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Final Comments on my $750 HTPC build?

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November 17, 2011 2:18:59 AM

Thanks for everyone with suggestions in my initial thread here.

I decided to pull the trigger on this stuff before I go home to visit the family for Thanksgiving next week.

Would appreciate any final comments, guidelines on these choices.

Main purpose: HTPC build with casual gaming capability, encoding, occasional secondary PC usage. Sleek design with upgradability options while minimizing noise/heat.

Processor: AMD A8-3850 - $140.00 - Went with the high end llano, small investment up from the A6 for a sizable increase in power.

MoBo: ASUS F1A75-V EVO - $120.00 (after MIR) - Reviews were a toss-up. I went with this one for all the ports/upgrade paths.

Case: nMedia 6000b with optional Blue LCD - $100.00 ($70+$30) - Seemed to have everything at a good price. Some negative reviews on build quality of nMedia cases. But it is black and sleek, fits ATX, and seemed to have average to better comments on noise/heat.

RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3 1866 - F3-14900CL9D-8GBXL - $70.00 - I hear that with the llano you want to go at least 1600. I'm not sure if 1866 is overkill, or if I will see some benefit. This particular model is on the compatability list for the chosen Asus mobo. 8GB is probably more than I need, but with RAM so cheap, I figure I'd throw it in.

HDD: OCZ Vertex 3 VTX3-25SAT3-120G 2.5" 120GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) - $142.00 (after MIR) - Decided to do an SSD for boot and throw in a spare SATA II drive until prices come down. Then I can consider adding a small RAID internally or an external NAS. Was going to go with a slightly lower model till this one just went on sale.

Optical : LG WH12LS30 - $70.00 - Drive seems well rated on access times and on Dual layer speeds. LG is supposedly pretty reliable too.

Power Supply: Seasonic SS-460FL Active PFC F3, 460W Fanless ATX12V Fanless 80Plus Gold Certified, Modular Power Supply- $105 (after MIR) Fanless, modular, at a good price. From what I hear, this thing is nice. Hopefully I will not upgrade this system past 460W in the future

Total is right about $750 after about $60 in MIRs.

I will also be moving a 2TB drive with a good chunk of my media from my main PC. May upgrade to some additional drives down the road. I also still need to find a good IR receiver for my universal remote, and maybe a BT wireless combo. I figure within the next 3-6 months another $250 will go into this getting all the little tidbits I want.

Would appreciate any feedback or suggestions - as it's not too late!

thx
November 17, 2011 2:25:48 AM

i say go with it
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November 17, 2011 2:31:01 AM

Obviously wait for some input from someone who has a lot more knowledge than me(my screenname is certainly no lie), and obvi if llano is your thing then fine... but for me personally Im not positive that at that price point for the cpu and mobo, llano is where you want to be...and I readily admit that it is possible im just flat out wrong, just for me Im a lil stuck myself and on the fence with similar products as you...
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November 17, 2011 2:51:56 AM

Over kill RAM for HTPC. No need for that unless OC.

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November 17, 2011 3:17:52 AM

@newbhtpc - not sure what you mean about the price point for the llano/mb. I could certainly go with an i3 system at a comparable cost for CPU, but then I'd be spending at least $50 to get the GPU on par with llano and have one more component generating heat/noise. One could debate the merits of either combination, but honestly that isn't where the cost of this box is coming from. The higher price point for this box is due mainly to my choice of SSD, case option, and power supply. Easily $200+ can be knocked off by choosing lesser of these.

@Pyree - what about the RAM is overkill? The amount of the speed? Is this all I would need?
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November 17, 2011 3:56:05 AM

The price and performance. You don't need to pay for the faster speed because you are not going to OC (it is a HTPC so cooling is not that good so I assume you are not going to attempt OC).

The second choice is good. Saving yourself a nice amount of beer money which you can drink when you are watching a video on your new HTPC!

Also, good choice of PSU. Don't worry about the PSU not powerful enough. A gold certified 460W is good enough for a mid to mid-high range GPU, if you feel the need of an upgrade.
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November 17, 2011 4:17:00 AM

My comment really stemmed from my own paralysis and indecision on either going a lil cheaper as suggested to me here

http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/326308-31-newb-htpc-b...

or going more expensive/ different socket with trinity/the future in general pending....low end graphics card to stay out of FM1 just in case?

Side note: its only mentioned in one of the reviews on Newegg but does that optical drive come with software for BR playback?

