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Home Theater PC

Your Top Picks: Tom's Hardware Forums' Q1 2013 BestConfigs
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The Home Theater PC BestConfig had five entries to choose from this quarter.

In the end, hapkido’s $700 “I should upgrade my media PC” beat the $500 Deep Dive by a single vote. The extra $200 in hapkido’s budget was spent on discrete graphics and a TV tuner. Good call!

Congratulations to forum member hapkido for having his recommended build picked by the Tom's Hardware community this quarter! 

Unlike 2011’s HTPC build, which concentrated more on living room aesthetics than functionality, hapkido set out to create a truly capable set-top PC. This build centers on the value-packed Pentium G860, a dual-core chip based on Intel's Sandy Bridge architecture.

An ASRock B75 PRO3-M motherboard provides gigabit Ethernet, so streaming HD content will never become a problem for you cable-cutters out there, while an optical audio output should play well with any high-end speaker system. 

A pair of 4 GB DDR3-1600 modules from Muskin gives this HTPC more than enough memory for any living room task. A 60 GB SATA 6Gb/s SSD accelerates boot-up, shutdown, and app launching, reflecting a marked improvement over the previous HTPC build. Meanwhile, the 1.5 TB Western Digital Caviar Green provides ample room for recording television programming, while keeping power usage low. 

Mushkin Blackline DDR3-1600Mushkin Blackline DDR3-1600Mushkin Chrono DeluxeMushkin Chrono DeluxeWestern Digital Cavair GreenWestern Digital Cavair Green

The low profile Radeon HD 7750 packs plenty of punch for media playback. Meanwhile, Hauppauge's WinTV sports dual tuners for functionality comparable to most standard DVRs from your local cable company (sans the monthly fees). A burner from LG provides Blu-ray playback and recording capabilities.

SeaSonic 300W BronzeSeaSonic 300W Bronze



This thoughtfully-designed build is concealed beneath SilverStone’s MILO media center and HTPC case, which shouldn’t draw any undue attention in your existing media rack. Powering it all is a 300 W 80 PLUS Bronze-certified power supply from Seasonic. 

This build was priced at $694.90 when hapkido originally configured it. The current prices of hapkido’s “I should upgrade my media PC” can be found in the BestConfigs shopping tables.

Display all 77 comments.
Top Comments
  • 11 Hide
    echondo , March 11, 2013 4:38 AM
    That is not a "budget" AMD system...
  • 11 Hide
    nordlead , March 11, 2013 9:43 AM
    A good thing I don't use these "forum best configs" as guides. It looks like every single one of them was built by a power hungry gamer rather than an economical engineer that builds to meet specific requirements.

    The NAS chosen here has WAY to much space dedicated to the OS drive (driving up costs), and all the benefits of the SSD are lost (you won't be loading new programs off the SSD) except for the low power. But that can be achieved for much less cash with a CF or SD card (or even a USB stick, but I don't care for those since they can easily be unplugged). You also don't need 4GB of RAM in a NAS, nor do you need a fancy case with a window when it will be stuck in a closet. I could shave $150-200 off of that machine no problem and cut the electrical costs, all while serving files via NAS to multiple machines at the same time without missing a beat. Heck, my Atom D525 does all of that at a measly 30W (measured at the wall) along with online backups, and serves web pages at a decent clip for myself and my close friends. Since I'm sure the intent of the 3x 3TB hdds was for RAID 5, you could put that $ towards a 4th and do RAID 10. Or you could put it towards actual backup instead of redundancy.
  • 10 Hide
    internetlad , March 11, 2013 10:18 AM
    nevertellWhy do all the builds use poser ram ?


    And what RAM would you suggest, Mr. RAM Expert? What's wrong with brands like Mushkin and G.Skill? They're incredibly popular.

