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First HTPC + Infinitv4 Build Advice

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February 14, 2013 2:41:03 PM

Hello everyone....I've spent the last couple days really trying to research a htpc config that would fit my needs. Searching around the net, it seems this forum is the best for advice and providing lists for components. I'm not a stranger to computers but never built one before and most of this is very new for me. I've read just about every htpc build on here, but before pulling the trigger I would like to know for sure I'm making the best choices.

My intention -

I first started this project to replace my cable boxes and DVR using the InfiniTV4 and xbox extenders, but realized the huge possibilities for networking the whole house and TV's for sharing media and watching tv.

Not really a gamer, main goal is a system powerfull enough to support media and TV through house.

Budget -

I'd like to stay around $600, (not necessarily including the OS) as it seems that other $600 or lower builds on here look to be about what I need. My main concern is not really going overkill on the components for performance, but at the same time no regrets that I should've bought something better.

My thoughts...

1.) OS - I'll be using Win7 (Don't have right now)

2.) Tuner - I want to use one PCI infiniTV4 (Already have) for now but want an extra slot to add an additional one down the road for a total of 8 tuners.

3.) CPU - I've read arguments for AMD vs. Intel and don't really know which is the better buy for my needs.

4.) Mobo - Need PCI slots for two tuners and a spare wouldn't hurt if needed later. Would also like HDMI to save me an extender and plug right into main TV.

4.) Storage - I'd like an SSD, but 64 or 128? (I'm guessing 64 is enough but 128 would improve boot/wake time. By how much though really)

5.) Storage - I'd like a 2TB HDD, but was thinking maybe a small HDD and then an expandable external HDD that I can add upon to use as a network/media drive as well. I just didn't know if speed for recording/streaming TV would be impeded with an external connection.

6.) Case - I like the idea of the smaller ITX style cases and such but not sure how much the price would vary and limit space for add-ons. (Really just esthetics and not a huge deal. Would sacrifice size for $ and performance)

7.) Power Supply - Seems a lot of builds I've seen get criticism for going to high....don't want overkill.

8.) Optical Drive - I already have a ps3 for playing blu-ray but I guess I need some sort of drive to get the os on. Might as well go blu-ray for ripping down the road...

Anyway, those are my thoughts. I would really appreciate some direction for a parts list. It seems that this was the place to turn to for people that really know their stuff :) 


February 14, 2013 3:14:38 PM

afaik, no mini itx board comes with pci/pci 1x slot

so micro atx the only way to go
February 14, 2013 3:36:03 PM

AMD Radeon said:
afaik, no mini itx board comes with pci/pci 1x slot

so micro atx the only way to go


Good to know! Thx
Related resources
February 14, 2013 3:39:41 PM

You might want to consider just getting a micro atx as AMD Radeon suggests, then get a USB Infinittv4 later instead of having 2 PCI versions. This would reduce the heat in your HTPC. Or another alternative is using a Silicondust, they only have a 3 tuner version of the Homerun prime (which is what I use) but it works, it simply plugs into a router or switch instead of being PCI or USB.


Either way you will have to use Tuner Salad to enable WMC to handle more then 4 tuners anyway.

Also by my experience the extenders handle TV direct to your monitor better than the HDMI from the HTPC. The picture is cleaner, there is less pixellation etc. Buts that is of course my opinion.

I had some issues a couple of months ago and I had to get a senior tech supervisor from the cable company to come help me (it was an issue with an update my cable provider did) and he confirmed that the set up I have is upconverting the picture to 1080p. He was impressed. And this was with an Xbox 360 Black/Slim with HDMI on a Sharp Aquos 60 inch.

In my bedroom I use a Ceton Echo, there are many opinions on this device but I have had a good experience with mine, the latest updates have really helped to make this a solid unit, its quieter than the Xbox and the picture is better. Not sure if you care about that but I thought I would give my two bits on that.

