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3k Gaming HTPC

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April 2, 2012 3:10:06 AM

Hello guys,

Been following Tom's for over 7 years, but never posted till last week. I've been on desktops all my life, but been away from it since 2010 when I bough my G73JH-A1.

I'll be building a HTPC soon and I'd like some advanced advise about some things that I'm not sure about.

Before starting, I want to make clear that I'll be running all games in 1920x1080 and in no more than 4x AA. I think in such a high resolution as 1080p, we don't really need a high AA. I want a machine that will run skyrim (the haviest game atm) in 1080p 4xAA and all settings maxxed out around 100 frames per second. Why? Cos I don't want to have to spend more money in a computer for the next 2 or 3 years, which means that what runs maxxed out right now at 100fps, will run at a playable 30fps in 1080p with 2xAA in 2-3 years time. Maybe without AA if necessary, and a bit of a O/C to push the envelope.

Also, I'll be going for a TrueHD 5.1 HTPC, since I'll be playing a lot of movies too.


Processor:

I want to go high on this one, I don't want to be bottlenecking games. i7-3930k good?

Videocard:

I like the 7970. The GTX680 seems like a better bang for the buck, but I heard some bad stuff about it, like the lack of TrueHD 5.1.

Memory:

That is the one thing I did not research. Back in the day, I knew Corsair was good in the memo department, but nowdays I have no clue. Does latency bottleneck games? I'll be going with 8gb, and the best option available.

Hard drive:

Here's the question I've been wanting to ask for ages: is SSD really worth? I mean... I'm the sort of guy who leaves his computer on 24/7 downloading crap. I don't really care if a software takes 30 seconds to load instead of 15. I do like big storage, since I feel like I have the easiest time in the world running out of space with 2TB hard drives. Also, I keep more than 50 games installed at a time, so SSD for games is definitely a no-go. All my life I got a big HD, partitioned into 4 (60gb for windows, 500gb for games, 1tb for data and the rest for mp3) and never had any complaints about "how long does it takes to load this or that". So, question is, for daily use in windows (browsing, watching, moving files, etc) since games will all be in a normal HDD, is it worth to spend another 100-200 bucks for a 64-128gb SSD for windows alone? Does it really bottlenecks that much?

Motherboard:

I'm a long-time-big-fan of ASUS, and I'll be definitely going with an Asus, just don't know yet what model. I want a model that allows me big overclocks, but at the same time not so expensive.

Case:

Since it's a HTPC, maybe a horizontal case? I don't know squat about horizontal cases, but I assume they are as spacious as the vertical towers. I don't mind about big cases, in fact I prefer it. The bigger it is, the better the ventilation is, lower temps and less noise. I saw a few with blue led screens, quite amazing.

Sound:

http://www.futureshop.ca/en-CA/product/sony-sony-5-1-ch...

This one supports TrueHD 5.1 hdmi in-out. I like it and like the price too.

Video:

http://www.ncix.com/products/index.php?sku=60452&vpn=W1...

After a lot of research, I think I'm going with this one. Same price as a 55" TV, but goes to 135" and it's 3D ready. Also, small enough so I can but in a backpack, so it's hard to beat. I think it will go well in the living room with the 5.1 HT.



So, taking roughly 1200 out for projector + ht, I'm left with 1800 dollars. I think it's a good budget to build a decent machine that will keep me satisfied for 2-3 years.

Also, in a totally different matter, does anybody knows if we'll be having TrueHD 5.1 games anytime soon? I'm no sound expert, so I don't even know if it's possible. At any rate, I want to be tech-ready in case this feature comes in the near future.

Just to confirm... the HDMI that leaves my 7970 to the receiver will carry image and 5.1 audio from games, correct? Will my radeon do this automatically or it's a pain to configure?


Leave your thoughts, opinions, criticism and suggestions, I'll ready it all.
Thanks in advance!

More about : gaming htpc

April 2, 2012 7:00:39 AM

lot's of people will go whip you with a go with i5 2500k or that stuff but I say with your fat budget go with i7 3930k not only it makes you feel awesome but gives you good eye candy too and with your budget you can easily fork out dual gtx680

I posted a build before at 1.9k$ using dual gtx570 for a i7 3930k but with your budget it should be possible for dual gtx680.

