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Home-built HTPC or off-the-shelf PC?

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March 10, 2013 1:29:00 AM

Hello,

I am not sure whether my goals for next PC ('s) are best served by home-building an HTPC or buying some kind off-the-shelf desktop or laptop PC.

My goals:
1) "Cutting the cord", and thus lots of Streaming: Netflix, HuluPlus, MLB.tv, ESPN3

2) Blu-Ray playback; perhaps Blu-Ray recording.

3) Watch OTA TV using HDHomeRun

4) Web surfing, e-mailing, word processing, spreadsheets, "Power Point"

5) Dual-Booting Windows and Linux. Open to using WMC, XBMC, MythTV for PVR/"TV" viewing

6) On Linux side: VNC with remote Linux-based supercomputers to facilitate "working from home" for my job.

NOT among my goals: Gaming.

I honestly do not know how computationally intensive my intended goals are: Can my "typical computer" goals (#4) be met by an HTPC?

I have read many previous posts, and I am learning... but I am still largely a newbie.

I very much appreciate advice and feeback. Thank you!

More about : home built htpc shelf

a b B Homebuilt system
March 10, 2013 1:29:59 AM

I'd go Homebuilt. Whats your budget?
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March 10, 2013 1:33:21 AM

No hard-line budget yet. Still early, still learning, always seeking "bang for the buck" value.

For talking purposes , let's say $500.
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March 10, 2013 1:34:22 AM

But certainly a goal of "home-built" would be saving money over pre-fab...
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March 10, 2013 4:20:18 AM

All you need is in this build -
http://pcpartpicker.com/p/IHk6

CPU - AMD A6-3500 2.1GHz Triple-Core Processor - might be a generation old, but it still does very well for a HTPC
RAM - Kingston Black 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory
Motherboard - MSI A55M-P33 Micro ATX FM1 Motherboard
Hard Drives - Western Digital Caviar Blue 500GB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive & Western Digital Caviar Green 1TB 3.5" 5400RPM Internal Hard Drive
Case - Apevia X-QPack2 Black/Green MicroATX Desktop Case w/500W Power Supply - feel free to find a better one
DVD +/-RW - Samsung SH-224BB DVD/CD Writer
Windows 7 Home Premium x64
Keyboard & Mouse - Logitech K360 Wireless Mini Keyboard / Syba CL-MOU23008 Wireless Optical Mouse - feel free to find a better choice
Total: $508.53
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March 11, 2013 11:44:29 AM

DComander1x said:
All you need is in this build -
http://pcpartpicker.com/p/IHk6

CPU - AMD A6-3500 2.1GHz Triple-Core Processor - might be a generation old, but it still does very well for a HTPC
RAM - Kingston Black 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory
Motherboard - MSI A55M-P33 Micro ATX FM1 Motherboard
Hard Drives - Western Digital Caviar Blue 500GB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive & Western Digital Caviar Green 1TB 3.5" 5400RPM Internal Hard Drive
Case - Apevia X-QPack2 Black/Green MicroATX Desktop Case w/500W Power Supply - feel free to find a better one
DVD +/-RW - Samsung SH-224BB DVD/CD Writer
Windows 7 Home Premium x64
Keyboard & Mouse - Logitech K360 Wireless Mini Keyboard / Syba CL-MOU23008 Wireless Optical Mouse - feel free to find a better choice
Total: $508.53


Oops! Sorry for the original "empty" reply... Intended-reply ended up next, right below here.
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March 11, 2013 11:45:17 AM

Thank you very much, DComander1x. I will take a close look at your recommendations.
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March 11, 2013 11:51:43 AM

clmssun said:
Thank you very much, DComander1x. I will take a close look at your recommendations.


No Problem. The A Series from AMD are the way to go for HTPCs, as they have dedicated quality graphics built into the CPU chip, though you could go with a Mini - ITX Intel platform, with a low profile dedicated GPU, for an even smaller system.

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March 11, 2013 12:06:31 PM

I recently put together a Mini-ITX HTPC for ~$525.

CPU: i3 3225 (HD Graphics 4000)
MoBo: ASRock Z77E-ITX
RAM: 8GB Crucial Ballistix 1600
SSD: 60GB Agility3 SSD
HDD: 2TB WD Green HDD
Optical: Lite-On BluRay Combo Drive
Case: In Win ITX BP655.300TB3L

I built mine to also handle light gaming and will probably add a 7750 to it at some point. I'm really happy with it and it's a pretty slick setup.

You'd want to add a TV tuner to the setup and would only need 4GB of Memory.
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March 11, 2013 12:16:23 PM

jesot said:
I recently put together a Mini-ITX HTPC for ~$525.

CPU: i3 3225 (HD Graphics 4000)
MoBo: ASRock Z77E-ITX
RAM: 8GB Crucial Ballistix 1600
SSD: 60GB Agility3 SSD
HDD: 2TB WD Green HDD
Optical: Lite-On BluRay Combo Drive
Case: In Win ITX BP655.300TB3L

I built mine to also handle light gaming and will probably add a 7750 to it at some point. I'm really happy with it and it's a pretty slick setup.