As far as CPU goes, I am only using an old AMD Athlon 6000+ X2 and its handling the job just fine. But Its just me and my wife, so I don't need more cores right now, if I had to support more streams than I would upgrade to a 4 core but right now I am fine with what I have.

So if you get a cheap Phenom II 940, 955 or something similar I think you will be good. Get a good GPU like a 6450 or equivalent Nvidia, that should be more than enough. I am using a 5450 and its working like a champ.

I am using a 520 watt Antec as a power supply, its doing great.

I have heard that using an SSD does help with the load times of channels and such as WMC is quicker on an SSD but I have not first hand experience.

Just make sure that you decide and stick with your component decision, because any changes to CPU will break DRM and will make anything you record unwatchable. Edit: This will only be a problem on 'copy once' channels like HBO, Starz etc.

One last thing, don't rout all your cables through your router. Get a gigabyte switch, otherwise you will get 'Network Issue' warning during peak hours, which can get annoying.
February 14, 2013 3:58:13 PM

Quote:
Also by my experience the extenders handle TV direct to your monitor better than the HDMI from the HTPC. The picture is cleaner, there is less pixellation etc. Buts that is of course my opinion.


Thanks for this. Was trying to just save money on one extender. Weird that hdmi straight from the htpc wouldn't be the best. I can always add one I guess.

Quote:
So if you get a cheap Phenom II 940, 955 or something similar I think you will be good. Get a good GPU like a 6450 or equivalent Nvidia, that should be more than enough. I am using a 5450 and its working like a champ.


So you don't recommend a cpu with built in gpu? Seems like what most builds I read on here do.

Quote:
One last thing, don't rout all your cables through your router. Get a gigabyte switch, otherwise you will get 'Network Issue' warning during peak hours, which can get annoying.


I have two fios routers. One I put in the panel where all my ethernet/cable/etc. hubs are, and configured it for a switch. Since the ethernet isn't near the cable in some rooms, I was gonna do a moca bridge for some and use the cable lines. Do you think this would prevent the "network Issue"? Didn't plan on having any wires coming from the main router (wireless)....just the router in the main panel configured for a switch.

February 14, 2013 4:05:24 PM

As a reference, I guess I should add that the thread that I like most is http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/381316-31-first-htpc-... Something along the lines of

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i3-3225 3.3GHz Dual-Core Processor ($129.99 @ NCIX US)
Motherboard: ASRock H77M Micro ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($69.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Mushkin Blackline 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($44.98 @ NCIX US)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($89.99 @ NCIX US)
Storage: A-Data Premier Pro SP900 128GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($104.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Silverstone ML03B HTPC Case ($59.99 @ Amazon)
Power Supply: FSP Group 300W 80 PLUS Certified Micro ATX Power Supply ($45.94 @ Amazon)
Optical Drive: LG WH14NS40 Blu-Ray/DVD/CD Writer ($54.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $600.86
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-01-24 00:57 EST-0500)
February 14, 2013 4:14:54 PM

Wireless is not good enough yet. There is too much packet loss. I am willing to wager that you will have to go with wired. The bridge may help but I had to resort to using powerline adapters in the bedroom and the other room that has a TV. Wireless is just not good enough at least for HD channels anyway. I know, I know that Powerline adapters do not work as well as advertised and are suject to the wiring in your home, but its working for me and I don't have to route wires in the attic or something.

The experts at Silicondust always tell new users to use a Gigabyte switch as apposed to a router, the router scans the signal too much and can result in many 'Network Issue' messages. I had this problem but once I changed to a switch it got much better.

I was disappointed that I could not use wireless when i set this up, but the proof is in the pudding. It was just to glitchy on wireless.

You may want to still try going with HTPC direct to a monitor, your experience may be better than mine, just passing on my troubles and issues as I have had this setup since last April.
February 14, 2013 4:18:41 PM

boogalooelectric said:
Wireless is not good enough yet. There is too much packet loss. I am willing to wager that you will have to go with wired. The bridge may help but I had to resort to using powerline adapters in the bedroom and the other room that has a TV. Wireless is just not good enough at least for HD channels anyway. I know, I know that Powerline adapters do not work as well as advertised and are suject to the wiring in your home, but its working for me and I don't have to route wires in the attic or something.

