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Old 11-03-2012, 12:09 AM   #1
Rumourmill
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Default First time builder seeks HTPC build advice

Hello Community,

I'm hoping to build my first PC. It's possible, if not likely, that this will become a new hobby. I recently became a father and I'm trying to substitute old vices for new, more productive habits.

I've considered replacing our cable tv with an HTPC for a while, but I've always been hesitant because I like to watch sports (any suggestions about reliable sports streaming means would be appreciated also! I realize that a true substitution is impossible.) I'll be picking up NBA League pass for the $99/season - but NFL Sunday Ticket is criminally priced and I won't be purchasing that .

A few weeks ago our cable/internet provider terminated the somewhat tolerable "deal" we were getting. This confirmed my plan to cut the cord and transfer our ISP to a local-reseller.

So, my first PC is going to be an HTPC. At this time I'm probably one step, possibly two, above clueless.

I've been lurking around here as well as some other forums for the past month or so, crash-coursing myself in everything from "what is motherboard" to "what is RAID" to "how could choosing a computer case be such a complex decision." I've read a number of Assassin's guides but haven't yet purchased the package. I expect to do so when I get to the setup/software considerations.

I think I'm looking for either one of two things: a decent rig that can serve as a htpc/storage pc and hopefully allow for some gaming (COD is probably the most intense, I've also always wanted to check out LA Noire, and when GTA V comes out I'd really like to grab that) that I'll be able to upgrade over the years.

At the same time I need a new laptop (my 6 year old Dell Inspiron, to which I've made minor upgrades over the years, is literally falling apart now - but kudos to Dell for making it this far). Between the two systems my budget is 1100-1300.

So, i could either buy a good HTPC/game rig for use on my plasma tv, and a cheapo laptop for browsing/work, or, build a cheaper HTPC and purchase a Y580 for laptop/games (I've considered Sager, also but my gut just doesn't trust it - and I'd like better battery life then they can seem to produce.).

I'll be purchasing a second tv within 2 years - would like the PC to serve both. At this point I'm leaning against a file server and looking for an all-in-one.

I'd like to hook up HDHomerun (for OTA sports), but I believe that I'd need an antenna for my roof. This is not feasible until June 2013, so I suppose this is a future interest.

I have a 7.1 surround with an Onkyo receiver and many HDMI in. I'd like to run everything through that and out to my tv. I learned from assassin that I'd like to bitstream audio into the AVR, even though I'm not sure what that means yet, entirely.
- currently I'm just running a 5.1 setup so 7.1 is not required. 7.1 will occur in Jun 2013, when we move out of our apartment into a bigger house.

I have a ps3.

Sorry for yammering on for so long. Let's get to business:

Approximate Purchase Date: Within next 1-2 weeks. I'd like to have all up and running by end of month to coincide with us cutting cable. I expect setup/tuning to take longer for me than it would for most, so I'd like to give myself some extra time.

Budget Range: (e.g.: 300-400) See above. HTPC + laptop = 11-1300. Not sure what to prioritize. The below assumes higher-end PC.

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Storage, streaming (videos and music), downloading (videos and music), ripping (music), gaming

We stream netflix and I'd like to stream sports games if its possible.

I'd like to be d/l ing and uploading as background process to the above if feasible - sometimes via bittorrents.

Are you buying a monitor: No

Parts to Upgrade: N/a

Do you need to buy OS: Yes
I'd very much prefer to stick with Win7

Please note that if you're using an OEM license of Windows, you will need a new one when buying a new motherboard.
Thanks

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Where possible I'll order from memoryexpress.com, which also price matches + 25% of difference, and I can pick up locally w/o shipping.

I'm in Western Canada (Vancouver, BC).

Overclocking: I'd set everything on fire.

SLI or Crossfire: No

Your Monitor Resolution: Currently just a 42" 720p plasma. Would like to upgrade within the year.

