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BestConfigs - Home Theater PC

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June 8, 2011 2:48:24 AM

It's that time again! Time to update the Tom's Hardware BestConfigs! Once again, we are opening the field to user recommendations to get the best consensus for the absolute best of the best in each category. Post the best configuration you can put together for the following build category and our editorial team will pick 5 of the best to be put up to a public vote right here in the Systems forum. The top-ranking build will go on to become one of Tom's Hardware BestConfigs and you'll get the credit for having put together a brilliant build with a special credit in the feature article.

Post your entries to this thread for the category of:
Home Theater PC

Stay within $700 (without shipping) and no need to include OS, monitor, mouse/keyboard. Please be sure to format your list of components as follows:

Joe's Hulu/Netflixstravaganza Rig
Processor: Component Name and Component Price
Motherboard: Component Name and Component Price
RAM: Component Name and Component Price
Graphics Card: Component Name and Component Price
Hard Drive: Component Name and Component Price
Case: Component Name and Component Price
Power Supply: Component Name and Component Price
Cooling: Component Name and Component Price
DVD Burner: Component Name and Component Price

See below for quick-copy/paste text of the BBcode.

  1. [b]Joe's Hulu/Netflixstravaganza Rig[/b]
  2. Processor: [urlExt=http://Link to Component for Sale]Component Name and Component Price[/urlExt]
  3. Motherboard: [urlExt=http://Link to Component for Sale]Component Name and Component Price[/urlExt]
  4. RAM: [urlExt=http://Link to Component for Sale]Component Name and Component Price[/urlExt]
  5. Graphics Card: [urlExt=http://Link to Component for Sale]Component Name and Component Price[/urlExt]
  6. Hard Drive: [urlExt=http://Link to Component for Sale]Component Name and Component Price[/urlExt]
  7. Case: [urlExt=http://Link to Component for Sale]Component Name and Component Price[/urlExt]
  8. Power Supply: [urlExt=http://Link to Component for Sale]Component Name and Component Price[/urlExt]
  9. Cooling: [urlExt=http://Link to Component for Sale]Component Name and Component Price[/urlExt]
  10. DVD Burner: [urlExt=http://Link to Component for Sale]Component Name and Component Price[/urlExt]


You can also use the Tom's Hardware System Builder to build your recommendation and use the BBCode export option at the bottom of the build. If you do, be sure to include a link in your post to your build on the app for quick viewing.

Good luck, and may the best builds win!
June 8, 2011 6:32:28 PM

SADAMS04's HTPC

CPU: AMD Phenom II X3 720 BE OEM- $70

CPU Cooler: XIGMATEK LOKI SD963 92mm HYPRO - $25

Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-880GMA-USB3 AM3+ HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 mATX - $105

RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3-1600 8-8-8-24 - $45

Graphics Card: XFX HD-667X-ZHF3 Radeon HD 6670 1GB 128-bit DDR3 - $84

Hard Drive: Samsung F3 1TB - $65

Case: nMEDIAPC Red Wood Wood/Steel HTPC 8000 - $90

LCD Panel nMEDIAPC Media Center Programmable LCD - $30

Power Supply: XFX Core Edition PRO450W - $55

Blu-Ray Burner: LG Black 12X - $85

Replacement 140mm Case Fan: Scythe Slip Stream Kaze Maru2 140 series 43.5CFM @ 14.3dBA - $13


Yep! Resurrecting the X3 720 BE. At the $95 price point (OEM CPU + Cooler) the Athlon X4 could be substituted, however the one less core won't be missed for true HTPC purposes. Also, the 6MB L3 cache and the overclocking / unlocking potential is welcome bonus. Power supply is oversized to handle a future AM3+ CPU upgrade and / or a modest GPU upgrade.

$667
June 9, 2011 12:09:41 AM

Striker's "this box rocks!"

