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Home Server / Bedroom HTPC for small apartment

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Last response: in Systems
February 17, 2011 4:32:33 PM

I need to build a small(ish) HTPC and file server for my little apartment. I'm a photographer/videographer and I make massive photoshop constructions that can be up to 30GB for each finished file. Right now I don't have a good storage procedure for these files, and I need to get on that ASAP because they're spread out (with duplicates) over 6 or 7 external drives (some of which are getting fairly old). My girlfriend and I have been using my Hackintosh (see my profile for specs) with dual monitors to watch movies while I work in Photoshop, but it also serves as networked storage for my media collection that streams to an old laptop I hooked up as an HTPC in our living room (roommate's got a nice HDTV). Needless to say, my power-hungry Photoshop machine is basically on 24/7 because we all have different work schedules and are addicted to entertainment. Basically I need something that can run Windows 7 (so less tech savy people can use it to watch movies on in our bedroom), output HDMI (in case I decide in the future to buy an HDTV myself instead of using a monitor), store 5-6 TB of data with some redundancy so I don't lose anything, and try not to use as much power as my 700W monster.

So here's the plan I've tentatively settled on after pouring thru forums, builds, and newegg:

LIAN LI PC-V354B MicroATX case - nice looking with >6 internal 3.5" drive bays

ASUS M4A88TD-M/USB3 Motherboard - 6 SATA 6Gb/s ports, USB 3.0, Built-in video with HDMI, supports RAID 5 on the board

AMD Athlon II X3 445 Rana 3.1GHz

G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1600

5x SAMSUNG Spinpoint F4 HD204UI 2TB (plus 2 spares) - Quiet, fast, cool. I use similar drives in my Hackintosh and they run almost 10 degrees cooler than the Western Digitals I have (this looks to be the most expensive part of the build). I want to use 1 as a system drive and 4 as a RAID5 array, leaving 1 SATA port for an optical drive.

SeaSonic S12II 430B 430W Power Supply - According to the eXtreme Power Supply Calculator Lite v2.5 this should be enough to power this build unless things get much more complicated.

LG Black 10X BD-ROM 16X DVD-ROM - optional (if I install Windows 7 off a USB)

If my math is right, this should cost me about $1,147; +/- $70 for the BluRay drive; + taxes & shipping. What do you guys think about this build? Will it fit my redundant storage needs and work as an HTPC at the same time? Is the power supply actually going to work for it? Is there anywhere in here that I can save some money? Am I better off doing a separate NAS and mini HTPC?

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a b B Homebuilt system
February 17, 2011 5:35:28 PM

I think you have all your bases covered. Everything's compatible, good quality, and serves the purpose you intend to use if for.

The only way I can see you saving money is if you went the NAS route instead of building a complete system. But then you'd lose HTPC functionality in the bedroom.

That's my 2¢.
February 23, 2011 3:32:54 PM

Thanks, rwpritchett. I'm still a little skeptical about the power supply or RAM being enough to handle playing an HD movie while data is being written/read on the RAID array over the network. Can anyone confirm that this is enough?
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a b B Homebuilt system
February 23, 2011 4:44:36 PM

You'll be fine. The power supply can easily handle the parts you've listed and the RAM will have little effect on read/writes over a network with a RAID 5 setup. The hard drives will still be the bottleneck, or maybe your network connection depending on the type. Even if you find the RAM lacking (I suspect you won't), then you can always add more later. Photoshop does like a lot of RAM if the files are overly large. You can play it safe and get 8GB now since RAM is so cheap right now.

The HD playback on the local machine will be handled by the onboard video if the movie is DXVA compliant. If not compliant, then the CPU will handle it through software.

I don't have first hand experience with your exact setup. I have recorded multiple HD programs while watching another while streaming media to a second computer without stutter. In my case, the network is what is the limiting factor (wireless n for second PC). It is OK for a single stream, but I doubt multiple HD streams would work. A gigabit network would be much better.
February 23, 2011 5:03:42 PM

Great! Thanks again, rwpritchett. I won't be using this computer for photoshop, just storing the big files (my other computer has 18gb of ram and a huge scratch RAID0 that reads/writes @ over 370 Mb/s). Unfortunately, I will be running this machine over wireless n for the time being (I have some leftover wireless solutions that are Win7 compatible from my Hackintosh build). Once I move into a more wire-friendly apartment, I'll start breathing easy with gigabit ethernet.
...Now that I think about it, I may just break down and start running CAT cable ;) 
Thanks again!
February 23, 2011 5:04:04 PM

Best answer selected by r_photo.
February 28, 2011 6:06:10 PM

Crap, I just read that that motherboard (ASUS M4A88TD-M/USB3 Motherboard) doesn't have case fan control. Anyone know if there's a similar micro-ATX board out there that does a good job at keeping temperatures under control? or should I not worry about it with the LIAN LI PC-V354B MicroATX case?