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Building my first HTPC, what to look for?

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  • Streaming
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September 19, 2011 7:46:43 PM

Hey guys, so Im gonna be building an HTPC, it'll be used for streaming media such as movies and music to an HDTV, it needs to be able to handle the streaming without a hitch, and Im aiming for $400, the TV is not a part of the budget obviously

So can anyone tell me what to look for? How much wattage is needed for an HTPC? What kind of processing power is needed to stream HD media without a problem? Is 4GB of RAM is enough I know that much

I got no idea on what kinda cases/features I should be looking at

Can anyone please help me keep within my budget and teach me what to look out for?

More about : building htpc

September 19, 2011 11:16:00 PM

Streaming is very light duty usage. Any modern setup will do with one caveat. AMD Zacate processors struggle with Silverlight (Netflix) HD streaming because Silverlight does not support hardware acceleration. That goes for Atom/Ion as well.

For just streaming duties, you'd be fine with a dual core Llano A4 CPU, or a low-end socket 1155 Intel Pentium or Celeron. Wattage will be very low with these setups... less than 70W most likely during full load.
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September 19, 2011 11:25:09 PM

Hmm ok, can you guys recommend some nice cases? Im guessing Mini ATX is a good choice? Im looking for the DVD horizontal lookin kinda cases which are mostly mATX if Im not mistaken

I wanna gonna go with a CX430, because it's a great PSU, doesnt look all crappy, and is like $25 after rebates

I went with the A4, 4GB of RAM, a mini ATX FM1 mobo from ASUS (a bit less than $100)

How bout the optical drive? Does it depend on the case, or do most of em get standard sized drives or what?
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September 19, 2011 11:35:03 PM

Silverstone and Lian Li make some mighty fine HTPC cases that look like AV equipment. Moneual does too. There's also a newcomer called Wesena that makes some nice aluminum cases.

If your budget won't allow those, then nMediaPC has some inexpensive cases that are good.

One case I've been tempted to play around with is made by Gigabyte. It's ITX though and limited to 65W, but I looks just like a DVD player (GZ-SPIM51-P0B, don't use the VESA mount).

Anyway, mATX is the sweet spot for most HTPC cases.
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September 19, 2011 11:40:45 PM

Ok, so how bout the optical, is that a regular 5.25? I feel like thats a bit big, I know there are some slim drives but Im guessing theyre less reliable and less common even for HTPC? Or am I mistaken?

I know regular 3.5 HDDs arent a prob, so thats fine

Anything else an HTPC needs or may find useful?

I can use all the info I can get, I wanna be well informed
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September 20, 2011 12:07:12 AM

reaper2794 said:
Ok, so how bout the optical, is that a regular 5.25? I feel like thats a bit big, I know there are some slim drives but Im guessing theyre less reliable and less common even for HTPC? Or am I mistaken?

That would depend on the case, a few only works with slimline, but most use a normal 5.25 ODD.

reaper2794 said:
Anything else an HTPC needs or may find useful?

Remote control? Cordless keyboard/mouse? A case with a VFD to give it that final touch?

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September 20, 2011 12:10:51 AM

Hmm, whats VFD? It's a $400 budget, I havent added case, ODD or PSU yet, and it's bout $270 atm, the cases are mostly like $100-150 for a nice one

I got a keyboard and mouse, how would the remote work with the HTPC in a sense, what would be the receiver for it and what are the advantages and so forth, I dont want some dinky crap
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September 20, 2011 12:41:06 AM

When you say streaming video to a HDTV I'm assuming you mean your PC is hooked up to your TV and you are streaming the media from either the HDD or some other source. Low power and quite are typically good qualities for a HTPC sitting near your TV/AV system.

If that is the case, you only need an old 2.8GHz dual core and an integrated Radeon HD4200 or better will play HD content (my current HTPC setup). With todays parts I'd probably pick up one of the AMD A4-3400's since they are capable of Bluray 3D so they are capable of everything else. The lower power the better because you won't need a fan spinning fast and loud to keep it cool.

For a case, that depends on budget and priorities. I got a small Hec 6T MicroATX case that is pretty much all black. It sits on the floor between some furniture and doesn't stand out, so that is perfect for me and it cost like $20. If you want, you can buy much more expensive cases that look a lot nicer.

