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What do you think of this budget HTPC build?

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December 1, 2011 11:36:23 PM

Fair warning: This is the first time I'll be building a PC, so I've decided to start with a budget HTPC.

What do you think of this build? I expect to buy a few of the items from Newegg and a few of them from Microcenter. I have two $40 for $20 deals to spend at Newegg, afterall.

Newegg wishlist: http://secure.newegg.com/WishList/PublicWishDetail.aspx...

Will that RAM work with my build? I've heard that DDR3 1600 is decent, but I dont know if I need to fill 2 slots out of the 4, or if I can fill just one.

I expect to either use an old HDD that I'll take from an old PC or I'll look for a good deal later on.

Thanks for looking!

More about : budget htpc build

December 2, 2011 11:40:19 AM

Does anyone want to give an opinion?
a b B Homebuilt system
December 2, 2011 12:41:06 PM

1600 will be fine. Your sticks are not on Gigabyte's compatibility list, but they themselves say they can't test every memory module out there. They should be OK.

If you use a single stick, you will not be running Dual Channel, which will slow your computer just a tad. Tom's did a test, and the difference was small, but it might be just the nudge that will take a game into playable FPS, so do use two or four sticks.
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December 2, 2011 1:06:38 PM

Petrofsky said:
1600 will be fine. Your sticks are not on Gigabyte's compatibility list, but they themselves say they can't test every memory module out there. They should be OK.

If you use a single stick, you will not be running Dual Channel, which will slow your computer just a tad. Tom's did a test, and the difference was small, but it might be just the nudge that will take a game into playable FPS, so do use two or four sticks.


Thanks for the advice, the folks at AVS forum pointed out these sticks, which end up being cheaper after the mail-in rebate. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

What do you think of the build, overall?
a b B Homebuilt system
December 2, 2011 1:31:35 PM


You don't need 1600MHz memory for an HTPC (or dual-channel, as pointed out).

And you don't need to spend $275 for a cpu/mobo. Slash this and buy an SSD.

a b B Homebuilt system
December 2, 2011 1:39:35 PM

pman555 said:
What do you think of the build, overall?


The mobo website was apparently written by a Chinese guy who takes pride in his English. It says that for full audio, you need an "HD front panel audio module". Thing is, that phrase appears nowhere on the Internet except on the Gigabyte website, so there's no telling what they're talking about. It doesn't bode well for easy HDMI audio, though. You might want to look at a sound card or a mobo better suited for HT. I don't know much abput those doohickeys, though, so I'll let an HTPC guy take it from here. If nobody answers, I'll do what I can.
December 2, 2011 1:52:47 PM

Wisecracker said:
You don't need 1600MHz memory for an HTPC (or dual-channel, as pointed out).

And you don't need to spend $275 for a cpu/mobo. Slash this and buy an SSD.


Is installing the OS on a 60GB SSD really that big of a performance advantage?
Also, the reason I was getting a Z68 mobo and a better processor is because I dont want to skimp out too much on this. I was thinking of possibly using it for light gaming and to future proof it in case i want to expand and use the computer for CAD work.

If you still think its unnecessary, do you have any suggestions for mobo and cpu?

Petrofsky said:
The mobo website was apparently written by a Chinese guy who takes pride in his English. It says that for full audio, you need an "HD front panel audio module". Thing is, that phrase appears nowhere on the Internet except on the Gigabyte website, so there's no telling what they're talking about. It doesn't bode well for easy HDMI audio, though. You might want to look at a sound card or a mobo better suited for HT. I don't know much abput those doohickeys, though, so I'll let an HTPC guy take it from here. If nobody answers, I'll do what I can.


Thanks for the research! I actually dont plan on using HDMI audio right now as both of my home theater system's HDMI inputs are taken. I was planning using HDMI video and optical audio.
a b B Homebuilt system
December 2, 2011 2:52:26 PM

The front panel HD audio that Gigabyte is referring to is standard on all modern motherboards with a halfway decent audio chipset. The old front panel audio is the legacy AC'97. In any case, the front panel audio will only matter if you plan to use headphones plugged into your HTPC. Optical audio will run off of the motherboard's audio chip. HDMI audio will come from the integrated HDMI on the intel CPU, BTW so it's independent from the motherboard audio.