    Honestly, does brand even make a difference in RAM besides warranty? You put it in and it works or it doesn't. As long as you have enough RAM to accomodate what's running, and it doesn't BSOD, I don't really care about the brand.
Other Comments
  • 4 Hide
    k1114 , March 11, 2013 4:08 AM
    Congrats to everyone!
  • 11 Hide
    echondo , March 11, 2013 4:38 AM
    That is not a "budget" AMD system...
  • -2 Hide
    EzioAs , March 11, 2013 4:58 AM
    Quote:
    That is not a "budget" AMD system...


    Still within a certain budget. Just not on the lower side for a gaming PC.
  • -7 Hide
    nevertell , March 11, 2013 9:33 AM
    Why do all the builds use poser ram ?
  • 11 Hide
    nordlead , March 11, 2013 9:43 AM
    A good thing I don't use these "forum best configs" as guides. It looks like every single one of them was built by a power hungry gamer rather than an economical engineer that builds to meet specific requirements.

    The NAS chosen here has WAY to much space dedicated to the OS drive (driving up costs), and all the benefits of the SSD are lost (you won't be loading new programs off the SSD) except for the low power. But that can be achieved for much less cash with a CF or SD card (or even a USB stick, but I don't care for those since they can easily be unplugged). You also don't need 4GB of RAM in a NAS, nor do you need a fancy case with a window when it will be stuck in a closet. I could shave $150-200 off of that machine no problem and cut the electrical costs, all while serving files via NAS to multiple machines at the same time without missing a beat. Heck, my Atom D525 does all of that at a measly 30W (measured at the wall) along with online backups, and serves web pages at a decent clip for myself and my close friends. Since I'm sure the intent of the 3x 3TB hdds was for RAID 5, you could put that $ towards a 4th and do RAID 10. Or you could put it towards actual backup instead of redundancy.
  • 7 Hide
    samwelaye , March 11, 2013 10:06 AM
    budget AMD gamer: 1000$. budget intel gamer: 500$. wth is going on here. sure 1000 IS a budget by the definition of it, but this is by no means a "budget" build
  • 10 Hide
    internetlad , March 11, 2013 10:18 AM
    nevertellWhy do all the builds use poser ram ?


    And what RAM would you suggest, Mr. RAM Expert? What's wrong with brands like Mushkin and G.Skill? They're incredibly popular.

    Honestly, does brand even make a difference in RAM besides warranty? You put it in and it works or it doesn't. As long as you have enough RAM to accomodate what's running, and it doesn't BSOD, I don't really care about the brand.
  • 0 Hide
    s3anister , March 11, 2013 10:40 AM
    Interesting builds and over all decent. Can't say I agree with the choice of Motherboard and PSU for the High-End Intel build, though. Would have gone with the Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP5 TH or a similar Asus mobo and a Seasonic PSU myself.
  • 3 Hide
    g-unit1111 , March 11, 2013 10:48 AM
    The name of my AMD Office PC was a quote from Bill Lumbergh from Office Space. "Yeah I'm gonna have to ask you to work on Saturday, Sunday too. We lost a lot of people over the weekend and we need to play sort of catch - up. If you could get here around 9:00, that'd be greaaaaaaaaaaaat."
  • 4 Hide
    Nintendo Maniac 64 , March 11, 2013 10:53 AM
    Why would you use the 5800k over the 65w 5700 for a mere office machine? Not to mention the mobo chosen for it has no VRM heatsinks and therefore cannot reliably overclock anyway, making the aftermarket cooler pointless in the first place.
  • 2 Hide
    internetlad , March 11, 2013 11:05 AM
    Nintendo Maniac 64Why would you use the 5800k over the 65w 5700 for a mere office machine? Not to mention the mobo chosen for it has no VRM heatsinks and therefore cannot reliably overclock anyway, making the aftermarket cooler pointless in the first place.


    You have to remember this is the build that was VOTED FOR by the community. Of course the better chip is gonna get the fanboys all wet, even though, as you say, it IS for an office build.

