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New HTPC build advice (with i3)

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February 5, 2011 11:26:29 PM

Approximate Purchase Date: This Weekend

Budget Range: 1000 or less

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Watching local video, download, and streaming videos. Some ripping

Parts Not Required: Keyboard, mouse, speakers, monitor

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Newegg, Amazon

Country of Origin: USA

Parts Preferences: i3, mATX case, SSD, USB 3.0 SATA 3gb/s, Win 7 for system builders

Overclocking: No

SLI or Crossfire: No

Monitor Resolution: 1920x1080

Additional Comments: I know that the i3 is overkill for just a htpc, but I like to be able to do some multitasking.

Been reading through so many builds on TH over the past 3 weeks, but couldn't really find one that I really liked. I'm not a huge AMD fan, and I understand that using an i3 is overkill, but I want some ability to futureproof.

Here's the base that I'm thinking of. I'd like some input on a 30 or 60gb SSD and a mATX case.

CPU: Intel Core i3-560 Clarkdale 3.33GHz
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Mobo: ASRock H55M/USB3 R2.0 LGA 1156 Intel H55 HDMI USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

RAM: G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PSU: Antec EarthWatts Green EA-430D
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

As I mentioned above....looking for overall comments on the base build above, and then any suggestions for a SSD, mATX case etc...

A special thanks for those who are big participants in this forum.....it made it a lot easier to get back into the new tech since its been about 5 years since I last built.

More about : htpc build advice

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February 6, 2011 4:50:46 PM

OK, you like Intel and you understand your proposed setup is overkill for HTPC so I'll respect that.

The parts you've chosen so far are good. With what you've selected plus a Windows 7 license you've burned up $450 of your budget. So we've got ~$550 to work with for HDD, SSD, ODD, and case? No problem.

Case selection is rather subjective. I'll assume you want something that looks like AV equipment. I recommend you get one with an integrated IR receiver and a remote to complete the home theater feel.

How about the Antec Fusion Remote ($150)? This comes with an iMon display and iMon remote with a built in IR receiver.


For an SSD, go with a 60/64GB model. 30/32GB models cut it pretty close. Right now the models to get are the SandForce controller ones. Something like the OCZ Vertex 2 60GB ($120) will work. Of course, if you do go SSD you will have to compliment it with a large platter drive to hold your media. For this purpose, I recommend the Samsung F4 2TB 5400rpm drive ($80)

That only leaves the optical drive. A blu-ray drive is in order for any modern HTPC. You could purchase a retail BD drive that comes bundled with software for around $60-80, but you need to be careful since the bundled software is usually 2 versions old and may have limited functionality. It might be easier to purchase the cheapest OEM BD drive (like this one) and then pony up $100 for decent playback software like PowerDVD or TotalMedia Theatre. That will end up costing you about $150 for a cheap BD and good software. You can usually find a coupon code to get 15-20% off of Arcsoft TotalMedia Theatre software.

Let's sum it up:

CPU: $150
Motherboard: $89
RAM: $48
PSU: $60
OS: $100
Case+remote: $150
SSD: $120
HDD: $80
ODD: $50
Software -15% coupon: $85

Total = $932 + S&H

If anything was left out (TV tuner maybe?), then we can adjust some things to make room in the budget. The first place to make cuts would be the SSD.

Hope this helps.
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February 6, 2011 7:24:49 PM

I appreciate your openness to my preferences :) 

As for the case, would you consider the Antec Fusion Remote to be a better option than the Sliverstone?
http://www.amazon.com/SilverStone-Front-Panel-Computer-...

I was pondering getting the silverstone with a remote like this one, but know nothing about each of the remotes and have never really used a remote with a PC before.
Windows 7 Vista XP Media Center MCE PC Remote Control and Infrared Receiver for Home, Premium and Ultimate Edition
http://www.amazon.com/Windows-Control-Infrared-Receiver...

The SSD sounds perfect. I had read some positive reviews on the OCZ Vertex 2 so glad to see that drive gets another nod. Going to add that to the order now.

As for the ODD, sounds like a great plan. So if I understand correctly, WMP7 cannot play BD and therefore the 3rd party software is necessary?

I have a couple of 1 TB drives, but after seeing the price of the Samsung f4, I don't think I can turn it down.

