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Need advice on a $500 HTPC

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February 8, 2011 12:57:23 AM

Hey guys!!! I'm going to build my first PC! I'm stoked and a bit of a n00b. I was once A+ certified so I'm not at a total loss. Anyway, I have a budget of $500 and I'm looking to get the most bang for my buck. Performance wise that is. The ability to upgrade down the line might be good as well.

Approximate Purchase Date: 2-3 Weeks

Budget Range: $500 Shipping doesn't count.

System Usage from Most to Least Important: 1080p playback/blue ray, xbmc, surfing the net, occasional gaming

Parts Not Required: everything but the OS is required. If anything, the keyboard and mouse can be excluded.

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: anywhere

Country of Origin: USA

Parts Preferences: Wifi

Overclocking: No

SLI or Crossfire: Maybe

Monitor Resolution: Not sure. Going to be hooked up to a 60in HDTV

Additional Comments: Quiet and cool looking. It will be sitting next to a DVD player and a DVR so black is cool. I might be open to a regular case.

More about : advice 500 htpc

February 8, 2011 11:51:38 AM

You say occasional gaming... what titles? Also, is a TV tuner needed?

Your gaming requirement will make it hard to meet the budget. But we'll see what we can do. I'm sure batuchka will be along with a good list soon. If not, I'll put one together for ya.
February 8, 2011 12:03:54 PM

Same thing for the possible CFX/SLI. That will drive the motherboard, PSU and case choice/case cooling requirements.

Sounds like you're looking for a gaming PC that can also do HTPC stuff?
Related resources
February 8, 2011 3:38:10 PM

A TV Tuner isn't required because I have a DVDR with my Satellite setup. Light gaming means NES and SNES Emulators, a Civilizaton, maybe even Starcraft 2. If it can handle it great, if not no biggie. Again, the setup will be used mostly for media, but an occasional game would be great. On a scale from 1-10 the importance factor for gaming is a 5.
February 8, 2011 9:55:00 PM

Since you mention it is an HDTV, I should think the resolution would 1920x1080 or 1080p.

Would you like wait for the Sandy Bridge i3 to arrive and the chipset glitch to be resolved?
No?

Do you live near a Microcenter?
If so, suggest you check out these combos:
http://www.microcenter.com/specials/promotions/AMDbundl...
I would recommend one of the Athlon II X4 640 or Phenom II X4 965 bundles.

If, however, you are stuck with buying from Newegg, then here's what I think:

> Processor: AMD Athlon II X4 640 -- $100
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

> CPU Cooler: Stock - for now, as long as you don't OC; AMD processors run pretty cool anyway

> Motherboard: ASUS M4A785-M -- $65
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Crossfire won't be a viable option with this mobo. And the gains would be modest at best vis-a-vis power consumption, if you use the 5670 that fits your budget. Also, for the price of 2 x 5670 cards, you could buy a single 5770, which would give you better performance.

I assume you don't require USB 3.0. If you do want USB 3.0, I suggest the ASUS M4A77T/USB3 ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... )

For other USB 3.0 mobos, have a look here: http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...

> RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 DDR3 1333 -- $55
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

> GPU: XFX 5670 -- $80 (double lifetime warranty; should be able to handle some moderate gaming at reduced settings @ 1920x1080, but sorry, no Crysis.)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

> PSU: Corsair VX450W / SeaSonic S12II 380B 380W -- ~$53 (whichever cheaper; both have only 1 PCIe connector - no SLI / Crossfire with cards higher than a 5670)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

> HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB -- $65
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

> ODD: LITE-ON Black Blu-ray Combo iHES208-08 -- $60 (I hope you don't want to burn Blu-ray disks...)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

> Wi-Fi card: ASUS PCE-N13 -- $28
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

> Chassis:

Regular case:

- Cooler Master Elite 310 -- $40 (not much point - shipping makes it = in price to the Antec 300 and the HAF 912 which have $2 / free shipping)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

- Antec 300 -- $60 (if you have some fans lying around)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