Tentatively I've put together the following. It's a bit over my budget for a decent HTPC because it only leaves about 400 for the lappy, but maybe the OS and keyboard puts it over the top (which I'll need). Any advice or feedback would be appreciated. Praise it, hate, rip it apart, give it a golden shower, all comments are welcomed and appreciated.

CPU Intel Core i3-3225 3.3GHz Dual-Core $119.99


CPU Cooler Scythe BIG Shuriken 2 Rev. B 45.5 CFM Sleeve Bearing $29.99

Not sure if this is really necessary.

Motherboard ASRock H77 Pro4-M Micro ATX LGA1155 $104.99

Memory G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 $34.99


Storage
Crucial M4 128GB 2.5" SSD $99.79

Seagate Barracuda 3TB 3.5" 7200RPM $139.99

I'd like to add to the capacity over the years. I realize that I don't need the 7200 RPM, but the HDD seems to be best bang for buck right now? I can get same drive 5400 RPM for the exact same price, so I figure I may as well get the 7200. Is the extra power consumption/noise enough to prefer the 5400?

Case Silverstone SST-PS07B MicroATX Mini Tower $78.99

This has been the toughest and most confusing choice of all. I chose a tower because I think it might benefit someone new to the field, and may allow more/better upgrades over time. I really like the idea of a true HTPC case though.

Alternatively I've been thinking SILVERSTONE Grandia Series GD05B-USB3.0 - which is about $30 more expensive. - 109.99

Power Supply PC Power & Cooling 400W ATX12V $39.88

Optical Drive Asus BW-12B1ST/BLK/G/AS Blu-Ray/DVD/CD Writer $69.98

Operating System Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) $96.99

This is OEM, which makes to believe that I need a mobo that I want to keep.

Keyboard Logitech K400 w/Touchpad $40.99

Total price: $856.57

Is this at all reasonable for an HTPC that can play non-intensive games and is upgradeable in the future?

Is it best to buy a far more basic HTPC and look for a higher end laptop? (I'm not going to be playing games on the road, if I'm carrying the lappy around it's for work, but I suppose the convenience of possibility is nice).

There's no need for a sound card, correct?

Is it true that I'd need a rooftop antenna to get OTA tv via HDHomerun? I'd really like to add this at some point.

I have no idea what kind of front-end I'd like, yet.

Thanks kindly in advance for all of your/anyone's help!
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Old 11-03-2012, 07:17 PM   #2
Annisman*
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I see you signed up at Anandtech just to post this.

First of all, welcome.

Secondly, I will do my very best to give you any kind of answers, but I am very new to HTPCs myself, as I just put one together last week and I'm still ironing things out.

Others are going to have to help you with your more obscure questions, like HDHomerun, which I have no idea what that even is.

Anyways, to my suggestions.

In my opinion, buy a netbook (200-300$) and splurge on your HTPC. Unless you plan on doing some exotic things with your laptop for work, just get something that can do word processing and internet browsing.

You'll be having so much face time with that HTPC I feel that's where you need to throw that giant wad of cash.

Your motherboard choice is good, but you can save some money and not lose any real features by going with this one: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16813157303 40$ savings there.

Your hdd selections are fine, but we are going to be cutting your memory in half down to 4GB, don't worry for an HTPC I really don't think you'll be hitting that limit any time soon.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16820231427 saves 12 bucks, and you need it....Dad ! Congrats btw. Gotta start saving for that useless place called College that we are all supposed to go to so we can get great jobs !

The 3225 cpu is the only option for a htpc with any gaming asperations in my opinion, so good pick there. However lose the CPU cooler, the stock one will handle it fine because you couldnt overclock it if you wanted to, locked multiplier. It's a cool running chip anyways. There's some more savings.

Your case, I dont love it, but it's more of a personal choice. This is the one I am using http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16811204042. Amazing cooling, decent amounts of room, it will take advantage of that USB 3.0 header on that mobo.

