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New HTPC Build Help

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December 20, 2010 6:20:56 PM

I am building an HTPC for my parent's home. I have less than a week to research because I need to have it built and ready to go in two weeks. The budget is around 2500 but that is flexible. It's going to be used for watching tv, not gaming.

I am new to this stuff and I need help. I have built a PC before, but I still don't know a lot about this. I have been researching a bit lately, but it is hard to figure out where to begin. I am hoping you guys can ask my questions to narrow down what it is exactly that I want.

This is going to be from scratch, meaning I also need to purchase a TV as well.

The majority of the $ will be going toward the TV, which is going to be 55" at the very minimum. Should have specified that, sorry.

Basically, what the HTPC will be used for is:

-Netflix/Watching movies that we have downloaded/blueray movies
-Streaming youtube videos
-Webcam chatting
-Playing music
-Viewing family pictures

I have Dish network. The Dish already has DVR playback. That has nothing to do with the HTPC - that is just something separate, because I think it will be too much of a hassle to integrate satellite into the HTPC.

It will be HDMI. We do have an external hard drive, but I'm sure it won't be enough and we'll have to store things in the HTPC hard-drive, or if it gets too loud, upstairs on the desktop PC and then network it to the HTPC downstairs somehow.

I was going to start from here, but a lot of that stuff in the link is over my head. From what I gather, I should figure out the type of mobo, because that will determine the type of case (form factor). It's a shame that the most recent edition (holiday edition) - he is making you pay for :( 

I'm the type of person that likes to research everything to death before purchasing, to ensure that I get the most bang for my buck. So I tend to stray away from generic cookie cutter build recommendations, especially if it is outdated. But I would still consider the various parts on an individual basis.

Anything would be appreciated including:

  • links to guides for htpcs
  • links to good deals for tvs/pc parts
  • any advice/guidance

    Thanks!
  • More about : htpc build

    December 20, 2010 7:00:27 PM

    http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/how_build_ult...


    thats is a step by step guide, from picking the best parts to assembly to networking. Everything you could ever need. I just followed the guide at my house and we are using this to replace the old File server i built 4 years ago. This thing is sweeeet.
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    December 20, 2010 7:01:31 PM

    MIND you that is from 5 months ago, so some parts could probably be upgraded, or have gone down in price
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    Related resources
    December 20, 2010 7:26:27 PM

    Thanks for the link - I'll check it out.

    The majority of the $ will be going toward the TV, which is going to be 55" at the very minimum. Should have specified that, sorry.

    Basically, what the HTPC will be used for is:

    -Netflix/Watching movies that we have downloaded/blueray movies
    -Streaming youtube videos
    -Webcam chatting
    -Playing music
    -Viewing family pictures

    I have Dish network. The Dish already has DVR playback. That has nothing to do with the HTPC - that is just something separate, because I think it will be too much of a hassle to integrate satellite into the HTPC.

    It will be HDMI. We do have an external hard drive, but I'm sure it won't be enough and we'll have to store things in the HTPC hard-drive, or if it gets too loud, upstairs on the desktop PC and then network it to the HTPC downstairs somehow.
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    December 21, 2010 12:35:18 AM

    bdbeall - regarding your link - it is for a 3D HTPC though - so all the recommendations would alter to cater the 3D functionality, would they not?

    The majority of the $ will be going toward the TV, which is going to be 55" at the very minimum. After spending $ on the TV - I want to try to do this for $400 is possible, maybe $500.
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    December 21, 2010 3:42:20 AM

    For the dish integration - I thought it was really a big hassle based on reading this.

    http://www.dbstalk.com/showthread.php?t=166854

    Am I missing something? I just need a tuner card and coax? Also, the DISH receiver is upstairs, and the HTPC will be downstairs, so that may be another problem right?

    So here is what I am thinking for price range:

    Mobo - ~$60 (most likely microATX)
    CPU - ~$60 (maybe a dual core AMD?)
    GPU - ~$80 (HDCP-capable, and maybe even passively cooled)
    RAM - ~$40 (ddr3, 2gb is fine, 4 is overkill)
    HDD - ~$70 (2TB!)
    PSU - ~$??
    Case - ~$??
    Case Fan - Necessary??
    Blu-Ray/DVD Player - ~??
    Blue-ray software - will I need to buy this?
    OS - Win7 Home 32 bit (I have the trial version)
    Media center - XMBC or WMC (free)

    TV - ~$1500 (55+", LCD or LED-LCD, HDMI, 1080P)
    Speakers - ~?? (surround wireless? Probably too expensive)
    Remote?