For the motherboard, a Z68 will only add overclocking (moot point because you've selected a locked CPU), DDR3-1600+ support, and SSD caching. You could easily drop to an H67 motherboard and DDR3-1333 (or still get DDR3-1600 if prices are equal, but it will only run at 1333 speed) to save some money.

For the SSD... to get one or not can be a hot topic around here. Many say it's useless for HTPC use since it is mostly for quick boot times and a properly setup HTPC uses S3 sleep. I'm of the opposite opinion myself ever since I've made the switch to SSD, back to HDD, then went (running) back to SSD again on my HTPC's. Here is why:

#1 Even 5400rpm green drives were audible to me with the drone of spinning platters and the read/write clicking. I demand near silence on my HTPC's.

#2 SSD's run cooler than HDD's and helps keep case temps down, which in turn let's me run fans at slower rpm.

#3 SSD's are mostly 2.5" drives, and I like my HTPC's to be small. 2.5" laptop HDD's are painfully slow for my tastes. This is not an issue for larger HTPC's.

#4 I've had at least one experience that I had to reboot an HTPC while I had company over ... I was very grateful that it took about 30s to get up and running instead of having my guests sit there with their popcorn watching a stupid computer complete it's boot and load startup programs for 2 minutes or so.

#5 If you have a large movie collection with folder/backdrop art and meta data it gets cached on the OS drive. An SSD makes browsing large movie collections in a front end like Media Browser much more enjoyable and snappy as it loads this data.

#6 I'm not old, but I'm old enough to have paid $100+ for a 40GB hard drive when that was 'big' so SSD price doesn't seem that bad to me.

YMMV, but I thought some of the points above are things you may not have considered in your decision making.

Good luck on your HTPC project.
December 2, 2011 3:00:38 PM

rwpritchett said:
The front panel HD audio that Gigabyte is referring to is standard on all modern motherboards with a halfway decent audio chipset. The old front panel audio is the legacy AC'97. In any case, the front panel audio will only matter if you plan to use headphones plugged into your HTPC. Optical audio will run off of the motherboard's audio chip. HDMI audio will come from the integrated HDMI on the intel CPU, BTW so it's independent from the motherboard audio.

For the motherboard, a Z68 will only add overclocking (moot point because you've selected a locked CPU), DDR3-1600+ support, and SSD caching. You could easily drop to an H67 motherboard and DDR3-1333 (or still get DDR3-1600 if prices are equal, but it will only run at 1333 speed) to save some money.

For the SSD... to get one or not can be a hot topic around here. Many say it's useless for HTPC use since it is mostly for quick boot times and a properly setup HTPC uses S3 sleep. I'm of the opposite opinion myself ever since I've made the switch to SSD, back to HDD, then went (running) back to SSD again on my HTPC's. Here is why:

#1 Even 5400rpm green drives were audible to me with the drone of spinning platters and the read/write clicking. I demand near silence on my HTPC's.

#2 SSD's run cooler than HDD's and helps keep case temps down, which in turn let's me run fans at slower rpm.

#3 SSD's are mostly 2.5" drives, and I like my HTPC's to be small. 2.5" laptop HDD's are painfully slow for my tastes. This is not an issue for larger HTPC's.

#4 I've had at least one experience that I had to reboot an HTPC while I had company over ... I was very grateful that it took about 30s to get up and running instead of having my guests sit there with their popcorn watching a stupid computer complete it's boot and load startup programs for 2 minutes or so.

#5 If you have a large movie collection with folder/backdrop art and meta data it gets cached on the OS drive. An SSD makes browsing large movie collections in a front end like Media Browser much more enjoyable and snappy as it loads this data.

#6 I'm not old, but I'm old enough to have paid $100+ for a 40GB hard drive when that was 'big' so SSD price doesn't seem that bad to me.

YMMV, but I thought some of the points above are things you may not have considered in your decision making.

Good luck on your HTPC project.



Thank you for your insightful response! I really appreciate this feedback.

If I were thinking of doing some light gaming on my machine (portal 2 for instance) would I be able to do that on a H67 mobo with the i3 2100? Would it improve with the Z68+i3 2125?
Or would I need a separate graphics card either way?
a b B Homebuilt system
December 2, 2011 3:27:52 PM

I would suspect the gaming would be similar as both packages would utilize the integrated HD2k graphics.