No sound card is required. You will purchase Assasin's HTPC guide. This is not an option!

You will be bitstreaming glorious HD Audio in no time soon after.

Well, since you skimped hardcore on the laptop, and saved a few bucks here and there on parts, you'll be buying one of these badboys http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16814130838.

Because you want to dabble in games that aren't named 'minecraft' and 'angry birds' a dedicated gpu is a must for your setup. Plus you will then have the advantage of streaming video AND audio thu your Video Card's HDMI port.

That's all I've got !
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Last edited by Annisman*; 11-03-2012 at 07:39 PM.
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Old 11-04-2012, 04:26 AM   #3
Rumourmill
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I really appreciate your feedback. You make some great points.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Annisman* View Post
I see you signed up at Anandtech just to post this.

First of all, welcome.
Thanks! I've been lurking here and there for a while. I posted here and on two other sites and I appreciate all of the people who've taken time to offer advice.

Quote:
In my opinion, buy a netbook (200-300$) and splurge on your HTPC. Unless you plan on doing some exotic things with your laptop for work, just get something that can do word processing and internet browsing.

You'll be having so much face time with that HTPC I feel that's where you need to throw that giant wad of cash.
Oh I wish. I work a lot, and get way more more face time with my laptop than with my TV or my couch. A netbook is probably not feasible for the sheer size of the keyboard. But, I was able to find a 15.6 ASUS NB61 laptop and a 128 GB SSd and 8 GB RAM for about 400 all-in on a labour day sale last month. Something like that would suffice me perfectly also.

Quote:
Your motherboard choice is good, but you can save some money and not lose any real features by going with this one: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16813157303 40$ savings there.
Excellent deal. I'm in Vancouver, Canada though and don't have access to the exact prices or sales as in the US, but all info is great. Shipping costs are usually prohibitive. Amazon.ca has different prices. I'm keeping my eye out for something like this, though.

Quote:
Your hdd selections are fine, but we are going to be cutting your memory in half down to 4GB, don't worry for an HTPC I really don't think you'll be hitting that limit any time soon.
Others missed the 4x2 part and demanded that I double to 8 GB. Why not 8 GB? The price difference between 2x4 GB and 1x4 is probably $8. If I were to stream to multiple tvs at the same time, wouldn't this come in handy?

Quote:
The 3225 cpu is the only option for a htpc with any gaming asperations in my opinion, so good pick there. However lose the CPU cooler, the stock one will handle it fine because you couldnt overclock it if you wanted to, locked multiplier. It's a cool running chip anyways. There's some more savings.
Thanks for this. I've tossed the cooler.

I didnt realize that the 3225 was locked. That kind of makes the H77 mobo a bit useless compared to a B75 or lower, no? I have no intention of Oc'ing anything soon, (I have enough to learn about first), but I thought it wise to keep as an option for the future. It seems it's not an option from the outset, though.

I have a further question re: the 3225 below.

Quote:
Your case, I dont love it, but it's more of a personal choice. This is the one I am using http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16811204042. Amazing cooling, decent amounts of room, it will take advantage of that USB 3.0 header on that mobo.
Originally the case was the least of my concerns. Now that I have a better understanding about the innards, I've put my mind to the case. I've decided to go with a Silverstone GD05B. Thanks.

Quote:
No sound card is required. You will purchase Assasin's HTPC guide. This is not an option!
Purchased. Thanks for clarification on audio.

Quote:
Well, since you skimped hardcore on the laptop, and saved a few bucks here and there on parts, you'll be buying one of these badboys http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16814130838.

Because you want to dabble in games that aren't named 'minecraft' and 'angry birds' a dedicated gpu is a must for your setup. Plus you will then have the advantage of streaming video AND audio thu your Video Card's HDMI port.
I need clarification here. I thought that I'd be able to stream video through the mobo (receiver passively relaying video to tv) and at the same time send untouched audio information to the receiver which makes sense of the and tells the speakers how to make proper noise. Non-technical, I know, but it's how I've been able to get my head around it so far.