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

As always my comments are based on my own inexperience and lack of knowledge.
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November 17, 2011 5:24:30 AM

@pyree - thanks. going to see if I can modify my order with that other ram. Price to ship it back will end up saving me only $30 in the long run, so I may just end up with it.

@newbhtpc - I actually read your thread as I was starting to put this together. Honestly, I would recommend you stick with the AMDs, and go with a cheaper model like the A4 or so. You can probably get your whole setup closer to the $350-400 mark and have it do what you need. At that price point don't worry about upgradability. I don't think bluray software is a big deal to get a hold of if my drive doesn't come with it...but I'll revisit your selection in the am.
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November 17, 2011 5:33:01 AM

The BD software is a must. Otherwise you will not be able to watch BD. I haven't found a good free BD player yet.
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November 17, 2011 5:41:48 AM

Yeah. I have to agree with the 4gb.
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November 17, 2011 6:12:45 PM

@newbhtpc/pyree - The Samsung suggested is just a bluray player - not a burner. The reviews for my LG drive may be a bit misleasing - as some indicate it has software and others say none. I'm not too concerned as I believe I have a copy of PowerDVD that will do the job.

---------------------------------------

Newegg wouldn't let me make charges to the order after payment was processed - and I couldn't cancel it because the SSD was now sold out, and I would have been unable to ad it back to my cart. They did tell me they wouldn't charge a restock fee though if I wanted to send back unopened. So, I'm going to look for any better deals over the next week on holiday and ship back anything I don't need. I may be able to shave another $50-100 off the total price.

Question regarding the RAM amounts with the built in GPU on the llano - How does it utilize the RAM. Wouldn't having more RAM equate to some better performance when gaming?
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November 17, 2011 6:48:16 PM

More RAM is better but for a HTPC and light gaming build, 8GB is plenty.
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November 17, 2011 7:39:03 PM

There is nothing wrong with the build, but just a few thoughts.

You really only need 4GB for a HTPC. Mine is running 2GB, but I really don't game on it at all. 4GB would be sufficient for a HTPC. 8GB is more than enough, but it is cheap enough I guess. Also, I wouldn't go above DDR3-1600 CL9 since you really won't get any benefit. I wouldn't OC anything, since you want to reduce heat & noise. The more heat you generate, the more fans you'll need, and the more noise it'll generate.

Depending on how you define light gaming, an A8 is a good choice because it has the best IGP. If you weren't gaming (or if it was only flash gaming, or maybe something as light as spiral knights which runs on my HD4200 integrated graphics) you could easily go down to a A4-3400. If you didn't care about gaming at all I'd suggest an i3.

I wouldn't buy a ATX motherboard. mATX is more appropriate for a HTPC. You want to make this thing small, and you really don't need a lot of expansion slots. I mean, if you have wireless (most common are USB/PCIe x1), a discrete GPU (PCIe x16), and a capture card (PCI/PCIe x1/PCIe x16) you won't run out of expansion slots unless you buy everything to fit the same socket. The ASUS F1A75-M FM1 AMD A75 would have everything you need in a smaller form factor. The only reason this motherboard wouldn't suffice is if you were planning on going SLI which isn't really suitable for a HTPC.

Obviously with a mATX board, you should buy a smaller mATX case. Buy whatever you think looks nice. If you are into modding, you can do some really cool stuff for a case. Currently I'm looking into doing something like - http://slipperyskip.com/page17.html - I just need to find the right antique piece of junk I can gut out :D 

Also, if you already keep your main PC on 24/7 (or at least when you are awake) I'd suggest leaving the HDD in the other PC and sharing the files. HDDs in HTPCs make a good bit of noise (you can hear the heads moving back and forth). All my HDDs are in my file server in my basement (a Atom D525).
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November 17, 2011 9:06:04 PM

@nordlead - all decent points. I went with ATX and the bigger case for upgrade purposes. Initially I will only be putting in the SSD and possibly one other 3.5" drive. Currently I do have my main PC on 24/7 and also have another server running 24/7 as well. However I may be retiring my main PC and the server is mostly for work and at this point I do not believe I want to host my media on it. Obviously people build ATX HTPCs, or there wouldn't be a market for cases that support them :D 

Down the road I will probably look at building another NAS (maybe converting my main PC) but I'm not sure how this will pan out, and I wanted the ability to throw a few extra drives in the HTPC if that needs to serve as my main media library. There is also the issue of the wireless network which is currently on 2.4GHZ and experience interference from the Microwave, etc. I would like to upgrade to dual-band, or maybe run some wiring - but again not sure how this will all pan out.