For a PSU I highly suggest the Antec Earthwatts 380PSU. The smaller the PSU (rated 80+) the more efficient it will be. However, it is hard to find quality PSUs smaller than the Antec. You could get a PicoPSU, and go completely fanless, but it will cost more.

I'd get a SSD over a pretty case myself. I'd rather have silent and slightly ugly than a loud box that looks pretty, but that is a personal preference. When I built my HTPC a 2 years ago SSDs were still really expensive, but I'm looking into upgrading soon and installing a SSD.

What I would buy ----- newegg for prices, includes rebates.
CPU/GPU - AMD A4-3400 - $80
Motherboard - ASRock A75M-HVS Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - $70
RAM - 2x2GB DDR3-1333 - $25
DVD Burner - LG - $20
SSD - Patriot Pyro PP60GS25SSDR 2.5" 60GB - $75
PSU - Antec Earthwatts 380 - $40
OS - Ubuntu - $0
Wireless Keyboard+Mouse - Logitech M310 + K360 - $45 (amazon)
Case - $45 left, so buy whatever you think looks nice. With this setup you need to make sure it fits a standard ATX power supply and a Micro ATX board.

Now, you didn't say if you need to buy window (home premium OEM is $100). If you do need windows for Netflix, then you may need to scratch the SSD and buy a cheap HDD.
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September 20, 2011 12:48:14 AM

nordlead said:
When you say streaming video to a HDTV I'm assuming you mean your PC is hooked up to your TV and you are streaming the media from either the HDD or some other source. Low power and quite are typically good qualities for a HTPC sitting near your TV/AV system.

Yeah stuff like netflix and hwat not

If that is the case, you only need an old 2.8GHz dual core and an integrated Radeon HD4200 or better will play HD content (my current HTPC setup). With todays parts I'd probably pick up one of the AMD A4-3400's since they are capable of Bluray 3D so they are capable of everything else. The lower power the better because you won't need a fan spinning fast and loud to keep it cool.

Yeah I went with the A4, I hear the lower the TDP or TWP or whatever it is, the less noise since the fan wont need to work as hard

For a case, that depends on budget and priorities. I got a small Hec 6T MicroATX case that is pretty much all black. It sits on the floor between some furniture and doesn't stand out, so that is perfect for me and it cost like $20. If you want, you can buy much more expensive cases that look a lot nicer.

The case doesnt gotta be pricy, I just cant have it be dinky and ugly and bulge out of nowhere and stuff

For a PSU I highly suggest the Antec Earthwatts 380PSU. The smaller the PSU (rated 80+) the more efficient it will be. However, it is hard to find quality PSUs smaller than the Antec. You could get a PicoPSU, and go completely fanless, but it will cost more.

Ill check that out, I just hate the very barebone looking PSUs, Im very picky

I'd get a SSD over a pretty case myself. I'd rather have silent and slightly ugly than a loud box that looks pretty, but that is a personal preference. When I built my HTPC a 2 years ago SSDs were still really expensive, but I'm looking into upgrading soon and installing a SSD.

The computer will be on often, I am ok with waiting for stuff to boot, SSDs rock definitely, Ill consider it

What I would buy ----- newegg for prices, includes rebates.
CPU/GPU - AMD A4-3400 - $80
Motherboard - ASRock A75M-HVS Micro ATX AMD Motherboard - $70
RAM - 2x2GB DDR3-1333 - $25
DVD Burner - LG - $20
SSD - Patriot Pyro PP60GS25SSDR 2.5" 60GB - $75
PSU - Antec Earthwatts 380 - $40
OS - Ubuntu - $0
Wireless Keyboard+Mouse - Logitech M310 + K360 - $45 (amazon)
Case - $45 left, so buy whatever you think looks nice. With this setup you need to make sure it fits a standard ATX power supply and a Micro ATX board.

