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HTPC for under $500?

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July 3, 2011 3:09:34 PM

Hi all, I am in the market for a small and quiet HTPC that I plan to use primarily to stream HD content to my 1080p HDTV via HDMI. I also plan to use it as a HD DVR to records shows off of my OTA antenna (I've cut the cord) and am probably going to start looking into transfering all my DVDs and CDs onto the computer so I can use it as a media jukebox. I had found a prebuilt one I like:



However, I can't help but wonder if I could build a similarly specced one on my own. I should note that this is my first time attempting to build a PC but I feel fairly confident I can do it. I do understand that at this price point I probably will not be able to add the DVR functionality until later and that will probably have to buy an external hard drive but that's fine. Really the most important thing is that the HTPC can run 1080p HD streaming smoothly and supports the current HD lossless audio formats. As stated, $500 is the most I can spend on the hardware as I'll need to buy the software.

At this price point would I able to build a comparable system? Thank you for your time.

More about : htpc 500

July 3, 2011 3:16:37 PM

Hi there, welcome to the forums.
YES! Glad to see a fellow rebel in the fight against cable :) 
Hmm, a tough one. We can certainly do it for $500. No problems whatsoever.
Now, is this going to be an exclusively HTPC machine? Do you ever intend to use it for gaming?
also, what are your size constraints? We are going to go miniITX, but where will you be putting it? Will the box have good airflow in the front & back?

I have an idea of what you need, please get back to me.
July 3, 2011 3:21:13 PM

for that sort of price we can easily get you a solid media PC.

I'm going to suggest we go at a less-than-state-of-the-art basic build that will do eveything you need.

This Athlon II X3 450 combo for $450 has literally everything you need:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

compared to the i3 you were looking at, it has better integrated graphics (HD4250), Blu-Ray drive instead of DVD, and 1 TB HDD over 500 GB. doesn't have wi-fi, but ethernet is more reliable for streaming. It also have an HD TV receiver able to watch one channel and record a second channel at the same time
Related resources
July 3, 2011 3:27:13 PM

Ahh yes, a nice combo. I'll post what I was working on anyway.

CPU/Mobo/GPU: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $115
RAM: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $35
Blu-Ray: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $85
TV tuner (where most of the expense is coming from) http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $110
HDD: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $55
Case/PSU: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... $105 ( the other half of the cost. much nicer PSU, I would not trust a HEC PSU.)
Total is $505
July 3, 2011 3:29:21 PM

In this case yes, it's strictly going to be for HTPC. If I do any gaming at all it will be something like Bejeweled Blitz on FB or maybe something really old like Diablo 2 or Neverwinter Nights. Assuming this goes well, I plan to build a gaming PC next year with my tax refund check. :) 

As to placement, it will be going on an entertainment center but the entertainment center is an open design so the HTPC will have no airflow issues and will be far away from any other heat producing devices. Basically my plan is to route HDMI to my AV receiver.
July 3, 2011 3:51:27 PM

Wow. Those are both in my price range. I must admit thought that I'm still a little unclear on how to tell what the integrated graphics are for each of the comps. I thought those would be on CPU/Mobo/GPU specs but I don't see it listed when I read the details for them on Newegg. How do I tell exactly? Thanks for the help.

EDIT: Never mind, I see where it is now. (Rubs glasses)
July 3, 2011 3:54:19 PM
July 3, 2011 4:50:50 PM

Yeah, my build has AMD HD 6310, and Sqrl's has AMD HD 4250. Both will work well.

Good build Timop, but the lack of USB3 has me worried. You also forgot a Blu-ray drive. Since this is an HTPC, chances are he will use external storage eventually.
July 3, 2011 4:57:14 PM

striker410 said:
Yeah, my build has AMD HD 6310, and Sqrl's has AMD HD 4250. Both will work well.

Good build Timop, but the lack of USB3 has me worried. You also forgot a Blu-ray drive. Since this is an HTPC, chances are he will use external storage eventually.

Just showing how a basic 1155 HTPC would go and he could add feature to match his needs.
Plenty of USB3 boards are out there if he wants such feature. Besides he can always get an add-in card.
July 4, 2011 6:15:34 PM

^+1

I already have a $450 build setup on my build guide below for Llano.
http://www.squidoo.com/electronicandmore
Might want to change the case though :p 
I dunno what kind of HTPC case preference you have so... I'll leave that to you.
July 4, 2011 10:43:23 PM

I have heard that the Llano chips are supposed to be good for HTPCs. Agree about the case but I think what I'll do there is just swap about the PSU/Case for the one Striker recommended. I'm assuming that will fit correct? Then I'll add the blu-ray player and that will put me just over $500 and I'll just buy the TV tuner at a later date. I really appreciate all the advice here. I'm getting excited about building my first computer.
July 5, 2011 3:04:11 PM

Yes it probably would fit. Good luck! If you could buy the motherboard and CPU off my site it'd be lovely. Amazon sells it I'm just the associate and I get some commission. It'd really help towards my BD update. Course, if you buy off Newegg I understand too!
July 5, 2011 4:05:19 PM

Striker listed the very excellent Sugo05 ITX case, so you'll need to wait a wee bit more for Llano mini-ITX motherboard to become available if you choose that route. Of course, ITX AM3 and 1155 motherboards are available now.

