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HTPC on a Budget

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Last response: in Systems
November 23, 2010 4:21:54 AM

Okay so I've been thinking about building an HTPC. I plan on running Linux and using MythTV + XBMC/Boxee (probably XBMC because of mythbox). So, obviously, I'd like my parts to be supported by Linux.

Newegg Wish List is here:

Or if you're weird and rather I posted the parts..

I'd like to bring down the cost, any suggestions?

I think I could bring down the cost by choosing a different tuner card, but I'm hesitant to switch cards because I'm not sure what's supported by Linux. I also want the tuner card to have a hardware decoder (because of the slow CPU).

Maybe I could switch the core parts (GPU, CPU, mobo). I need this build to be ITX and have wi-fi. I was thinking about choosing a cheaper mobo without built-in wi-fi but it would also have to have expansion slots for a tuner card and a wi-fi card. Another thing I'm unsure of is if I need an ION board since this will only be used for video playback. Am I going to need the power of ION and its fancy VDPAU (Linux version of DxVA)?

EDIT: If I don't need ION, I've come up with an alternate build. See the 3rd post.

More about : htpc budget

November 23, 2010 5:21:25 AM

wifi on a usb sick?

they're cheap
November 23, 2010 5:30:42 AM

Good point. Anyway assuming I don't need ION I've come up with something cheaper:

Grand Total (shipping, tax, coupons): $369.28

I'll look into a USB dongle. Any other suggestions?

EDIT: Looked into the USB dongle. There are some cheap USB dongles but none of them seem to be N dongles. Or maybe I'm too tired and am reading things wrong.
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November 23, 2010 2:54:13 PM

You've got a compatibility problem with your TV tuner. It's PCI and your mobo has only one PCIe slot. You could go for the HVR-1850 which is pretty much the same card, only it's PCIe. However I recommend you stretch a bit and get the HVR-2250 which is a single PCIe card but has two tuners. It will allow you to record one channel while watching another, or record two channels at once.

*Edit- Nevermind... read the second build which has a PCI mobo.
November 23, 2010 3:36:30 PM

Thanks hadn't noticed that. I don't need 2 tuners though since I plan on splitting the connection from my STB to my TV and this box. I'd watch TV on the TV and record on this.

But yeah I've been looking around and it seems like I'd be a lot better off with ION. Do you guys think the GMA 3150 (or whatever the integrated GPU is on the 2nd build) will hold up fine for DVD playback and flash?
November 23, 2010 6:02:47 PM

I have a D525 motherboard (next step up from D510) with the same GMA3150 integrated graphics and there's no way it's running fullscreen HD video and definitely not Flash based video. It's great as a nettop for surfing the web, spreadsheets, email and stuff like that though.

For not much more than the same price of the latest ION2 you could build a system with a Core i3-540 and H55 mini-ITX motherboard that's going to be low power and blow the ION away. If you want to stick with mini-ITX and not go micro-ATX for all these add-ins like Wifi, tuners, etc. you can get a network tuner like the SiliconDust HDHomeRun and the aforementioned USB Wifi dongle. One other advantage of the H55 mobo is that it has a real PCI-e x16 slot in case you want to add a more powerful GPU in the future, although the onboard GPU will display 1080p video just fine.

Start with this combo as your base:
GIGABYTE GA-H55N-USB3 LGA 1156 Intel H55 HDMI USB 3.0 Mini ITX Intel Motherboard
Intel Core i3-540 Clarkdale 3.06GHz LGA 1156 73W Dual-Core Desktop Processor BX80616I3540
Combo Discount: -$17.99
Combo Price: $206.99

Add some 1333MHz DDR3 ram, your mini-ITX case w/ PSU, HDD, ODD and you've got a great system.

If you're OK with going micro-ATX look at the this combo to start from:

I am going to drop this into an Antec Micro Fusion 350 Remote HTPC case I already have for my new HTPC with the lowest price Blu-ray ROM I can find and end up right around $400 for the build (I got an amazing deal on the case at Newegg -- $55 AR).