Processor: Intel Core i3-2100 Sandy Bridge 3.1GHz 2 x 256KB L2 Cache 3MB L3 Cache LGA 1155 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor $125

Motherboard: H67M-ITX/HT LGA 1155 Intel H67 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Mini ITX Intel Motherboard $125

RAM: G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory $39

Graphics Card: Intel IGP Graphics 2000

Hard Drive: SAMSUNG EcoGreen F4 HD204UI 2TB 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive $80

Solid State Drive: Corsair Force F40 CSSD-F40GB2 2.5" 40GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid State Drive $110

Case: SILVERSTONE Sugo SG05-B Black SECC / Plastic Mini-ITX Desktop Computer Case SFX 300W 80Plus Power Supply $105

Power Supply: Silverstone 300w 80Plus PSU

Cooling: stock

DVD Burner: LG Black 12X BD-R 2X BD-RE 16X DVD+R 12X DVD-RAM 10X BD-ROM 4MB Cache SATA Super Multi WH12LS30 LightScribe Support $85

The total comes to $669.

Now I realize that this is a rather expensive HTPC, but the motherboard is equipped with built in wifi and THX audio for 7.1 over HDMI.

I also included a small, 40GB SSD for super fast bootup times.

The Blu-ray burner will allow you to play and burn HD movies.

The case is very low profile, and comes with a very nice 80+ 300w PSU.

The 2TB drive will allow you to store massive amounts of media.
Related resources
June 11, 2011 10:08:40 PM

Rwpritchett's $700 HTPC Build

Processor: Intel Core i3-2100T Sandy Bridge 2.5GHz LGA 1155 35W Dual-Core Desktop Processor BX80623I32100T $134.99

Motherboard: ASRock H67M-GE/HT (B3) LGA 1155 Intel H67 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard $119.99

RAM: G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-10600CL9D-4GBNT $38.99

Graphics Card: Intel HD Graphics 2000

Hard Drive: SAMSUNG EcoGreen F4 HD204UI 2TB SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive $79.99

Case: SILVERSTONE Black Aluminum skin reinforced plastic front panel, 0.8mm SECC body MILO Series ML03B Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case $59.99

Power Supply: SILVERSTONE Strider Plus ST50F-P 500W ATX 12V v2.3 & EPS 12V 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply $79.99

Blu-Ray Combo Drive: SAMSUNG Black 12X BD-ROM 16X DVD-/+R 48X CD-ROM SATA Internal Blu-ray Drive Model SH-B123L/RSBP LightScribe Support (Retail) $64.99

TV Tuner: Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 Dual TV Tuner / Encoder 1229 PCI-Express x1 Interface - OEM $109.99

Total = $688.92

Discussion of parts selection:
I went with a low-power Sandy Bridge build because it is, at the time of this post, the only integrated solution that can playback 3D blu-ray and bitstream HD audio. The 35W TDP keeps in-line with the HTPC mantra: keep it cool, keep it quiet.

The low profile HTPC case is the proper A/V width (17") and depth to match other home theater equipment. It is made by a top case manufacturer and is one of the very few cases that has USB 3.0 ports WITH the motherboard header adapter included. It is a smaller case, which from my experience increases the WAF (wife acceptance factor). Despite the small size, it still takes a standard size PSU. The matching power supply I selected overkill, but it is shorter than a standard modular PSU and is the ONLY modular PSU that will fit in the case. The modular design will help tidy things up. It's quiet and efficient to boot.

For the motherboard, I usually go top tier ASUS or Gigabyte. However, the ASRock I listed is the cheapest H67 board that has a USB 3.0 motherboard header and upgrading to an ASUS and Gigabyte with the header would push the build over budget. This motherboard is not bad though, it comes with a remote and all of the A/V outputs you would ever need.

RAM? Meh... it's cheap 4GB DDR3-1333. Don't need anything fancy for HTPC use. Hard drive... a massive 2TB drive for holding HD content. This green drive with its dense platter design (3x667GB) is fast enough for HTPC use and will keep power, heat, and noise to a minimum. If budget allows, I concede that a second hard drive to hold OS and apps is preferable.