G.SKILL RipjawsZ 16GB (4X4GB) 1600Mhz CL9 is your best bet for RAM

but well since seeing as you go with 1800$ left you can still build a i7 3930K build with it but using a single gtx680.

also try out cooler master hyper 212 evo for cpu cooling. a good asus x79mobo

a seasonic x-650 80plus gold is a great deal too (if you can get some promo discount or rebates on corsair ones it's great) or go with corsair tx 650 V2 80plus bronze.

samsung HD 500gb/1TB or seagate barracuda 1tb/500gb 7200rpm is a great choice compared to wdcb as it's more expensive.
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April 2, 2012 12:46:14 PM

Lets answer all these 1 by 1, in accordance with your $1800 budget (By the way the projector currently shows well under $900 on the link you provided, so that does give you another $300 to work with):

Processor : You can't go wrong with i7 3930K

VideoCard : Your budget now doesn't allow you to go top end in a dual card config. I would say stick to a single NVIDIA now and maybe later you can always add a second.

Memory : In order of preference : Corsair Dominator - 16Gb or G.Skill Ripjaws Z 16gb

HardDrive : No SSD doesn't make sense for you if you crave space over speed, reliability and cooling primarily (but then till last year everyone was pretty happy with Harddrives). If I was in your place, I would just dedicate a small 64gb SSD to my OS and media player programs and for the rest I will go the harddrive way. SSDs are more Bruce Willis against crashes and failures, so I would recommend one for the OS atleast and for all the data you can GB your PC out. I have a 128gb for OS and games (I keep only 2-3 games at once) and the rest goes in the HD. I am a Download Junkie too.

Motherboard and sound : Asus is a good choice and has a good range of X79 motherboards, you can go for the Rampage IV or formula or the Sabertooth X79, all allow you great overclocking options and have pretty good onboard soundcard, so you can use the motherboard for all your sound needs (just an option).

Case : The options for horizontal HTPC chassis are huge, the good ones come from : Thermaltake DH series, Zalman HD503, Silverstone, Lian Li, Moneual Moncaso, there are quite a few. You need to see, what suits you best. Though in most of these you will probably have to work a bit on the cooling part.



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April 2, 2012 1:52:33 PM

Hmm... it looks almost fine. I don't know anything about HTPCs, but apart from that, I can help you out on a few things.

1) You said you didn't care how long programs took to load. In that case, you don't need the nicest RAM. I think DDR-1600 will be plenty fast, with 9-9-9 CAS timings. Although if you want to spend more, go ahead. There's no point if you don't want an SSD, though (the principle). Also, and someone correct me on this, but do you need 16gb for an HTPC? 8gb will be plenty for gaming... and I don't think movies/media take up a lot of RAM. Maybe if you were listening to music while playing Skyrim with a browser open... I dunno :p 

2) The most demanding game atm is Battlefield 3 (or Crysis). Skyrim is relatively good. So I think you would be shooting for 70fps on Battlefield 3 (nothing can go 100fps on Ultra with everything maxed out).

3) For your graphics card, you won't be able to do a dual-card setup (with a quality card). However, you didn't say when you would be buying, so maybe some new cards will come out. I do know that the 7850 is great for overclocking, and the 7870 isn't so great. NVidia cards, from what I gather, are better for overclocking.

I think that's all I've got! Good luck!
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April 2, 2012 2:41:35 PM

Hello,

I've recently built an HTPC - take a look at my sig if you want some ideas.
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April 2, 2012 7:48:42 PM

serialkiller said:
if i was to buy a 300k build i would get
:ouch:  :ouch:  :ouch:  :ouch: 
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April 2, 2012 8:27:57 PM

Sorry i ment 3000. its a typo
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April 2, 2012 9:13:35 PM

Yeah, 300k is a bit over my budget!


But you guys didn't say anything about the lack of TrueHD audio on the GTX 680. She is for sure better than the 7970, but... (yes, it's a "she")

@metallicmaggo I don't think any motherboard comes with a TrueHD onboard soundcard. But I do know that the Radeon HD series have it. If I can do everything with 1 HDMI cable, its better.
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April 3, 2012 3:51:41 PM

I wonder why TH don't have motherboard charts... it would be great.
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April 3, 2012 6:04:53 PM

That is not a good SSD. It only uses SATA II. You need SATA III for SSDs.
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April 3, 2012 6:15:38 PM

Why not build a good high-end gaming rig for ~$2000 and a (very) high-end HTPC for $1000? At this point you'll be racking up some serious kWh even in idle (since you plan to leave it on 24/7), so instead you could have a PC only for gaming/work (SSDs, BAMF GPUs, and the like) and an optimized low-power PC that will remain always-on.

