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BestConfigs Poll - Home Theater PC

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Which Home Theater PC BestConfig do you like best?

Total: 81 votes (10 blank votes)

  • Dicky's HTPC
  • 34 %
  • SADAMS04's HTPC
  • 44 %
  • Dougie Fresh's Mini-HTPC
  • 23 %
August 1, 2011 4:43:36 PM

It's time to vote on your favorite build for this category!

Please see below for a list of the choices available.

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 Price: $670.91


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

Total Price: $667


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 Price: $501.95
August 1, 2011 10:18:23 PM

Why are there no AMD E-350 builds in here? Everything I have read says they are excellent for HTPC builds and they cost ~$100 less then an i3.

Am I missing something?
August 1, 2011 10:41:50 PM

How can a HTPC with only a puny 64GB SSD be one of the finalist?!
Related resources
August 2, 2011 6:34:09 AM

These builds are very odd. Only the first one has a TV card? SSDs for a HTPC build? SATA 6.0 harddrives? 120w PSU, and I think it's external?

HTPC's should have dual cores or better, 4GBs of ram is fine. But they should also have large heatsinks to keep them cool without being loud, highly efficient PSUs so they don't use a lot of electricity, TV/Cable cards so you can watch/record stuff, large HDDs so you have the space to record your things, and probably AMD video cards so you can have high end HDMI with audio to hook up to your TV/AV receiver. About the best I can say for all those builds is they have Blu ray drives. Wireless is also a good idea unless you have a router in your living room.

I'm voting the second one, but only because it has a 6670 GPU so it can double a mild gaming unit as well.
August 2, 2011 12:16:16 PM

lp231 said:
How can a HTPC with only a puny 64GB SSD be one of the finalist?!


My setup uses a server for storage 64GB is plenty of storage
August 2, 2011 12:16:29 PM

lp231 said:
How can a HTPC with only a puny 64GB SSD be one of the finalist?!


My setup uses a server for storage 64GB is plenty of storage
August 2, 2011 1:32:28 PM

Another series of sh!tty builds. HTPC's should not be relying on integrated Intel graphics.

Went for the only choice that did not have integrated graphics but even that build has questionable processor and a very odd choice of case.
August 2, 2011 2:38:59 PM

Case: $79.99 Antec ISK 300-65
Motherboard/CPU: $119.99 Foxconn AHD1S-K AMD E-350
RAM: $26.99 Kingston 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1066
HDD: $69.99 WD Scorpio Black 500GB
Blu-Ray: $74.99 Sony Optiarc Black
Total $371.95

How about something along the lines of this?
August 2, 2011 3:01:39 PM

Hmmm I stand by my E-350 based NES HTPC

Case: Old NES
Mobo/cpu: Asrock E-350M1
Ram: 2Gb Patriot DDR3 1066
Hdd: 160gb Western Digital 2.5"
Optical: None
Usb based Wireless N and Bluetooth adapters
80w Pico Psu

Total for watching tv and playing games via an old Nintendo: Priceless, or about $250


August 3, 2011 5:37:52 AM

max40watt said:
Hmmm I stand by my E-350 based NES HTPC

Case: Old NES
Mobo/cpu: Asrock E-350M1
Ram: 2Gb Patriot DDR3 1066
Hdd: 160gb Western Digital 2.5"
Optical: None
Usb based Wireless N and Bluetooth adapters
80w Pico Psu

Total for watching tv and playing games via an old Nintendo: Priceless, or about $250

http://i302.photobucket.com/albums/nn87/max40watt/NESpc/IMG_1739.jpg
http://i302.photobucket.com/albums/nn87/max40watt/NESpc/IMG_1725.jpg


OK now that is sweet!
August 4, 2011 11:57:57 PM

I say we add a write-in vote and give it to the Nintendo.

This vote should be scrapped. All of the above HTPC are terrible. Two use integrated Intel HD graphics, which we KNOW gives lousy video quality compared to AMD or high end GeForce. And the AMD uses too much power and too big of a discrete card. It's a perfectly capable low end gaming build, but not an HTPC.