Thanks again for your response.

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February 7, 2011 1:15:08 PM

The Silverstone case is nice. I don't know about the remote you linked though. The amazon reviews say it isn't based on the true MS IR remote, which could be a problem later on if you want to use the IR receiver for a different remote such as a Logitech Harmony.

Maybe consider one of the MCE compatible remotes on newegg?

For BD, Windows cannot play it natively. HOWEVER, there are some free alternatives to watch BD content. VLC, MPC-HC, and XBMC all can play the m2ts source that is the actual BD film. You can play the movie but you won't have any menu's.

You could also take the blu-ray video and audio and toss them into an mkv container using a program such as MakeMKV. Then you can play the mkv natively in Windows Media Player or Windows Media Center. You will be required to either install an mkv splitter such as Haali, or a codec pack that enables mkv playback in Windows such as Shark007.

Blu-ray playback software is a more elegant approach, since it gives you everything that comes with blu-rays such as BD-live, menus, subtitles, etc. but it'll cost you.
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February 7, 2011 4:44:54 PM

FYI, I found another Arcsoft coupon code: ARC404P20

It's good for 20% off TMT5, bringing the price down to $80.
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February 8, 2011 12:04:14 AM

Best answer selected by reaggaeinsf.
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February 9, 2011 9:12:42 PM

My recently finished HTPC build is very similar to what you describe. I ordered all the parts from Newegg & Amazon. It consists of:

Mobo, etc.: mini-itx GA-H55N-USB3 motherboard with 4GB Corsair DD3 Ram and a 2TB Seagate Barracuda drive. I used the Clarkdale i3 CPU with its integrated GPU core since this motherboard has no GPU of its own, it is driving my HDMI 1080i Philips 47" TV very nicely. I converted an Xbox Universal for my remote control. I decided against the SSD because the 2TB Seagate only cost me $80 and seems plenty fast.

Case w/ PSU & 80mm Fan: I wanted something that would fit neatly into a bookshelf, so I chose a low cost mini-itx Rosewill RC-CIX-01 black steel case ($49 from Newegg) - much better quality than I had expected - everything fits in easily using the stock Intel cooler. This is a really low power motherboard that runs cool and fairly quiet. The 150W P.S. is adequate since I don't need a separate graphics card

TV card: There is a single PCI-E slot on this motherboard, so I installed an AverTV Duet PCI-E tuner card since I am strongly resisting cable! Netflix, Hulu, Kylo and Boxee seem to run smoother than on a previous Zotac/Ion build for my son-in-law.

The entire build came to around $400, less the Windows 7 O.S. You can see it here: http://technocatsblog.blogspot.com/


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February 9, 2011 9:37:02 PM

Nice blog. I've actually been kicking the idea around in my head to blog about the HTPC build I'm currently mapping out.

A couple ?'s: What compatibility issues are you concerned about the BD drive?

How's your Duet tuner working for you? I have a duet too. It suffered from the infamous disappearing problem and I had to RMA it.

What front end are you using for your media collection?

If you need any tips, just let me know.
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February 9, 2011 10:50:54 PM

To answer rwpritchett's questions:

I use Windows 7 Media Center for my media "front end". It has pretty much all the functionality I need for archiving photos, playing music and DVDs - not great but it all works together.

The TV Guide & Record functionality is where Media Center really shines. I really like the ability to sit back and use the Xbox Universal Remote Control for everything. Unfortunately, for internet streaming, Netflix and Boxee are the only free programs that integrate well with Media Center - unless you know of others?

As far as BD compatibilty, I installed an inexpensive Liteon BD drive in my other HTPC build, but it didn't integrate with Media Center - at least with the version of PowerDVD 8 that came with the drive.

I too had problems with the AverTV Duet disappearing in my previous build with a Gigabyte board. It works fine now but it took 2 RMAs.

All your tips and comments are welcome at my HTPC blog http://technocatsblog.blogspot.com/. They could be of help to others contemplating a build with similar components.

Thanks!

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February 15, 2011 3:23:09 PM

Nice job on customizing Windows Media Center!

By the smooth integration of all these nifty features, Windows Media Center becomes a true media hub.

Thanks for the tips!

technoHD

http://technocatsblog.blogspot.com/
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