    How does that all look? Am I missing things? Wireless card? Do I need that?

    I plan on buying an okay CPU, and then offloading some the processing power to the GPU - is that feasible? I heard it may not work in Netflix.
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    December 22, 2010 7:54:14 PM

    So my family decided they don't want anything less than a 60 inch TV.

    Right now, the best deal I can find is this one: LG 60" 1080p 120Hz LCD HDTV

    http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?nm_mc=AFC-TechBargains&cm_mmc=AFC-TechBargains-_-NA-_-NA-_-NA&Item=N82E16889005166

    This is a recent deal on Newegg - 1300 for the LD550. It was sold out last night but it looks like they restocked. It is relatively the same price as the PK550. Putting aside the plasma vs lcd discussion, it still seems like it is better than the PK550 (60 inch plasma). What do you guys think?


    Regarding HTPCS, I think it will be easier for me to decide on one thing at a time. So right now, I will focus on CPU and motherboard.

    Based on what I want to do, please help me weigh the cost and benefits of the following:

    Also, please feel free to suggest other options!

    CPU OPTIONS:

    - AMD Athlon II X2 240 (2.8Ghz) - $57
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103688

    - AMD Athlon II X2 245 Regor 2.9GHz - $60
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103687

    - AMD Athlon II X3 445 Rana 3.1GHz 3 x 512KB L2 Cache Socket AM3 95W Triple-Core Desktop Processor - $77
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103872

    - AMD Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition 3.2GHz Socket AM3 80W Dual-Core - $90
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103846

    I don't see any reason to go with the $57 when I can pay $3 more for the 2.9 Ghz. But is the triple core the best deal? Or is it even needed?

    MOBO OPTIONS:

    - MSI 740G Motherboard mATX AM3 - $50 (integrated ATI Radeon 2100)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813130288

    - GIGABYTE GA-MA785GM mATX - $70 (integrated ATI Radeon HD 4200)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128394
    or
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131595

    - ASRock 880GMH/USB3 Micro ATX - $82 - (integrated ATI Radeon HD 4250)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157197

    - GIGABYTE GA-880GM-UD2H AM3 AMD 880G Micro ATX - $90 (integrated ATI Radeon HD 4250)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128439

    CPU/MOBO COMBO:

    - ASUS M4A785-M Micro ATX: $65 (integrated ATI Radeon HD 4200)
    - AMD Phenom II X3 Black Edition Heka 2.8 GHz Triple Core - $76
    Combo Discount: -$15
    Combo Price: $126
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.564800

    - ASUS M4A88T-M AM3 AMD 880G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard: $85 (integrated ATI Radeon HD 4250)
    - AMD Athlon II X2 260 Regor 3.2GHz - $68
    Combo Discount: -$17.00
    Combo Price: $136
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.573213

    - GIGABYTE GA-MA785 Micro ATX: $70 (integrated ATI Radeon HD 4200)
    - AMD Phenom II X2 555 Black Edition Callisto 3.2 GHz Dual Core: $90
    Combo Discount: -$15
    Combo Price: $145
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.572323

    HTPC COMBO:

    $501
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboBundleDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.549108&nm_mc=AFC-C8Junction&cm_mmc=AFC-C8Junction-_-na-_-na-_-na&AID=10440897&PID=3332167&SID=u00000687

    OTHER COMBO:

    $250
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboBundleDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.548019

    What do you guys think?
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    December 23, 2010 12:54:19 PM
    December 24, 2010 5:11:25 AM

    Thanks bdbeall! I will definitely look into your recommendations and get back to you.

    So I think I have a pretty good grasp on what kind of CPU/Mobo to purchase.

    We purchased a $1600 Sony - BRAVIA 60" Class / 1080p / 120Hz / LED-LCD HDTV - KDL60EX700 (DISPLAY MODEL) from Sam's Club - no tax.

    Next thing I want to focus on is the speaker system, which I am a complete newbie at, but I have been researching a bit.

    Budget max is $400-450ish - is there anything out there like this for that price that meets the below requirements?

    Living Room - 17x20x17
    Kitchen - 17x12x9
    The wireless rear speakers in the kitchen will be 30 feet away from the TV.

