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In over my head [HTPC w/ OTA signal + Internet]

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November 11, 2010 7:35:45 PM

Approximate Purchase Date: 2-3 weeks


Budget Range: $300 target


System Usage: HTPC exclusively (no gaming, no photo or moving editing, no office, etc)


Parts Not Required: OS, software, keyboard, mouse, blue-ray, monitor all not necessary


Country of Origin: USA


Parts Preferences: Intel


Overclocking: No


SLI or Crossfire: No


Monitor Resolution: 1080p 40" HDTV (Sony Bravia KDL model series)


Additional Comments: I'm in over my head here guys. I've always viewed the HTPC crowd as enthusiasts instead of cost conscious people. However, after viewing proposed monthly costs from cable providers I realized I was the one throwing my money away. I began looking at the HTPC market, and I'm blown away. There is so much relevant data and choices. It is overwhelming to someone new to it as I am.

What I'm hoping for is some ideas/options for building a cheap box to sit near my TV and act as a PVR. I am pretty much sold on getting an HDHomerun dual tuner (but not set in stone, really). I also need to pick up an antenna. So if someone believes a tuner card with built in receiver is better then let me know.

My wife wants it to be small, quiet, and do what she says. (Basically the opposite of me. :p  ) I'm not so picky on form factor etc. I just know the cost needs to be very low. I figure that's possible since I don't need an OS or blue-ray.

Also, I'm guessing WMC is what I'll use since it's available to me via Win7, but I'm not scared of Linux either. Does anyone thing MythTV is a better option?

Thank you in advance to those of you reading and offering help. I'm very grateful.
November 11, 2010 8:38:06 PM
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November 11, 2010 9:30:27 PM

I'd spend about $25 more and take the above build (not that I am a Biostar fan by any means but budget is king here), drop the PSU and Rosewill tower case and put it in an Antec Micro Fusion 350 case instead. That case looks like a PVR and it comes with a remote, something you'll spend at least $25 on. If you wife is like mine, having a tower sitting on the floor next to the TV is not going to have a very high WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor).

NewEgg has the Antec Micro Fusion for $89.99 + $9.99 shipping. Amazon had them in stock with the same price + free shipping until this morning (because of course I was going to order one).

I have both a internal tuner card and a HDHomeRun. Both work well.
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November 11, 2010 9:47:02 PM

Thank you both for your time and effort. I appreciate it. Dougie makes a great point. (WAF, that's classic).

What do you guys think of this newegg deal?

Combo 548994

*Edit - not sure why the link isn't working.

List of components below

This SuperCombo includes:

* ASUS Intel Atom D525 (1.8GHz, dual-core) BGA559 Intel NM10 Mini ITX Motherboard/CPU Combo (Model: AT5IONT-I)
* Kingston 2GB 204-Pin DDR3 SO-DIMM Unbuffered DDR3 800 System Specific Memory (Model: KVR800D3S8S6/2G)
* hec Black 0.7mm Thickness SECC (Japanese Steel Metal) ITX Mini ITX Media Center / HTPC Case (Model: ITX200A)
* Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive (Model: ST31000528AS)
* SAMSUNG Black 8X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 6X DVD+R DL 8X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 5X DVD-RAM 8X DVD-ROM 24X CD-R 4X CD-RW 24X CD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA CD/DVD Burner – OEM


$304.99

Adding a second DIMM brings it to $337'ish.
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November 11, 2010 9:53:12 PM

Too weak for full HD.
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November 11, 2010 10:33:50 PM

I take it it needs more processing power than the Atom can deliver? Thanks. That's why I came here and asked you guys. :) 
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November 12, 2010 2:28:08 AM

Another question. My wife is not fond of the idea of network cable running around the room back to the modem/router area. Would it be feasible to build a system with an internal tuner like a [Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 Media Center Kit Dual TV Tuner 1213] going straight to the tv and streaming Netflix over wireless? Would that mean an entirely new build? How much would that increase my cost? I was looking at newegg and a core i3 clarkdale with the hauppauge tuner could still be had for under $500. I have a feeling that the reply will be that increasing the budget by $200 would mean a better htpc all around anyway. Sorry to be so full of questions. As I mentioned before, there is just so much relevant data.
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November 12, 2010 3:11:19 AM

Yes, you can have an internal card and stream Netflix over wireless. It won't change your build. You must have the antenna coax going straight to the HTPC instead of to the networked HDHomerun. As long as your internet service is fast enough, Netflix will stream just fine. It won't be any different wired vs wireless for Netflix since it is compressed and does not need a massive amount of throughput speed on your home network.

Streaming blu-ray over wireless... now that's a bit tricky.
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November 12, 2010 3:24:19 AM

The AT5IONT-I in your SuperCombo will play HD just fine with the ION2 GPU. However, it gets mixed reviews for Netflix and Flash movies. Google ION2 to see the pluses and minuses with the new ION architecture.

Personally, I think the ION2 boards are overpriced. For not much more you can get a i3-530 with a H55 mini-itx board that'll blow the ION2 away.
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November 12, 2010 10:37:22 AM

Again, thank you to everyone. I'm very grateful for the answers. I hate to have to guess at this stuff, so your input is very helpful to me.

I saw this combo on newegg.

