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$600-$800 HTPC Build

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July 7, 2012 4:06:48 AM

Hi there. I've decided to build a HTPC for my apartment next year and I could use a little help. Keep in mind that this is the first build that I've ever concocted (read: please point out any and all errors that I make so that I don't keep making them).

Approximate Purchase Date: Most likely within one week of today, ideally sometime over the weekend.

Budget Range: In picking out parts, I aimed to keep it under $600. However, I'm willing to go higher if I've made an egregious mistake that needs a more expensive part to correct. Let's just say $800 is the very highest I'll go.

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Ripping & playing DVDs and Blu-ray, streaming HD video over the Internet, playing music, and Internet browsing. In short, general HTPC tasks. It's possible that the computer will get used in the occasional LAN gaming session.

Parts Not Required: OS, monitor (it'll be hooked up to a 50" HDTV), and keyboard & mouse (unless someone can recommend me a good wireless set). Also, from reading various threads, articles, and reviews around the Internet, it seems that a dedicated GPU isn't necessary given my CPU choice. But, again, if that's horribly incorrect please call me out on it. I still have some room in my budget for one.

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: No preference.

Country: United States, California specifically.

Parts Preferences: No preference other than an Intel CPU.

Overclocking: If it will reduce DVD/Blu-Ray rip times then maybe. However, from what I can tell, it seems that the read speed of the Blu-Ray drive hampers rip speed the most.

SLI or Crossfire: No.

Monitor Resolution: 1920 x 1080

Additional Comments: I would like the computer to be as quiet as possible since 1) it will be running 24 hours a day; 2) it will be in my apartment's common area where all of my roommates will be hanging out; and 3) I don't want any noise interfering with movies, music, etc.


So, with that out of the way, here's a link to what I have so far:

http://pcpartpicker.com/p/bwL7


Some notes:
The areas where I'm the most iffy are the case/PSU and the GPU. Regarding the case, I looked around and saw mostly positive reviews of the one I chose (Fractal Design Core 1000). However, I've also heard good things about Fractal's Design Define Mini (link). I went with the Design Core 1000 because it's smaller and lighter but the Design Define Mini is marketed as being silent which is very appealing.
Regarding the GPU, I don't have nearly enough knowledge to make an informed decision here. If it's not necessary, the money saved would be nice. However, I'm not averse to buying one if shelling out a little more money on a decent quality GPU will make a noticeable improvement. It's worth noting that I left out a GPU mainly because this past year we had a Hackintosh with similar specs (and no GPU) in our suite and it worked just fine.


Wrapping it up...

Some questions:
1) Is a dedicated GPU necessary for this build? If so, what's a good brand/model?
2) Will I need additional cooling measures?
3) Is my case/PSU sufficient? Should I spring for the quieter, more expensive case?
4) Will the addition of a small (64GB) boot SSD to store my operating system(s) and applications be worth the investment?

Thanks in advance for any help/suggestions you can give me!

More about : 600 800 htpc build

July 7, 2012 5:32:28 AM

You shouldn't need a dedicated GPU on a HTPC.

Get the i5-3550. Its an Ivy Bridge so it has much better integrated graphics, lower power consumption and the performance over the an i3 will be noticeable. It also goes better with the H77 motherboard.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

You may want to consider an aftermarket heatsink on the CPU. Not really because you will need it to stay cool, but because the stock does get loud if it gets hot.

Use a 450W PSU.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Faster HDD of the same capacity for less. The energy consumption difference between proper and green drives isn't worth the performance decrease.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

As for the SSD, you say that it will be on 24/7, so you'v pretty much got no reason to get one. The main benefit of SSD's is faster boot and load times of the OS and any programs on it. If it always on, doesn't need a fast boot and any programs should already be loaded.



July 7, 2012 6:19:20 PM

Thank you very much for the feedback. I still have a few outstanding questions though...

manofchalk said:
You may want to consider an aftermarket heatsink on the CPU. Not really because you will need it to stay cool, but because the stock does get loud if it gets hot.

Do you have any suggestions for good brands/models?


