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HTPC Build Advice

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May 31, 2011 10:37:10 PM

Hi Everyone,

I have just ordered components for the beginnings of my first HTPC, and am very excited to get started with it. My primary goals were budget and smooth streaming for media storage (heat, noise, and other concerns were lower priority due to my theater arrangement).

The following list are the components thus far, assembled from extra components from my gaming rig which don't get used often (sound card, blu-ray drive, etc.), other spare hard drives, and the remainder coming from Newegg:

Components:
-Case: nMEDIAPC Black Aluminum / Acrylic / Steel HTPC 5000B Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case
-Power Supply: TOPOWER Galaxis MX Series GAPS-500MX 500W ATX12V v2.3 Modular Power Supply
-Motherboard: MSI H61M-E33 (B3) LGA 1155 Intel H61 HDMI Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
-Processor: Intel Core i3-2100 Sandy Bridge 3.1GHz LGA 1155 65W Dual-Core
-Memory: G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666)
-Operating System Drive: Intel X25-V SSDSA2MP040G2R5 2.5" 40GB SATA II MLC (SSD)
-Storage Drives: (4) SAMSUNG Spinpoint F4 HD204UI 2TB 5400 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5"
-Optical Drive: LITE-ON Black 4X Blu-ray/DVD Reader SATA Model iHOS104-06
-Sound Card: Creative 7.1 Channels PCI Express 1x Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium
-Operating System: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

This was my list of items to get things up and running initially, as I don't have cable right now, so I have no need for a TV tuner...yet.

A few things I would love to hear some feedback on from people who have seen builds like this before:
1. I know these aren't the BEST components out there, but are there some in here that should just NEVER be used together or in a HTPC?
2. I will be buying a TV Tuner when I upgrade to cable, and plan to use it in conjunction with Media Center almost exclusively (really liking all the plugins available for it). I have been heavily considering the WinTV-HVR-1250 from Hauppauge...Any other suggestions?
3. I will most likely be buying a RAID card soon and use one or two of the 2TB drives as backups. Any suggestions on PCI-form factor RAID cards?

I appreciate any feedback!

More about : htpc build advice

May 31, 2011 11:16:29 PM

can you post the links to the case & psu. do you really need 8tb of space. do you need win7 ultimate? raid card- find one in your price range w/ the amount of sata ports you need and has good reviews on newegg same goes for a t.v. tuner. any gpu? get a 6850 if looking for a media center heres one- http://www.amazon.com/HIS-Eyefinity-Display-Express-H68... . overall looks good except just doin some searching for the case and it looks small with 5 hdd's it wont work. get a mid tower case that looks good so you can stand looking at it out in the open
a b B Homebuilt system
June 1, 2011 12:24:44 AM

Just my $0.02

Case: Decent case. Just beware of the front pull down that covers the card reader/input ports. If it's anything like the NMediaPC 200BA (that I have) it can break easily.
Link to case: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Power Supply: Never heard of that company. Even with non-gaming systems, you want a quality power supply. Select one from Antec, Corsair, PC Power and Cooling, or Seasonic.

Motherboard/Processor/Memory: Really, I don't have a problem with the selection, but it is just an HTPC. My AMD Athlon II 245 works just fine. I don't have blu-ray, yet, but I expect my discrete graphics card will handle that just fine. I see this as paying money for options that might not fit the bill. A dual-core AMD set up with a discrete graphics card will cost less than your Intel setup with a discrete graphics card (which I think you'll end up needing/wanting).

Operating System Drive: My HTPC is on 24/7 and always running Media Center. No need for fast loading times (as everything is already loaded). I just don't see the need to put out that much money for an SSD to save 15 seconds. Go with a small (160-250GB) standard HDD.

Storage Drives: As mjmjpfaff points out, the case you've selected only has four 3.5" hard drive bays. With one being used by your OS drive, that leaves room for three. If this system is going to be hard wired to a network, you may consider placing all your storage drives into your main computer and just the OS drive into the HTPC (or place the back up drive into your main system). I have that set up now and it works just fine. As for the 5400 RPM drives, I've never bought one so I don't know how much delay there is in loading as compared to a 7200 RPM drive, but I do think that this cost difference is probably worth it.

Sound Card: Given the recommendation to add a discrete graphics card, I really don't see the need for a sound card to be installed. Nor do I see the need for an HD6850 for just an HTPC. Again, I expect my HD4670 is more than enough for anything I could want to do with my HTPC. Note: if you intend to game on this system, then mjmjpfaff's recommendation may be just. If so, you're probably looking at a more powerful power supply as well.

Operating System: Unless you're getting Windows 7 Ultimate for the same price as you can get Windows 7 Home Premium, I don't see the need for it. Ultimate or Home Premium - choose the cheaper of the two.

Your questions:
1) All looks good. I've made my comments above.

2) The problem with the majority of today's TV Tuners is that they can not decode your cable companies decryption. When the cable companies went to digital, they decided they needed to encrypt the majority of their channels and they can only be decoded by a piece of their equipment (cablecard/set top box). This essentially turns all TV Tuner Cards into glorified video capture cards as you can only record whatever channel the set top box is set to.

Two alternatives to this issue are the Ceton Corp InfiniTV 4 cablecard tuner and the yet to be released HD HomeRun Prime (I understand there is supposed to be an internal solution as well). Both of these solutions still require you to lease a cablecard from your cable company and the upfront cost is high, but in most cases I've seen, the cablecard fee is significantly less than the set top box rental fee. In my situation, it would save me $10-$14/month.