'Light gaming' is a trap :)  as it is subjective to all of us, but don't worry, it's even worse with AMD. Llano integrated graphic options will make your head spin, and for 'light gaming' might be a better option for you.
December 2, 2011 3:54:28 PM

Yes, installing your OS on a small SSD is a big deal. Same goes for your programs and apps.

Building an HTPC is an ambitious first build. Most of the issues come with size constraints with cases, power supplies and such. You have to do careful research on your dimensions to make sure everything will fit.

One thing you're missing is video. If you want to play blurays, videos and digital TV, you probably want a good video card. You also want to make sure you get quiet components. I recommend a passively cooled video card and power supply. Pay attention to your CPU cooler also. Sometimes HTPC cases hate tall coolers
a b B Homebuilt system
December 2, 2011 4:24:27 PM

A different take to get better gaming performance for cheaper (and still 3d blu-ray playback capable)

CPU: AMD A4-3400 - $70
Motherboard: ASUS F1A75-M PRO FM1 AMD A75 - $120
Combo: -$20
Case: what you picked - $70
PSU: what you picked - $25
RAM: what you picked - $15
SSD: OCZ Vertex 3 VTX3-25SAT3-60G 2.5" 60GB - $80

Total: $360 after rebates

The dual core @ 2.7GHz is plenty responsive for a HTPC. The Integrated 6410D is a good bit better than the HD3000. For less money you are also adding a synchronous NAND 60GB SSD.

You could step up to an A6-3500 for $20 and get better IGP, but you'll be decreasing the clock rate which will reduce the performance of single threaded applications.
December 2, 2011 4:46:52 PM

nordlead said:
A different take to get better gaming performance for cheaper (and still 3d blu-ray playback capable)

CPU: AMD A4-3400 - $70
Motherboard: ASUS F1A75-M PRO FM1 AMD A75 - $120
Combo: -$20
Case: what you picked - $70
PSU: what you picked - $25
RAM: what you picked - $15
SSD: OCZ Vertex 3 VTX3-25SAT3-60G 2.5" 60GB - $80

Total: $360 after rebates

The dual core @ 2.7GHz is plenty responsive for a HTPC. The Integrated 6410D is a good bit better than the HD3000. For less money you are also adding a synchronous NAND 60GB SSD.

You could step up to an A6-3500 for $20 and get better IGP, but you'll be decreasing the clock rate which will reduce the performance of single threaded applications.


Looks like a pretty good build! I'm not too well versed on AMD vs. Intel, but I've always felt like I trusted intel more than AMD.
I guess I have some tough decisions to make.
I'm probably being snobbier than my budget will allow :-)
December 2, 2011 4:58:19 PM

I have a beast htpc... and for me personally when HTPC comes to mind I believe the smaller the better. have you looked into using mini-itx with a DC power supply?

https://plus.google.com/photos/108227379284199907730/al...

^^core i5 650, 4 gb ddr3, laptop style power supply with dc -> atx card, intel mini-itx board dh57j
a b B Homebuilt system
December 2, 2011 5:00:53 PM

Well, the Intel processor is definitely more powerful than the AMD, but the graphics are better on the AMD. For gaming the IGP is going to be more important since it'll always be the bottleneck compared to the CPU. If you didn't want to game, I might suggest a sandy bridge based Pentium for a HTPC.

I did look up the Portal 2 minimum requirements and they list the HD2000 graphics. However, gaming at minimum requirements means it probably won't play properly at 1080p.
December 2, 2011 5:06:14 PM

slhpss said:
I have a beast htpc... and for me personally when HTPC comes to mind I believe the smaller the better. have you looked into using mini-itx with a DC power supply?

https://plus.google.com/photos/108227379284199907730/al...

^^core i5 650, 4 gb ddr3, laptop style power supply with dc -> atx card, intel mini-itx board dh57j


I did think about doing a smaller one, but for my first build ever, I think I want to go a little bigger. Plus, I like the look of the case I've spec'd because it looks like a piece of a home theater setup.

Great job, though!

nordlead said:
Well, the Intel processor is definitely more powerful than the AMD, but the graphics are better on the AMD. For gaming the IGP is going to be more important since it'll always be the bottleneck compared to the CPU. If you didn't want to game, I might suggest a sandy bridge based Pentium for a HTPC.

