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Need advice on budget HTPC

Tags:
  • Homebuilt
  • Systems
Last response: in Systems
August 26, 2012 3:33:00 AM

I'm hoping somebody can give a beginner some advice on building/buying a small htpc. I've been looking all over the internet at the various guides/forums, and it has only left me confused on what direction to go. I'm looking for a small, quiet, and energy efficient htpc.

Approximate Purchase Date: e.g.: within a month

Budget Range: <$400

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Steam Netflix, media center for music only, emulation up to N64/PSX

Do you need to buy OS: No? Would like to use XBMC, unless other suggestions.

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Amazon, Newegg

Parts Preferences: Any

Overclocking: No

Your Monitor Resolution: 1920x1080 (1080p)

Additional Comments: I need the following connections: hdmi, optical out, bluetooth (for xbox360 controller), wifi. I'm leaning towards a SSD drive only for storage (if possible?). Are they considered more reliable and stable in the longterm? I do not plan to store movies and my music collection will not be that large. I'm thinking 64GB would be sufficient, but would be more comfortable with 80GB-128GB depending on final price.



More about : advice budget htpc

August 26, 2012 6:51:22 AM

You should probably look at APUs.
You don't need a lot of CPU power, but mostly specialized solutions for movie decoding should be much more cost effective.
Most ppl I know with HTPC put the OS in the SSD and the data on their NAS or HDDs.
August 26, 2012 7:24:20 AM

As a seasoned HTPC builder, I agree a lot with proton007 in that you should look into APUs, which are AMD processors that also have (quite good) integrated graphics.

Actually, Whitson Gordon of Lifehacker just did a post on how he built an AMAZING HTPC for under $500. His rig can stream from Netflix, play Blu-Ray movies, emulate old school video games, and with his processor, play modern games from Steam such as Skyrim, on high settings.

Since your HTPC is used mostly for streaming, and you aren't storing much data, an SSD would be costly and useless. I recommend something like a 750GB HDD, which would be much cheaper.

In terms of the OS, I don't recommend XBMC's dedicated OS. Obviously it runs XBMC fine, but it's wonky when you stream from Netflix. I recommend Windows, even if it is Home Basic, especially if you want to emulate too.


Related resources
August 26, 2012 4:31:25 PM

Thanks for the insight! As far as the OS, is it easy to setup XBMC to bootup immediately with Windows? Planning to use primarily a xbox360 controller to control.

I had been looking at this specific build:

http://forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?tid=114896
or
http://forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?pid=938719%23pid93...

Any suggestions on top of these? A little confused on the difference between mini and micro. I would like which ever one I could get the smallest/slimmest (especially since I do not need an optical drive). Bare with me, I'm definitely a beginner.
August 26, 2012 4:54:28 PM

It is very easy to setup XBMC to startup with Windows. You just have to go into startup programs and check the box next to "XBMC."

In terms of form factor, Mini ITX is smaller than Micro ATX. I think you'll be pleased with Mini ITX - those things are damn TINY! I think you should look at Whitson's build and modify it to suit your needs (i.e. take out the optical drive since you say you don't need one)

Here's the link: http://lifehacker.com/5936546/how-i-built-the-media-cen...
August 28, 2012 12:45:15 AM

I really appreciate your help! I originally looked at a different article on lifehacker, but the one you posted sounds just about right for me!

Just a couple more questions if you don't mind. I've installed various components before in PCs, but this would be my first "build." Is it pretty straight forward on the layout? Also, for the Scythe cooler listed in the article, is thermal paste truly required?
a c 143 B Homebuilt system
August 28, 2012 12:48:12 AM

in this price range sometimes the smart thing to do is buy a laptop with an HDMI port and a dvd drive .
Add an external hard drive later for storage if you need it
August 28, 2012 2:06:06 AM

I've thought about that, but I've been wanting to do a project like this for a while.
August 29, 2012 11:31:32 AM

bettercallsaul said:
I really appreciate your help! I originally looked at a different article on lifehacker, but the one you posted sounds just about right for me!

Just a couple more questions if you don't mind. I've installed various components before in PCs, but this would be my first "build." Is it pretty straight forward on the layout? Also, for the Scythe cooler listed in the article, is thermal paste truly required?


Extra components like CPU coolers technically don't need extra thermal paste, since the processor has a tiny amount on it already. However, I really recommend getting another tube. It's extra cheap, and if you need to re-install the fan later for some reason, you need to re-apply another coat of thermal paste.

(P.S. If you are interested in building a new "home-theater" with your shiny, new HTPC, there are articles that I can link about how you can build a HUGE projector screen for less than $100, and how to rig up the ultimate sound system!)

Hope you have fun!
a b B Homebuilt system
August 29, 2012 12:02:32 PM

the only change I'd make to the linked lifehacker HTPC is switch to an A8 processor (3850 or 3870K), upgrade the RAM to DDR3-1600 (only a couple bucks more), and consider saving a little money with micro-ATX instead of Mini-ITX for the motherboard ad case
August 29, 2012 1:23:27 PM

Check out my sig...it works perfectly for net streaming and HD playback (Bluray).
August 29, 2012 2:47:20 PM

diellur said:
Check out my sig...it works perfectly for net streaming and HD playback (Bluray).


Your rig is fine for you. But in terms of cost-effectiveness, an Intel proccesor, Blu-Ray drive, etc. is not what OP wants - he wants a cheap rig ONLY for streaming.
August 30, 2012 1:06:29 AM

Thanks guys for all the help! I plan to give it a shot within the next month.