I'm looking at putting together an always-on server/HTPC with an i3-2120 and it'll only pull about 50W from the wall @ idle (25W without HDDs). My gaming PC (in my sig) draws 100W @ idle, and it's nowhere near the kind of hardware you're looking at.
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April 3, 2012 6:20:09 PM

Boiler has an excellent idea.
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April 3, 2012 6:37:11 PM

Hmm... I'll consider that idea.

But really, what's all the fuzz with the SSD drives nowdays? I'm sure for those encoding videos or rendering huge 3D stuff or transfering lots of data all the time, must be useful. But for the general gaming public? Is it really important that your game loads in 10 seconds instead of 20?
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April 3, 2012 6:41:30 PM

If you want to spend more time playing and less time waiting, like me, where every second matters to me, get an SSD.
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April 3, 2012 6:49:16 PM

Tavo_Nova said:
lot's of people will go whip you with a go with i5 2500k or that stuff but I say with your fat budget go with i7 3930k not only it makes you feel awesome but gives you good eye candy too and with your budget you can easily fork out dual gtx680

I posted a build before at 1.9k$ using dual gtx570 for a i7 3930k but with your budget it should be possible for dual gtx680.

G.SKILL RipjawsZ 16GB (4X4GB) 1600Mhz CL9 is your best bet for RAM

but well since seeing as you go with 1800$ left you can still build a i7 3930K build with it but using a single gtx680.

also try out cooler master hyper 212 evo for cpu cooling. a good asus x79mobo

a seasonic x-650 80plus gold is a great deal too (if you can get some promo discount or rebates on corsair ones it's great) or go with corsair tx 650 V2 80plus bronze.

samsung HD 500gb/1TB or seagate barracuda 1tb/500gb 7200rpm is a great choice compared to wdcb as it's more expensive.


First off - "wait for Ivy" seems to be the new 2500K option. I was going to say 3820 but the 3930k is definitely a good option. Here's an experimental mATX build I've been playing with. Normally I'm against the idea of mATX but on a $3K build and you've got X79 to play with on an HTPC, why not?

Case: Fractal Design Arc MINI - $99.99
PSU: PC Power & Cooling Silencer MKII 950W - $149.99
Motherboard: Asus Rampage IV GENE-Z - $289.99
CPU: 3.2GHz Intel Core i7-3930K - $599.99
Cooler: Corsair H100 - $114.99
RAM: 16GB (4 x 4GB) Kingston Hyper X 1600MHz 1.65V - $104.99
SSD: 128GB Crucial M4 - $159.99
HD: 2 x 750GB Western Digital Scorpio Black - $129.99
Optical: LG Black BD-R Burner - $79.99
Video Card: 2 x Sapphire Radeon HD 7970 - $549.99

Total: $2,939.89

To explain a little more about this build I base it off the liquid cooled mATX rig that Tom's built last July but updated it with X79 (and my current PSU of choice). The idea of the 2.5" HDs is that the drives generate less heat and use less power. The idea behind the H100 is to not use a huge fan with the limitations of the Arc MINI.
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April 3, 2012 7:07:19 PM

jeef said:
Hmm... I'll consider that idea.

But really, what's all the fuzz with the SSD drives nowdays? I'm sure for those encoding videos or rendering huge 3D stuff or transfering lots of data all the time, must be useful. But for the general gaming public? Is it really important that your game loads in 10 seconds instead of 20?


I would definitely recommend one at least as a boot drive. 64GB would be enough for W7 64bit and a few programs (I have Office on mine). 128GB would be ideal if you had several games you like to play much more often than others, and then you could store the rest of the games on platters.

Splitting up the OS and application tasks also seems to speed up processes/transfers on my other HDDs; you have drives in parallel rather than everything on one drive running in serial. I run all my games off of a 1TB HDD and have no issues with load times or whatnot.

Quote:
But you guys didn't say anything about the lack of TrueHD audio on the GTX 680. She is for sure better than the 7970, but... (yes, it's a "she" )

@metallicmaggo I don't think any motherboard comes with a TrueHD onboard soundcard. But I do know that the Radeon HD series have it. If I can do everything with 1 HDMI cable, its better.