Is the following PSU sufficient? It's a little cheaper and has received good reviews. Or is there a specific reason you recommended the XFX one? Sorry if I seem skeptical but the most oft-seen piece of advice I've noticed in putting together this computer is not to do something just because "somebody said to".

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

manofchalk said:
Faster HDD of the same capacity for less. The energy consumption difference between proper and green drives isn't worth the performance decrease.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Thanks for this. I'm not quite sure how I missed it but this seems better in just about every way.

manofchalk said:
You shouldn't need a dedicated GPU on a HTPC.

manofchalk said:
As for the SSD, you say that it will be on 24/7, so you'v pretty much got no reason to get one. The main benefit of SSD's is faster boot and load times of the OS and any programs on it. If it always on, doesn't need a fast boot and any programs should already be loaded.

Thanks for clearing those two points up for me.

Oh yeah, and here's my updated build (with the Antec PSU):

http://pcpartpicker.com/p/bzgc
Related resources
July 8, 2012 8:40:46 AM

For the CPU cooler, I would normally recommend the CM Hyper 212 EVO. But knowing the size of the thing I am unsure if it will fit in your case. You could get a Low Profile heatsink like this one to make sure. Just don't stress the CPU too badly as Low Profile heatsinks will always perform worse than full size ones, especially under load. It also get's loud under full load, but since its a HTPC I don't imagine that will be often.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I can understand your reasoning on the PSU, so I'l explain why.

80+ Bronze on a sub 600W unit is actually pretty hard to find, this is one I found. The Antec doesn't even seem to be 80+ certified. So its much more efficient than the Antec.

See that red switch on the back of the Antec? That's to change the voltage/amps (not sure which) the PSU can expect coming in. Any decent PSU has an internal one that doesn't have to be manually changed.

XFX Power Supply's (from what I understand) are re-branded Seasonic's, which is at the top of the ladder when it comes to PSU quality. Antec are sort of middle of the ladder.

And least importantly, the XFX looks better.
July 8, 2012 1:47:54 PM

why are we going intel with this?

an Llano A6 should be more than plenty, and allow a game or three at low settings:

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD A6-3500 2.1GHz Triple-Core Processor ($68.51 @ NCIX US)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-A75M-S2V Micro ATX FM1 Motherboard ($59.98 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($29.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 500GB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($64.99 @ NCIX US)
Case: Rosewill R379-M MicroATX Slim Case w/300W Power Supply ($51.98 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Asus BC-12B1ST/BLK/B/AS Blu-Ray Reader, DVD/CD Writer ($52.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $328.44
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)

the 3500 triple core is lower wattage (65W), but still plenty to do the tasks. the 6530D is stronger than the HD 2500 or 3000, and can do low powered 720p gaming
July 8, 2012 2:53:32 PM

A8 3850 would be $30-40 more expensive, and would improve gaming, but its higher wattage (100W).
July 9, 2012 2:26:49 AM

manofchalk said:
For the CPU cooler, I would normally recommend the CM Hyper 212 EVO. But knowing the size of the thing I am unsure if it will fit in your case. You could get a Low Profile heatsink like this one to make sure. Just don't stress the CPU too badly as Low Profile heatsinks will always perform worse than full size ones, especially under load. It also get's loud under full load, but since its a HTPC I don't imagine that will be often.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

If it's an issue of size, I can always purchase a larger case if the other components require it.

The only problem that I foresee is that ripping DVDs on my current computer (a Macbook Pro with a 2.7 GHz Intel Core i7 processor) pushes the CPU to full load. So, by that logic, wouldn't the same happen with the HTPC? If necessary, I can buy an external Blu-Ray drive, rip the discs in my room on my current computer, and then transfer them to the HTPC. Of course, if I did that, the HTPC wouldn't be doing any CPU-intensive tasks and I could go with a lesser processor, right?

