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Advice and info on building an HTPC

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September 27, 2012 7:16:50 PM

Hello fellow Tom's Hardware readers! I'm very interested in building an HTPC, but I've no experience in the area. I've built my own rigs for the past 10 years, but they've always been focused on gaming. I could use some advice and information on this front.

What things do I need to focus on with an HTPC build?
Are there known issues / pitfalls with building / usinf an HTPC?
Will I be able to use an HTPC in conjunction with DIRECTV?

Any other info that might be helpful in this would be appreciated.

Approximate Purchase Date: unknown, will decide based on this thread, probably

Budget Range: $1,000 US - Before Rebates; After Shipping

System Usage: HTPC, surfing the internet

Are you buying a monitor: No

Parts to Upgrade: New build, no upgrading

Do you need to buy OS: No

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Newegg

Location: Texas, USA

Parts Preferences: None really, just reliable

Overclocking: No

SLI or Crossfire: No

Your Monitor Resolution: 1920x1200, Samsung 50" HDTV

Additional Comments: A quiet HTPC would be a bonus
September 28, 2012 1:44:14 AM

Zharkov said:
What things do I need to focus on with an HTPC build?
Are there known issues / pitfalls with building / usinf an HTPC?
Will I be able to use an HTPC in conjunction with DIRECTV?

Here's my list of HTPC priorities in order:
#1 It must playback media, whatever media, without loss of quality.
#2 It must be quiet.
#3 It must stay cool (related to #2)
#4 It must be simple (to use, and hardware-wise... no water cooling loops for example)
#5 It must have high WAF
#6 It must aesthetically fit into the Home Theater. LEDs, cold cathodes, UV lights, gaming towers need not apply.

BTW, for DirecTV, you can only use an HTPC as a capture device if you use an IR blaster and a capture card like the Hauppauge Colossus. That kind of breaks rule #4 for me, but to each his own.
September 28, 2012 3:08:23 PM

Thanks, rwpritchet.

More advice / info would be greatly appreciated.
Related resources
September 28, 2012 3:31:19 PM

HTPCs generally do not require a lot of processing power unless you're also wanting to game using it. In my opinion, an HTPC should only be used for media, but that's just me. Some people like the idea of gaming from their couch and the big screen HDTV lets them do that. However, for something that is strictly for media recording/playback, then pretty much any dual-core processor on the market today is sufficient.

Also keep in mind that lower powered systems do not require as much cooling as gaming systems. Less heat generated means fans do not have to spin at full speed to keep things cool, which means less noise.

Take a look at my HTPC system specs in my signature block below. With the exception of the graphics card, this is about the equivalent power you'd need (I built it long before APUs came about). I'm still not convinced about Intel's on-board graphics so I'll still recommend a low powered discrete graphics card if you opt for an Intel processor (or a non-APU AMD processor). Any of the AMD APUs will suffice for HTPC processing and graphics.

-Wolf sends
September 28, 2012 3:39:01 PM

Wolfshadw said:
HTPCs generally do not require a lot of processing power unless you're also wanting to game using it. In my opinion, an HTPC should only be used for media, but that's just me. Some people like the idea of gaming from their couch and the big screen HDTV lets them do that. However, for something that is strictly for media recording/playback, then pretty much any dual-core processor on the market today is sufficient.

Also keep in mind that lower powered systems do not require as much cooling as gaming systems. Less heat generated means fans do not have to spin at full speed to keep things cool, which means less noise.

Take a look at my HTPC system specs in my signature block below. With the exception of the graphics card, this is about the equivalent power you'd need (I built it long before APUs came about). I'm still not convinced about Intel's on-board graphics so I'll still recommend a low powered discrete graphics card if you opt for an Intel processor (or a non-APU AMD processor). Any of the AMD APUs will suffice for HTPC processing and graphics.

-Wolf sends


Thanks, Wolf!
I'm really not up on my knowledge of AMD APUs. Do these negate the need for an additional video card in the system for certain applications, or is it a co-processor for the GPU on the card?

To your point of less heat being generated, I'm guessing CPUs with smaller wattage would be good. Should I consider specific types of memory? What about SSD as opposed to spinning HDDs?
September 28, 2012 3:51:55 PM

If I were building an HTPC in the near future, the new AMD Trinity APU platform is probably what I would go for. You'd have to wait a few weeks for availability though.

AMD's Trinity : An HTPC Perspective
September 28, 2012 4:48:14 PM

rwpritchett said:
If I were building an HTPC in the near future, the new AMD Trinity APU platform is probably what I would go for. You'd have to wait a few weeks for availability though.

AMD's Trinity : An HTPC Perspective


Thanks for that! It looks like it may be Christmas before this product is released, but I'll keep an eye out. It seems like it might be worth waiting for.
October 29, 2012 8:00:58 PM

How did u go with htpc build?
I'm about to order parts for mine based in the new AMD A8 and the Asrock -m atx board, inside a silverstone case. Will use 120 ssd + 2tb hdd, bluray drive and tuner card. Hope ur build goes well
!