- Antec 300 Illusion -- $70
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

- HAF 912 -- $60 (You'll need 2x200mm + 1x120mm fans)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

HTPC case:

- Silverstone MILO Series ML03B -- $60 (Case with the best reviews in your budget)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Have a look here:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...$25%20-%20$50
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...$50%20-%20$75
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=E...$75%20-%20$100

STRONGLY suggest you DO NOT use the genric PSU that comes with some of the cases. Sell / junk it and grab a Seasonic or Corsair.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
TOTAL: ~$576 (before rebates)
[Shipping charges extra where applicable]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If that's too much, you could drop the processor down to a tri-core and try to unlock the fourth core in the BIOS. May or may not work, so no guarantees. That would save you about $23.

You also might want to consider the combo offers @ Newegg:
http://www.newegg.com/Special/Combo.aspx?Subcategory=0&...

Some which I thought might be useful:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

Have fun! ;) 
February 9, 2011 12:08:33 AM

actually, I live in Jersey, so I do live close to a microcenter! I was thinking of something like this. attached. I wouldn't mind waiting for the Sandy Bridge i3 but again, if I could even squeeze an i5 into this budget that would be great. It would be overkill for an htpc, but future proof for a while. And yes, the HDTV can play 1080p amazingly.

The setup above looks great, but AMD? Really? I thought the intel i3 was the way to go.


February 9, 2011 10:16:33 PM

So Intel or AMD?
February 9, 2011 10:54:41 PM

You can let your checkbook decide. Or flip a coin. The i3 might have a slight edge but not enough to say anything else isnt also a good choice.
February 9, 2011 11:04:17 PM

WR2 said:
You can let your checkbook decide. Or flip a coin. The i3 might have a slight edge but not enough to say anything else isnt also a good choice.



Awesome! so, would you say that this cpu and mobo combo are the best I can get? Or are the SB cpus really worth waiting for?
February 9, 2011 11:26:42 PM

If you can wait... till the dual core SBs are released you might find that parts list above drop a few $$ from the competition with the higher end parts.
And of course you'd have a choice of the C2D, AMD or SB.
February 10, 2011 8:31:38 PM

Quote:
If you can wait... till the dual core SBs are released you might find that parts list above drop a few $$ from the competition with the higher end parts.
And of course you'd have a choice of the C2D, AMD or SB.


^Agree. But NOT the current gen i3 or a C2D. Neither have any upgrade path. The new Sandy Bridge i3-21xx would be ideal. It is slated to be released on 20th Feb, if I'm not mistaken.

Here are some links:

Generic benchmarks:
http://www.cpubenchmark.net/high_end_cpus.html
As you can see the Athlon beats even the i3-550 in the Passmark benchmarks.

i3-540 vs. Athlon II X4 635: http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/143?vs=122

Sandy Bridge i3-2100 vs. Athlon II X4 635: http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/289?vs=122

CPU value chart: http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu_value_available.html

The Sandy Bridge i3 would be a good idea - it offers unmatched performance per watt, but it's likely to be more expensive than Athlon II X4. The single-threaded performance is really good, but the multi-threaded performance isn't quite as high as the Athlon's. So if you're going to be converting movies, the Athlon should be the best bang for your buck.

On the other hand, the SB i3 is the only one which offers a viable upgrade path - Sandy Bridge's successor, Ivy Bridge is expected to be compatible with the same Socket 1155 mobos, whereas AM3 is a dead socket.

I'd vote that you wait till mid-April, if you can. By that time, the SB i3 would be out, and the chipset fiasco should be history.

If you don't want to wait, the combos @ Microcenter might allow you to step up to a Phenom 965BE, which would be better than an i3-5xx anyday .

I don't see a graphics card on your Newegg list. Which one are you thinking about?

I wouldn't take the Spinpoint F2, if I were you. The F3 1TB is $5 more and one of the fastest disks on the market.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I also suggest you take a look at the Seasonic 380W PSU, which has a 5 year warranty (vs. 3 years for the Antec), a larger fan (that will help cool your case), and a power cord, all for $13 more, though the Antec is one fine power supply.

