I want to build a very small, very inexpensive, HTPC. I want it to be able to handle 1080P video smoothly and cleanly, including both live video (ATSC) and streaming from the web. I will be using Linux / Myth / XBMC, not Windows.
This computer will never be used for gaming. Other than video and audio playback, the only thing it might be used for is to access the web.
I have been considering four different platforms:
Atom D525 with the built-in ION2 graphics
AMD E-350 with the built-in Radeon HD 6310 graphics
Intel i3-2100T with the built-in HD graphics
AMD A6-3650 APU with built-in Radeon 6530 HD graphics
Based on everything I've read, I am getting frustrated. I think the i3 and Llano solutions are probably overkill because I've seen commercial HTPC products that utilize the two low-end solutions.
Can anyone confirm that I can get good quality results with the first two items on my list? As a point of reference, today I went out and bought a WD TV Live at Best Buy for $99 just to test whether I would be satisfied with streamed video on my TV. It's clearly not as good as what I can get free over the air (ATSC), but it was okay. I would hope that either of the first two items on my list can do better than that.
I just don't want to spend $400 - 500 on a project, only to discover that it isn't even close to what I get from DirecTV.
Any input from experienced builders would be welcome.
EDIT: Oh yeah, I already have a Blu-Ray player, so I do NOT intend to play Blu-Ray discs on this computer.
@ thatasianone - While the Core I5 2500K probably does provide the necessary video playback performance, at $220, it's way over budget for this build. An AMD AthlonII X2 250, AM3 motherboard, and AMD HD6450 would provide just as good video playback performance at $65 cheaper than just the Core I5 2500K alone.
@realitybytez - I've always preferred having a bit of overkill in my HTPC. That way, there's never any doubt (or at least, there shouldn't be). Unfortunately, I don't have any experience with any of the processors/graphic solutions you've listed, but doing a basic build, I've come up with the following HTPC:
Case/Power Supply: hec Micro-ATX Media Center Case w/ 300 watt PSU - $60 - Low Profile HTPC case with enough power to handle an HTPC type graphics card.
Motherboard: ASRock 880GM-LE Motherboard - $55 - Probably the weak link in this build, but cost effective. Older Northbridge offset by having a discreet graphics card. Selected this board more for it's PCI-E slot placements which places the TV Tuner card above the graphics card (better cooling).
CPU: AMD Athlon II X2 250 - $62 - More than enough for your purposes. I'm currently running an Athlon II X2 240 in my HTPC with a Ceton InfiniTV4 card installed.
RAM: G.Skill 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3-1333 RAM - $20 - Sufficient for the tasks at hand.
Graphics Card: Gigabyte Radeon HD6450 - $40 ($20 MIR) - Again, I prefer to have a little extra.
Hard Drive: Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB SATA 3.0 Hard Drive - $150 - Unfortunately, this is the real killer. Due to the flooding in the Far East, cost of hard drives have skyrocketed. I purchased this exact drive only a couple months ago at 1/3rd the cost. You can save some cash by going with a lower capacity drive.
Optical Drive: LG SATA CD/DVD Drive Burner - $21 - Basic, no frills optical drive
TV Tuner Card: Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-1850 MCE Kit - $98 - Verify this will work with DirecTV before purchasing any components. No experience with DirecTV here (only Comcast Cable). Quality component that shouldn't give you any problems. Also has remote control (not sure if the remote works with Linux).
I can chime in with some E-350 experience. Yes, it can handle any media that you throw at it (including OTA ATSC HDTV) with two exceptions:
#1 Netflix HD streaming (slideshow... must use standard def streams)
#2 1080p60 (some camcorders use this format)
The same would apply to an ion setup because it has the same limitations. Your best bet is either the i3, Llano, or a cheap CPU plus cheap graphics card as suggested above.
Just wanted to say thank you for your reply. I was strongly considering the E-350 barebones from Zotac. But streming Netflix HD is important to me.
I have to say that I have been doing hours and hours of research on this subject, and there is an incredible amount of conflicting information out there on the wild wild web. I've seen reviewers state that the E-350 and the Atom D525 systems both handle streaming of HD content just fine, and then I've read others like yourself who state that neither of these platforms can handle streaming of HD content satisfactorily.
I've also read reviews that stated that even the Intel i3 with integrated HD2000 graphics can't handle the HD streaming from the web very well. The latest reviews on the Llano platform seem to indicate that it can handle everything, so I will probably go with this platform. The good news is that the Llano platform not only has integrated graphics, but it allows you to leverage the integrated graphics with a discrete video card in SLI mode.
Now, if the hard drive prices would just come back down to something reasonable, I'd be set.