I may decide to throw a tuner card in, and although I don't forsee it - perhaps I'll throw in an SLI setup in a year when I can get the other card sub $50 and if I am doing enough gaming.

In the end it came down to a $400-500 build that would have been closer to what you described, but would not provide me as many options, vs the $700-800 build I put together which should last me through quite a few years and will be versatile enough if my needs change.
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November 17, 2011 9:19:24 PM

nMediaPC makes really nice case and then OEMs a really lousy LCD. Prepare to be disappointed with the LCD. All I wanted was to be able to have the clock show and read it from my couch. No chance.

At least it will say "Goodbye, Master" when you turn it off. It's know its place ;) 
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November 17, 2011 9:59:32 PM

:na:  WARNING: Owning a Home Theater PC (HTPC) may cause significant side effects to your social life and serious damage to your financial status! :na: 

I've been an HTPC owner for a number of years now and I can honestly say I regret going with a Micro-ATX case/motherboard. My HTPC is enclosed in an NMediaPC 200BA Micro-ATX case which has three 3.5" hard drive bays. The problem is, they're all right next to each other. Stuffing three hard drives in there would almost certainly create an over-heating issue (I also live on the top floor, south west corner of a small, poorly cooled apartment complex). So while the case advertises three hard drive bays, I should only use two (currently using just one).

Additionally, while you may not need all of the expansion slots an ATX motherboard provides, you may prefer to space out your expansion cards. Right now, I have to have my Ceton InfiniTV4 card (which can get extremely hot) mounted right next to my graphics card (Radeon HD4670). Fortunately, it hasn't caused me any problems. I do, however, foresee a time when I will eventually have to upgrade the entire system again (new ATX case, new motherboard, more hard drives, RAID card).

Better to get what you think you might need now rather than regret it later.

-Wolf sends
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November 17, 2011 10:10:49 PM

Wolf, your warning should include a marriage clause too.
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November 17, 2011 10:24:31 PM

@dougie - Yeah I'm not expecting wonders from the the LCD. Honestly I liked the case and the LCD just fills the spot. I wonder if you used the older green LCDs or the new Blue ones? I probably will just have it read out the inside temp the whole time.

@ wolf - yup, that was my reasoning. I mean some may say just spend the $350-400 now and then you can spend another $400 2 years from now on the next thing. I suppose that's one way to look at it - but quite honestly I don't have the time to devote rebuilding every 2 years. I look at most of my purchases in at least a 5 year time frame, and am rarely an early adopter. I think as-is my system provides the growth and even after that it can probably do pretty good duty as a non-htpc PC with minor changes. My current PC I built about 10 years ago and did one overhaul about 5 years ago - still running fairly strong on an Athlon 64 3200 setup (think some MoBo ports might be flaking out though).

I also think than an ATX board is not going to be any worse in an ATX case than a mATX would be (sound/noise/power wise) until you start actually using it. At that point you've made the decision to have the higher functionality at the increase of heat. And, just as you said I think an ATX case, if you have the room (no bigger than an AVR) provides more airflow opportunities.
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November 17, 2011 11:23:18 PM

:na:  WARNING: Owning a Home Theater PC (HTPC) may cause significant side effects to your social life, increase Husband/Wife Aggro Factor (H/WAF), and serious damage to your financial status! :na: 

Fortunately, I'm not married, so, for me, the WAF isn't an issue.

@ Bhendin - I truly hope you can stick to that idea. Over the past six or seven years, my HTPC has been 100% overhauled twice and upgraded more times than I care to count.

It started, innocently enough, with a PCMCIA TV Tuner card ($45) for my laptop. Then I upgraded my main system to a 22" widescreen monitor ($300). Now I had to get an ATI All-In-Wonder card ($300) for my main PC (only had a 19" 4x3 TV at the time) and decided it was time for a serious upgrade ($500).

Then I made the *MONSTEROUS" mistake. I bought a projector ($600)! We are talking "Home Theater" here! Even worse, it was about a year before Blu-Ray and HD-DVD went mainstream, so my projector was not HDCP compliant. Then I moved into my new apartment and went from a 60" screen to a 135" screen, I say, "screen", but it was actually just a piece of screen material that a buddy of mine lent to me and I had tacked up. I also decided that it was time for complete overhaul #1 ($600). Eventually, I had to get a true movie screen ($125 @ 70% off - Got lucky there) and a new surround sound system ($300).

