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Need Advice: $1500 Home Office / HTPC

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March 7, 2012 8:44:24 PM

Hello, everybody. I am helping a friend build a new PC for him and his wife that will become the main machine in their house. They would like to use it primarily for light home/office work (MS Office, Quicken, e-mail, internet etc.), but also for watching DVD/ Blue-Ray movies. They would like to use it in a fairly small exercise/relaxation room, with the monitor mounted on the wall and controlled wirelessly from a sofa. Here are our building conditions:

Approximate Purchase Date: next week

Budget Range: 1400-1600 before rebates (flexible if there is a case to be made), including software, mouse, keyboard, and monitor

System Usage from Most to Least Important: e-mail, Internet, watching movies

Parts Not Required: speakers (will connect to an existing surround-sound system)

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg.com, amazon.com, tigerdirect.com

Country: US

Parts Preferences: We would like to use an Intel CPU with a 40" or so monitor.

Overclocking: Maybe (to extend the life of the computer later on)

SLI or Crossfire: No

Monitor Resolution: at least 1920x1080

Additional Comments: We would like the machine to be fairly quiet and fairly small (this is why we have chosen micro ATX). Aside from occasional visits from grandchildren, the computer will likely not be used for games often, and they will not be using graphics-intensive software. We don't need a lot of expandability; just a slot for a wireless network adapter and possibly another one for a TV tuner down the road. We also do not need world-class sound or visuals. Their previous machine lasted 5 years, and we are aiming for similar longevity with this one. Price is somewhat flexible if there is a case to be made.

Here is a tentative build we have put together, based on the TH Intel-based Office PC build:

Processor
Intel Core i5-2500K Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz LGA 1155 95W Quad-Core
224.99
Motherboard
ASRock H61M-VS LGA 1155 Intel H61 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
54.99
RAM
G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 SDRAM DDR3
29.99
Graphics
XFX HD-667X-ZHF3 Radeon HD 6670 1GB
84.99
Hard Drive
Western Digital Caviar Black WD1001FALS 1TB
129.99
Case
Fractal Design Define Mini Black Micro ATX Silent
109.99
Power Supply
XFX Core Edition PRO550W (P1-550S-XXB9) 550W
72.99
Optical Drive
LG Black 12X Blue-Ray Burner
79.99
Monitor
LG 42LK450 42-Inch 1080p 60 Hz LCD HDTV
498.00
Mouse
Logitech M600 Touch Mouse
69.99
Keyboard
Logitech K750 Wireless Solar
63.99
OS
Microsoft Windows 8 Consumer Preview (to be replaced by Windows 8 when it goes to retail)
0.00
Productivity
Microsoft Office 2010 Professional Plus (discount through his employer)
79.99


Total

1499.89


Will this build work? Is there anything we have overlooked? How are these parts? Any advice you could offer us would be much appreciated.

Best solution

March 7, 2012 10:17:07 PM

I think this would be a better HTPC build - put the monitor in a separate budget if you're going to be using an HDTV. I think I'd scrap that whole build - H61 doesn't make a lot of sense if you want expandability down the road, and the expensive peripherals are corded - on a hybrid HTPC you want wireless as that will allow for greater freedom of movement through the room that the PC will be used in. Don't include software in your budget either - get that separate.

Try this:

Case: Fractal Design Arc MINI - $99.99
PSU: Corsair Enthusiast Series TX650 V2 - $89.99 ($10.00 MIR)
Motherboard: Asus Maximum IV GENE-Z - $189.99
CPU: 3.30GHz Intel Core i5-2500K - $225.99
Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo - $34.99
RAM: Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB 1600MHz - $44.99
HD: Samsung / Seagate Spinpoint F3 500GB - $84.99
Optical: Lite On BD-R Burner - $74.99
Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 6850 - $149.99 ($15.00 MIR)
Keyboard / Mouse: Logitech MK320 - $36.99

Total: $1,036.89 - $25.00 MIR = $1,011.89

With this build you get the best z68 mATX motherboard (gives you a lot more expansion options and features than an H61 will) and video card, case is still Fractal Design quality, you get a BD-R burner, an HTPC native video card, and you still have ~$500 to get your HDTV and MS Office, I wouldn't include those things in the budget - rather separate budgets.
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March 7, 2012 10:26:05 PM

First things that pop out at me:

*You are using a Core i5 2500k, a cpu built and known nearly exclusively for overclocking ability, with a H61 motherboard, a chipset that has extremely limited, nearly non existant OC capability.

*You are buying a graphics card for a build that, again, has a Core i5 2500k with Intel HD 3000 graphics built in, so the chosen card seems redundant and noisy at the least, and detrimental and inferior at the most. From what I can tell, the Intel HD 3000 can handle blu ray quite nicely without any hiccups.

*My suggestions: Two pronged:

If you really want to do OC, but don't want the noise of a GPU fan, but also want to use the built in HD graphics of the 2500k, i personally suggest going with a modest z68 board.

If you can go without significant OC capabilties beyond the regular Turbo mode, Go with a Core i3 2125 with HD 3000 and a excellent H61/H67 board with USB 3.0 HDMI + DVI and all those other goodies.

Both of these chipsets almost surely come with at least one PCIe 2.0 x16 slot, which will be handy come the day when the kiddies want to move beyond spongebob into something a little more...blasty. :-)

Like with everything else, don't take this as gospel. Just my recos. Have fun!!!
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March 7, 2012 11:03:35 PM

Quote:

*You are using a Core i5 2500k, a cpu built and known nearly exclusively for overclocking ability, with a H61 motherboard, a chipset that has extremely limited, nearly non existant OC capability.

