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Should I build a HTPC? (Budget: ~$250)

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June 29, 2012 9:31:33 PM

Hello people of the Tom's Hardware forums! As you can tell by my title, I'm not sure about this potential build.

I live in the middle of nowhere (town of 200, less than one bar of cell signal, nearest sidewalk is half an hour away) and I've been suffering through satellite internet for the past two years. However, an internet company is finally bringing broadband up here. My whole family is psyched! My mom is in particular, because we can now get Netflix.

First off, for anyone with the knowledge, I'm trying to figure out how Netflix works. I know that you can have up to six devices on one account, however you can only use one device at a time. I don't know if you can download movies to watch later, or if you can stream the same movie to multiple devices at once. Any help would be appreciated!

Anyways, back to my question. We have an HDTV in our living room, but we only have a Wii, so we want a device that can stream in HD. You could probably guess by the fact that I'm posting here that I suggested building a HTPC for this. My mom didn't flat-out say no when I mentioned that it might cost as much as $300, so I think I can convince her that it's worth it. Below is the standard rubric for this build:

Approximate Purchase Date: Two weeks to a month from now, *if* I build this

Budget Range: About $250, preferably before rebates, but after works as well

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Standard HTPC (watching movies, streaming, Blu-Ray, etc.)

Parts Not Required: Monitor or speakers (using 55" HD CRT TV)

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Newegg or Amazon preferably

Country: United States (in the Pacific Northwest)

Parts Preferences: Must be an HTPC case or other small, slim case

Overclocking: Probably not

SLI or Crossfire: No

Monitor Resolution: Unsure, definitely below 1920x1080

Additional Comments: Preferably on the quiet side, must include a Blu-Ray + DVD reader (writer not necessary). Read below.

I'm heading off to college in about a year, so I need a computer that my technologically-illiterate mother can A) Run without any problems whatsoever and B) Control entirely with a remote. Is this even possible? I don't have money for an OS, so I'll either be using Linux or a friend's spare copy of Windows XP.

Now, I have one question. Would I be better off getting some other device? Its only requirements is that it can stream in HD, can use Netflix, and preferably can play Blu-Ray. This is a completely new field for me, and I know absolutely nothing about HTPCs, so any help would be appreciated!

Tl;dr: Just read the last two paragraphs.

- Jak Atackka

More about : build htpc budget 250

June 30, 2012 12:16:41 AM

Did I post this in the wrong place?

- Jak Atackka
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June 30, 2012 1:24:38 AM

LG DVD Burner Black SATA Model GH24NS90 - OEM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$16.99

LOGISYS Computer CS305BK Black Steel ATX Mid Tower Enhanced SOHO Computer Case 480W Power Supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$26.99

Western Digital Caviar Blue WD5000AAKX 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$69.99

ASRock A55M-HVS FM1 AMD A55 (Hudson D2) HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard
$53.99

Pareema 4GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Desktop Memory Model MD313C81609L1
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$59.99

AMD A4-3300 Llano 2.5GHz Socket FM1 65W Dual-Core Desktop APU (CPU + GPU) with DirectX 11 Graphic AMD Radeon HD 6410D
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$59.99

Subtotal: 247.94
Shipping: 7.99

TOTAL: 255.93


If you have more money to spend I would simply upgrade the processor to a higher end A-Series. $50 more and you can get an A8-3850 which has a better built in GPU and also is a quad core:

AMD A8-3850 Llano 2.9GHz Socket FM1 100W Quad-Core Desktop APU (CPU + GPU) with DirectX 11 Graphic AMD Radeon HD 6550D AD3850WNGXBOX
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
$109.99

The A-Series AMD processors are good for cheap builds. They are much better graphics wise then intel's built in graphics (HD3000 graphics). Intel is still leading in the CPU department, but unless you are getting a dedicaded graphics card I would avoid intel and go amd... good luck building a modern intel PC for $250! :) 

-Madreag
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June 30, 2012 1:51:17 AM

Just get a PS3 and a usb keyboard. Upgrade the HDD if you need more. i got one as a gift and use it all the time for netflix and bluray. works with surround sound natively and goes right into HDMI and rca. Very easy to use for your mother.
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Anonymous
June 30, 2012 2:46:10 AM

madreag said:

The A-Series AMD processors are good for cheap builds. They are much better graphics wise then intel's built in graphics (HD3000 graphics). Intel is still leading in the CPU department, but unless you are getting a dedicaded graphics card I would avoid intel and go amd... good luck building a modern intel PC for $250! :) 
-Madreag

intel HD graphics, not even HD 2000 is quite fine for playing high def video. its not like that is a heavy load on an igpu.

and swap the cpu and mobo in the build i posted with:
ASRock H61M-DGS $49.99
(same price as the biostar)
Intel G530 $47.16
$10.95 less than the llano and there you have a modern PC for $243.78 :) 
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Best solution

June 30, 2012 3:09:12 AM

lourendo said:
Just get a PS3 and a usb keyboard. Upgrade the HDD if you need more. i got one as a gift and use it all the time for netflix and bluray. works with surround sound natively and goes right into HDMI and rca. Very easy to use for your mother.


As much as I would normally recommend a PC, this is probably the way to go.
A PS3 has a Blu-Ray player, Netflix support (as well as PS Network Movies), and will play games better than a $300 PC ever will. You could possibly cheat a bit and buy a low capacity model, then just buy a USB external drive and keep the movies on there.
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June 30, 2012 8:29:23 AM

Thank for the suggestions everyone! I too was thinking about going with an AMD APU, since they would be perfect for an HTPC.

So, for $250 I can easily get an upgradeable HTPC. However, none of the recommended builds have Blu-Ray capability, which is a must for this build. I guess I'd have to increase the budget to $300 to squeeze one in.

You bring up a good point with getting a PS3 instead. Granted, I doubt my mom will never play PS3 games on it, but it looks like it has the capabilities that I need. Plus, I'm pretty sure they sell a remote that you can use for the PS3, thus fulfilling her wish of being able to just control it with a remote.

So thanks for the help everyone! I'll tell my mom your suggestion, and she what she thinks.

- Jak Atackka
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June 30, 2012 8:29:52 AM

Best answer selected by Jak Atackka.
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