$1100 htpc/file server advice

I'm planning for a new htpc that will double as a file/backup server for home use (2 users). I may do some minor gaming, but I don't need ultra settings. It doesn't have to be strictly silent, but very quiet is preferable. I may keep it up 24x7 for file access.

I've fleshed out an initial version, and I'd like some suggestions if anything is lacking.

Approximate Purchase Date: July 2012

Budget Range: $1100

System Usage from Most to Least Important: htpc, personal file server, surfing, gaming

Are you buying a monitor: No (connecting to 46")

Do you need to buy OS: Yes - initial install of XP, upgrading to Win8

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg.com

Location: WA, USA

Overclocking: No

Here's what I've come up with so far:

Case: SILVERSTONE Grandia GD05B -- $89

Motherboard: ASUS P8Z77-M Micro ATX -- $129 (is PRO worth $20 more?)

CPU: Intel i5-3570 -- $214

CPU Cooloer: Scythe SCBSK-2100 BIG Shuriken 2 -- $47 (low profile needed for case config)

Memory: CORSAIR Vengeance 8GB 1600 (1x8) -- $55

PS: Seasonic SS-460FL 460W Fanless 80Plus Gold modular -- $129

Video: EVGA GeForce GTX 550 Ti 1GB -- $134

Hard drives: Deskstar 7K3000 2TB 7200 -- 2@$135 -- $270 (RAID-1)

Total with shipping is $1102.

I left out a DVD/BD drive, which I can use from my old machine. I could see cutting back on the PS, but since this may be on 24x7 in the living room, I want something efficient, quiet, and cool.

Thanks for any advice/opinions.
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  1. I would suggest getting this PSU, as 460W on a single GPU system may be insufficient. Unfortunately it has a fan, but it shouldnt be too loud unless you get a defective unit. 80+ Gold and from Seasonic, modular as well.

    Only difference I can find between the standard and Pro version motherboards is an extra PCI-E slot. Considering this isn't a gaming rig, I doubt you will be running SLI on it so just get the normal. For a rig like this, SATA ports are your bigger concern. Based on that I say get the AsRock Extreme4-M. It has two more SATA 6GB/s ports and also supports SLI properly like the ASUS Pro board. It also seems to have an inbuilt RAID controller.

    You could save yourself a bit of cash and go to a H77 board since you cant overclock (and wouldnt want to on this type of machine) the CPU anyway, or go the full mile and get the 3570k. While you might not overclock it now, you could take the components out later (recycling for a new rig or something) and overclock to make up a bit of performance.

    You need low profile memory, as that CPU heatsink looks very wide and you might as well to save space. Also, its cheaper to buy a 2x4Gb than a single 8GB stick.

    This Hard Drive has the same specs and a bit cheaper.
  2. Dump the 550ti, they have gtx 560 se models in nearly the same range. Also, avoid Hitachi hard drives. Just a personal preference, but I've worked on a number of systems, and always prefer Western Digital or Seagate.
  3. Manofchalk:
    I thought my PS might be on the low end, but I didn't check out power specs on all components. The video card said it needed a 400W PS, and that probably means 400W available to the card, so yeah, I probably do need to bump it up.

    I looked at AsRock initially, but some discussions I followed suggested they were a step down from Asus's main boards in terms of reliability. It does have RAID and 2 add'l SATA 6gb, but only two are available for RAID at 6gb (4 more at 3gb). That might be a limitation of the Z77 chipset, as even the Maximus V has the same limit though it has 4 SATA 6gb. I'm not familiar enough with H77 boards yet, so I'll look at some.

    I know the heatsink breaches the memory airspace, but I think it only affects the last one or two slots, which was part of the reason I went with a single 8gb stick. That way, even if I only have two slots accessible, I can bump up to 16 easily later. Lower profile won't hurt, though, and I think I tagged the stick that I did before getting to heatsinks.

    As for the hard drive, I've preferred Seagate previously, but the ones I considered this time only had 1yr warranty, whereas the Deskstar has 3yr.

    I didn't notice the SE models of the GTX 560 the first time through, but there are some at the same price, so I'll check 'em out. I'm guessing they're a handicapped version of the 560 ti, but still maybe be an improvement over the 550.
  4. An i5 and a 550 are quite overkill for HTPC/file server. Go for Sandy Pentium and a HD6670 tops.
  5. I have an AsRock board and no issue with it so far. I wouldnt worry about the reliability of a motherboard, as the only difference between boards is whether it will last 10 or 11yrs. Even that is highly depended on the conditions its placed in, room temperature, humidity, dust, etc.

    Also H77 is essentially Z77 minus the ability to overclock.

    You will never need 16GB on a HTPC, even 8GB is pushing it. A HTPC could get away with 4GB quite easily. I wouldn't worry about the expandability of the RAM until you put it into a proper desktop setting. Most motherboards have a dual channel memory configuration, so you will get better performance (if only slight) by going 2x4GB.

    The warranty on the HDD isnt all that important. A HDD will break within the first 3 months or never. Only other way is to drop it, which your insurance wont cover anyway.
  6. Good points regarding potential overkill of some of the components. Although this is primarily an htpc/file server, I do want some gaming capability, just not enough to justify a high-end card. I'm trying to find a sweet spot between cost and performance, allowing some headroom for future needs (I have a 6-yr-old) and increased requirements. I'd prefer to setup and forget, even if it means a slight cost hit initially.

    I'm not too concerned with the dual memory config performance. I know it's measurable in benchmarks, but probably not significantly noticeable in real world use cases. OTOH, using two allows for one to go bad without disabling the whole machine, which is part of the reason I'm going for RAID (+ redundancy), so there's that.

    Regarding the hard drives, if warranty doesn't matter, than Hitachi vs Seagate comes down to strict comparison of model specs and price, plus maybe a noise factor. The Seagates I've had have been very quiet though, and this one looks to be 0.3db quieter than the Hitachi at idle. I don't see comparable lifespan specs on their websites.
  7. Just stopping by to clear up some misinformation in this thread about the power supply. You definitely do not need a 650w. The 460w originally listed is more than enough for the proposed build. Even a good quality 400w unit would suffice.
  8. It's not clear what power is actually needed for the originally noted video card, but the evga site suggests a minimum 400W PS.

    They don't say the card itself needs that much, so I would assume they're considering a generic PS (not necessarily 80PLUS) and typical components (eg. one hard drive, minimal other devices). I'm only adding a 2nd hard drive to that, so if I'm using a 460W Gold PS, I could still see that being valid.
  9. All manufacturers will overestimate the power requirements as part of their CYA strategy. For all they know, someone is running a 130W processor with 8 hard drives and other 4 expansion cards. The 400W recommendation does not mean the card pulls 400W BTW, it's what recommend for total wattage of the system.

    Just go here:


    and get an estimate for your power needs. Even with that tool, the only way to truly how much power is being used would be to measure the draw with a kill-a-watt meter after the system is built.

    Just to give you some perspective, I've got an i7-2700K, Radeon HD 6950, 3 hard drives, 1 SSD, and 5 fans on my own desktop drawing power. The kill-a-watt says it draws about 95W at idle, and about 380W running prime95 and furmark simultaneously. While gaming it reads about 285W.
  10. Yes, that is the site I was looking for. Thanks!

    Even adding a couple devices (tv tuner, bluetooth), it comes in under 400W.
  11. Corsair CX430W V2 would be great, and they still offer a rebate for a total price of $24.99 which is great for a quality unit.
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