*You are buying a graphics card for a build that, again, has a Core i5 2500k with Intel HD 3000 graphics built in, so the chosen card seems redundant and noisy at the least, and detrimental and inferior at the most. From what I can tell, the Intel HD 3000 can handle blu ray quite nicely without any hiccups.


That's exactly why I recommended scrapping that whole build - either go i5-2400, or go Z68 - I would not recommend H61 on any build right now - even the lowest of low budgets.

Quote:
If you really want to do OC, but don't want the noise of a GPU fan, but also want to use the built in HD graphics of the 2500k, i personally suggest going with a modest z68 board.


Most z68 mATX boards aren't that highly rated - either go GENE-Z or the next highest I would recommend is EVGA's offering - there's not a lot of good ones from Gigabyte or Asus in this category.
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March 8, 2012 2:54:15 AM

g-unit1111 and James:

Thank you for your extremely helpful and thorough comments. You have really helped me to rethink the design of this build. g-unit1111, I really like this HTPC build you suggested. A couple of questions about it:

Case: Fractal Design Arc MINI - $99.99

One of the reasons I went with the Define Mini was that it is so quiet and has that nice door on the front, which would help with noise and aesthetics in the home theater setup. I have built in it before. The Arc MINI doesn't have the door, and has more fans, but many of the New Egg commenters say that it is remarkably quiet. Do you have any experience here? Could I switch to the Define Mini and use all of the other components you recommend?

PSU: Corsair Enthusiast Series TX650 V2 - $89.99 ($10.00 MIR)

If I'm not planning to ever do Crossfire/SLI, do I still need 650 watts? Could I save some money and go with a less powerful PSU?

Motherboard: Asus Maximum IV GENE-Z - $189.99

This looks like a great board, but you also suggested an EVGA board--were you talking about the EVGA Z68 SLI Micro 120-SB-E682-KR (159.99)? Just glancing at the specs and comments on newegg, I don't see any major drawbacks to going with the EVGA board instead of the Asus board, especially if the machine is not going to be used for gaming. Would that be okay?

Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo - $34.99
Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 6850 - $149.99 ($15.00 MIR)

James, I am intrigued by your comments about ditching the graphics card entirely and going with onboard INTEL 3000. If we don't intend to do gaming or graphics-intensive stuff, do you think we can get by with onboard and still have smooth day-to-day performance in Windows for several years (and maybe plan to add discrete graphics later on)? And if so, can I do without the cooling as well, and just get by with the heatsink and the fan that come with the i5? We are not planning to overclock right now, but I thought that springing the extra few bucks for the unlocked CPU might be worth it if we decide to try to squeeze some extra juice out of the chip a few years down the road.

Once again, thanks so much to both of you!
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March 8, 2012 3:10:34 AM

Quote:

Motherboard: Asus Maximum IV GENE-Z - $189.99

This looks like a great board, but you also suggested an EVGA board--were you talking about the EVGA Z68 SLI Micro 120-SB-E682-KR (159.99)? Just glancing at the specs and comments on newegg, I don't see any major drawbacks to going with the EVGA board instead of the Asus board, especially if the machine is not going to be used for gaming. Would that be okay?


EVGA is an excellent brand but they're more of a video card manufacturer - Asus is the way to go and if you can get the GENE-z, I'd recommend it over the EVGA in half a second.

Quote:

PSU: Corsair Enthusiast Series TX650 V2 - $89.99 ($10.00 MIR)

If I'm not planning to ever do Crossfire/SLI, do I still need 650 watts? Could I save some money and go with a less powerful PSU?


You could but PSUs are one area where you really do what you pay for - this would be the safest way to go, I would not recommend going cheaper on the PSU.

Quote:

James, I am intrigued by your comments about ditching the graphics card entirely and going with onboard INTEL 3000. If we don't intend to do gaming or graphics-intensive stuff, do you think we can get by with onboard and still have smooth day-to-day performance in Windows for several years (and maybe plan to add discrete graphics later on)?


The onboard video will be fine if you don't plan to run games or multiple displays. If you're requiring multiple displays (which I'd recommend on an HDTV setup) I'd go for the 6850.
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March 9, 2012 3:28:36 AM

g-unit, thanks for your additional helpful comments. I have never built a machine with an EVGA mobo, but like you have always had great success with ASUS boards. The GENE-z looked more like a gaming board to me that was more than we needed, but if it has everything we need, with expandability options, and is ASUS, that sounds like a winner. I will definitely take your advice on the PSU. For now, we only plan on using a single display with no gaming, so we will try the onboard graphics. If we decide to add more displays or game in the future, we can always add a discrete card. Thanks so much!
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March 9, 2012 3:32:49 PM

inchikiboze said:
g-unit, thanks for your additional helpful comments. I have never built a machine with an EVGA mobo, but like you have always had great success with ASUS boards. The GENE-z looked more like a gaming board to me that was more than we needed, but if it has everything we need, with expandability options, and is ASUS, that sounds like a winner. I will definitely take your advice on the PSU. For now, we only plan on using a single display with no gaming, so we will try the onboard graphics. If we decide to add more displays or game in the future, we can always add a discrete card. Thanks so much!


No problem.

I've never used EVGA either (motherboards anyway, used plenty of their video cards) - I'm definitely open to trying their motherboards and I've usually had excellent service using their products, but I've had the most success with Gigabyte and Asus - both of my systems use Gigabyte boards and I've been pleased with the end results, and the systems I've used running Asus have turned out really great as well.

For an mATX board the GENE-Z can't be beat. It does not have onboard video though - you'll need a GPU, the 6850 is one of the best you can get right now in the ~$150 range, I suggest the Sapphire one I recommended earlier.
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March 19, 2012 1:30:36 AM

Best answer selected by inchikiboze.
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