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Looking for Advice on Cheap HTPC Build

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February 28, 2011 2:03:32 AM

Approximate Purchase Date: First few weeks in March

Budget Range: ~$400

System Usage from Most to Least Important: My PS3 died and I have all these blu-rays! Also, I used the streaming/Netflix a lot. I’d like the PC to host a small home file share (not a ton of use/files). I never played the games. That’s what the xbox in the basement is for! :) 

Parts Not Required: Hard Drive (re-using a 1 TB Seagate Barracuda, 7200 rpm, 3.5"...I’m a little afraid of noise, but it's free). For cost reasons, not going for a remote, just iPhone apps.

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Amazon (Prime Member), Newegg

Country of Origin: USA

Parts Preferences: Cheap, but not total junk. Interested in Zacate, but open to opinions.

Overclocking: No

SLI or Crossfire: No

Monitor Resolution: I have an older TV in my living room that only does 1080i, no hdmi, 1920x1080

Additional Comments:
My goal is to replace my dead PS3 with an actual PC for not much more than a new PS3. I'm thinking Zacate is a good fit for the price range.

I'm very interested in case advice. A lot of the tiny cases, which I would like to go for, only have slim optical drives and I didn't have much luck finding a cheap slim blu ray drive.
This (and the 3.5 " HD) has forced my hand into a case which is a little bigger than I'd like, but I do have a fair amount of room under the TV (once I trash the PS3!). ;) 

Also, since I’m on a tight budget, I was going to try just using my iPhone for the remote for now. Anyone have any luck with the iPhone controller apps out there?

Thanks a lot for any advice! I don't have a ton of experience building systems (but I enjoy it), so I appreciate any help.

Tentative Parts List:

Mobo/CPU ($117 w/Shipping)
ASRock E350M1 AMD Dual-Core Zacate E350 APU Dual-Core AMD A50M Hudson M1 Mini ITX Motherboard/CPU Combo

Memory ($41.99)
Kingston 4GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333

Blu-ray ($49.99)
LITE-ON Black 4X BD-ROM 8X DVD-ROM 32X CD-ROM SATA Internal 4X Blu-ray Reader Model iHOS104

Case/PSU ($64.99)
Thermaltkae Element Q Mini-ITX Chassis with Built-in 200W SFX Power Supply VL52021N2U

OS ($99.99)
Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit System Builder

Total (with a new ethernet cable/random stuff): $390
February 28, 2011 2:09:18 AM

You could check out my 300$ build. I actually think using my mobo and CPU would be a better option mainly because they did a review and desktop CPUs (Regor 255) pack a lot more CPU power. However the Zacate does offer lower power consumption so. Meh it's your choice whether to use that or not.
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Best solution

February 28, 2011 2:19:39 AM

That ASRock motherboard seems to be out of stock now. You could substitute the MSI E350IS-E45 for about $20 more.

That motherboard is single-channel so I would start with a single 2GB stick and see if that works for you as an HTPC. That might save you a little money.

I've used this case for mini-ITX builds and it's very good, comes with a 150W PSU and will fit a standard ODD and HDD.

Rosewill RC-CIX-01 BK Glossy Black Steel Cube Mini-ITX Computer Case with 150W Power Supply and 1x 80mm Fan
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$49.99

Overall, I think for "cheap" HTPCs the Zacate motherboards are the way to go.
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February 28, 2011 2:21:23 AM

aznshinobi said:
You could check out my 300$ build. I actually think using my mobo and CPU would be a better option mainly because they did a review and desktop CPUs (Regor 255) pack a lot more CPU power. However the Zacate does offer lower power consumption so. Meh it's your choice whether to use that or not.


:D  Thanks a lot for the link.

I think I've mentally switched between Zacate and an Athlon build about 5 times now. The ASRock Zacate kept coming up like 20-30 bucks cheaper..but if I'm going to have a ~200W power supply anyway (mostly for the full sized blu-ray/HD drives), Athlon might be a safer bet performance wise? Still on the fence there.
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February 28, 2011 2:26:25 AM

^ Yeah, plus since there is no Asrock option and the next one would be the MSI (20$ more) might as well go Athlon. Plus the PSU is really efficient and cheap. :D  Check it out!
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February 28, 2011 2:42:55 AM

Thanks! I like that case better and it's cheaper!

I was going to give newegg a few days to see if the ASRock came back. Going to MSI, makes me think I should just go athlon for the price difference.
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February 28, 2011 3:00:39 AM

Yeah! Silverstone makes really nice cases, they're more expensive but the end result is a really nice looking build. Keep in mind my build doesn't include a BD drive into the mix, it just includes a normal CD/DVD drive. So if you want to include that it'll be 370ish. It should work out though.
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March 2, 2011 8:39:02 PM

Best answer selected by greesha.
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March 2, 2011 8:42:09 PM

Dougie Fresh said:
That ASRock motherboard seems to be out of stock now. You could substitute the MSI E350IS-E45 for about $20 more.

That motherboard is single-channel so I would start with a single 2GB stick and see if that works for you as an HTPC. That might save you a little money.

I've used this case for mini-ITX builds and it's very good, comes with a 150W PSU and will fit a standard ODD and HDD.

Rosewill RC-CIX-01 BK Glossy Black Steel Cube Mini-ITX Computer Case with 150W Power Supply and 1x 80mm Fan
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$49.99

Overall, I think for "cheap" HTPCs the Zacate motherboards are the way to go.


Thanks a lot for the advice. I went for the MSI board and this Rosewill case. I decided to give the new kid on the block (Zacate) a shot for the heck of it. I never plan on gaming or anything so it will be fun to see what the board can do. I appreciated the Athlon counterpoint though. :) 
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