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Sub-$500 HTPC/gaming build for living room

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July 19, 2012 9:41:56 PM

Hi all,

I'm looking for some advice for building low-cost HTPC/gaming PC for the living room. I already have a pretty good PC that I use for software development and gaming (will still play games like Diablo III/Civ5/etc there), but I want to play games in the couch with a controller, as well as HTPC use. I'm looking at a SFF build using a mini-ITX motherboard.

Approximate Purchase Date: Within the next couple of months. Not urgent.

Budget Range: Aprox. $500

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Gaming, HTPC (MLB TV streaming, movies, music collection)

Are you buying a monitor: No

Parts to Upgrade: N/A

Do you need to buy OS: No, already have a Win7 HP license I bought for Bootcamp that never installed

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Amazon or Fry's, can't use Newegg (no US credit card)

Location: Northern Los Angeles, CA (travel there a couple of times a month)

Parts Preferences:

Overclocking: No

SLI or Crossfire: No

Your Monitor Resolution: 720p HDTV, the resolution is 1366x768

Additional Comments: Small Form Factor, as quiet as possible,
Some games I expect to play: Skyrim, Fallout: NV, Metro 2033 (in low settings, I don't mind), Alan Wake, Batman:AA,Batman:AC,LA Noire,Rayman Origins

I am looking at the following parts, please feel free to recommend any upgrades/alternatives. I already have a wireless keyboard/trackpad, USB DVD drive, an ethernet wired-802.11n wireless bridge, and an XBox PC controller.

CPU: Intel Pentium 3.10 GHz 2 LGA 1155 G870 Processor (~$100)
http://www.amazon.com/Intel-Pentium-3-10-Processor-BX80...

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-H61N-USB3 Intel H61 Express Chipset Mini ITX DDR3 800 Intel - LGA 1155 Motherboard ($80)
http://www.amazon.com/Gigabyte-GA-H61N-USB3-Intel-Expre...

Memory: Corsair XMS3 8 GB (2 x 4GB) 1333 MHz PC3-10666 240-Pin DDR3 Memory Kit ($50)
http://www.amazon.com/Corsair-PC3-10666-240-Pin-Memory-...

Case: APEX MI-008 Tower Black P4 Chassis with 250W Itx Psu+sata Power Supply ($40)
http://www.amazon.com/MI-008-Tower-Black-Chassis-Supply...

Video Card: XFX Single Slot HD 7750 800MHz 1GB DDR5 DVI HDMI Display Port PCI-E Graphics Cards FX775AZNP4 ($120)
http://www.amazon.com/XFX-Single-Display-Graphics-FX775...

Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Blue 500 GB SATA III 7200 RPM 16 MB Cache ($70)
http://www.amazon.com/Western-Digital-Caviar-Cache-Desk...

Total: $470

This build would consume about 180W (according to http://extreme.outervision.com/PSUEngine), so the case included 250W PSU should be sufficient. It would drive a 32" 720p HDTV via the 7750's HDMI output, and I will use and XBox 360 controller for gaming. Since it is a 720p display I think this video card would do the job just fine. The case is small, but everything should fit according to the reviews I've seen, and I'm not afraid to open some holes in it and add a fan or two if more ventilation is required. The Pentium G870 and the 7750 have a low TDP, so hopefully it won't be an issue.

What do you guys think? Thanks for any suggestions!
a b 4 Gaming
July 20, 2012 10:21:31 AM

If going mATX form factor is an acceptable compromise

$494AR
a b 4 Gaming
July 20, 2012 11:21:41 AM

batchuka, thats more of a gaming machine than an htpc.

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD A8-3870K 3.0GHz Quad-Core Processor ($108.00 @ Newegg)
Motherboard: Asus F1A55-M LX PLUS Micro ATX FM1 Motherboard ($60.98 @ NCIX US)
Memory: G.Skill Ares Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 Memory ($49.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($77.99 @ NCIX US)
Case: nMEDIAPC HTPC 1080P HTPC Case ($59.98 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Antec 380W ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($37.99 @ SuperBiiz)
Optical Drive: Asus BC-12B1ST/BLK/B/AS Blu-Ray Reader, DVD/CD Writer ($46.75 @ Newegg)
Total: $441.68
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-07-20 07:21 EDT-0400)

this will do blu ray, netflix, and game solidly at 1366x768

there is enough money left to add a wi-fi card and/or a tv card

NCIX will pricematch the newegg parts
Related resources
July 20, 2012 11:41:00 AM