Quite frankly, the list should include some of the lower power Llano APU's with no discrete graphics in the smallest form factor possible. That would be the ultimate HTPC in my book.
August 5, 2011 1:22:47 AM

I'm not so sure the second one's GPU is to large. I remember reading about the HTPC abilities of the 5670 when it came out and it was the HTPC card to have. IGPs don't have the GPU power needed to do some of the high end stuff that few HTPCs need.

The CPU is to large as you don't need an x3 for HTPC use. It also lacks the TV card that the first build has. This isn't the article I was thinking of, but it should give you a good idea of where the 5670 has issues.

Edit: GAH! Forgot the article. http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/hqv-2-radeon-geforc...
August 5, 2011 3:26:53 AM

Prior to Llano, I wouldn't say the second one's GPU was too large. But considering Llano includes the GPU, there's no reason to do both--that's more what I meant. I agree that typical (non-APU) integrated is inadequate for high-end HTPC usage.

Btw, that's the article I was expecting for the 5670's deficiencies. There's one that compares Intel HD 2000/3000 to integrated, I think, and that might explain more.
August 5, 2011 4:15:21 AM

Is that the one they took the scenes from like 3 blu ray movies? I think I know which one your talking about. Intel didn't do to badly except for all the "noise" in their pictures:p 
August 8, 2011 11:59:11 PM

max40watt said:
Hmmm I stand by my E-350 based NES HTPC

I love my E-350 based HTPC. . . :love: 
August 11, 2011 9:04:49 PM

PhilFrisbie said:
I love my E-350 based HTPC. . . :love: 
Me too :) 

For those of you complaining about lack of Llano, some of the candidates were submitted prior to the Llano launch. Keep that in mind.

The HQV scores are quite subjective. Personally, I don't put to much weight on post-processing capability, though it depends on your source media I suppose. Most of my media is good quality to begin with.
August 22, 2011 6:27:02 AM

I also like that E-350 based HTPC.
August 29, 2011 2:42:42 PM

Corsair Vengeance 16 GB (4 X 4 GB) @1600
Thermaltake DH-202
Corsair HX Pro Series 750
i7-2600K 3.4Ghz
EVGA GeForce GTX 570 Superclocked
Windows 7 64bit
Asus Sabertooth P67
Tmg I3 Cpu Fan
Crucial 64GB 6Gb/s SSD (OS)
WD Black 1TB internal (Apps)
Sans Digital TR4MB (4 X WD Green 2TB)
Harmony 1100
Optoma HD20 w120" screen

Why can't a build be high end?
August 29, 2011 2:50:32 PM

keeping to the thread got to go with Dickys. as well as the NES...
August 29, 2011 3:20:16 PM

Superbooger said:
Why can't a build be high end?
There was a $700 limit, and there is no use for high end gear for media playback.
September 13, 2011 10:08:32 PM

Funny, despite the "advice" in this thread my sh!tty HTPC builds with their puny 64GB SSDs and crappy Intel graphics seem to be working quite well anyway.
September 14, 2011 12:15:53 AM

Depends on what your trying to do. If you have it hooked to a 720 or perhaps even a 1080 screen with just using the audio found on the TV, your fine. (64GBs total for the computer? That's only 5 seasons of things assuming 20GBs for the OS.) I doubt however your system can handle higher end things like 7.1 bit streaming, etc. In addition, your intel graphics will have issues with odd pull downs. What you have is fine for a basic HTPC build like I had.
September 14, 2011 2:32:16 AM

4745454b said:
Depends on what your trying to do. If you have it hooked to a 720 or perhaps even a 1080 screen with just using the audio found on the TV, your fine. (64GBs total for the computer? That's only 5 seasons of things assuming 20GBs for the OS.) I doubt however your system can handle higher end things like 7.1 bit streaming, etc. In addition, your intel graphics will have issues with odd pull downs. What you have is fine for a basic HTPC build like I had.


You're kidding about this, right?

The replies to this thread have got to be some kind of joke.
September 14, 2011 4:27:19 AM

You bit stream 7.1 audio off of your Intel IGP? No one else has to my knowledge. How'd you do it?
September 14, 2011 3:18:28 PM

Simplest way I've found is install LAV: http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?t=156191 and then configure the LAV Audio, checking all the bitstreaming checkboxes. Sending the bitstream to an AVR for decoding has almost no overhead since the stream is being decoded by the AVR not the PC.