So I guess my two options are to either 1) get a lesser processor and forgo ripping Blu-Ray discs on the HTPC; or 2) get a larger case with a higher quality heatsink and rip/play the discs directly on the HTPC. I'm leaning towards the latter option. If I went with that choice, would the CM Hyper 212 EVO be quieter than the alternative?

manofchalk said:
80+ Bronze on a sub 600W unit is actually pretty hard to find, this is one I found. The Antec doesn't even seem to be 80+ certified. So its much more efficient than the Antec.

See that red switch on the back of the Antec? That's to change the voltage/amps (not sure which) the PSU can expect coming in. Any decent PSU has an internal one that doesn't have to be manually changed.

XFX Power Supply's (from what I understand) are re-branded Seasonic's, which is at the top of the ladder when it comes to PSU quality. Antec are sort of middle of the ladder.

And least importantly, the XFX looks better.

Okay, that makes sense. Thanks for clarifying.

ScrewySqrl said:
why are we going intel with this?

an Llano A6 should be more than plenty, and allow a game or three at low settings:

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD A6-3500 2.1GHz Triple-Core Processor ($68.51 @ NCIX US)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-A75M-S2V Micro ATX FM1 Motherboard ($59.98 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($29.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 500GB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($64.99 @ NCIX US)
Case: Rosewill R379-M MicroATX Slim Case w/300W Power Supply ($51.98 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Asus BC-12B1ST/BLK/B/AS Blu-Ray Reader, DVD/CD Writer ($52.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $328.44
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)

the 3500 triple core is lower wattage (65W), but still plenty to do the tasks. the 6530D is stronger than the HD 2500 or 3000, and can do low powered 720p gaming

I'm going to need the full 2TB drive.

Care to back up some of those choices? I don't want to approve/dismiss them until I understand why you suggested them.

Oh, I forgot to mention this earlier but all of the components need to be compatible with GNU/Linux (most likely Debian or one of its derivatives, to be specific). So please keep that in mind when making suggestions.
July 9, 2012 10:06:07 AM

I think the simplest option would be to not rip discs while watching a movie. I think the CPU fan noise will be drowned out by the optical drive spinning anyway, often they are the loudest part of a machine.

CPU full load temps in this scenario are not really a concern unless they get above 90C (Which is when Thermal Throttling kicks in), which it wont.

The 212 EVO is a great cooler. I cant vouch for the stock fan as I immediately changed mine but I haven't heard anything bad about it noise-wise.
July 9, 2012 1:13:07 PM

Ganon said:


I'm going to need the full 2TB drive.

Care to back up some of those choices? I don't want to approve/dismiss them until I understand why you suggested them.

Oh, I forgot to mention this earlier but all of the components need to be compatible with GNU/Linux (most likely Debian or one of its derivatives, to be specific). So please keep that in mind when making suggestions.



ok, Llano (the build I suggested) is not as powerful a chip as Sandy Bridge -- but has far better graphics capability than Sandy Bridge/Ivy Bridge on-chip GPUs, so its a better balance. for an extra $50 over my build, you can get a 2 TB drive instead of a 500GB drive. For an extra $30 you can get the 2.9 GHz quad core A8-3850 instead of the 2.1 GHz triple core A6-3500. the A8 is a 100W part, compared to 65 for the three-core.

Llano makes a better HTPC simply because of its better graphics and 'good enough' CPU. -- and at a much lower cost.

I included a blu-ray reader/DVD Burner, and a slim MicroATX case with a relatively reliable power supply (not great, but at least not a fireworks factory)
July 10, 2012 7:23:46 PM

I've been doing a lot of thinking and I've decided to go with the i5 with this computer. While the price and integrated graphics of the the AMD certainly were appealing, I've discussed the issue with my roommates and, due to the success of the Hackintosh we had last year, they expressed interest in dual-booting OS X and GNU/Linux. So I've decided to go with Intel because getting a Hackintosh running with an AMD processor is a bit tricky from what I've heard.

http://pcpartpicker.com/p/bLEL

That's the build that I have at this point. I guess the only remaining questions are 1) will everything fit in the case and 2) should I get an aftermarket heatsink (and will that fit?)?
July 10, 2012 9:46:29 PM

that should do nicely as an HTPC and flash games.

I wouldn't worry about a aftermarket heat sink
!