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Budget / mATX HTPC ~300-500

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December 22, 2011 9:23:15 PM

Looking to build a HTPC. I originally considered a Boxee Box for $180, then got talked into designing a PC by a co-worker. Which brought me to various nettops. After reading some reviews, the overall concensus is that these simply don't have enough power to provide the level of viewing experience I'd desire. My goal was to stay around $300, but seem to realize I may need to stretch this.

Here's what I'm looking for:


Approximate Purchase Date: within the next 30 days

Budget Range: $300-500

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Watching Movies, Listening to Music, Viewing Photos/Slideshow, Email/Web Browsing

Parts Not Required: monitor/lcd, speakers

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg.com, amazon.com, buy.com -- open to other reliable sites

Country: USA

Parts Preferences: Have always used Intel processors, but co-worker recommended an AMD Athlon II Dual Core -- I'm thinking Quad Core since my main system is an Intel Core 2 Quad Core - open to recommendations

Overclocking: Not Sure - not familiar

SLI or Crossfire: Not Sure - not familiar

Monitor Resolution: Not Sure - this will be hooked up through my Denon AVR and displayed on a Panasonic 1080p plasma (both are at least 3 years old) using HDMI

Additional Comments: Other important features -- needs to run quiet and cool; currently not concerned running my FiOS signal through the PC, using FiOS Home Media DVR, likely to run XBMC -- although I'm not overly familiar.

Services to be integrated: Netflix, Pandora, etc


Here's some of the components I identified, but they are likely overboard:

Case: SILVERSTONE Black Aluminum 0.8mm SECC body MILO Series ML03B Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case

Concern with the case is the space for a hard drive internally...if I have a DVD/BD drive, I can only have a 2.5" HD...thoughts?

Power Supply: SILVERSTONE ST45SF 450W SFX12V 80 PLUS BRONZE Certified Active PFC Power Supply


Motherboard: BIOSTAR A880GU3 AM3 AMD 880G HDMI USB 3.0 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard


Processor: AMD Athlon II X4 640 Propus 3.0GHz Socket AM3 95W Quad-Core Desktop Processor ADX640WFGMBOX




I welcome all thoughts and recommendations.
a b B Homebuilt system
December 22, 2011 10:28:16 PM

Yeah, I'd say your components are a bit over-kill for just an HTPC. I'm currently running my HTPC on an AMD Athlon II X2 240 (Dual core processor) and a Radeon HD4670.

I wouldn't worry about the case. It does state it has two 3.5" internal drive bays. I think the second one is actually beneath the 5.25" External bay.

I'd probably swap out the power supply and go with the Antec Earthwatts 380 - $45
For the motherboard, CPU and graphics solution, given your limited budget, I'd probably consider going with an AMD APU dual-core processor like this AMD A4-3400 Llano APU and this ASRock A55M-HVS motherboard - $70 and $59 respectively. The APU combines the power of a dual-core processor (2.7GHz) and an HD64xx class graphics card onto one chip. No need for an discreet graphics card.

For the rest of your system:
Memory: G.Skill 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3-1333 RAM - $21
Hard Drive: Western Digital 160GB SATA II (3.0Gb/s) - $80
Optical Drive: LG Black 12x BD-ROM drive - $60

I went with the small hard drive because you stated you're currently using FiOS Home Media DVR for recording purposes. If that changes, you'll probably want to add in a larger secondary hard drive later on down the road.

In total, you're looking at about $395, right now. Adding Windows 7 as an operating system will bring you pretty close to your $500 limit (you can probably shave a few bucks off with a combo deal). Some sort of free Linux distribution combined with XBMC might work out for you (need to make sure it supports all your hardware), but personally, I just use Windows Media Center included in my Windows 7 Home Premium.

Just my $0.02

-Wolf sends
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a b B Homebuilt system
December 22, 2011 10:42:08 PM

You may want to look at the shellshocker deals for awhile. One might come up that you can use. Today's example: http://www.newegg.com/Special/ShellShocker.aspx?cm_sp=S....

My recommendations for low cost and energy consumption:

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

The case and power supply you selected are more than adequate. The shellshocker deals look very attractive as they include a regular hardrive. Newegg has apparantly set asside some hardrives for their shellshocker specials. Love my patriot and ocz ssd's; you may also find a conventional hardrive cheaper on craigslist. The flooding in Taiwan apparantly drove up hardrive prices.
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December 23, 2011 2:51:13 AM

any concerns with graphics performance and speed with this type of chip? I'm not too familiar with this and recall integrated graphics cards usually share resources...does this perform differently?

Thanks for the response!
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a c 136 B Homebuilt system
December 23, 2011 3:00:01 AM

toddr78 said:
any concerns with graphics performance and speed with this type of chip? I'm not too familiar with this and recall integrated graphics cards usually share resources...does this perform differently?

Thanks for the response!

The AMD APU's work very well . Much better than any other integrated solution . They are a combination of a slightly tweaked Phenom/Athlon core , and a Radeon graphics processor . The graphics processor helps with many many hardware acceleration tasks .like FLASH player on web pages .
The top end Fusion APU's are powerful enough to game reasonably well without ever using a graphics card
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December 23, 2011 3:57:25 AM

I don't see the 2.5" as being a problem. You can always put in a 7200rpm momentus xt hybrid, either the odler 500gig+4gbssd or the new 750gig+8gb ssd. They still fly and provide enough storage for an HTPC.
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December 24, 2011 12:10:37 AM

Thanks for the feedback. So here's another inquiry for this...my network is WiFi 802.11g, with decent proximity. I was thinking of setting up a NAS to house my media. My feeling was to keep my media separate from the HTPC since my space is limited where I'm putting it. Thoughts?
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December 24, 2011 3:17:02 AM

That was to be expected :p  Anyone who runs an HTPC pretty much must have a NAS of some kind. It just gets a bit tricky when you want it to tie in nicely with windows media center (if you are using that). Also g will most definitively bottleneck HD streaming.

I tried N but even that didn't satisfy my streaming and ended up pulling gigabit Ethernet through the attic. But before you upgrade your network try your existing setup if it can handle the load your thinking of using.
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December 24, 2011 3:30:08 AM

What I still use from time to time when I don't want to stream or want 100% uninterrupted movie watching is to just use an external 2.5inch harddrive. Plugs into usb port and universally usable. Also good to keep around for your laptop and power outages. After Irene and that freak snow storm in the east cost I sure was without power a lot.
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December 24, 2011 4:05:48 PM

I'm currently toying around with a Pogoplug with an external TB drive. Seems to work fast enough locally on NIC, but definitely will see a challenge pulling via WiFi. I don't see going the ethernet route since I'd eventually need access on 3 separate floors. Ultimately, my HTPC is on the middle level, but the router and ethernet is on my 3rd floor. I could change some of this around to make it work. The wife won't be thrilled with a lot of PC equipment in our family room though (which is where the HTPC will be).
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