also a Blu-ray drive which is a must for HTPCs.

    Wireless Network Adapter: BUFFALO WLI-UC-GN IEEE 802.11b/g, IEEE 802.11n Draft 2.0 USB 2.0 Nfiniti Wireless Ultra-Compact Adapter WPA2, WPA-PSK (AES, TKIP), 128/64-bit WEP $27.99
  • Ultra-Compact USB wireless adapter capable of IEEE 802.11 b/g/n. Making up for the lack of integrated wifi but if you prefer a wired network, there is a slot on the mobo. The size allows it to seemlessly fit into a rear USB 2.0 slot and not be in the way of the other cables.

    TV Tuner: KWORLD Hybrid TV Stick UB445-U USB 2.0 Interface $59.99
  • Another USB device to populate another rear USB 2.0 slot. Watch and record HDTV and cable TV with FM radio. Comes with a remote.

    Wireless Keyboard/Mouse: Logitech Cordless Desktop EX 100 Black 102 Normal Keys USB RF Wireless Standard Keyboard and Mouse $29.99 + $2.99 Shipping
  • Wireless Keyboard and Mouse combo grants full control of the HTPC anywhere in the room. Also populates yet another USB slot, your choice of either one of the two rear USB 3.0 slots or a front USB 2.0 slot. You could also move the USB wifi adapter to the front since its small and plug the keyboard/mouse reciever in the rear slot. Bonus that the keyboard and mouse are connected through one USB port but using PS/2 is also a possibility.

    Total $660.91 + $27.93 Shipping = $688.84
    September 29, 2010 7:52:25 PM

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