What do you mean exactly by TrueHD? Is it one of Dolby Digital's things?

Why not just buy a good sound card? Your sound quality is going to be better with a dedicated card, and there's no excuse to not get a card with a $3k budget. Even the $10, 5+ year old sound card I have crushes my motherboard audio in terms of quality and (more importantly) amplification. You can get a good 7.1 card with Dolby Digital's suite of features for ~$100 nowadays.


If you decide to split up the PC into a gaming + HTPC combo, I would back off on the new i7 and go for a new i5. There's no advantages to using an i7 in gaming since there's no use for hyperthreading (the only reason the i7s exist), so you're literally wasting money. If you were doing heavy editing (video/photo) then I would be screaming i7, but gaming just won't ever use it.
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April 4, 2012 1:56:47 PM

Last question before I close this up and choose an answer:

What exactly is Ivy Bridge, and should I wait for it for this build? I have no problem waiting 1 to 3 months.
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April 4, 2012 2:52:21 PM

ive bridge is the sucessor of sandy bridge which are the current line of i3 , i5 , i7. i.e. i5 2500k , i72600k , or any other 2nd gen cpu with 2000 series cpus.

ive bridge is very energy efficient , can over clock better , and due to all this is also a bit faster. it also represents the intel hd 4000 graphics which are faster than radeon hd 6550 or gts 440 . as per the rumers.

it wont be a performance improvement but just a die shrink i.e. it is going to be small and energy efficient.

other than that it wont give a 15-30 fps increase in gaming just 2-5 fps max.

i think if you want the pc right now no problem it wont affect your judgement.

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April 4, 2012 3:51:55 PM

Ivy Bridge comes out in less than a month and offers between 5 and 15% performance improvement over Sandy, while lowering power consumption. The z77 boards that go with the new processors will have pcie 3.0 (adding longevity). If you can wait three weeks, there isn't a reason not to.
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April 4, 2012 3:55:20 PM

jeef said:
Last question before I close this up and choose an answer:

What exactly is Ivy Bridge, and should I wait for it for this build? I have no problem waiting 1 to 3 months.

Ivy Bridge is Intel's next CPU architecture. It's a follow-up to Sandy Bridge (current 1155 CPUs) with the 22nm tri-gate transistors.

As SerialKiller said, it's a little more than an incremental upgrade. It supposed to be about 10-15% than the current Sandy Bridge, but that won't make much of a difference in games since you'll probably not be bottlenecked by a good i5/i7 OCed.

However, the Ivy Bridge i3 would probably be worth the wait if you split up the HTPC portion - the chip should draw less power and the HD4000 graphics will most likely do everything you need the HTPC to do (the HD3000 works well for HD video).
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April 5, 2012 9:24:49 PM

boiler1990 said:
Ivy Bridge is Intel's next CPU architecture. It's a follow-up to Sandy Bridge (current 1155 CPUs) with the 22nm tri-gate transistors.

As SerialKiller said, it's a little more than an incremental upgrade. It supposed to be about 10-15% than the current Sandy Bridge, but that won't make much of a difference in games since you'll probably not be bottlenecked by a good i5/i7 OCed.

However, the Ivy Bridge i3 would probably be worth the wait if you split up the HTPC portion - the chip should draw less power and the HD4000 graphics will most likely do everything you need the HTPC to do (the HD3000 works well for HD video).


Having 2 computers for 2k or having only 1 for 2k, I'd say the second option is definitely better in my opinion.

I won't need to switch back and forth gaming pc/htpc on the projector all the time, and on the plus side the gaming rig will be much more powerful. I don't need the ssd, but I might get a 128gb one, leave 40 for windows and the rest for 2 or 3 games that are more hdd intensive, like silent hunter 5.

I'll also wait on the ivy bridge, as I produce some videos and audio from time to time (im a big time modder for sim games). Don't really need the pc RIGHT NOW, I can wait a bit.

Thank you all for the help, it was really great.

MODs, can set this as solved.

Thanks again! :bounce: 

(I've selected one of boiler's answers as he was really helpful. But all answers were great, shame I can only choose one)
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April 5, 2012 9:27:17 PM

Best answer selected by jeef.
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