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First time HTPC build

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September 18, 2010 9:57:58 PM

Hello,
Wife has given the OK on a htpc. Now I need to know what to use!
APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Within the next 2 months

BUDGET RANGE: Around 700 bucks.

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: Home Theatre; watching and recording TV, media files, viewing pictures etc. Maybe a little gaming.

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: I have nothing yet! Tv is though Antenna. OTA

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: http://www.newegg.com Or anywhere else.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA

PARTS PREFERENCES:

OVERCLOCKING: no

SLI OR CROSSFIRE: don't care

MONITOR RESOLUTION: Plugging into my 55 in Mitsubishi 1080 HDTV.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: I would like the tv tuner to be able to record several channels while watching another. I have a ps3 and use "playon" software through it, but software is running on laptop. Currently have a Bose 321 system. Can htpc hook up to a bose? Would prefer to use AMD if possible. Thanks in advance for the help.

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September 21, 2010 12:13:33 AM

Ok, to start keep in mind that the goals for a successful HTPC are as follows:

  • media playback without stutter (functionality)
  • keep it cool and quiet (you should be watching/hearing what's on screen, not the system)
  • make it look like A/V equipment (this helps with the WAF... wife acceptance factor)
    With that said, here is a list to get you started. Feel free to make adjustments.

    Case/PSU/Remote: Antec MicroFusion Remote 350 Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case $100
    Motherboard + OS: GIGABYTE GA-880GMA-UD2H AM3 AMD 880G SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard $190
    CPU: AMD Athlon II X2 240e Regor 2.8GHz Socket AM3 45W Dual-Core Desktop Processor AD240EHDGQBOX $72
    RAM: G.SKILL ECO Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL8D-4GBECO $90
    ODD: LITE-ON Black 4X Blu-ray Disc Reader SATA Model iHOS104-08 $65
    HDD: SAMSUNG Spinpoint F4 HD204UI 2TB 5400 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive $120
    TV Tuner: Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 Dual TV Tuner / Encoder 1229 PCI-Express x1 Interface - OEM $115

    Total: $752

    Now, some discussion on the parts above. The case is from a good brand that is known for quality PSU's, comes with a remote, and looks good in an A/V rack. It has two downsides- room for only 1 HDD and it is a low-profile case.

    The CPU is a 45W part to keep the temps down (lower temps = slower fans = less noise). Feel free to substitute a 65W CPU if you want to save $15, but the 45W part will get the job done.

    The RAM is also a low power part spec'd at 1.35V. Not a huge difference from stock 1.5V, but it couldn't hurt. Go with 2x1GB or cheaper 2x2GB RAM if you want to cut some $$$ from the total. 2GB is all an HTPC needs really.

    The BD-ROM is cheap and it comes with blu-ray player software (a $50-100 value itself). It does not burn DVD's or CD's though. Save some money by dropping to a $20 DVD drive.

    The hard drive... since the case can only hold one, it better be a big one. The new Samsung F4 drives use very dense platters and even though they are only 5400 rpm, they will give a 7200 rpm drive a run for the money performance-wise. An added bonus is that they run much cooler and quieter than 7200 rpm drives. See point #2 above. It would be wise to install the OS on a separate partition from the media storage.

    The TV tuner is one of the best. It is a true dual tuner meaning it can pull two ATSC or two NTSC streams at once (but not ATSC and NTSC at the same time). That means you can record two shows at once, or watch one live while it records another. The ATSC tuner can also pull in clear QAM digital cable. It comes with a low-profile bracket too.

    The motherboard is a name brand with all the good A/V outs like HDMI and optical audio, plus it has a chipset that can handle blu-ray duties. It also has a combo right now with Win7 Home Premium x64.
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    September 21, 2010 7:28:25 AM

    +1

    The build is pretty good given the limited budget. There is a little room for some cost cutting, but then that would actually cut into the overall capabilities of the HTPC and/or produce a little more heat.

    The reviews of the motherboard indicates that inserting a two slot video card (like the HD 5850) will block three SATA ports. I assume a single slot card will block one or two SATA ports. Just something to be aware of.

    There is one thing I want to point out though regarding the hard drive... I recommend using two hard drives. One for the operating system and another for the data (music / video). If one HDD fails you will not loose everything at once. It costs more to do this though and introduces a little more heat. If you want to keep any programs you have recorded, then I recommend that you back them up onto a separate hard drive (whether internal or external). Recording programs will create wear and tear on the hard drive and over time it will fail.
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