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Considering building HTPC, First time, help needed

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December 20, 2011 10:02:34 PM

Hello everyone. I've been reading these forums gathering info about building a HTPC for the first time. I would like to ask the community for advice on parts needed and other HTPC info.

Approximate Purchase Date: Sometime in January, probably the first couple of weeks. I am willing to wait or purchase now if it will help the price.

Budget Range: $600-$800

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Watching HD TV/Movies, Listening to music, Surfing the net, DVR, Watching Live TV, Automatically download and archive desired TV programs, movies, and music as they become available via the torrent site I belong to, Netflix, Hulu, other streaming media services, I also want my system to act as external storage for the other computers in my network, possibly even use the HTPC for cloud storage. I will not be using this for any gaming.

Parts Not Required: Monitor(will be using new TV), Speakers (I would upgrade though if I can find good speakers that are relatively cheap)

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg, amazon. I'm open to other sites though

Country: USA

Parts Preferences: None


Additional Comments: If it is not very costly, I would like to have a quite HTPC. The same goes for size, I am ok and can support something the size of a normal computer tower.


Thanks everyone in the community. I am a new member here. I am very excited and fascinated about the world of HTPC. I will make sure to help others as I obtain knowledge myself.
December 20, 2011 10:44:34 PM

Before we get into it, a couple of questions:

1) What is your HD TV source, Cable, Satellite, or Over-The-Air (OTA)?
2) If cable or satellite, does your subscription require the use of a set top box?

-Wolf sends
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December 20, 2011 10:55:54 PM

You will need a big hard drive to be able to pull off Windows' DVR functions but by the time you're ready to buy WD and Seagate should have a couple of the factories back up and running.

The hardest part of any HTPC build though is finding a good case that will work with everything - what kind of space are you going to house the build in? Will it be cabinets? Open shelving? Will it sit underneath the TV?

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December 20, 2011 10:55:55 PM

Thanks for the reply Wolf. My current HD TV source is Cable via Comcast. I must use a Set Top Box to view HD programming. I can view channels 1-100 without the box though.

Comcast is coming in a couple of days to install the HD box.
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December 20, 2011 11:08:07 PM

Size is not very important. It will be standing up on its own on the floor, near the TV. I am not incredibly limited on space. I can put it anywhere really. I don't plan on moving it around very much if any. I would like a case that would be big enough to add new items later, such as another HD, SSD, or other random items.

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December 20, 2011 11:24:31 PM

Ok. With a Comcast HD subscription (same as I have), I'd definitely recommend going with a cablecard solution. Depending on how soon you intend to purchase, you may want to have Comcast hold off on the HD set top box installation. With a cablecard ready HTPC, you don't need a set top box. The only things you lose by going with a cablecard solution are the on-screen guide (Windows 7 handles that) and PPV/On-Demand (Netflix/Hulu should cover that). Subscription pay channels like HBO work fine, though.

Just wanted to get this out to you. I'll have a build ready in a bit.

-Wolf sends
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December 20, 2011 11:33:59 PM

Thanks Wolf. I ordered 2 HD boxes. One for the living room and one for my room (also where the HTPC will be). I will contact Comcast before they come for installation and tell them I only need one HD box.
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December 21, 2011 12:14:14 AM

Mad Chemist, can I ask you why I wouldn't want both?

Is it because having the coax cable running from the wall to the HTPC then to the TV is better/worse than having coax run to TV, then TV run to HTPC?
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December 21, 2011 12:20:09 AM

For reference, here is my HTPC build:

Case - NMediaPC 200BA HTPC Case
Power Supply - PC Power and Cooling 500 watt modular (overkill, but got it on sale).
Motherboard - ASRock 760GM-GS3 MicroATX AM3
CPU - AMD Athlon II X2 250
RAM - G.Skill 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3-1333
Hard Drive 1 - 250GB HDD (don't remember the brand)
Hard Drive 2 - Samsung F3 SpinPoint 1TB HDD (Located in separate system for storage)
Optical Drive - LG Blu-Ray 12x
Graphics card - Sapphire Radeon HD4670
TV Tuner - Ceton Corp InfiniTV4 Quad-Tuner PCI-Ex1
Display 1 - Olevia 232T 32" 720p HDTV
Display 2 - Optoma HD20 1080p projector
Audio - Onkyo HT-S3200

Because I use two separate displays (not at the same time), I went with a discreet graphics card. I understand that the new APUs and embedded graphics capabilities of the Core I3/I5 should be sufficient for HD playback, but I'm not sold on it.