You can find several reviews and threads (e.g. AVSForum), that demonstrate support for 5.1 and 7.1 bitstreaming as well as 1080 video with very low CPU usage -- even with the new Celeron G530 CPU operates around 20% CPU usage viewing 1080 H.264 video. Latest drivers/BIOS also provide some of the best 24p support. If you don't need 3D support for can grab a G620 for $75 and a H61 motherboard for $80 and save even more money yet have a more than capable system. I've built both i3 and Pentium-based systems and honestly cannot discern performance or PQ.

As for the SSD, I would never actually store media on the SSD. With several PCs around the house, media is aggregated on a low-power 24/7 home server. How much and where the disks are located is a bit arbitrary depending on how much media you plan to store. Some build 24TB arrays, some would be ok with a 2TB drive in their HTPC. It's therefore not really worth spec'ing out in a generalized build. Where the SSD shines is coming out of sleep, rebooting and launching media applications. Response time is critical in a PC that's trying to act like an appliance. I would not build an HTPC w/o it unless it wasn't in the budget of who it's being built for.

As for E-350, you'll find plenty of reviews and experience saying there are performance issues. Hopefully, the E-450 will be that much better. Llano has yet to be proven and it was not available when these were spec'd. Right now though the SandyBridge setups beat Llano handily in price and for media usage, the extra GPU horsepower makes no difference. If a SNB Celeron for $55 can play H.264 video at 20% CPU usage why would you buy the $80-$120 Llano? For post-processing? Then why is the most widely recommended ATI CCC setting to turn off all post-processing except deinterlacing?

I suggest these for further reading:
Reviews
http://www.anandtech.com/show/4083/the-sandy-bridge-rev...
http://www.missingremote.com/review/intel-sandy-bridge-...
http://www.anandtech.com/show/4524/the-sandy-bridge-pen...

Forums
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=940972
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1302559
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1303066

Beyond forums and reviews, my own experience building these systems for myself and others shows clearly the SandyBridge CPUs are currently the best bang for the buck for media PCs. They have full HD video and audio support, very low power usage (kill-a-watt readings around 80W using Prime95, 50W tops watching HD video, below 30W idle) and right now kill on price/performance. Two years ago, AMD was rocking this space and that's what I was building with. Now the pendulum has swung to the other side.
September 14, 2011 4:40:05 PM

Have a link handy of 20% use for a Celeron?

http://www.anandtech.com/show/4083/the-sandy-bridge-rev...

Quote:
How about 23.976 fps playback? Sorry guys, even raking in $11 billion a quarter doesn’t make you perfect.

Here’s the sitch, most movie content is stored at 23.976 fps but incorrectly referred to as 24p or 24 fps. That sub-30 fps frame rate is what makes movies look like, well, movies and not soap operas...What happens when you try to play 23.976 fps content on a display that refreshes itself 24.000 times per second? You get a repeated frame approximately every 40 seconds to synchronize the source frame rate with the display frame rate. That repeated frame appears to your eyes as judder in motion, particularly evident in scenes involving a panning camera.


Are you sure this is the way to go? Seems like getting a video card would be a good idea. Unless you are one of those who isn't bothered by this.
September 14, 2011 6:18:06 PM

4745454b said:
Have a link handy of 20% use for a Celeron?

http://www.anandtech.com/show/4083/the-sandy-bridge-rev...


15% HW decode, 44% SW decode:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?p=2092542...

4745454b said:
How about 23.976 fps playback? Sorry guys, even raking in $11 billion a quarter doesn’t make you perfect. Are you sure this is the way to go? Seems like getting a video card would be a good idea. Unless you are one of those who isn't bothered by this.


The latest BIOS/driver supports 23.97236fps or one frame drop every 4.52 minutes (see link above). I don't think I'd notice that.

A video card isn't going to perfect anyway: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1333324
September 15, 2011 12:30:02 AM

I don't have an account, so I can't see the pictures.

