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HTPC + gaming - Newbie: is this combination going to be good?

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November 8, 2010 1:36:37 PM

I've been reading through the recommedations and I have to admit all the different possibilities can be a little overwhelming! This is my first attempt at building my own though I've been thinking about it for years. (It's the thought that counts, right? :)  )


Approximate Purchase Date: by mid-december
 
Budget Range: <$600 No Rebates
 
System Usage from Most to Least Important: TV, Music, Surfing, occasional gaming (World of Warcraft).
 
Parts Not Required: Monitor, Keyboard, Mouse, Windows Remote, Large File Storage, Windows 7 License, TV Card
 
Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Amazon.com
 
Country of Origin: Sweden
 
Parts Preferences: I want a small case that will look ok in the living room.
 
Overclocking: I don't know anything about overclocking but I'm happy to use it if there are clear gains to be had.
 
SLI or Crossfire: If it is useful & cost effective for this configuration.
 
Monitor Resolution: Max: 1920x1080 on 32" screen. Could run lower for improved performance during gaming.
 
Additional Comments:I am aiming for a system that is mainly for TV, music, surfing and I'd like it to be able to handle World of Warcraft. :)  I don't expect it to be able to run at high detail levels - this is for days when the whole family wants to play together.

I live in Sweden but will be visiting family in the US for christmas. I'm planning to put the parts on my Amazon wishlist to make it easier for my family to contribute to the project in the form of xmas presents if they want.

Since I plan to carry it home again in a carryon bag/daypack it would be better if the case is smallish. Where ever possible I'd like quieter components if the premium isn't too high. Will use wired networking.

Case
MICRO FUSION REMOTE 350 ($100)
http://www.amazon.com/Slim-Media-Center-Pc-Case/dp/B001...
This case has a built in power supply. Will that be good enough?

Motherboard
Gigabyte Socket AM3/AMD 880G/SATA3&USB3.0/A&V&GbE/ATX Motherboard GA-880GMA-UD2H($100)
http://www.amazon.com/Gigabyte-Socket-USB3-0-Motherboar...;
or
ASUS M4A88TD-M - AM3 - AMD 880G - DDR3 - SATA 6Gb/s - ASUS Core Unlocker - ATX Motherboard($100)
http://www.amazon.com/ASUS-M4A88TD-M-880G-Unlocker-Moth...

Does it make any difference? Or is there a better option? I want to get DDR3 & USB3 to allow for future proofing to some degree. Will these motherboard choices going to last the next 4-5 years?

Will the graphics units on these motherboards be good enough for the occasional gaming at lower detail levels?

CPU
AMD Athlon II X3 445 Rana 3.1 GHz 3x512 KB L2 Cache Socket AM3 95W Triple-Core Desktop Processor - Retail ADX445WFGMBOX($74)
http://www.amazon.com/AMD-Athlon-Triple-Core-Desktop-Pr...

I suspect this is overkill for TV,Movies,Streaming and surfing but thought it should be able to keep up with gaming.

Memory
Corsair TW3X4G1333C9A XMS3 4 GB Memory Kit fro PC3-10666 1333mhz 240-pin Dual Channel DDR3($79)
http://www.amazon.com/Corsair-TW3X4G1333C9A-PC3-10666-1...

There is some corsair memory on Amazon that says it is for Intel. I thought RAM was not affected by the cpu or chipset as long as the bus/sockets support the memory. Am I mistaken?

Harddisk
Mushkin Enhanced Callisto Deluxe 60 GB Solid State Drive MKNSSDCL60 GB-DX (Black) ($130)
http://www.amazon.com/Mushkin-Enhanced-Callisto-Deluxe-...

Since I have a NAS for storing tv recordings & music I was thinking I could go with an SSD disk for quietness & coolness as well as speed. Is it really worth the cost?

Optical Drive
Lite-On IHES208 8X Internal Blu-Ray Combo Drive ($60)
http://www.amazon.com/Lite--IHES208-Internal-Blu-Ray-Co...

I don't need to be able to burn DVDs on this system but I'd like to be able to watch Blu-Ray DVDs. I don't have a Blu-Ray player yet.


Does this combination look like a reasonable system? Are there other options that are known to be better? Cheaper equivalents are welcome or more expensive ones that are considered more reliable. Anywhere that I can cut costs where it makes sense is a good thing; although I hope to get some of the parts as presents I may well have to buy them all myself.

Thank you so much for your time and thoughts!
November 8, 2010 1:43:51 PM

Quote:
CPU
AMD Athlon II X3 445 Rana 3.1 GHz 3x512 KB L2 Cache Socket AM3 95W Triple-Core Desktop Processor - Retail ADX445WFGMBOX($74)
http://www.amazon.com/AMD-Athlon-T [...] =8-1-spell

I suspect this is overkill for TV,Movies,Streaming and surfing but thought it should be able to keep up with gaming.


On the contrary the Ranas have been consistently seen as mind boggling bang for buck for gaming chip over several months' of Toms "Best Gaming CPU for the money" articles ^^

Also X3 is the way to go over spread of games now and incoming titles


The Game Rundown: Finding CPU/GPU Bottlenecks, Part 2
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/game-performance-bo...
Quote:
Conclusion: A Trend Toward 3+ Cores

The average optimal number of CPU cores suggested by the test results is 2.75, showing a clear trend towards at least three CPU cores.The question of whether the CPU or GPU is most important is easily answered. If you don't have a multi-core CPU, then upgrade it. If you have a dual-core CPU at around 3 GHz, then invest your money into a graphics card, as most games are GPU-limited. This is not something that will change with new DirectX 11 games.


As for GPU, with lowered detail/WOW @ Full HD i would look at something like a GTS 450?
Related resources
November 9, 2010 3:30:03 AM

Hmm the 8500GT would be better but @ Full HD it would still be far far lightweight
November 10, 2010 3:34:07 AM

Can that case fit a full-size GPU?
November 10, 2010 6:49:10 AM

It isn't really clear if a full size GPU will fit, but if I look at the pictures of the back of the box the slots appear to be full height.

I was wrong about the resolution - the screen is HD-ready so I made an assumption on the HD resolution. Best resolution for it is actually 1360x768. I think I'll wing the onboard chip first and then move to the 8500GT and then buy a card if necessary.
November 10, 2010 6:58:06 AM

Wow a GTS 450 would really be awesome for HD Ready as is hehe I have peeps on HD 4670/9600GTs and they do fine
November 10, 2010 9:01:11 AM

This review makes me wonder if the AMD is the right way to go. It shows double CPU usage on H.264 playback: http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/graphics/2010/05/24/am...

I saw this combo in several HTPC recommendations here and like the triple core chip.

Is it generally considered better to get a dedicated graphics card? And if that is better for my usage, are there cheaper motherboards that don't include a graphics chip? Just seems silly to pay for a gpu that you're never going to use? I am assuming that the graphics card overrides the onboard gpu. Or do both chips get used?
If you put in a dedicated graphics card - does the output only come out of the ports on the card, or does that output also go to the onboard graphics ports? For example, my graphics card doesn't have an HDMI port but the motherboard does... so can I get the output of my graphics card through the HDMI port of the motherboard?
November 10, 2010 2:26:02 PM

At least on newegg anyway, there aren't any microATX motherboards that don't have integrated graphics. And, you won't find the ATX motherboards w/o integrated graphics to be that much cheaper.

The HDMI output will be from the graphics card itself and not the motherboard.

If you graphics card dies it's nice to have on-board graphics to troubleshoot :) 
!