    Home theater surround sound system requirements:

    - 5.1
    - wireless rear speakers (or cheap enough for me to buy a wireless rear kit like Rocketfish for $100?)
    - HDMI input
    - AV Receiver (either dedicated or included in the blueray or DVD player)
    - reasonably high wattage
    - DTS-HD or TrueHD audio format (how important is this?)
    - good cross over design and THD
    - 14 guage speaker wire should be adequate (right?)

    Anyone know anything that meets this criteria?

    So the best deal I've found so far is the Sony HTS-S370 - which meets all the above requirements besides the wireless rear speakers, which would be an additional 75-100$ to purchase (RocketFish). There was a recent deal in the past few months where this system, with a coupon code, was about $235 shipped - unfortunately, it is about a $100 more than that now. Anyone have any good deals/recommedations or advice?

    Thanks!


    P.S. We also purchased this for the universal remote:

    http://www.amazon.com/Lenovo-Multimedia-Remote-with-Key...
    Right now, it is $26 shipped with a coupon code
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    December 25, 2010 6:31:27 PM

    I have been researching speaker systems heavily the last couple days, and I think I finally have a winner that meets all my requirements.

    Sony HT-SS370 1 kW 5.1 Home Theater System

    It is $258 shipped at thenerds.net with the -$8 holiday couponcode.

    With the Bravia Sync, it is a perfect fit with our new Bravia TV.

    The two requirements that it does not meet, by itself, is the wireless rear speakers and the true-HD/DTS-HD audio decoding in the A/V receiver.

    The wireless rear speakers problem can be solved with the universal Rocketfish set, so +$110 (but we have a gift card!).

    As for the true-HD/DTS-HD, that can still be done via LPCM even if the AV/Receiver does not decode that audio format. I have a PS3 and the blueray on there will do the decoding for those HD audio formats - so the blueray will do the decoding and send it to the A/V receiver.

    So knowing that I am doing this, will it change any of the requirements for the hardware I need? I'll still be fine without a dedicated GPU? Whether that is having the GPU in the mobo, or included in the Intel i3 Clarkdale, either one will support the true-HD and everything else, right? Are there any problems that you guys anticipate I will have?

    So the total will be:

    $259 - Speaker system
    $110 - Rocketfish
    $15 - Tall front speaker stands
    $238 - Pinnacle 56 Inch TV Stand with 2 Glass Doors - NEX1210 [link]

    = $622

    Now that all this is done, I can refocus on the HTPC hardware!
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    December 27, 2010 7:57:07 AM

    Do you guys see any need for an additional blu-ray player in my HTPC if I am already going to have one in my SONY PS3, which will be with the HDTV anyway, since it is needed for the trueHD/DTS-HD decoding. Also, wouldn't I need to buy blu-ray software if I went with a blu-ray player/DVD combo drive? I'm thinking of just going with a $15-20 DVDRW drive and leaving the blu-ray playing to the PS3, just to save $40 - although I know the ps3 can play dvds as well

    Here is what I am thinking now - please let me know your opinion on this build for the HTPC:

    -Intel Core i3-540 Clarkdale 3.06GHz LGA 1156 73W Dual-Core Desktop Processor BX80616I3540
    -ASUS P7H55-M/CSM LGA 1156 Intel H55 HDMI Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
    -G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3
    -Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal HDD
    After combo discount for the 4 above (-$33)
    = $300

    CASE:

    I am thinking this case will be perfect for the price:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811204037
    $70 nMEDIAPC Black HTPC 6000B ATX Media Center / HTPC Case
    With that case, there is no need to buy an internal card reader.

    PSU:

    OCZ ModXStream Pro OCZ600MXSP 600W (Modular)
    $63 with promo + $20 MIR

    total = $433
    - MIR = $413
    Should I get this PSU instead?
    Link

    Am I forgetting anything? I will be using my ps3 as the blu-ray/DVD drive.

    Will all these things be compatible with what I want to do? Am I missing any ports that I will need? Will I need anything else?

    What about wires?
    Besides an HDMI cable, what else will I need?
    I was told that I may need an adapter cable from video card to TV? Are they called displayport to HDMI cables?
    http://www.monoprice.com/products/subdepartment.asp?c_i...
    I am here, but I am not sure which one I need.. especially when they assign genders to the adapters.