Now, you didn't say if you need to buy window (home premium OEM is $100). If you do need windows for Netflix, then you may need to scratch the SSD and buy a cheap HDD.
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September 20, 2011 12:50:14 AM

reaper2794 said:
Hmm, whats VFD? It's a $400 budget, I havent added case, ODD or PSU yet, and it's bout $270 atm, the cases are mostly like $100-150 for a nice one

I got a keyboard and mouse, how would the remote work with the HTPC in a sense, what would be the receiver for it and what are the advantages and so forth, I dont want some dinky crap


I find a wireless mouse+keyboard is sufficient for me. A remote is nice and makes your PC work like a DVD player, but they work best with programs like Windows Media Center, XBMC, or Boxee. And if you want to search youtube or whatever typing is much faster on a keyboard than with a remote. Most remotes are IR, and run ~$20.
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September 20, 2011 10:23:39 PM

With your budget ($400) and basic requirements (watching HD), you could go Intel and still be cheaper than the current AMD offerings.

Intel Celeron G530 Sandy Bridge 2.4GHz dual-core
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$57

ASRock H61M/U3S3 LGA 1155 Intel H61 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$70

$127 vs $150.

Sure, the IGP isn't as powerful as Llano (it's similar to the Clarksdale IGP) but either are plenty for what you want to do. The more power you'd be buying is more power you would not use.

Take the money you save there and invest in a good 64GB SSD for your boot drive. It makes all the difference in the world. It's not just booting, it's also application launching, bringing up the guide, a whole mess of other things that are crazy faster. I've had both 7200rpm drives and SSDs in my HTPCs and the difference is about as noticeable as it gets.

I have the 2.6GHz SandyBridge and an ASUS H61 motherboard for one of my HTPC setups. I can watch HD movies, HD TV, listening to music and all that stuff. It consumes around 40W-50W as measure by me with a kill-a-watt while viewing HD. It's great.

If you want a case that looks like an AVR, check out the nMediaPC cases. I have the 1000b and like it very much. It's a perfect match to my receiver. I've built HTPCs with Lian-Li, Antec, etc. and while they are nicer in someways and not in others, if it's a budget PC you're after you can't beat nMediaPC cases.

The Antec EA-380D PSU as recommended is the way to go.

This is my favorite HTPC keyboard:

IOGEAR GKM561R Black 2.4GHz Wireless HTPC Multimedia Keyboard with Laser Trackball and Scroll Wheel
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$45
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September 20, 2011 10:32:58 PM

A Celeron with 2 reviews? I am an Intel guy myself but I wont go for a Celeron over the APUs

and I cant stand barebone Antec cases, especially not their Earth Watts series, as barebone and crappy as they get

Are you suggesting I get just an SSD and no HDD? How big is Windows 7 when it's installed again?
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September 20, 2011 10:44:52 PM

In all fairness, the Sandy Bridge Celerons have only been available for about a week or two so 2 reviews isn't a bad mark. They actually perform quite well, typically better than an Athlon X2.

If you are just streaming, then 64GB is plenty for Win7 + apps.

I agree about Antec EW being fugly, but they do put out clean power and are reliable.
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September 20, 2011 10:54:17 PM

Yeah you're right about the PSU but I am very picky, it needs to be good quality, the CX430 from Corsair will be good for me

and I forgot that it was Sandy Bridge, sorry Im a bit tired, it's SB so that is a good choice

The H61 chipset will allow me to use the integrated graphics yes?

Which other chipsets will work with that CPU, and which ones are recommended? Difference between the chipsets?

and why that mobo over this: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

?
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September 20, 2011 10:59:38 PM

That motherboard doesn't have HDMI or DVI out... only 15-pin analog = no good.

H61 has fewer USB and no SATA 6.0 if I remember right. You could also look at H67 or Z68 chipsets if you want more features but you'll pay more $$$.
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September 20, 2011 11:02:58 PM

Alrighty got ya, I just didnt spend much time looking at it due to some stuff Im working on atm, so yeah haha, Im not a super noob, just didnt bother looking closely

Check out this comparison between these 2: http://goo.gl/g0YUL

The mobo I found is better by a bit :D 

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

Smaller
6 audio ports instead of 3
Better sound chipset
8 audio channels instead of 6
6 USB2.0 ports instead of 4

The build wont be using USB 3.0 or SATA III so those features on the mobo shown by the other person are irrelevant (for this build)
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