Or you can up your case size to micro-ATX and build Llano now. When you say you want small, how small are you talking? Height limitation? Depth limitation?
July 5, 2011 4:11:59 PM

Love that AsRock E350M1 --- mine sleeps at 5w & only been rebooted once for an OS update

I would suggest dropping the BR drive for an SSD - add the BluRay later if you feel an over-whelming desire for it.
July 5, 2011 11:13:37 PM

rwpritchett said:
Striker listed the very excellent Sugo05 ITX case, so you'll need to wait a wee bit more for Llano mini-ITX motherboard to become available if you choose that route. Of course, ITX AM3 and 1155 motherboards are available now.

Or you can up your case size to micro-ATX and build Llano now. When you say you want small, how small are you talking? Height limitation? Depth limitation?


I looked at some micro-ATX cases and that would not be a problem. Wouldn't want to go any bigger though but that's for aesthetic reasons and not height/depth limitations. Did you have a particular case in mind?

Wisecracker, I don't need a blu-ray drive right away since I have a PS3 that I use for watching blu-rays. I wondered about SSD but I thought the cost of one would be too high. $500 is the most I can afford for hardware since I'll need the rest for software. Now, if the total were slightly above that - say $515 total - sure I can make that work, but otherwise my cutoff is $500.
July 6, 2011 12:11:16 AM

Deadite lord said:
Hi all, I am in the market for a small and quiet HTPC that I plan to use primarily to stream HD content to my 1080p HDTV via HDMI. I also plan to use it as a HD DVR to records shows off of my OTA antenna (I've cut the cord) and am probably going to start looking into transfering all my DVDs and CDs onto the computer so I can use it as a media jukebox. I had found a prebuilt one I like:



However, I can't help but wonder if I could build a similarly specced one on my own. I should note that this is my first time attempting to build a PC but I feel fairly confident I can do it. I do understand that at this price point I probably will not be able to add the DVR functionality until later and that will probably have to buy an external hard drive but that's fine. Really the most important thing is that the HTPC can run 1080p HD streaming smoothly and supports the current HD lossless audio formats. As stated, $500 is the most I can spend on the hardware as I'll need to buy the software.

At this price point would I able to build a comparable system? Thank you for your time.
OK, based on your original post in which you were interested in the little ASRock barebones HTPC, here's a list of parts that are as close to the ASRock specs that I could come up with if you wanted to build it yourself:

  • Antec ISK 300-150 Black 0.8mm cold rolled steel Mini-ITX Desktop Computer Case 150W Power Supply $80
  • H67M-ITX/HT LGA 1155 Intel H67 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Mini ITX Intel Motherboard $125
  • Intel Pentium G620 Sandy Bridge 2.6GHz LGA 1155 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor BX80623G620 $78
  • G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-10600CL9D-4GBNT $35
  • SAMSUNG Spinpoint MP4 HM500JJ 500GB 7200 RPM 2.5" SATA 3.0Gb/s Internal Notebook Hard Drive -Bare Drive $60
  • LG Black 8X DVD+R 5X DVD-RAM 6X BD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA Slim Internal Blu-ray Super-Multi Combo Drive Model CT21N - OEM $100
  • AVS Gear HA-IR01SV Infrared Certified MCE VISTA Remote Control $21


  • Total = $499

    Total = $478

    So it looks like the little ASRock pre-built setup isn't too bad at $490. You could save some money on the above list by getting a cheaper H61 board without WiFi and just get a USB adapter, but it's in the same ballpark. I'm thinking if you like what the ASRock has to offer, it might not be such a bad deal. Keep in mind that an OS isn't included in any of these prices, even the ASRock barebones. Also, with the pre-built you would have to get either a USB tuner, or an ethernet based tuner if you want to add TV functionality.

    Just some food for thought...

    Edit: I just noticed the ASRock ITX board comes with a remote... so it's a bit cheaper.
    July 6, 2011 3:28:23 AM

    ^ Looks solid to me.
    July 6, 2011 4:29:47 AM

    Good build! I wish they made Mini ITX AM3 boards, as that would be the preferable setup I should think.
    July 6, 2011 4:38:21 AM

    ^+1

    I wish they made/have FM1 Mini-ITX boards.
    July 6, 2011 11:48:36 AM

    My 2 cents, If you want a tuner/DVR, buy this one on eBay and use Windows Media Center. It will work nearly flawlessly for what you are looking for.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/HP-WINTV-HVR-1290-QAM-ATSC-NTSC-PCI...

    I use similar HP OEM Tuners with Windows Media Center in Win. 7 Pro. x64.
    Hope this helps!
    July 6, 2011 4:33:42 PM

    Lol, what he said.
    !