Are you saying that I could not send video and (raw) audio to my AVR simultaneously (via single HDMI out), with the above CPU/mobo?

Second - "a dedicated GPU is a must" - for games. Bah. And thanks. Is the 3225 even necessary, then? Should/could I downgrade CPU to a Celeron and add a GPU similar to what you've posted?

Further, if the GPu you've listed were added, would my 400W PSU be enough?

I've tweaked my original build slightly, some prices are lower because a local site price matches (Canadian sites) and beats the difference by 25%. I'm taking yours and others feedback into consideration for a subsequent revision, though:

Intel Core i3 3225 Dual Core Hyperthreading Processor LGA1155 3.3GHZ Ivy Bridge 3MB Retail Box - $129.99
http://www.ncix.com/products/?sku=75430&promoid=1016

AsRock H77Pro 4 M w/ DDR3, 7.1 Audio, Gigabit Lan, CrossFireX / SLI - $92.41
http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX39287

G.SKILLRipjaws X Series 8GB PC3-12800 Dual Channel DDR3 Kit (2 x 4GB) - $33.74
]http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX33234

Samsung 830 Series SATA III Solid State Drive, 128GB - $96.58 (Alternatively Vertex 4 for 101.24)
http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX42355

Seagate 3TB Barracuda 7200rpm SATA III w/ 64MB Cache - $127.49
http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX36849

Silverstone GD05B HTPC Case w/ USB 3.0, Black - $93.47
http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX40765

Logitech K400 Wireless Touch Keyboard - $38.47
http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX36609

Asus DRW-24B1ST 24x DVD-RW Drive, SATA, Black, OEM - $16.24
http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX27707

PC Power and Cooling Silencer Mk III 400W Power Supply - $33.53
http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX37751

$641.92
$721.35 after taxes.

Total $721.35

I still need an OS.


Many thanks for your advice and help. I really appreciate it.
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Old 11-05-2012, 10:43 AM   #4
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Regarding the amount of memory: Hey, if it were me I would put as much memory as I could in the htpc (mine has 8gb) but as you are clearly on a budget, any kind of savings should be looked at. I can say with 100% certainty that 4GB of ram is plenty for 99% of your needs. Is that other 1% worth the extra 8 bucks ? You can decide that. And don't forget, in the rare chance that you ever run out of memory, your SSD will become the page file, which is alot faster than when old mechanical drives had to do it.

Regarding the laptop: Buy whatever you think will get your job done with the least amount of bells and whistles, and for the cheapest you can find. What price/model will that end up being ? Only you will end up knowing that.

Regarding the mobo: It's not so much the chipset you should be worried about, it's the features you are after. This is what you will want: Micro ATX form factor (or mini depending on your case), Sata 6gb/s support (at least two ports), (at least) 2 Usb 3.0 ports and a usb 3.0 header on your motherboard. You also need hdmi out, and at least 2 PCI-E slots (one for the vid card, one for a TV tuner if you ever want it)

Now all you have to do is find the mobo that can meet this criteria for the cheapest price. For me, it was the one that I linked to earlier, for you it may be another model.

I really like that new case you have picked, it's beatiful.

Regarding the video card: I still stress heavily that you need this. But to clarify, yes, without it your mobo can easily stream both the audio and video to your reciever. My point was that the video card can do it as well, while allowing you to play games that look better than the original Doom.


Your power supply would be plenty even with the video card, I wouldn't downgrade your CPU unless you were really looking to save money, I can't say enough about this little chip. But yes, you could downgrade if you needed to.

Why are you getting rid of the Blu Ray drive ? Sack up man !

For me, I know that burning blu rays will probably never be something I need/want to do, so I got the best BD reader drive, but it also burns/reads CDs and DVDs, very useful for like 60$, oh and it can read 3D blu rays too. Don't skimp on an optical drive for an HTPC!@@@@@@@!!!!!