The experts at Silicondust always tell new users to use a Gigabyte switch as apposed to a router, the router scans the signal too much and can result in many 'Network Issue' messages. I had this problem but once I changed to a switch it got much better.

I was disappointed that I could not use wireless when i set this up, but the proof is in the pudding. It was just to glitchy on wireless.

You may want to still try going with HTPC direct to a monitor, your experience may be better than mine, just passing on my troubles and issues as I have had this setup since last April.


Cool, I appreciate it...I did plan on going wired. The router in the main panel is configured as a switch and I can run ethernet from there throughout the house, and then moca for TV's by cable outlet but not ethernet. All wired at the end of the day. Hopefully it will suffice!
February 14, 2013 4:23:36 PM

That's a good HTPC build. Although, I would opt for a Gigabyte motherboard personally. Both ASRock and ASUS motherboards blink the power LED when in S3 standby while Gigabyte does not. It's annoying when you have a blinking LED in your home theater for no reason, especially if it is a bright one.
February 14, 2013 4:31:03 PM

rwpritchett said:
That's a good HTPC build. Although, I would opt for a Gigabyte motherboard personally. Both ASRock and ASUS motherboards blink the power LED when in S3 standby while Gigabyte does not. It's annoying when you have a blinking LED in your home theater for no reason, especially if it is a bright one.


Makes sense....would you mind posting a link to something comparable. Kinda a newby here. Thanks!
February 14, 2013 4:32:47 PM

jimbo222 said:
As a reference, I guess I should add that the thread that I like most is http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/381316-31-first-htpc-... Something along the lines of

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i3-3225 3.3GHz Dual-Core Processor ($129.99 @ NCIX US)
Motherboard: ASRock H77M Micro ATX LGA1155 Motherboard ($69.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Mushkin Blackline 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($44.98 @ NCIX US)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($89.99 @ NCIX US)
Storage: A-Data Premier Pro SP900 128GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($104.99 @ Newegg)
Case: Silverstone ML03B HTPC Case ($59.99 @ Amazon)
Power Supply: FSP Group 300W 80 PLUS Certified Micro ATX Power Supply ($45.94 @ Amazon)
Optical Drive: LG WH14NS40 Blu-Ray/DVD/CD Writer ($54.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $600.86
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-01-24 00:57 EST-0500)



That is a good future proof system that should last you a good long time.

There are some interesting developments in this area, the Silicondust team is working on DLNA transfer and DTPC/IP configs that will allow a PS3 to work as well, it also will lead to using a Smart TV with these features, bypassing the need for an extender. It is also the first step toward allowing Android or other tablets to work as well. Soon you will be able to use XBMC to watch TV on a Raspberry Pi. But its all just getting started. This is a good time to get into this.

Read this if you want to know more:

http://www.silicondust.com/forum2/viewforum.php?f=47&si...
February 14, 2013 4:45:16 PM

Thanks, I already purchased a Ceton....but I'm sure they'll all come along with the same types of features eventually.
February 14, 2013 4:52:58 PM

jimbo222 said:
Thanks, I already purchased a Ceton....but I'm sure they'll all come along with the same types of features eventually.



Oh no doubt that they will. My take is that Silicondust is more experimental in what they try while Ceton is more ambitious (the ceton Q for instance). Ceton is most likely happy to let Silicondust get the growing pains and bugs out of this and will swoop in with something later.