1. Intel BX80616I3540
2. GIGABYTE GA-H55M-UD2H

It was $194. There was also a Hauppauge Tuner w/ Remote for $129. That would mean I'm going outside the target of $300, but I'm open to the idea after Dougie's comment about the ION2 price/performance comparison. My initial target was based on a number my wife wanted to stick to, but we talked last night about what we want to achieve. At this point, I need to get an idea of the difference in mosox's build above with the case Dougie added later versus an i3 build that Dougie alluded to above. Not just in price but also performance. For instance, we don't have surround sound right now, but we might buy into that later at some point. Or the idea of streaming blu-ray as rwpritchett mentioned.
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November 12, 2010 12:40:58 PM

I am leaning toward Intel due to personal and professional contacts, but if the AMD build is best then so be it. As for size of parts, I couldn't say for sure. I don't have the experience. I'm depending on the wisdom of you all here. :) 
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Best solution

November 12, 2010 8:05:26 PM

You could take this combo:

Intel Core i3-540 Clarkdale 3.06GHz 4MB L3 Cache LGA 1156 73W Dual-Core Desktop Processor (Model: BX80616I3540)
ASUS LGA 1156 Intel H55 HDMI Micro ATX Motherboard (Model: P7H55-M/CSM)
G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory (Model: F3-10666CL9D-4GBNQ)
Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive (Model: ST31000528AS)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboBundleDetails.aspx?I...
$302.00

And put it in the Antec Remote 350 case
$89.99 + $9.99 shipping

Add this DVD player
ASUS DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS Black SATA 24X DVD Burner - Bulk - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$18.99

and you're at

Subtotal: $410.98 + shipping (for me it's about $16) = $426.96

Now you just need the tuner. The internal tuners are all low-profile so it would fit just fine in the Antec 350 case. Right now I am seeing the HDHomeRun selling for $149.99 which seems steep given I got mine for $40 less maybe two weeks ago?

This one is a dual-tuner also and is the OEM version so it doesn't come with a remote (the Antec 350 already has one)
Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 Dual TV Tuner / Encoder 1229 PCI-Express x1 Interface - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$109.99 + shipping

You definite want at least two tuners, at least in my experience. Not being able to switch channels because you are recording drives me nuts.
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November 12, 2010 8:10:57 PM

I'm impressed and grateful for the time you all have spent helping me. I think between the build Dougie just posted and the one mosox posted earlier on, I've got all the build info I need. Now it's just decision time. I'll come back and post once we've made the order and to check in and update on how it's working. My wife and I are super excited. Thank you once again.
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November 12, 2010 8:26:38 PM

Good luck and have fun. I am also trying to put together a low-priced HTPC build for my bedroom so this has been helpful for me as well, especially that last combo.
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November 12, 2010 8:32:57 PM

In an effort of full disclosure, I do 3rd party work for Intel and I was supporting the guys that made the Atom. Unfortunately, that doesn't translate to discounts. :(  So, I'll probably go with the most recent build since it is Intel. It'll depend on if we want to spend the extra money over our initial budget. I really wish the Atom set up would have been good enough though. I would have felt a sense of pride.
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November 12, 2010 8:50:07 PM

Atoms can do 720p but not 1080i or 1080p, basically.

I like the athlon build above as fitting in your build price better.
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November 13, 2010 7:15:44 PM

Best answer selected by arsagano.
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November 13, 2010 7:16:54 PM

Update - we went with the i3 build that Dougie suggested. The parts should come in middle to late next week unless anything is put on hold.
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November 18, 2010 7:10:07 PM

Parts came in yesterday. I put it all together last night and built it with Win7. I installed drivers and a few other software packages that were included. I still need to finish updating Win7. Anyone have advice for customizing Win7 to optimize it for HTPC functionality? For instance, I'm thinking I will disable Aero since it's not necessary and would likely improve performance to turn it off.
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November 18, 2010 7:18:04 PM

First thing you need to do is get S3 sleep working properly. Do you need help with that?

I've been fine with Aero running. I guess it doesn't really matter since you should rarely see the Aero interface as most time is spent in media center.

Here's a thread where I gave some guy some setup and bling tips for WMC. Maybe that will help you some.
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November 18, 2010 7:48:22 PM

I was just going to turn off all sleep and hibernate features. Do you recommend otherwise? That thread is great. Thanks.
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November 18, 2010 10:10:00 PM

S3 is desirable for HTPC's because it gives you a near instant on experience (maybe 1 or 2 sec. wait) and it will allow the HTPC to wake itself up to record TV shows and do late night maintenance (guide downloading. etc.).
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November 22, 2010 1:13:11 PM

This weekend was the inaugural weekend for the new HTPC with OTA signal and no cable. Thanks to everyone here it was a great success.

My only issue is that the remote that came with the case doesn't work. I did some troubleshooting, and from what I found the remote (RM100) and LCD and/or software (iMON) isn't compatible with my setup. They had several threads for such issues, and the end recommendation for users with RM100 remote controls provided with Antec Fusion 350 cases was to contact Antec. I'm going to try that, but in the end, I may just decide to purchase a Harmony remote, which I've heard was pretty great. Anyone have any opinions on it?

Also, S3 is working great. Thanks for the suggestion, but I do have one issue. I'm sure I can research, but I figured someone here would have the answer. What's the best way for the system to auto-login after waking up from S3? I only have one account without password, but for some reason on wake up it requires selecting that profile which shows "Locked" for some reason at the login screen for Windows 7.
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November 22, 2010 1:15:27 PM

turn off the requirement to log in on wake from sleep/screen saver (its a windows setting)
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November 22, 2010 1:19:25 PM

Hah, not sure why I didn't think of that. Thanks!
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November 23, 2010 6:06:30 AM

This topic has been closed by Maziar
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