For your purposes, a lot is going to depend on your budget. Your HTPC is going to be centered on your cablecard solution. Options include:

1) Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650, which is a dual tuner box. Watch/Record two channels at a time or watch one while recording another. $139.99
2) SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime, which is a triple tuner box. Watch/Record three channels at a time or watch one while recording two. $219.99
3) Ceton InfiniTV 4 USB, which is a quad tuner box. Watch/Record four channels at a time or watch one while recording three. $249.99
4) Ceton InfiniTV 4 PCI-Ex1, which is an internal quad tuner card. Watch/Record four channels at a time or watch one while recording three. $219.99

I would also note that if you're into using media extenders (like the XBox360), it can be utilized to accept one of the tuners in either the triple or quad tuners so you could watch TV on an extender connected HDTV. The tuner card/box is still installed to the main HTPC, but the second computer/extender is assigned one of the three or four tuners over the wired network (not sure about Wi-Fi).

Based on your budget, I'd probably go with the Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650 at $139.99. The rest of your system might look like this:

Case/Remote Control Combo: Link - $89.98
  • Case: NMediaPC 6000B ATX HTPC case
  • Remote Control: Rosewill RHRC Windows 7 Remote Control
    Power Supply/CPU Combo: Link - $121.98
  • Power Supply: PC Power and Cooling 400 watt Modular PSU
  • CPU: AMD Athlon II X2 260 3.2GHz
    Motherboard/Operating System Combo: Link - $149.98
  • Motherboard: ASRock 8800GM-LE
  • Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-bit
    RAM: G.Skill DDR3-1333 4GB (2x2GB) - $20.99
    Hard Drive: Hitachi 7200RPM 500GB - $79.99
    Optical Drive: LG Black 12x BD-ROM - $59.99
    Graphics Card: HIS Radeon HD6450 - $39.99

    Total Cost: $702.89
    Mail In Rebate: $20.00
    Final Cost: $682.89

    This is just a first draft, but it does give you some idea of what's needed and it does give you some leeway. You could go with a better TV Tuner card/box. You could go with a larger Hard Drive or a better graphics card. There's a lot of different ways you could go with this. Hopefully, some others will chime in with their ideas.

    -Wolf sends

    EDIT: I should also note that this build is based on a number of combo purchases that may or may not be available when you're ready to purchase.
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    December 21, 2011 12:37:45 AM

    Thanks Wolf, that is a lot of great info you posted there. The Hauppauge dual tuner seems to be fine. Thanks for showing the others and explaining their function. I don't think trying to get something more advanced than the dual tuner is important to me.

    I do not have an Xbox, but I do have a PS3, if that makes a difference.

    I have used remotes like the one you linked to. I have not liked them in the past. I have a remote in mind that is $30. I will link to it in a few moments.

    I have a clean copy of Windows 7 that I can use from an old laptop, so no need to buy an OS.

    RAM is cheap right now, would there be any benefit in bumping up to 6 or 8 total GBs?

    I am hoping to have at least 1 TB of storage. 1.5 or 2 would be great, but I would like at least one. I plan on filling this bad boy up.



    Wolf, you have done an excellent job at finding the parts needed. Thank you very much. I am going to go grab some dinner and look back over this. Please let me know if you have any modifications since I have posted this information.

    Thank you all once again for all the help.
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    December 21, 2011 1:13:11 AM

    I don't know if you can use a PS3 as an extender. I'm not a console guy.

    Not sure what you didn't like about the remote control. I can't imagine using my HTPC without one. For reference, this is the one I have.

    Having a clean copy of Windows 7 (and assuming it's transferable) would save you about $90 (no discount for the motherboard combo).

    RAM is cheap, but I can't think of any reason to go with more than 4 GB. The only reason you might want to consider it is if you're going to actually do some re-encoding of recorded material, but then you'd want a better processor as well.