I just thought you and other might be interested in this development. I foresee a day when there will be no need to rent any equipment from Cable/satellite providers. All you will need is a high capacity HD to record and hubbed to a Raspberry Pi or similar device for storage and tuning, then access your recordings directly through the smart TV functions.
February 14, 2013 5:01:18 PM

Yup...I figured I've spent almost 3K in last 5 years renting boxes/dvr's @ $50/mo. Crazy. This set up will be far better and a one time purchase! Hopefully in two weeks I'll just have a cable card for $4.99/mo. and that's it.
February 14, 2013 5:04:58 PM

Does anyone have any input on i3 intel vs an AMD instead for HTPC purposes?
February 14, 2013 6:17:50 PM

Yes. More cores. Depending on how many TVs/extenders are going to be in use at a time. Rule of thumb is 1 CPU core and 2GB of RAM for each (active) tuner assigned to extenders.

I'm also in preference to using a discrete graphics card as opposed to the AMD APUs, but that's going to be your call. Just note that if you opt for an integrated solution and it's not up to your liking. You're going to need to find a PCI-Ex16 slot for a graphics card and two PCI-Ex1/16 slots for each of your TV Tuner cards.

For this reason only, I'd recommend going with a full ATX motherboard, loaded with PCI-Ex1 slots (or an extra PCI-Ex16 @x4 slot).

Note my HTPC specs in my signature block. This was for my HTPC and one tuner assigned to this desktop.

-Wolf sends
February 14, 2013 6:31:42 PM

Quote:
Yes. More cores. Depending on how many TVs/extenders are going to be in use at a time. Rule of thumb is 1 CPU core and 2GB of RAM for each (active) tuner assigned to extenders.


Thanks Wolf. So you think my only option if I eventually want to go to 8 tuners (max 5 on extenders), my only option is 8 cores like a AMD FX-8120 with 16GB RAM? I'll only be using 3 tuners for main TV/DVR and a couple on extenders for now, but I want to plan for the future of course. Would probably be very rare to have all active at once, but I don't want to run into playing the game of not being able to watch in one room if too many tuners are being used. What CPU and MOBO would you recommend for this eventual setup? Will a full ATX motherboard fit the case listed above? Thanks for your advice.
February 14, 2013 7:28:28 PM

Given your stated configuration, you would only need a hex-core processor. This *should* allow you to have the main TV playing live TV and recording two shows as well as having five active extenders. Note that I had no problems watching one channel while recording three other programs on my system.

No, a full ATX motherboard would not fit within that case. For your system, I'd probably go with something like:

Case: nMediaPC HTPC 6000B - $74.99
Motherboard: AMD FX-6100 - $119.99
CPU: GIGABYTE GA-970A-DS3 - $79.99

Of course, this processor does not have integrated graphics so, you'd also need a discrete graphics card. The previously mentioned HD6450 should suffice. I'd also probably look at going a bit above the 300 watt PSU. Maybe look at the Corsair 430watt.

This is probably the build I'd be looking at for your purposes:

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD FX-6100 3.3GHz 6-Core Processor ($109.99 @ Microcenter)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-970A-DS3 ATX AM3+ Motherboard ($77.55 @ Newegg)
Memory: G.Skill Ares Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 Memory ($44.99 @ Newegg)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($99.98 @ Outlet PC)
Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 6450 1GB Video Card ($29.99 @ Newegg)
Case: nMEDIAPC HTPC 6000B HTPC Case ($89.98 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Corsair Builder 430W 80 PLUS Bronze Certified ATX12V Power Supply ($24.99 @ Newegg)
Optical Drive: Lite-On iHES212-08 Blu-Ray Reader, DVD/CD Writer ($82.28 @ TigerDirect)
Total: $590.75
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-02-14 16:22 EST-0500)

This build lacks an SSD and, as previously noted, if for any reason you need to change a component or re-install Windows, any recorded program marked as "Copy-Once" will be lost. If you really want an SSD, then I'd up your budget to include one. Also, I changed the Blu-Ray drive to one that include playback software. It's probably garbage and would eventually need to be replaced, but at least you can play Blu-Ray disks out of the box, rather than spending $60-$100 for separate BD software (Windows cannot play blu-ray movies natively).

-Wolf sends
February 14, 2013 9:43:28 PM

Pretty awesome....I'll take into consideration. Thanks so much!
!