Lastly, you might be able to find a used GTX 460/560 for dirt cheap, if you can do that, it would still let you play all your games (at low-medium settings maybe) but it would be much cheaper.
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Last edited by Annisman*; 11-05-2012 at 10:46 AM.
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Old 11-05-2012, 12:50 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rumourmill View Post
Is this at all reasonable for an HTPC that can play non-intensive games and is upgradeable in the future?
Please list the games you expect to play. That will have a HUGE impact on whether you go with a discrete graphics card (and which one).

As Annisman* stated, no need for aftermarket CPU cooler. Stick with the H77 chipset board. Go for the HTPC case if you have other equipment (receiver, etc.) which matches the size.
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Old 11-07-2012, 11:50 PM   #6
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Thanks Zap.
Historically I've played games such as assassin's creed (never made it past II), Splinter Cell, COD, Civilization series, and GTA series. I'd like to check out LA Noire.

However, I've decided to scrap the gaming idea. I was excited by the prospect of building a one-stop machine capable of doing everything I'd like, but at the end of the day gaming just isn't a priority. I have a Ps3 which I rarely use. In truth my needs ought to be quite simple so I'm looking into more of a budget build that I can improve over time as my needs expand.

In this vein, I'm struggling to decide what, exactly, I need. One thing that's confusing me is determining whether I'll be transcoding. I understand what it is by definition, but I'm not exactly clear when it actually occurs.

At this time I just have the one receiver through which I'll be streaming media, then out to the tv (720p plasma).

All of my physical media is ripped already, sitting on an external HDD.

I will be downloading video files in different formats for the above streaming, but I expect that WMC/XMBC (haven't decided on software just yet) will play them fine (avi/mpeg 2 / 4 / mkv etc)

I will be streaming from the internet. Particularly sports. Is there any transcoding that would be involved in this? i don't think so, but I've read enough conflicting info that now I'm confused.

I won't be editing video / photos or the like.

I think that for my uses I could get by with a SB Pentium, which is half the price of an i3, but I'm somewhat concerned that it's not enough (and thus a waste of money).

Any insight on the above?

Like everyone else, I'm also curious to see what black Friday is going to bring.

Thanks again for your help.

Last edited by Rumourmill; 11-07-2012 at 11:55 PM.
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Old 11-08-2012, 04:23 PM   #7
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The dirty little secret about the SandyBridge Pentium is that the GPU is exactly the same as the Intel 2000 HD in the i3 except w/o 3D and QuickSync support. You can pick up a G850 for under $70. Personally, I have a G620 and G530+HD5450 in my HTPCs. I mostly watch live TV (CableCard tuner), 1080p video and stream from Netflix/Xfinity on them.

http://www.superbiiz.com/detail.php?name=G850BOX $62.99 + 6.99 shipping - $6 off with code "SBZ4PRZ" = $63.98.
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Old 11-11-2012, 03:01 AM   #8
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I really appreciate all of your advice.

Here's the final build after price matching and MIRs:

Intel Pentium Dual Core G860 Processor LGA1155 3.0GHZ 3MB Retail Box *IR-$10*
http://ncix.com/products/?sku=72280
$69.99

ASRock Z77 Pro 3 ATX LGA1155 DDR3 CrossFireX 2PCI-E16 1PCI-E1 2PCI SATA3 HDMI USB3.0 Motherboard
http://ncix.com/products/?sku=70901&promoid=1230
$89.99

Patriot Intel Extreme Masters 8GB 2X4GB PC3-12800 DDR3-1600 9-9-9-24 1.5V Dual Channel Memory Kit
http://ncix.com/products/?sku=74756&promoid=1016
$28.99

OCZ Vertex 4 Series SATA III Solid State Drive, 128GB
http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX38936
$97.49