3) Can't speak to RAID cards, but I would think you'd want to look at a PCI-Ex1 card if you have the slot available.

Again, these are just my thoughts on the subject.
Related resources
June 1, 2011 2:43:07 AM

case-still too small
psu is big enough for the 6850.
June 1, 2011 2:43:43 AM

Thanks for the replies guys!


mjmjpfaff said:
can you post the links to the case & psu. do you really need 8tb of space. do you need win7 ultimate? raid card- find one in your price range w/ the amount of sata ports you need and has good reviews on newegg same goes for a t.v. tuner. any gpu? get a 6850 if looking for a media center heres one- http://www.amazon.com/HIS-Eyefinity-Display-Express-H68... . overall looks good except just doin some searching for the case and it looks small with 5 hdd's it wont work. get a mid tower case that looks good so you can stand looking at it out in the open


Case: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
PSU: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I need/want the space due to the amount of pictures and video files i already have on the machine, plus the TV i plan on recording, and finally I plan to use this as a server to back up two other machines on the network. Plus, I had these drives already, so its more about consolidating into one server for all the media :) 

Windows 7 Ultimate is overkill, but I have an extra license from a 3-license "system builders" set, so its essentially free!

For the GPU, I was under the impression that the onboard one would work because this machine will ONLY be used for playback and file backup. Do you think I need a dedicated card for those purposes?


Wolfshadw said:
Just my $0.02

Case: Decent case. Just beware of the front pull down that covers the card reader/input ports. If it's anything like the NMediaPC 200BA (that I have) it can break easily.
Link to case: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Power Supply: Never heard of that company. Even with non-gaming systems, you want a quality power supply. Select one from Antec, Corsair, PC Power and Cooling, or Seasonic.

Motherboard/Processor/Memory: Really, I don't have a problem with the selection, but it is just an HTPC. My AMD Athlon II 245 works just fine. I don't have blu-ray, yet, but I expect my discrete graphics card will handle that just fine. I see this as paying money for options that might not fit the bill. A dual-core AMD set up with a discrete graphics card will cost less than your Intel setup with a discrete graphics card (which I think you'll end up needing/wanting).

Operating System Drive: My HTPC is on 24/7 and always running Media Center. No need for fast loading times (as everything is already loaded). I just don't see the need to put out that much money for an SSD to save 15 seconds. Go with a small (160-250GB) standard HDD.

Storage Drives: As mjmjpfaff points out, the case you've selected only has four 3.5" hard drive bays. With one being used by your OS drive, that leaves room for three. If this system is going to be hard wired to a network, you may consider placing all your storage drives into your main computer and just the OS drive into the HTPC (or place the back up drive into your main system). I have that set up now and it works just fine. As for the 5400 RPM drives, I've never bought one so I don't know how much delay there is in loading as compared to a 7200 RPM drive, but I do think that this cost difference is probably worth it.

Sound Card: Given the recommendation to add a discrete graphics card, I really don't see the need for a sound card to be installed. Nor do I see the need for an HD6850 for just an HTPC. Again, I expect my HD4670 is more than enough for anything I could want to do with my HTPC. Note: if you intend to game on this system, then mjmjpfaff's recommendation may be just. If so, you're probably looking at a more powerful power supply as well.

Operating System: Unless you're getting Windows 7 Ultimate for the same price as you can get Windows 7 Home Premium, I don't see the need for it. Ultimate or Home Premium - choose the cheaper of the two.

Your questions:
1) All looks good. I've made my comments above.

2) The problem with the majority of today's TV Tuners is that they can not decode your cable companies decryption. When the cable companies went to digital, they decided they needed to encrypt the majority of their channels and they can only be decoded by a piece of their equipment (cablecard/set top box). This essentially turns all TV Tuner Cards into glorified video capture cards as you can only record whatever channel the set top box is set to.

Two alternatives to this issue are the Ceton Corp InfiniTV 4 cablecard tuner and the yet to be released HD HomeRun Prime (I understand there is supposed to be an internal solution as well). Both of these solutions still require you to lease a cablecard from your cable company and the upfront cost is high, but in most cases I've seen, the cablecard fee is significantly less than the set top box rental fee. In my situation, it would save me $10-$14/month.

3) Can't speak to RAID cards, but I would think you'd want to look at a PCI-Ex1 card if you have the slot available.

Again, these are just my thoughts on the subject.


See above for comments on PSU, GPU, and Win7. Thanks for the feedback, I will need to do some more research on the RAID card and TV Tuner. Interesting point about the cable company's proprietary boxes. I will probably be using Comcast, so Ill need to figure out if I can go direct or if I need to go through their box.

Two questions for you both:
1. I hadnt heard of the PSU company either, but I did get it on sale for $20, and it is the cheapest modular one I could find. Would you still advise against it?

2. Now that you know my plans a little better, dedicated graphics card or no?
June 1, 2011 2:51:02 AM

to actually get good video quality you want a 5770 or greater
psu- hopefully it will work should have gone with the corsair cx 430
still need a bigger case or drop a hdd im guessing 6tb will hold thousands of pic's and videos. get windows 7 home premium oem at newegg for 95$
looks o.k. i dont think you will need raid just go for that t.v. tuner
!