    As mentioned before, the cost of Hard Drives is ridiculous at the moment. My Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB drive cost me $50 a few months back. When the prices normalize, then you can stock up on storage space. Until then save your money (just my opinion).

    While a lot of people like to make their HTPCs into gaming hybrids, I've always felt that HTPCs should be minimalistic in nature; no more than absolutely necessary. If I could squeeze it into the budget, I'd probably recommend going with a smaller SSD drive (say 40-64GB) for the OS and a 2-3TB drive for on system storage. However, since I do a lot of re-encoding (commercial deletions and such), I prefer to do that on a beefier system (my main - Core I5 760/8GB RAM), so no need for a larger HDD in the HTPC.

    One more item of note: Cable companies have started tagging shows/movies to limit what you can do with them, once recorded. The tag types are:

    Copy None: Unable to even record the show/movie (you should NEVER come across this).
    Copy Once: You can record the show/movie, but you can only view it from that HTPC.
    Copy Freely: Once it's recorded, you can do whatever you want to it.

    Most of the TV shows I record are tagged, Copy Freely, so I move them to my main system, strip the commercials, and store them there for viewing later. However, my cable subscription does include a number of Encore channels. Most of these movies are tagged, Copy Once. So while I can record them, I cannot edit them in any way or move them to another system for later viewing. I suspect that HBO, Showtime, Cinemax are ALL Copy Once, so if it's your plan to record and keep a lot of these channels, you will need a lot of hard disk space.

    -Wolf sends
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    December 21, 2011 1:56:21 AM

    Sorry for the confusion on the remote, I was thinking about getting one like this:

    http://www.amazon.com/Palm-Sized-Wireless-Keyboard-Mult...

    I can always swap out RAM or add more in the future if needed, but I can't imagine doing anything on a HTPC that would call for more than 4gb.

    Like I said, I'm not using this for gaming, so I assume the most hardware intensive action I would be doing is recording shows and playing HD content.

    Thanks for the info on tags. If I were to run into a problem with a tag not being what I need, I'm sure I could find it somewhere else, probably a better copy than mine.

    What is causing HDs to be so expensive right now? Could it be the high demand for new computers around the holiday puts a strain on certain parts, like HDs? What are some signs that they may be going down in price?

    I was unfamiliar with people using SSDs that large on their PCs until I read this forum. Are SSDs desirable because they are much faster? Would putting my OS on there just make my HTPC boot fast? Or would it also help with the overall speed? I'm guessing I would want to install and run applications from the SSD as well?


    You have a very nice rig by the way. I know I have already said this 100 times, but thanks! You are very helpful. I can't thank you enough (and everyone else who has had input).
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    December 21, 2011 2:33:30 AM

    That little palm size remote looks pretty cool, but given the price (so low), I'm a bit leery about it.

    There's been some major flooding in Thailand (where most hard drives are built) and a number (if not all) manufacturing warehouses have been damaged. This is what's causing the inflation of hard disk drive prices. A number of plants are back to operational, but the supply is still far lower than normal.

    An SSD will allow your system to boot faster and programs (installed on the SSD) open faster. Additionally, since there are no moving parts, they are also quieter. However, since my HTPC is on 24/7, I don't see the need for one, personally.

    Thanks for the compliment on my rig. Not that long ago, I was just like you, wanting to know more. It's because of this forum (and a few others) that I have the set up I have. It's because of people answering my questions that I have the set up that I have (Netflix plus a 140" 1080p screen at 15' and 5.1 surround sound). I rarely even bother going to the movies anymore. Superbowl parties are always at my place. How could I do any less?

    I suppose I should warn you that getting started on this path could lead to:

    1) A loss of privacy (the aforementioned Superbowl parties/movie nights)
    2) Costly upgrades (1080p projectors, large automatic screens, hi-def surround sound systems).
    3) Worry from family members (a good run from Netflix/Hulu could keep you out of the loop for over a month).

    :pt1cable:  Don't say you weren't warned! :pt1cable: 

    -Wolf sends

    P.S. I'm off to bed now, but I'll check back in tomorrow morning.
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