Obviously your big into HTPCs as you know the AVS forum rather well. I go by what review sites have shown me, in the link I linked back to you and the image quality one that we've talked about before as well. I'm not sure why you trust that forum over Anand and tom, but to each his own. The review site probably haven't tested the newest SB Intel chips which do seem to have fixed a lot of problems. If so, good for Intel and perhaps the review sites will catch up.
September 15, 2011 1:36:48 AM

I also go by what I've built and used, for myself and others.

Which leads me to this: my build above has some heat issues due to the case. Those Habey cases have no ventilation on the top. Even with a 50mm fan, things are uncomfortably warm. Using a picoPSU in a slightly larger case (though not as nice looking) has been much better. It wasn't overheating in the Habey case but it was still too much for my liking.

All the other components have worked out brilliantly -- despite the counterclaims.
September 15, 2011 1:58:54 AM

I'm still not sure why you would be upset. Intel has finally managed to get ONE working part out. Its new, don't hate because everyone hasn't get on board yet. When IB improves on what SB has done, more and more people will join you.
September 15, 2011 12:33:45 PM

Misinformation makes me upset. People read these forums and spend money based on what's posted here. This isn't even a philosophical argument. You want to bash the builds above based on articles from last winter or some conjecture, knowledge from 2008 maybe? I don't get it.

Now it's your turn. Go back and read your claims above and add some citations about what you claim cannot be done with these processors. Show me the articles, reviews, your own experience that says you can't bitstream, you need a large heatsink, 120W PSU won't work, etc. that's not from January. All that stuff above in your first post. I, and numerous other system builders, seem to be able to do all you claim.

Prove us wrong or explain what you've posted.
September 15, 2011 1:10:55 PM

Quote:
These builds are very odd. Only the first one has a TV card? SSDs for a HTPC build? SATA 6.0 harddrives? 120w PSU, and I think it's external?


If your HTPC needs a TV card, I would think you'd put it in all of them. I must have misunderstood the point of this as I thought we were picking the best of the three. I thought for the same job but I guess not. I wouldn't use AID0 or an SSD as you don't need that kind of speed for video play back or music listening. Same with SATA 6.0. You are playing back movies which doesn't hit the hard drives that hard.

Quote:
HTPC's should have dual cores or better, 4GBs of ram is fine.


This is mostly a guess on my part. A dual core should keep things smooth when your AV kicks in. You'll need something more if this is a streaming server where you might be watching something on the TV in the livingroom, and you have family members are watching/streaming more things from it.

Quote:
they should also have large heatsinks to keep them cool without being loud


Do you want to hear your heatsink fan over your show? Didn't think so.

Quote:
highly efficient PSUs so they don't use a lot of electricity


I said highly efficient, not high capacity. There is a difference.

Quote:
large HDDs so you have the space to record your things


This way you have enough room to store all the stuff you rip. I'd want to buy a DVD, take it home and put it on the HTPC. That's 4.7GBs per DVD at least. 64GB SSD won't last long, same if you are doing entire seasons.

I'd include links but this is fairly common agreed upon stuff. Which part of this is misinformation? Narrow down what offended you so much and I'll see about proving it to you. Based on your responses so far I'm getting the feeling your just an troll/AW.
September 15, 2011 5:15:22 PM

4745454b said:

Do you want to hear your heatsink fan over your show? Didn't think so.


The size of the heatsink has nothing to do with the noise. The stock fan is usually sufficient (unless defective) since media playback requires little in the way of CPU horsepower. I can't hear my fans from 2' let alone the standard 10' someone sits from an HTPC. CPUs used in HTPCs just don't have this noise issue. They should be low-power and efficient. Swapping out the stock heatsink is a waste of money that could be spent elsewhere.

4745454b said:

I said highly efficient, not high capacity. There is a difference.


Yet you bash a 120W PSU with an external adapter? Now you're mixing your words. BTW, a DC-DC PSU with an external laptop-style adapter is much more quiet than an internal PSU. These external adapters are also often very efficient. None of the 1156 or 1155 PCs I've built, HTPC or otherwise, have drawn more than 84W measured at the wall during Prime95 tests. An E-350 based system with an SSD could be run off a 65W adapter.

