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Building a home theater/gaming computer

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August 15, 2012 4:42:32 AM

I've never built a computer before but I am pretty computer savvy. I've done some research and decided it's something I can easily handle. The project is an all-out high end everything pc. Not only will I be playing games on it but I would also like it to double as my DVR and have surround sound. My main screen will be my 62 inch flatscreen, but I would also like another(possibly big screen) tv to run the computer on while my wife watches tv, or just to have dual-monitors while on the computer. I understand that if I have a tv tuner to dvr with I need to watch it through the computer, but if I have some kind of a/b switch could I turn it back into running through the cable box so I can use the computer? Or is it possible to run dual monitors, one with the tv on and one just the desktop? Assuming we're watching tv through the computer most of the time I would like a decent surround sound system running all the time.

I've looked through plenty of components since I decided to do this and it's pretty overwhelming so I would appreciate any help choosing what anyone thinks the best are and how I should set this up. I understand the putting together of all the parts, but I would like some input on how to run the tv tuner/video card(s) and sound card/surround sound with what I had described.

I hope what I'm looking for isn't too impossible but I've dreamt of such a system for many years. I appreciate any help anyone can give!

Thanks,
-Mark




Approximate Purchase Date: Probably one piece a week starting a month from now.

Budget Range: Non-issue. If it gets to be more than 3 or 4 thousand without the second big screen I might consider keeping it down a little but I am looking for a high-end machine and I know it doesn't come cheap.

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Watching tv(dvr)/gaming/surfing the internet

Are you buying a monitor: Yes, I'm thinking a 42" plasma or LCD screen

Do you need to buy OS: Yes, I'm not sure when Windows 8 is coming out but I've heard it's going for $50.(Not that I'm going to spend all this money on this machine and scrimp on the OS but if it's the newest for that cheap then why not?)

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Newegg? I'm new to this but I've heard good things.

Location: Rochester, New York, USA

Parts Preferences: We're doing it big so Intel right? Online I see that people seem to prefer NVIDIA graphics cards. I had bookmarked a couple things on Newegg:
-Cooler Master HAF 932 Advanced RC-932-KKN5-GP Black Steel ATX Full Tower or
Cooler Master HAF X RC-942-KKN1 Black Steel/Plastic ATX Full Tower(not sure which I like better, not much of a difference)
-ASUS Sabertooth Z77, which supports the LGA 1155 socket, I've had a little confusion about the different socket types, the new one is LGA 2011 I think? So should I get an X79 motherboard?
-A SSD drive for the OS but maybe one or two large enough for my daily activities, and large HDDs for long-term storage(I see they make 3tb drives now).

Overclocking: Yes, I haven't looked into exactly how to do it yet but I know it's something I'd like to do.

SLI or Crossfire: Yes, people seem to prefer SLI but I read that CrossfireX is more interchangable. But if NVIDIA performs better then I'm not too worried about it.

Your Monitor Resolution: Honestly, I've never messed with resolutions before. Any suggestions? What's popular? Is bigger better?

Additional Comments: I'm going all out on this machine. Money is no object. It will be my home theater system so quieter is better(I guess the large fans in the case I chose run quieter), but I put up with people shouting and clapping in the movie theater so I'm not TOO worried about some fans running. Although liquid cooling is probably my best bet right? Also I'd like some kind of RAID array. Again I'm kind of new to this but I was thinking a RAID 5? I spent a whole year collecting movies and music on an external 2tb RAID 0 and one of the drives died and I lost everything on both. I never want that to happen again.

And Most Importantly, Why Are You Upgrading: The last computer I bought is my laptop five years ago. It's treated me well all this time but I have a wife and my own house now and I'd like something we can both use that encompasses all the media in our life. Thanks again, everybody!
August 15, 2012 5:00:57 AM

You don't need to spend so much honestly. Liquid cooling isn't very effective for the price. Especially not the Corsair Hydro solutions. This cooler will be more than solid for the price:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Check out my $1100 build here:
http://www.squidoo.com/electronicandmore
Switch the 7950 for the GTX 670 and you'll be set:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
No need to spend so excessive. Switch to this PSU though since you want to SLI
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Solid reviews: http://www.jonnyguru.com/modules.php?name=NDReviews&op=...

You could change the case to a quieter case, but I have to say that the build in my link is good enough, the case might not be what you'd want so you can always change that. The i5 3570K will give you enough performance on the CPU end for awhile and the GTX 670 gives you exceptional performance for the price. A slight overclock would give you much more performance.

The Sabertooth is the worst board for the value, it also doesn't perform. Check this review out for a Z77 board round up: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/z77-extreme6-z77a-g...
Although the Sabertooth isn't in there, most Asus Z77 boards at the moment are terrible for the value. Performing at the level of $140-$160 Asrock boards.
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August 15, 2012 6:02:37 AM

In my opinion, an HTPC does not game. It's strictly for media playback. However, many people here have decided that an HTPC can do the same as any other PC, but placed in a Home Theater environment; hence the gaming quality of some HTPC builds.

Since this is what you're looking for, the best advice I could give would be to build the best single GPU gaming system you want with the additional DVR capabilities (TV Tuner/Extra Storage Space).

Rule #1 for self-builds - Never purchase piecemeal. If at all possible, save up funds until you have enough money saved up to purchase ALL your components. This way you're not affected by sudden budget fluctuations (unexpected required purchases prevent you from your computer purchases) or price drops. The only exception would be if one of your less critical components suddenly went on sale; i.e. a computer case goes from $100 to $60.

For the gaming component of this build, I don't think anyone would argue with the Intel Core I5-3570, GeForce GTX670/680, 8GB of RAM, and a 80-120GB SSD as core components. Adding in the DVR capabilities, you'd just want to add a cablecard device like the Ceton Corp InfiniTV4 USB/PCI-E, Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650, or SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime 3CC/6CC and a mass of additional storage space. These devices, when installed into your computer or computer network, act as cable set top box replacements. Which of these cablecard devices you get is going to depend on your DVR needs, but I'm going to lean towards the Ceton InfiniTV4 PCI-E card.

An HTPC working with two monitors, simultaneously, isn't something that I think will work well. Windows 7 only utilizes one audio output at a time. So while the wife could be watching a movie in the secondary monitor, the PC that the movie is running from will still respond to audio commands as Windows 7 dictates. If what you're working on suddenly requires the same audio channel that your wife is using to watch her movie, she'll suddenly start hearing your work's audio output, rather than her movie.

Now towards the end of the year, Ceton Corp is coming out with a device that should alleviate this issue. It's called the Ceton Echo. Essentially, this is an extender for any system running Window 7. However, when connected to a system with multiple TV Tuners, one tuner can be dedicated to the Echo. With the PC hooked up to one HDTV/monitor and the Echo connected to another HDTV, your set up will act as if you have two separate computers/tuners. Audio and Video will play on the HDTV for the Wife via the Ceton Echo, while you're able to keep working on your tasks via the HTPC.

Hope this helps.

-Wolf sends
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