Otherwise, the rest seems good. Oops, looks like I forgot about thermal paste:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


Oh, and please scrap my comment about NVIDIA cards not working well with AMD chipsets...looks like the incompatibility issues were ironed out some time ago. Still no SLI, unfortunately.
February 11, 2011 12:07:18 AM

hmdhruvarora said:
Quote:
If you can wait... till the dual core SBs are released you might find that parts list above drop a few $$ from the competition with the higher end parts.
And of course you'd have a choice of the C2D, AMD or SB.


^Agree. But NOT the current gen i3 or a C2D. Neither have any upgrade path. The new Sandy Bridge i3-21xx would be ideal. It is slated to be released on 20th Feb, if I'm not mistaken.

Here are some links:

Generic benchmarks:
http://www.cpubenchmark.net/high_end_cpus.html
As you can see the Athlon beats even the i3-550 in the Passmark benchmarks.

i3-540 vs. Athlon II X4 635: http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/143?vs=122

Sandy Bridge i3-2100 vs. Athlon II X4 635: http://www.anandtech.com/bench/Product/289?vs=122

CPU value chart: http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu_value_available.html

The Sandy Bridge i3 would be a good idea - it offers unmatched performance per watt, but it's likely to be more expensive than Athlon II X4. The single-threaded performance is really good, but the multi-threaded performance isn't quite as high as the Athlon's. So if you're going to be converting movies, the Athlon should be the best bang for your buck.

On the other hand, the SB i3 is the only one which offers a viable upgrade path - Sandy Bridge's successor, Ivy Bridge is expected to be compatible with the same Socket 1155 mobos, whereas AM3 is a dead socket.

I'd vote that you wait till mid-April, if you can. By that time, the SB i3 would be out, and the chipset fiasco should be history.

If you don't want to wait, the combos @ Microcenter might allow you to step up to a Phenom 965BE, which would be better than an i3-5xx anyday .

I don't see a graphics card on your Newegg list. Which one are you thinking about?

I wouldn't take the Spinpoint F2, if I were you. The F3 1TB is $5 more and one of the fastest disks on the market.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I also suggest you take a look at the Seasonic 380W PSU, which has a 5 year warranty (vs. 3 years for the Antec), a larger fan (that will help cool your case), and a power cord, all for $13 more, though the Antec is one fine power supply.

Otherwise, the rest seems good. Oops, looks like I forgot about thermal paste:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


Oh, and please scrap my comment about NVIDIA cards not working well with AMD chipsets...looks like the incompatibility issues were ironed out some time ago. Still no SLI, unfortunately.



I was under the impression that with an 1156 mobo and an i3550 that the cpu's integrated video would handle 1080p without a card. So it wouldn't need one. I'm pretty sure I'm right on this.

Great advice on the hard drive!!! Thanks.

So I guess I might wait for the Sandy Bridge i3. Or maybe Feb 20 will be way too far away!!! Otherwise, I'll most likely start shopping for the case, wireless card, hdmi cable, and keyboard.
February 11, 2011 4:31:26 PM

Yeah, it'll handle 1080p fine, but AFAIK, no 1080i de-interlacing.
For 1080i, the Radeon 5450 is a minimum. The AMD mobos with integrated GFX (785g / 880g / 890GX) can handle 1080p too.
But if you're going to be using integrated GFX + converting movies, the SB i3's QuickSync would make it better than the Athlon, depending on the app you use to transcode the media.

My $0.02: wait for it!

Best solution

February 11, 2011 6:28:24 PM
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Here is a good review to read and study while you're waiting.
It also covers the Intel HD 2000/3000 integrated graphics on the SBs.

The Sandy Bridge Review: Intel Core i7-2600K, i5-2500K and Core i3-2100 Tested

In your position I'd wait.
February 13, 2011 3:20:34 PM

Best answer selected by goodpunk6.
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