If you wanted to go even cheaper and lower power:

CPU + Mobo: ASRock E350M1 AMD E-350 Dual-Core/ AMD A50M/ DDR3/ SATA3/ A&V&GbE/ Mini-ITX Motherboard
http://www.amazon.com/ASRock-E350M1-Dual-Core-Mini-ITX-...
$94

Case: MI-008 Tower Black P4 Chassis with 250W Itx Psu+sata Power Supply
http://www.amazon.com/MI-008-Tower-Black-Chassis-Supply...
$40

With the same RAM/GPU/HDD you picked, would be only $380. And would run cooler, way lower power. TDPs on the E-350s is only 18W. And I can play light/older games on my netbook which has the C-60 which is even lower at 720p (and that's with only the APU and no GPU!)

Also, I highly highly recommend this keyboard/touchpad combo for HTPCs - I have two of them!

http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-Wireless-Keyboard-Multi-...
a b 4 Gaming
July 20, 2012 11:49:50 AM

My suggestion maybe a bit unpopular, but technically its a computer.

"Gaming with a controller", "Small form factor", "HTPC usage" and "720p" tell me you could get away with a high capacity Playstation 3.

It has wireless internet capability, BLU-Ray drive, supports Netflix and Playstation Movies, has an admittedly crap in-built internet browser, Bluetooth (I think), can record/watch TV on it through some program available off the PSN and will game better than any budget PC.
If the in-built HDD is insufficient, you can purchase an external drive and just connect it by USB, tape it to the console maybe.

This bundle has the 320GB console, a Dualshock Controller and Uncharted 3, for $300. For the features you get at the price, its pretty damn good in terms of value.
http://www.amazon.com/PS3-320GB-Uncharted-3-Bundle-Play...
July 20, 2012 12:08:23 PM

I like batuchka's suggestion. It's more powerful and has higher quality parts. I would never recommend a case that comes with a PSU from a no-name company like APEX. I wouldn't even recommend something like that to my worst enemy. It is imperative you get a decent PSU, you can get an Antec Basiq 350w for $25, it's at least reliable, well made, and backed by a warranty from a reputable company.
July 20, 2012 12:53:32 PM

manofchalk said:
My suggestion maybe a bit unpopular, but technically its a computer.

"Gaming with a controller", "Small form factor", "HTPC usage" and "720p" tell me you could get away with a high capacity Playstation 3.

It has wireless internet capability, BLU-Ray drive, supports Netflix and Playstation Movies, has an admittedly crap in-built internet browser, Bluetooth (I think), can record/watch TV on it through some program available off the PSN and will game better than any budget PC.
If the in-built HDD is insufficient, you can purchase an external drive and just connect it by USB, tape it to the console maybe.

This bundle has the 320GB console, a Dualshock Controller and Uncharted 3, for $300. For the features you get at the price, its pretty damn good in terms of value.
http://www.amazon.com/PS3-320GB-Uncharted-3-Bundle-Play...


I'll agree with this lol. PS3 could out perform a low budget computer.
a b 4 Gaming
July 20, 2012 1:20:39 PM

bzzt. no, it wouldn't! a PS3 was a low-end computer in 2006!

my suggested build (a Llano 3870K) is actualy close in performace to a Playstation 4, due out next year. not to mention Diablo III is one of the desired games (and will not work on a Playstion, being PC Only)
a b 4 Gaming
July 20, 2012 1:35:32 PM

OP has said that he has another PC which he'l play Diablo 3 on, and all the other games specified (except for Alan Wake and Rayman) are available on the PS3.

Also consider that the PS3 bundle I linked to is $150 cheaper than your build, so less performance can be justified here. PS3 graphics arn't that bad, it is actually quite amazing what good optimization (which can be done since its a static platform) can produce visually.

Just that in my opinion, a PS3 will do everything the OP has stated he wants.
July 20, 2012 1:39:58 PM

PS3 games don't go on sale like PC games though. And if he already owns these games on PC then he would have to re-buy them on the PS3. PS3 games are expensive. I have a PS3, it's pretty cool, I haven't used it for anything other than netflixs in about 6 months. My 6 year old plays the crap out of Rayman Origins. I'd rather have a HTPC, its more versatile.
July 20, 2012 7:08:24 PM

manofchalk said:
My suggestion maybe a bit unpopular, but technically its a computer.