You'd want to add a TV tuner to the setup and would only need 4GB of Memory.


Thank you, jesot. That looks like a good setup for $525. I will certainly look further into this.
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March 11, 2013 5:26:27 PM

I wouldn't buy a prebuilt machine to save my life. A lot of them come loaded with useless bloatware thus causing login times to take longer as a lot of the software they load put a hard load on the hard drive and memory. Go with a self build machine.
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a b B Homebuilt system
March 14, 2013 1:56:27 AM

cyanghost109 said:
I wouldn't buy a prebuilt machine to save my life. A lot of them come loaded with useless bloatware thus causing login times to take longer as a lot of the software they load put a hard load on the hard drive and memory. Go with a self build machine.


I would still avoid pre-builts but that is not the reason.
You can clean those so called bloat ware or even installing a fresh OS reardless of what is installed before.
I always destroy the hidden back-up partition and original installed OS my provided by the factory in my laptop HDD. I can handle things on my own and I want more place in HDD for me.

My real reasons are always:
1. It will be always relative more expensive
2. You are like buying a cat in a sack for the hardware if you go pre-builts.
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March 14, 2013 4:22:12 AM

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD A8-5600K 3.6GHz Quad-Core Processor ($108.79 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: ASRock FM2A85X-ITX Mini ITX FM2 Motherboard ($103.98 @ Newegg)
Memory: Patriot Viper 3 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1866 Memory ($47.98 @ Amazon)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($69.99 @ NCIX US)
Storage: Samsung 840 Series 120GB 2.5" Solid State Disk ($94.99 @ Amazon)
Case: Cooler Master Elite 120 Advanced (Black) Mini ITX Tower Case ($39.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Corsair CX 430W 80 PLUS Bronze Certified ATX12V Power Supply ($51.98 @ Newegg)
Total: $517.70
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-03-14 07:21 EDT-0400)
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a b B Homebuilt system
March 14, 2013 4:34:12 AM

I would go for something like this.

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: AMD A10-5800K 3.8GHz Quad-Core Processor ($119.99 @ Microcenter)
Motherboard: MSI FM2-A75IA-E53 Mini ITX FM2 Motherboard ($87.24 @ Amazon)
Memory: Kingston HyperX 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($24.99 @ NCIX US)
Storage: Seagate Barracuda 2TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($89.98 @ Outlet PC)
Case: nMEDIAPC HTPC 5000B HTPC Case ($69.99 @ Newegg)
Power Supply: Antec High Current Gamer 400W 80 PLUS Bronze Certified ATX12V / EPS12V Power Supply ($44.97 @ Outlet PC)
Optical Drive: Asus BW-12B1ST/BLK/G/AS Blu-Ray/DVD/CD Writer ($55.99 @ Newegg)
Total: $493.15
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-03-14 07:33 EDT-0400)
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a b B Homebuilt system
March 14, 2013 6:16:49 AM

Components tips:
- SSD in HTPC does not make much sense for me, only waste of money.
- 8GB RAM for HTPC is also not making much sense, but it is nice to have.
- Big HDD and Blue-ray are adviceable
- No extra GPU or soundcard, onboard or on chip GPU should be enough
- Get HTPC cases if you want, but not a must
- Build as silent as possible (a must for me)
- Add more parts for other things remote control, satellite tuner, etc. see which one you like

mikerockett proposal is quite nice in my opinion :) 



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March 14, 2013 7:28:51 AM

guanyu210379 said:
cyanghost109 said:
I wouldn't buy a prebuilt machine to save my life. A lot of them come loaded with useless bloatware thus causing login times to take longer as a lot of the software they load put a hard load on the hard drive and memory. Go with a self build machine.


I would still avoid pre-builts but that is not the reason.
You can clean those so called bloat ware or even installing a fresh OS reardless of what is installed before.
I always destroy the hidden back-up partition and original installed OS my provided by the factory in my laptop HDD. I can handle things on my own and I want more place in HDD for me.

My real reasons are always:
1. It will be always relative more expensive
2. You are like buying a cat in a sack for the hardware if you go pre-builts.

True, but I don't like going through that process especially when I already have the technical knowledge to build and maintain my own. You're also paying more for the brand while they give you crap hardware.