4745454b said:

large HDDs so you have the space to record your things


Again, storage requirements will vary. What's important is fast restart, reboot, wake and application launch times. Using an SSD as your OS drive improves this dramatically. How much storage and if it's located in your HTPC or in a separate box depends on what your plan is. With a $700 budget limit in the original post, guessing at storage doesn't make sense.

Guessing at TV recording requirements doesn't either. If someone wants cable TV, they'll need a CableCard adapter (beyond the price limit at the time) or they can have an unencrypted TV tuner. Or, maybe they want to just use their cable box, and use something like the HD-PVR to record shows? Again, beyond the budget given.

4745454b said:

I'd include links but this is fairly common agreed upon stuff. Which part of this is misinformation? Narrow down what offended you so much and I'll see about proving it to you. Based on your responses so far I'm getting the feeling your just an troll/AW.


It's easier to throw down the troll card and making this something personal, isn't it? Pretty easy to do when you have nothing to add. Your common knowledge doesn't require links because you have none. You seem to want to tell us all what an HTPC should not be. I have yet to see what you'd build that's better.

Finally, you seem to like to use a lot of words like "upset" and "offended". I could care less if you like my build, someone else's, AMD, Intel or nVidia. But, what I don't like is this:

4745454b said:

This is mostly a guess on my part.


This says you just don't know. Why bother?

September 16, 2011 1:09:29 AM

Size of the heatsink doesn't always mean louder, but its usually a given that larger (with better fans) is better. The last stock fan I used was on my 3500+. (80MM fan?) My last two builds have used the Hyper 212+. (120MM) Larger heatsink, larger fans, and it does run quieter. Maybe not needed for playback duties only, but you might want it when the AV scan kicks in, or its struggling to stream 4 things at once.

Quote:
Yet you bash a 120W PSU with an external adapter? Now you're mixing your words.


Yes I did. But I didn't mean you need a 700W to do it. I saw the 2100 and thought it was a 65W part. Toss in the usual 50W for the board, ram, drives, etc and your at 105, awfully close to the 120W that the power brick can do. (not only possibly causing it to output dirty power, but making it run hot as well. I didn't see or know what the T meant, and I see now it means its a 35W part and not 65W. This puts its at 85Wish which is fine for a 120W PSU. (~66% of capacity.) Keep the power brick, though I'd want something bigger IF you'll have a lot of USB devices plugged into it.

Quote:
guessing at storage doesn't make sense.


I'm not guessing at storage. I'm remembering back to when I had my computer plugged into my TV. I wanted room, lots of it. I don't want to have to go find my disk inorder to watch something. I'd rather browse to my movie drive and watch it. If you want to mess with disks or have a USB spaghetti monster on your entertainment center by all means. But to me a HTPC has big drives so you don't have to worry about those things.

Quote:
It's easier to throw down the troll card and making this something personal, isn't it?


I throw down troll card because of things you said/say. You could have come in with some links and tell us all that Intel has finally got their act together and they can be considered for HTPC duty. How did you enter this thread?

Quote:
despite the "advice" in this thread...


Every time I read your posts I just get a sense of "anger" at us because we are spreading misinformation. And instead of coming in and saying all those articles we've been reading about Intels issues with their IGPs has been fixed you just make some claims.

I don't have the resources to test anything of what you wrote, hopefully someone can chime in.

Quote:
This says you just don't know. Why bother?


Thanks for the lack of context. I must know something as I picked the build which is in what place on the poll? Oh, first.
September 21, 2011 5:42:53 PM

I picked up the ZOTAC Palm-Sized ZBOX nano AD10 Series min-pc e350 for $304 CDN from a Hong Kong source on eBay, as it is not in North America yet. Unfortunately I could not find a barebones model, but I am going to replace the HDD with an OCZ Vertex 3 60gb $129 and the 2gb with a 4gb G.SKILL SQ Series DDR3 1066MHz $25. Still not sure if I an going to go Windows 7/XBMC or Ubuntu/XBMC. It's AMD Radeon 6310 Supports 1080p, TrueHD and DTS-HD MA. It has a remote control to boot.

Should be here in a week or so... can't wait, can't wait...
September 29, 2011 3:17:58 PM

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