"Gaming with a controller", "Small form factor", "HTPC usage" and "720p" tell me you could get away with a high capacity Playstation 3.

It has wireless internet capability, BLU-Ray drive, supports Netflix and Playstation Movies, has an admittedly crap in-built internet browser, Bluetooth (I think), can record/watch TV on it through some program available off the PSN and will game better than any budget PC.
If the in-built HDD is insufficient, you can purchase an external drive and just connect it by USB, tape it to the console maybe.

This bundle has the 320GB console, a Dualshock Controller and Uncharted 3, for $300. For the features you get at the price, its pretty damn good in terms of value.
http://www.amazon.com/PS3-320GB-Uncharted-3-Bundle-Play...


+1 - PS3 and a Logitech Mediaboard is way more tech than you'll get in a PC at that price.

And PS3 games don't go one sale...really? Have you been to a gamestop lately? Also, you can re-sell used PS3 games...which you can't do with the PC.

That said, I have both an HTPC and a PS3 - I game more on the PS3 and watch movies and content more on the HTPC.
July 22, 2012 4:30:32 AM

Hi guys, thanks a lot for the suggestions.

Actually a PS3 doesn't sound like a bad idea. I'll look into it more. There are rumors that a new form factor will be released soon-ish, accompanied with a price cut. The Logitech Mediaboard looks pretty neat, I wasn't even aware of its existence. It is similar to the wireless keyboard I have (the Logitech K400 Inanition02 mentioned) The downside are the games - I already have a bunch of the ones I mentioned form Steam/GoG.com sales, and in general digital downloads of PC games tend to be cheaper than buying them for a console.

The Llano 3870K build also sounds like an option to consider. The performance of integrated graphics has never been good IMO, but if it is at least decent and would get me a quiet low-power but capable system, then it is something to consider. I think the E-350 and C-60 are too underpowered for the types of games I want to play. After doing a bit more research I saw that the new Trinity APUs are around the corner, so I think it'll be worth to wait until those come out and the reviews (and prices) are in.

Going with a mATX build makes it too big for the living room... do you know of any small mATX cases that could be suitable? It is a nice list for upgrading my current PC at low cost.

Also, do you guys know of any PSU that could fit an ITX case like the one I posted but is of better quality?

And yes, for games like Diablo, Civ 5, Age of Empires, etc, I'll still use the PC on my Home Office.

Thanks a lot to all of you for your suggestions. As I mentioned this is not urgent, so I am open to more ideas on how to put together this system.
Anonymous
a b 4 Gaming
July 22, 2012 5:40:10 AM

i'm going to give this a shot . .only because i saw this miniITX case and it looked great, so . . .
PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Pentium G860 3.0GHz Dual-Core Processor ($82.99 @ eCost)
Motherboard: ASRock B75M-ITX Mini ITX LGA1155 Motherboard ($96.97 @ Newegg)
Memory: Corsair XMS3 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3-1333 Memory ($21.99 @ Newegg)
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Blue 250GB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($49.99 @ NCIX US)
Video Card: Gigabyte Radeon HD 7770 1GB Video Card ($89.99 @ Newegg)
Case: BitFenix Prodigy (Black) Mini ITX Tower Case ($79.99 @ NCIX US)
Power Supply: Corsair 430W ATX12V Power Supply ($26.98 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Lite-On ihes112-04 Blu-Ray Reader, DVD/CD Writer ($52.98 @ Newegg)
Total: $501.88
(Prices include shipping and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-07-22 01:37 EDT-0400)

you have to see this review of the case, highly entertaining and informative if you have the time (and yes the case fits a full sized ATX psu!)
a b 4 Gaming
July 22, 2012 5:47:15 AM

pretty solid, and will game decently
July 23, 2012 9:30:34 PM

That Bitfenix Prodigy case looks amazing, thank you looniam for the recommendation. I might end up using it in my main PC next time I upgrade.

The problem with the Silverstone Milo is that it only accepts low profile video cards, otherwise it is a very solid mATX case.
!