And finally, I selected a 12x blu-ray player that comes with blu-ray playback software (PowerDVD 9) and I also selected the best dual ATSC/NTSC/QAM internal tuner on the market. The tuner also adds FM radio to your HTPC setup. If you don't plan to record TV, then forego the tuner and get a small SSD for ~$100 to hold the OS and apps.
June 16, 2011 5:53:26 PM

^oops some pressed wrong button and cant delete it

Edit: Fixed ;)  -Prox
June 16, 2011 5:56:02 PM

You can edit by hitting the little white page with the thunderbolt in the bottom right corner.
June 21, 2011 2:13:57 AM

Processor: Intel Core i5-2400S Sandy Bridge 2.5GHz (3.3GHz Turbo Boost) 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 6MB L3 Cache LGA 1155 65W Quad-Core Desktop Processor BX80623I52400S $200.99
Motherboard: ASRock H61DE/S3 LGA 1155 Intel H61 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s ATX Intel Motherboard $74.99
RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL6D-4GBXH $69.99
Graphics Card: Intel HD Graphics 2000 (Integrated on Intel Core i5 2400S)
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Green WD20EARS 2TB 64MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive $79.99
Case: COOLER MASTER Elite 360 RC-360-KKN1-GP Black Steel / Plastic ATX Mini Tower Computer Case Now: $39.99
Power Supply: SeaSonic X series SS-400FL Active PFC F3 400W ATX12V Fanless 80 PLUS GOLD Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply $129.99
Cooling: Tuniq Tower 120 Universal CPU Cooler 120mm Cooling Fan and Fan Controller/Heatsink $25.99
DVD Burner: Sony Optiarc CD/DVD Burner 24X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 12X DVD+R DL 24X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM Black SATA Model AD-7260S-0B - OEM $20.99

Subtotal: $642.92
Shipping: $26.28
Grand Total: $669.20

Optional
Network Interface Card: Intel EXPI9301CTBLK 10/ 100/ 1000Mbps PCI-Express Network Adapter 1 x RJ45 $27.99

With Optional Grand Total: $697.19

Powerful thanks to i5 cores and turbo boost along with additional CPU cores can be turned off in bios to mimic i3 power efficiency while maintaining the added benifits of 6MB L3 Cache rather than i3's 3MB L3 Cache by contrast.

32NM CPU with integrated GPU also means both more power efficiency as well as less heat because of no add in card it's got plenty of GPU power for a HTPC purposes though movies, music, photo editing, ect...after all even a little light gaming is certainly possible, but if more versatile HTPC gaming power is desired and warranted the option is certainly available thanks to it's PCI-E 2.0 slot.

The case has rather nice ventilation for a HTPC case and can be placed vertically or horizontally. I'm not sure on how sturdy the case is, but it'll basically just sit in a tv cabinet somewhere anyway so who cares it looks fine and is well vented and that's really what's most important and has USB x 2, Audio port x 2, IEEE1394a x 1 (optional) front ports as well for convince external HD ready you can certainly say. If you want a more ventilated case and don't mind it being a desktop tower I'd recommend either the HEC Blitz in same price range or if your willing to pay more the absolute best ventilated case I've ever seen is the Rosewill ARMOR that case is passive cooling heaven I wish Rosewill would make a HTPC case with that same kind of ventilation in mind.

Support for 2 more Dimms as well as higher capacity dimm slots supporting up to 16GB though why or how anyone would need more than 4GB for any type of traditional HTPC is beyond me, but doesn't hurt to have the added flexibility. Speaking of memory it's got 2x2GB of low latency low voltage DDR3 1600 as well which could provide headroom for a nice overclock or underclock and tighter latencies for even more efficiency with less heat.

Since I'm on the topic of efficiency I might as well mention the PSU which the case has nice ventilation area's for is very efficient 80 PLUS Gold Certified it has great reviews and as a owner of one I can tell you right now it's absolutely dead silent and runs very cool.