    Do I need to purchase any other remotes aside from the Lenovo one I purchased? I noticed that has buttons to forward, play, rewind, and things like that along with functioning as a keyboard and mouse. Will I be able to sync all that with my PS3 blurays/DVDs? What about the DISH?

    Thanks!
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    December 27, 2010 8:29:04 PM

    CPU/MOBO Combo:

    Intel Core i3-550 Clarkdale 3.2 GHz
    + ASUS P7G55-M PRO

    - $220 Newegg


    Hard Drive:

    Western Digital 1.5 TB Caviar Green SATA Intellipower 64 MB Cache Bulk/OEM Desktop Hard Drive WD15EARS by Western Digital

    - $60 Amazon


    PSU:

    Ill just go with the non-modular PSU, 30$ after MIR.
    Antec EarthWatts Green EA-380D Green 380W Continuous power ATX12V v2.3 / EPS12V 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply

    - $30 Newegg


    RAM:

    CORSAIR 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333

    - $44 Newegg


    DVD Burner:

    LG DVD±RW SuperMulti Drive Black SATA Model GH22NS50B

    - $16 Newegg

    = $370

    Now that I think about it, perhaps I should get the blu-ray player for $40 - only $24 more. Since the PS3 will not be able to rip blu-rays, and the blu-ray player on the PC will. Unfortunately, it is sold out now, but I will just wait until it is back.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827106325

    So that would make the total $354.

    Will I need to use a TV tuner card for anything? Integrating the DISH satellite to the HTPC? Is that possible? Or is the TV tuner card just for recording DISH programs on to the HTPC?

    I apparently have the following stuff lying around from a couple years back:
    extra wireless adapter, tv tuner card, and a NVIDIA eGeforce-8600GTS

    I can put the first two things to use, any need for the dedicated GPU? Just unnecessary clutter, right?

    Lastly, I'm thinking of integrating bluetooth as well, but I doubt that comes with the motherboard. I'll just go with a USB bluetooth receiver for cheap.
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    January 9, 2011 3:35:58 AM

    Tried putting the PC together tonight. I think I may be doing something wrong. After finally putting everything in the case and plugging everything in through the PSU - I am not getting any power. The only thing I see that turns on is the Standby LED Powerlight on the motherboard. :(  I really don't want to take everything out and troubleshoot it - but that is the only thing I can think of right now.
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    January 9, 2011 7:44:07 PM

    Okay fixed it.
    I didn't know that I had to hook up the power switch from case. In the desktop I built 2 years ago, flipping the PSU switch would turn everything on, at the very least the CPU fan, but I guess it is different in this one.

    I have another problem though, of course.
    Now my problem is that the CPU fan is unbearably loud for some reason. Could this be something to do with the motherboard or the cpu fan not being secured in the case? I thought they were pretty secure but something is definitely wrong. Also, one of the case fans is making a slight ticking noise - it is annoying even by itself even when i unplug the cpu fan - not sure why bc the other case fan right next to it is perfectly silent.
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    January 24, 2011 8:01:03 PM

    Okay I have everything running now.

    The two issues I bought up earlier sort of fixed themselves. The CPU fan isn't too loud anymore - I think it is just for a bit initially when booting up. And the case fan just stopped making noise, don't know why.

    I have everything up and running and everything is great so far, no issues with the HTPC, AV Receiver, surround sound, or anything.

    One thing I do need to test the TRUEHD/DTS HD Audio, haven't gotten to that yet.

    Next thing I need to decide is if I want WMC or XMBC. Also ordering NetFlix for them.

    Lastly, I want the HTPC to do webcam chatting. I don't know if this will work, but what I want to do is have two bluetooth microphones. One near the couch (15 ft from the TV), and one in the kitchen (25 ft from the tv). And obviously a web cam on top of the TV.
    I would like it so the person can speak freely without having a headset or anything on, just speaking into the bluetooth mic in the kitchen or living room, and the person's voice on the other end can come through the surround sonud. I'm guessing there may be noise interference and feedback issues though.

    Any thoughts or opinions on this? Anyone heard of people doing this before? Or anyone know any good deals on webcams/bluetooth mics?

    Thanks!
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    January 25, 2011 1:50:31 AM

    I highly recommend the Home Theater PC forums at http://www.avsforum.com for learning about how to setup the audio bitstreaming. There's a step-by-step guide there and a long running thread about getting it set up.

    I would start with WMC, since it's build in and lower maintenance that XBMC. Then, if it doesn't float your boat, try XBMC.
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