Then I made the "mistake" of upgrading to Windows 7 ($100) (which doesn't support live tv playback on the X1xxx series All-In-Wonder cards). So that meant getting yet another new TV Tuner card ($110). About a year later, I was having an itch to build a new system and my HTPC really was over-kill for what it was doing (Intel Core2Duo E6600). My buddy calls me up and says his computer just died. I sell him my HTPC (repurposed) and build my current system ($550-$200 selling price).

Finally, over the last six months, I've added the Ceton InfiniTV card ($300), added a Blu-Ray Drive ($50) and an HDCP compliant 1080p projector ($950 with ceiling mount). The next upgrade will be the additional items I need to actually mount the projector on the ceiling (PowerBridge - $60 and UPS - $110) and eventually, I'll get to building some sort of storage/backup solution ($600).

Beware, my friend! :??: 

-Wolf sends

P.S. WAF would have stopped me at the laptop!
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November 17, 2011 11:42:33 PM

@Wolf - sounds like we had some similar situations. My Athlon machine was originally running an ATI all-in-wonder (This was about 10 years ago) - when I would watch a little PIP while doing school work and web browsing.

About 6 years ago I bought a Sanyo Z3 projector while I was in an apartment with a HUGE white wall to put it up on. I moved out just about a year after that and since that time I have (after about two years) had my Z3 mounted on the ceiling an purchased a motorized screen. But, due to my speaker setup not being logistically possible in my layout, I haven't had any audio setup. I gave my old onkyo with those speakers to my brother-in-law a couple x-mas ago.

Finally now I am buying everything new, AVR, TV, speakers, HTPC. You made me go and check to make sure my Z3 was HDCP compliant (lucky it is!). Unfortunately it's only 720p, but it has sat unused for several years and thus is basically new (maybe a total of 100 hours max on it). So I don't think I will plan on upgrading that until either I move again or it dies on me.

That powerbridge looks interesting - never heard of it before. I will need to research it.
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November 17, 2011 11:54:48 PM

I only discovered the PowerBridge about a month ago. They say that you really don't want to use an extension cord for your projector. I just dropped $1K on mine and don't want to do anything that might damage it. That's when I discovered the PowerBridge. Primarily, it's function is to hide the cables from wall mounted HDTVs, but it would also work (with a lengthier Romex cable) in our situations.

-Wolf sends
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November 18, 2011 12:57:56 PM

I must be spoiled with my file/backup server storing all the disk drives. Personally, I'd never put a HDD in a HTPC unless I needed it for a boot drive. While I still have fans in my PC (CPU and PSU) a HDD is way more noticeable than the fans in my experience. If you do have the HDDs in the HTPC, suspend them in the case so it doesn't amplify the sound.

I have a 55" LED LCD TV, with 5.1 (well, I have 7.1 but I disabled the rear two since almost no movies use them and I wanted to use the two speakers for something else) Yamaha AVR with NHT speakers. When I lived with my parents I used to stop all the clocks so I wouldn't hear the ticking during the movie. While a massive screen and a projector would be nice, the TV gets used for daily use and the projector just wouldn't be convenient.

I've come so close to buying a TV capture card, but with everything I'm interested in available either the next day or a few weeks later online, I haven't bothered. Yea, I might have to watch 1-2 commercials per break, but I can deal with that and I don't have to spend $100 on a good capture card either.
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December 3, 2011 7:08:51 PM

Just wanted to thank everyone for the input. I ordered everything shortly before Thanksgiving and just yesterday put it all together. I don't have much to report back yet since all I have done is install Windows 7 64-bit on it. I have to buy some cables to properly hook it up to the TV and begin some more stress testing and then of course set up my media centers and figure out how to automate everything.

I decided to return the GSKILL RAM listed above and go with 8GB of Kingston KHX1600C9D3X2K2/8GX that I picked up at Fry's for <$30. I also have coming the Lenovo Multimedia Remote which I picked up for ~$35.

I have however written a review of the nMedia 6000B case, the Seasonic Fanless, and the OCZ Vertex 3 SSD. You should find them all on Newegg (they may still be under approval) with the nickname BH.

Overall the finished product in the nMedia case looks very nice (some pain points with internal of case, but overall not much). The OCZ drive gave me hours of trouble on the main SATA controller in AHCI mode, but other than that not too many issues.
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