I did look up the Portal 2 minimum requirements and they list the HD2000 graphics. However, gaming at minimum requirements means it probably won't play properly at 1080p.


Well, its main use is as an HTPC and gaming is secondary. I just really dont want the computer to struggle at all when switching between tasks or whatever. I may just go i3 but add a graphics card later if I feel the need to game.
a b B Homebuilt system
December 2, 2011 5:09:24 PM

slhpss said:
I have a beast htpc... and for me personally when HTPC comes to mind I believe the smaller the better. have you looked into using mini-itx with a DC power supply?

https://plus.google.com/photos/108227379284199907730/al...

^^core i5 650, 4 gb ddr3, laptop style power supply with dc -> atx card, intel mini-itx board dh57j


Awesome PC.

I agree that smaller is better. I wish I bought a mini ITX board instead of my mATX. I went mATX because it was cheaper for me for the features I needed.
a b B Homebuilt system
December 2, 2011 5:13:28 PM

I'm running a Athlon II X2 at 2.7 (or .8) GHz and it doesn't struggle at all and I believe the A series chips are based off of the Phenom II chips.

I also don't have my OS loaded with programs that automatically start, so it stays plenty responsive. I wouldn't recommend the A4 if I wasn't happy with my HTPC.
December 2, 2011 5:14:03 PM

G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 $31.99
Intel BOXDQ67EPB3 LGA 1155 Intel Q67 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Mini ITX Intel $124.99
Intel Core i3-2125 Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz LGA 1155 $159.99
SAMSUNG Spinpoint M7E HM501II 500GB $99.99

Subtotal: $416.96
^^New egg

picoPSU-160-XT + 192W Adapter Power Kit 79.95
M300 Enclosure 59.95
139.90
^^ www.mini-box.com

Grand Total: 546.86

P.s. did some of the math in my head if numbers are off a little... could be pared down a little bit if necessary for budgetary constraints....
December 2, 2011 5:15:23 PM

The fun of doing smaller is that it actually is more of a challenge as far as heat, space and power constraints go. So... in other words if you can build small you can build big ;) 
December 2, 2011 5:53:59 PM

Also if this is going to a be a purely htpc thing going small with intel atom is a worthy option and will shave about 100 bucks or so off the price usually... dual core integrated 1.8 ghz atom processor on a build using windows + xbmc would be great...

you can get such a system from mini-box for about 330 and put it together yourself or pay them 20 bucks to assemble

I know you said you wanted to go full size, but my suggestions are from going from micro-atx to mini-itx for my htpc... I love the flexibility of the big system, but love the size and silence of the smaller system
a b B Homebuilt system
December 2, 2011 9:06:09 PM

About the audio: If you're using optical for game surround, you will need a mobo or sound card that does either Dolby Digital Live (DDL) or DTS Connect encoding. Full game surround does not fit through TOSLINK raw---you'll get stereo. The GA-Z68MA-D2H-B3 doesn't do it, it seems, although it's hard to tell. The mobo manufacturers often don't mention it in the specs, for some reason, but to the best of my knowledge its Realtek ALC889 codec does not, whereas a Realtek ALC889A codec would, if the manufacturer implemented it.
March 2, 2012 7:51:41 PM

slhpss said:
Also if this is going to a be a purely htpc thing going small with intel atom is a worthy option and will shave about 100 bucks or so off the price usually... dual core integrated 1.8 ghz atom processor on a build using windows + xbmc would be great...

you can get such a system from mini-box for about 330 and put it together yourself or pay them 20 bucks to assemble

I know you said you wanted to go full size, but my suggestions are from going from micro-atx to mini-itx for my htpc... I love the flexibility of the big system, but love the size and silence of the smaller system


I realize this thread is a tad old but I stumbled onto it so I suspect others will.

I have an mini-itx box running a Atom D525 that I currently use as an HTPC (Until trinity comes out)

The current breed of Atom's are not powerful enough for efficient HTPC playback of all formats on all players @ 1920x1080 (HD in market speak). It will have serious issues with Java based playback including many netflix encodings. I also watch a fair amount of anime and have issues with some of the encodings on my HTPC that I do not experience with my much more powerful gaming system.

I would suggest for an HTPC build that you look for more robust low power options like the i3 2100-t for minimal power usage or the 65w llano/trinity from AMD if you want some gaming capabilities and the ability to utilize a very small form factor.
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