The only thing that makes noise in this HTPC is the 2TB HD's seek noise which is pretty minimal on the HD in this build and the fan noise on the Tunic Tower which is a great cooler and I'm also quite certain could be run passively on a 32nm Core i5 if you don't intend to overclock or at very low RPM.

The DVD Burner is well nothing special pretty generic, but it'll get the job done and with 2TB of HD space you'll likely seldom use it often anyway is my suspicion just a hunch though.

The motherboard I'm sure isn't the most full featured one on the market especially in terms of overclocking, but it does have 2 SATA6GB/s connections though no USB 3.0, but between the two the faster SATA interface I'm certain is more important to most people.

The optional Intel PCI-E NIC add in card that fits within the budget target makes a great HTPC toss in addition for the build that provides lower CPU usage along with better network performance which if the HTPC will be a network hub for the rest of the home could prove to be a very nice addition.

Hope you enjoyed my HTPC and the logic behind it cool, quiet, energy efficient, but also provides more power at your dispersal and quite a bit of upgrade flexibility more than one could likely need within reason from a HTPC.
June 21, 2011 5:31:25 AM

I squeezed it a little harder and came up with this. I had to make a few sacrifices, but I think they were well worth it...

Dicky's HTPC
Processor: Intel Core i3-2105 Sandy Bridge 3.1GHz - $139.99 x 1 = $139.99
Motherboard: MSI H67MA-E35 H67 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX - $84.99 x 1 = $84.99
RAM: Mushkin Enhanced Silverline 4GB (2x2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 1333 Dual Channel Kit - $29.99 x 1 = $29.99
Graphics Card: Integrated Intel HD 3000 - $0.00
Hard Drive (SSD): OCZ Vertex 2 OCZSSD2-2VTX40G 2.5" 40GB - $74.99 x 1 = $74.99
Hard Drive: HITACHI Deskstar 5K3000 2TB SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive - $79.99 x 1 = $79.99
Case: SILVERSTONE Black MILO Series ML03B Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case - $59.99 x 1 = $59.99
Power Supply: CORSAIR CX430 V2 430W 80 PLUS Active PFC Power Supply - $34.99 x 1 = $34.99
Cooling: Stock Heatsink/Fan - $0.00
DVD Burner: LITE-ON Black 4X BD-ROM 8X DVD-ROM 32X CD-ROM SATA - $55.99 x 1 = $55.99
Additional: Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 Media Center Kit Dual TV Tuner PCI-Express x1 - $109.99 x 1 $109.99

Total = $670.91

I'm not certain the TV Tuner would work properly with the integrated SNB graphics... But hopefully it would. Also, I think the PSU will fit, but it will almost certainly be tight.

Regards,
Dicky
July 1, 2011 4:30:47 AM

Dougie Fresh's mini-HTPC
Processor: Intel Core i3-2100T $129.00
Motherboard: ASUS P8H61-I (REV 3.0) LGA 1155 Intel H61 HDMI USB 3.0 Mini ITX Intel Motherboard $84.99
RAM: Kingston 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1333 KVR1333D3K2/4GR $33.99
Graphics Card: Intel HD2000 IGP
HDD: MicroCenter Sandforce 1222 64GB SSD $99.99
Case: Habey EMC-800B mini-ITX $68.99
PSU: 120W PSU and external adapter included with case
Cooling: i3-2100T low-profile stock cooler
Blu-ray: LG Black 8X DVD+R 5X DVD-RAM 6X BD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA Slim Internal Blu-ray Super-Multi Combo Drive Model CT21N $84.99

Total: $501.95

This HTPC is intended as a small, low-power, full HD 3D capable media player. A 64GB SSD is included for fast booting and waking up from sleep. It's expected that this is a client so media is served from the network (network tuner, media server, internet, etc.). At only 9.0" x 8.0" x 3.0" it will fit anywhere.