    I quoted an extremely capable AMD office/APU gaming machine and managed to shave 150 bucks off the $500 budget, (I had spent a couple days researching it for my brother in law, who's wife wouldn't let him spend much.) and it didn't get one vote. Why? Maybe because it didn't have 3 terabyte drives, or 16 gigs of ram. It was a modest but extremely functional and cost effective machine for the cost, and nobody seemed to care.
  • 1 Hide
    silverblue , March 11, 2013 11:13 AM
    From what I've seen, the 5700 is the better chip, at least in terms of HTPCs. Sure, it's a few percent slower than the 5800K, but it's far better on power.
  • 1 Hide
    tourist , March 11, 2013 11:51 AM
    So no benchmarks just a popularity contest ? Next time just post pics and stats of the girls that is something to vote on. May seem harsh but anyone can pull parts out of a catalog. assembling and getting it running optimally is what separates the wheat from the chaff.
  • 1 Hide
    nevertell , March 11, 2013 1:18 PM
    internetladAnd what RAM would you suggest, Mr. RAM Expert? What's wrong with brands like Mushkin and G.Skill? They're incredibly popular.Honestly, does brand even make a difference in RAM besides warranty? You put it in and it works or it doesn't. As long as you have enough RAM to accomodate what's running, and it doesn't BSOD, I don't really care about the brand.

    Well, it's a rule of thumb that RAM without heatspreaders comes cheaper. And it's been proven time and time again, that those heatspreaders don't benefit the regular computer in any kind of way. If you're on a budget, ram is the first place to compromise, if you've already chosen something with heatspreaders and whatnot and you won't be using cpu's integrated graphics. It's only the iGPU's of todays A-series APUs that truly benefit from substantially faster RAM in any meaningul way.
  • 0 Hide
    hapkido , March 11, 2013 1:39 PM
    Quote:
    So no benchmarks just a popularity contest ? Next time just post pics and stats of the girls that is something to vote on. May seem harsh but anyone can pull parts out of a catalog. assembling and getting it running optimally is what separates the wheat from the chaff.


    These were hypothetical builds. And assembling a PC is much easier than picking the right components. But if you want to buy me the parts from my media PC build, I'll benchmark it playing a video or something.
  • 0 Hide
    JerryC , March 11, 2013 2:27 PM
    These systems arent really complete. You need to include a monitor, keyboard and mouse to complete these systems.
  • 1 Hide
    g-unit1111 , March 11, 2013 2:43 PM
    Quote:
    These systems arent really complete. You need to include a monitor, keyboard and mouse to complete these systems.


    The rules were you had to create a system with the given budget, and keyboard, mouse, monitor, and OS were not included in the budget.
  • 1 Hide
    jnkweaver , March 11, 2013 2:48 PM
    The LAN system is more in line with the AMD budget build. Both in the $1200-1300 range.
    I own the ARC MIDI case and Fractal Design uses thick steel. I love Fractal Design cases but good luck hauling it around on LAN parties when the case alone weighs 20 lbs.

    I was surprised the high end Intel build didn't use the Noctua DH14 for the cooler. On a $2200 build it is worth spending the extra $70.

    Overall they were good builds and got alot of participation. It does seem though that the earlier builds in the article got low participation especially the Intel Home Office build.
  • 0 Hide
    tourist , March 11, 2013 3:18 PM
    hapkidoThese were hypothetical builds. And assembling a PC is much easier than picking the right components. But if you want to buy me the parts from my media PC build, I'll benchmark it playing a video or something.


    Hypothetical build = hypothetical performance

    Take the fm2 home office monster g-unit1111 put together home office with only 4 usb ports on the board , sure it has a header for 6 more but not one is usb 3.0. Home office means lots of peripherals, fast ones that need 3.0 for everyday use. I just wish a little more thought went into this exercise but hey when pigs fly right !

  • 0 Hide
    obrada , March 11, 2013 3:34 PM
    I don't think that the budget intel gaming PC should had won. It says clearly on the rules that the range price was $1,000 and everyone who made the builds were on that range except 2 guys and 1 of the resulting the one with most votes. I believe that if the price range would have been $500 the story would have been different.
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