HTPC Configuration Strategy Help

Hello, I am new to this forum. I read all the helpful information on Tom's all the time, but finally decided to join in on the conversations as I'm in need of some help. Aren't those the best kinds of friends? The ones' that only show up when they need something ;) lol jk

To all those people about to respond with a "welcoming message", don't bother, I welcome myself!!! lol jk :hello:

Here is my dilemma, I am trying to decide how to set up my home entertainment system. My wife and I just recently purchased the Panasonic Viera p50st50 for our family room. I am planning to either build a HTPC, or expand my existing work computer to also act as a network media center. My office is right next to the family room.

I have an Xbox 360 connected to my Plasma, but when I was trying to connect to Windows Media Center, I was getting a poor network connection. My TV did tell me that I would most likely get better results if I configured my router to the "N" settings instead of the current "B" or "G" or whatever it was set to.

Here is my current computer configuration:

* CoolerMaster Cosmos 1000 Case
* Thermal Toughpower 850W ATX12V V2.2
* EVGA E758-A1 3-Way SLI LGA 1366 x58
* GeForce GTX 275 1792MB 448-bit DDR3
* Quad-Core i7 920 Nehalem 2.66GHz (3.59GHz) 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1366 130W
* ZALMAN 9700 NT 110mm 2 Ball Ultra Quiet CPU Cooler
* G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 12GB (3 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600
* OCZ Vertex III 120GB Solid State Drive - 6Gbps
* 1 x 640GB Caviar Black SATA HD
* 1 x 1TB Caviar Black SATA HD
* Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
* Some standard DVD drive, not blu-ray
* APC BE750G 750 VA 450 Watts 10 Outlets Power Saving Back-UPS ES

Here are my ultimate goals in order of priority.

1.) Watch live TV shows
2.) Record our preferred TV shows
3.) Play standard & blu-ray movies
4.) Compress & store all media for easy access using Windows Media Center or XBMC or something
5.) Access media from any networked device would be nice, but not required.
6.) Play game emulators would be fun, but no idea how to do it, and not a priority

I can't think of anything I'm missing. But if I can't find a way to send a high quality wireless HD signal, then most likely I'm thinking I'll need to come up with an HTPC build, as I doubt running any wires from my office computer to the TV is most likely out of the question. I would like to keep this set up under $500 if possible, but I'm also willing to do what it takes to set up a proper system that will last until the end of time, or at least until next Christmas ;)

Thanks in advance for any help!
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  1. You certainly do not need a high-powered PC in order to do everything your list for your ultimate goals. My HTPC (see my signature block) can easily do all that you're asking, but I think your HTPC would cost a bit more than $500 (software included).

    Here is a build I'd consider for a new HTPC:

    PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

    CPU: AMD A6-5400K 3.6GHz Dual-Core Processor ($64.99 @ Amazon)
    Motherboard: Asus F2A55-M LE Micro ATX FM2 Motherboard ($71.40 @ NCIX US)
    Memory: Kingston Blu 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($29.99 @ Amazon)
    Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive ($59.99 @ NCIX US)
    Case: nMEDIAPC HTPC 5000B HTPC Case ($79.98 @ Newegg)
    Power Supply: Corsair Builder 430W 80 PLUS Certified ATX12V Power Supply ($34.99 @ Newegg)
    Optical Drive: Lite-On iHES212-08 Blu-Ray Reader, DVD/CD Writer ($82.28 @ CompUSA)
    Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (OEM) (64-bit) ($89.98 @ Outlet PC)
    Other: TP-LINK TL-WN781ND Wireless N150 PCI Express Adapter ($20.99)
    Total: $534.59
    (Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
    (Generated by PCPartPicker 2012-12-29 09:30 EST-0500)

    While it's close to your $500 budget, it still does not have a TV Tuner card which, depending on your video source and requirements could range between $50 and $200. There is also the matter of wireless keyboards/mouse/remote controls.

    -Wolf sends
  2. Thank you so much Wolf! I appreciate the response. I want to clarify a couple of things as well as add some more info.

    1.) Just to be clear, the above "Computer Configuration" I listed above is of my existing work computer in my office in the room right next to where my HDTV is located.

    a.) Building a new budget HTPC from scratch is the better option rather than just modifying my existing computer build to also accommodate itself as a media server and finding a way to send a wireless HD streaming signal correct?

    2.) If the HTPC is still the way to go, then do you know if there is a MoBo that would work for me that would support (3 x 2GB) 240 pin DDR3 as I already have these in my posession:

    3.) My brother-in-law mentioned going with a budget Blu-Ray optical drive as well such as Lite-On, saying they would do just fine. But he said the bigger expense would be investing in a quality blu-ray software. Of course, he's active military and says he's been out of the technology scene for a while. He said he didn't know if there were any quality open source options or whatever.

    4.) Does the price / quality of the TV Tuner card make much of a difference in the quality of the TV I'll be getting? Or is it primarily only about matching the signal from my cable Internet provider?

    5.) Regarding the wireless adapter and wireless keyboard, mouse, remotes, etc. Should I consider going blue tooth for that stuff or just stay with the standard wireless configuration?

    Thanks again for all your help!
  3. 1) I understood that. My main concern is the transmission of HD content over wireless. I have yet to find (though I'm not looking) a quality and stable solution. For now, if you're doing HD over a network, it should be a wired network. Since running Cat5 cable from your work computer location to the living room isn't really an option for you, then it's best to have the media stored at the location it's going to be used the most (if not both locations).

    2) Not sure if you can use two of the three triple-channel RAM modules in a dual-channel motherboard. You're not going to find a triple-channel motherboard that can utilize a processor with embedded graphics. Perhaps adding a discrete graphics card to an older motherboard/CPU combination, but not sure how that will affect the overall cost.

    3) I selected this optical (Blu-Ray) drive because it's retail and not OEM. Retail drives should come with the necessary software for Blu-Ray play back. If you're lucky (as I was) you *might* get the software you need when purchasing an OEM drive (I got mine from Newegg), but that's a big if. If you don't get it, you'll need to spend another $50-$100 to get the required software.

    4) As I mentioned, which TV Tuner you get is going to depend primarily on the video source. You mentioned you have a cable subscription. If that subscription requires a set top box, then I would strongly recommend going with one of the CableCard ready devices (like my Ceton InfiniTV4 card) to replace your set top box. If your subscription does not require a set top box, then any dual tuner solution like the Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 would work for you.

    5) The wireless adapter simply connects your new HTPC to your home network. This allows you to download channel guides and updates to your HTPC. Wireless keyboards/mice/remote controls act on either an InfraRed (IR) connection, Radio Frequency (RF), or Bluetooth. I use IR because it's probably the easiest and simplest to set up, but it does require line of sight to work.

    -Wolf sends
  4. Question here

    I'm not familiar with AMD, but I'm thinking about going with a i5 sandy CPU with integrated graphics 2000. Do you think that is suffice to handle 1080p output?

    Also, what about outputting 5.1 audio? Streaming from the HTPC via Integrated HDMI and audio (optical?), would you expect subpar quality or should I include a audio / video card?

    I know a lot advances have been made with the CPU's the past few years, but not sure about utilization in a HTPC build.

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