Seagate Barracuda Green 1.5TB SATA 6GB/S 3.5IN 12MS 5900RPM 64MB Hard Drive OEM
http://ncix.com/products/?sku=57130&promoid=1016
$69.99

LiteOn iHAS124 24X DVD-Writer, SATA, Black, OEM
http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX24714
$16.21


PC Power and Cooling Silencer Mk III 400W Power Supply
http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX37751
$35.53


Bitfenix GHOST ATX Full Tower Enthusiast Case, Black
http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX42003

OR

Antec Performance One P280 Case
http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX36511

$72.24 (Ghost is actually $72.49) (I really like them both and they're both good for WAF. Originally I'd asked for the P280 but it may not be in stock. I'll find out tomorrow. If I end up with the GHOST I won't have to bother with a $10 MIR).

Logitech K400 Wireless Touch Keyboard
http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX36609
$37.49

TOTAL (before taxes) $517.92
After tax - $580.07

I'll be running XMBC, and am studying assassin's guides now.

I scrapped the "true" HTPC case for a mid-tower because the comp is going to end up on the floor. The mid tower ought to balance against my sub nicely.

I may look for a mid-level GPU, maybe a black friday deal, that will allow me to do some gaming in the future.

This will be my first PC build. This site has been invaluable in getting me ready. Thanks to all of you for your feedback.
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Old 11-19-2012, 03:57 PM   #9
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Nice

Last edited by Mfusick; 11-21-2012 at 12:05 PM.
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Old 11-21-2012, 02:14 AM   #10
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Amazed you're still interested!

The case became the problem. I need something that can sit on the floor. Initially I decided on the Bitfenix Ghost, and brought that home. Wife sent me back in short order. Too big.

So I picked up a Bitfinex Prodigy instead (Mini ITX). Pickings were slim for a small form factor (that didn't need to sit on a shelf). I'm quite happy with it. This meant that I had to swap the mobo as well.

Final (and now built):

Intel Pentium Dual Core G860 Processor LGA1155 3.0GHZ 3MB Retail Box *IR-$10*
http://ncix.com/products/?sku=72280
$69.99

Asus P8H77-I Mini ITX Mobo
http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX39431
$91.99

Patriot Intel Extreme Masters 8GB 2X4GB PC3-12800 DDR3-1600 9-9-9-24 1.5V Dual Channel Memory Kit
http://ncix.com/products/?sku=74756&promoid=1016
$28.99

OCZ Vertex 4 Series SATA III Solid State Drive, 128GB
http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX38936
$97.49

Seagate Barracuda Green 1.5TB SATA 6GB/S 3.5IN 12MS 5900RPM 64MB Hard Drive OEM
http://ncix.com/products/?sku=57130&promoid=1016
$69.99

LiteOn iHAS124 24X DVD-Writer, SATA, Black, OEM
http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX24714
$16.21

PC Power and Cooling Silencer Mk III 400W Power Supply
http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX37751
$35.53

Bitfinex Prodigy Mini ITX Case
http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX39720

Logitech K400 Wireless Touch Keyboard
http://www.memoryexpress.com/Products/MX36609
$37.49

All in after rebates and taxes was a hair under $500.

HTPC has been built with little (hardware) troubleshooting necessary.

I needed an OS - and while I like Win7 I decided to go with Linux Ubuntu (12.04). This has resulted in a steep learning curve for me, but things are coming along nicely, albeit slowly.

Thanks again!
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Old 11-21-2012, 03:23 PM   #11
Mfusick
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Looks like a great build !!
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Old 11-21-2012, 09:21 PM   #12
tential
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So did you go for a gaming laptop or not? I'm a little confused. At 500 dollars, that doesn't really leave you much money to get a decent laptop like your original plan of 300-400.

I would have cut the SSD until later and just put that money towards a laptop but it's much too late now. There are so many good deals though on a laptop you could still get a good gaming laptop for pretty cheap though as long as you aren't expecting top of the line extreme graphics performance.
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