July 29, 2011 4:19:34 AM

Soma's AMD HTPC
Processor: AMD A8-3850 Llano 2.9GHz - $140
Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-A75M-D2H FM1 Micro ATX - $100
RAM: G.SKILL 4GB F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3 1600 - $37
Graphics Card: A8-3850 IGP - HD 6550D $0
Hard Drive: SAMSUNG EcoGreen F4 HD204UI 2TB - $80
Case: SILVERSTONE Black 8.0mm aluminum front panel, 0.8mm SECC body GRANDIA GD04B Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case - $80
Power Supply: Antec EarthWatts Green EA-380D Green 380W - $40
Cooling: Scythe SCKZT-1000 80mm Kozuti CPU Cooler - $40
DVD Burner: LITE-ON Black 4X BD-ROM 8X DVD-ROM 32X CD-ROM SATA Internal 4X Blu-ray Disc Reader Model iHOS104-08 - $60

Total: $577

Optional:

TV Tuner: Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 1850 (updated version of 1800) MCE Kit 1128 PCI-Express x1 Interface - $103

Wireless Card: ASUS PCE-N13 Wireless Adapter IEEE 802.11b/g/n PCI Express - $30

Grand Total: $710

I thought I would put up a Llano build just for kicks since everyone else seems to like Intel builds. For $580 you get the HTPC basic (which could really go down another $50-$100 if you wanted to) and for another $135 you can get a TV tuner and a wireless card to connect to your home network. I put a 2 TB HDD in there for all the hi-def content these days, but WIFI gives the option for streaming from the network. The aftermarket cooler is pretty optional, but I read that the fan is near silent for low power setups.

From the reviews I've read the APU has a bit of issues with H.264 playback, but it seems to be a problem with the drivers so it's fixable if it's not already fixed. However, the IGP is way more powerful than the HD3000 and if AMD can fix the few problems it has this will be a great build.
August 1, 2011 5:47:16 AM

JKatwyopc's AMD Llano HTPC build.

Processor: AMD A8-3850 Llano 2.9GHz Socket FM1 100W Quad-Core Desktop APU - $139.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Case: SILVERSTONE Black Aluminum / 0.8mm SECC Grandia Series GD05B micro-ATX / Mini-DTX / Mini-ITX MB, 1x5.25", 2x3.5"+1x2.5"HDD ... - $99.99 -$29.99 Instant $70.00
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Wireless Network card: TRENDnet TEW-649UB USB 2.0 Mini Wireless N Adapter - $34.99 -$8.00 Instant $26.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Motherboard: ASUS F1A75-M PRO FM1 AMD A75 (Hudson D3) SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard with UEFI BIOS - $119.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Graphics Card: A8-3850 IGP - HD 6550D $0

Optional Graphics Card(If desired): ASUS EAH6670/DIS/1GD5 Radeon HD 6670 1GB 128-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready Video Card - $99.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PSU: CORSAIR Builder Series CX430 V2 430W ATX12V v2.3 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply - $49.99 -$5.00 Instant $44.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Memory: G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1866 (PC3 14900) Desktop Memory Model F3-14900CL9D-4GBXM - $64.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda Green ST2000DL003 2TB 5900 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive - $89.99 -$20.00 Instant $69.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Bluray Drive: LITE-ON Black 4X Blu-ray Disc Reader SATA Model iHOS104-08 - $59.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Total: $696.92 after instant rebates. ($596.93 Without discrete graphics)

Here's my version of an AMD HTPC Build. I included an additional discrete graphics card as an option. Subtract $99.99 if you don't want it. This comes out very similar to Soma's Build. I have been wondering why nobody seems to be considering the Llano APU's for use in HTPC builds because the built in graphics is so much more powerful. (see Tom's Hardware reviews here http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/amd-a8-3850-llano,2... and here http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/a8-3500m-llano-apu,...)
August 1, 2011 3:25:54 PM

This topic has been desticky in top of the forum by Jpishgar
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