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March 14, 2013 8:02:00 AM

To answer the last question, yes, an HTPC computer can also do other stuff, and the tasks you have described are not intensive. The problem is not technical but practical. Usually you want your HTPC connected to a TV and stereo system in you living room. This makes it impractical to use it for working at a desk to do web surfing and office tasks. If you connect this build to your monitor at your desk, it is going to be a very small display that you will not be able to see from your couch or armchair. If you really need one computer to do everything, I would recommend a good laptop that has HDMI connections.
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a b B Homebuilt system
March 15, 2013 2:46:12 AM

@cyanghost109: yup ...that too...the words Dell or HP...those are not come for free.. hehehehe

As for Aristotelian's advice...yes I see also this as an alternative...I do not like pre-built PC but Laptops are also quite effective for HTPC
I would choose either self-built HTPC with mATX form or going for laptop with HDMI output.
If you choose the laptop path...getting docking station will make your day more comfortable if you do not want more than one laptop

I am using 1 self built HTPC (old one with AMD X3) + 46" TV in my living room and one laptop from Toshiba (old Intel T6500) +docking station in my room + 32" TV + PS3 (this is also my main laptop for traveling).
I use my main PC for gaming (see signature) + Dell U2412M



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March 19, 2013 5:22:52 PM

Thanks for even more feedback! I am still pondering how exactly I want to approach my new computer purchases/builds, and so I appreciate all the suggestions here.

I think I am looking toward two new computers, each connected to TV's as monitors: One with a relatively small TV/monitor (no larger than 27") in our relatively small (1930s house) master bedroom for "mostly computing but also HTPC" and one connected to our living room 40" LED LCD for "mostly HTPC but also some computing from time to time."

I am glad to see some good configurations for around $500. I presently have a NetTop (Revo 3610) in the master bedroom, and I am considering nettops/laptops for my task. Getting the most for my money is important to me, as is getting exactly what I want/"the best for me". I realize my time theoretically has a price tag, but I am also eager to tinker in the world of home-builts.

Thanks again for all the replies!
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March 19, 2013 7:24:04 PM

If you're running Linux, avoid AMD. There is no AMD driver support for the Blu-ray HD audio bitstreaming (Dolby True-HD/DTS Master Audio). There is support for it with Intel, especially in OpenELEC.

The i3-3225 is a very good choice. The Intel 4000 HD graphics will perform fine for HTPC duties. You don't need a Z77 motherboard, H77 will do fine. For mini-ITX, Gigabyte has a nice line up mini-ITX motherboards, even some thin mini-ITX now with on-board power supplies that all you need is a laptop adapter for instead of a traditional PSU. Nice feature about Gigabyte for HTPC is configurable power LED for S3 sleep making it good for bedroom HTPCs.

For a nice mini-ITX case with a slot-load optical drive bay check out the Realan E-i7. It also has a low-profile expansion slot if you want to add a dedicated GPU later.

SSDs do make a difference for HTPC, since so many HTPC operations like displaying your library, the program guide, picture slideshows, etc. are I/O bound. It's not just for fast boot times. They also help for mini-ITX HTPCs to keep the heat down and they're more flexible in their installation (you can just stick them anywhere with some double-sided tape). A 64GB SSD is enough for WMC + Linux dual-boot if you plan to keep your media on a server.

Some good HTPC forums:
XBMC Hardware: http://forum.xbmc.org/forumdisplay.php?fid=112
AVSForum HTPC: http://www.avsforum.com/f/26/home-theater-computers
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April 13, 2013 8:59:15 PM

Thanks again for all the suggestions. I have been busy with a lot of things (not as much time researching and learning about these things as I would have preferred) over the last few weeks.

The first "HTPC" I build I intend to be in my master bedroom, where it will connect to a 27" (at most) TV/monitor, and I will be doing a fair amount of "everyday" computing and some "work" computing (consisting mostly of remote log-ins and VNC sessions). I have attempted configure a PC/HTPC with some "growing room", and thus some components are "better than the minimum" of my initially-stated "requirements". (But I am still trying to not break the bank and not "overbuy", either.)

If/when I build a second HTPC for the living room, it would be much more a single-purpose HTPC.

I am still researching my software options to watch live TV through my HDHomerun and have DVR capability. It is my thought that the hardware I have preliminarily selected should work for just about all software options out there; please advise if I have limited myself on software choices from the below hardware choices:

http://pcpartpicker.com/user/clmssun/saved/1t5C

CPU Intel Core i3-3225 3.3GHz Dual-Core $134.97 ($119.99 locally at MicroCenter)
Motherboard ASRock Z77 Pro4-M Micro ATX LGA1155 $106.55 ($109.99 -$40.00= $69.99 locally at MicroCenter)
Memory Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 $63.99 ($59.99 locally at MicroCenter)
Storage Toshiba 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM $69.98 ($59.99 locally at MicroCenter)
Case nMEDIAPC HTPC 7000B (Black) HTPC $76.99 ($89.99 locally at MicroCenter)
Power Supply Corsair 430W ATX12V $29.99 ($54.99 locally at MicroCenter)
Optical Drive Lite-On ihes112-04 Blu-Ray Reader, DVD/CD Writer $56.98 ($54.99 locally at MicroCenter)

Many thanks for the previous and future advice and suggestions. If I have posted a cluster%$&# , please save me from bad mistakes. Thank you...
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