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Old 01-17-2013, 06:40 PM   #1
wanderica
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Default Review my HTPC

Hi all,

I've decided to build myself an HTPC, and have been researching for the past couple of days. This build most likely won't happen until early February. Primary use will be DVR (cable), Many movies streamed over my network, and Netflix. No games at all will be played on this machine. This will be an all new build, so sadly, I can reuse nothing. Budget is $1000, but less is always welcome.

Case ($129.99) - Silverstone Grandia Series GD06B ATX Media Center / HTPC Case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16811163179

Open to suggestions here. $130 is more than I wanted to spend on a case, but I've come to love a well built quality case. Also the 3 silent 120mm fans are appealing.

Tuner ($189.99) - Ceton InfiniTV 4 Quad-tuner Card for Watching Digital Cable TV
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16815706001

This is the reason I decided to build this machine in the first place. OTA broadcasts out here in the boondocks aren't all that great, so I want to keep my cable. I'm open to suggestions, but If I can't use this machine as a cable DVR, then I will most likely scrap the whole build.

Motherboard ($74.99) - GIGABYTE GA-B75M-D3H LGA 1155 Intel B75 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16813128555

Edited to include a board with HDMI. Thanks Binky.

Memory ($49.99) - Kingston HyperX XMP
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16820104389

Tried to avoid any potential issues with large heatsinks, but ram is ram in this build.

HDD ($69.99) - SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 ST1000DL004 / HD105SI 1TB 5400 RPM 32KB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16822152379

SSD ($) - SAMSUNG 830 Series MZ-7PC064D/AM 2.5" 64GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16820147133
*Not included in final price.
Newegg is out of stock on these, but I assume I can find one somewhere.

CPU ($69.99) - Intel Pentium G620 Sandy Bridge 2.6GHz
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16819116399

Lower cost solution with no performance hit. Thanks Charlie!

PSU ($59.99) - SeaSonic S12II 380B 380W ATX12V
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16817151072

Never used a SeaSonic PSU before, but this one comes highly recommended by Assassin.

Optical ($68.99) - LITE-ON 12X BD-ROM
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16827106380

Just your basic Blu-Ray drive. Not interested in burning Blu-Ray on this machine.

OS ($99.99) - Windows 7 Home Premium

Remote ($49.99) - VisionTek Candyboard Keyboard with Touchpad and Built in IR Remote
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16823852004

Seemed a low cost solution for KB, Mouse, AND remote, plus it comes with an IR sensor. Don't really want a keyboard and mouse passed around my living room.


Total Cost - $863.90


I realize that some of these are sale prices and may not be on sale in a few weeks when I make these purchases. I have taken that into account and am prepared for the increase if necessary.

Thanks in advance guys. You all are always a big help.
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Last edited by wanderica; 01-18-2013 at 07:44 PM.
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Old 01-17-2013, 09:19 PM   #2
Charlie98
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Many of the components you used are what I used in my recent HTPC build... the HDD, the mobo, the BD drive.

You could save a little money...

The i3 is overkill for just a streaming machine, I have a G620 in mine ($50 on sale) an it works fine... you could go with a G630 or even G860 and be OK.

You could knock down the RAM to 2x 2GB and save $20, or just go with a less expensive set of 2x 4GB.

I caught a lot of my parts on sale (I picked up components for the last 4 months or so...) like W7 for $79 (Newegg) 2TB HDD for $99 (MicroCenter) Corsair CX430 PSU for $17 (Newegg, AR) etc.

Also, you will need software to play BD's on your machine... W7 and WMC won't do it by itself. There is a thread posted here recently about BD freeware, but I think the best option... most reliable option, is a program like AnyDVD... but it's not cheap.
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Old 01-18-2013, 02:32 PM   #3
thestrangebrew1
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Nice build. To save some cash, I'd follow Charlie's advice and get a Sandy Bridge Pentium but if you're dead set on an i3 go for it. I'd also suggest skipping the OS and just using xbmc ubuntu if you're just streaming. Not sure how well Netflix works with it though, someone else can chime in. But that'll save you some dough. Anydvd is awesome but it is pricey, I'd look into Makemkv as well.
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Old 01-18-2013, 04:13 PM   #4
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Netflix uses MS silverlight which isn't supported on Linux. It was recently made possible to run the windows version of firefox in WINE which includes silverlight compatibility, but is still buggy from what I understand and not officially supported by Netflix.
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Old 01-18-2013, 04:51 PM   #5
wanderica
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Thanks for the response guys. Good call on the processor. Completely overlooked that line when I put those specs together. OP will be edited to reflect the change.

I thought about Ubuntu and XBMC. I need to do a bit more research though. I'm not all that familiar with Ubuntu, and completely unfamiliar with XBMC. Netflix will be a very important part of this PC's purpose as will streaming all of my DVDs and BDs. The most important part for me, however, is the tuner. Anyone know how well the Ceton cable card tuner works in XBMC? What about driver support in Ubuntu?

Finally, does anyone have any advice on the HDD? If I understand things right, I could go with a slower HDD with little to no performance hit if I have an SSD for my OS. Is this the recommended setup these days or is it really a matter of preference? I don't want it to take 15 seconds to load channels a year down the road when my HDD gets a bit more full.
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Old 01-18-2013, 04:55 PM   #6
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I read on another post that if PVR'ing is a main factor, stick with WMC. Can't remember which one it was though. For my systems, 1 is using xbmc ubuntu, my main htpc is using w7, but I'm still running xbmc because I'm not doing an PVR. However, once my contract is up with Directv I may be going OTA so that's why I went with w7 on my main htpc.
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Old 01-18-2013, 05:45 PM   #7
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Unless I missed it, that MB doesn't have HDMI. Get something with HDMI.

A 7200rpm HD might be a little noisy. Is the case going to be exposed? Will that be an issue? The price seems high for a 2Tb drive.

Be sure to consider the Hdhomerun Prime as a cablecard tuner. I have no idea how it compares to the Ceton since I don't have cable. The hdhomerun has the advantage that its an external box and it keeps additional heat out of your case.

They keyboard looks pretty neat, but the Lenovo keyboard often goes on sale. Here's a link to the older version. I wouldn't pay more than $20-$30 for it though. This Lenovo and the Visiontek look like they have similar key sizes...i.e. they are tiny and very difficult to use. You will not want to type much on either one.
http://www.amazon.com/Lenovo-Multime.../dp/B0036VO67I

You will probably want a real remote even if that visiontek works as a remote - there's no substitute for a simple remote. You can pair any Logitech Harmony remote with any WMC IR sensor.
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Old 01-18-2013, 07:35 PM   #8
wanderica
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Nice catch on the Motherboard! I'd have missed that for sure. Thanks. Try this one instead:

GIGABYTE GA-B75M-D3H LGA 1155 Intel B75 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16813128555


As for the Hard Drive, I think you're probably correct. Not as many 5400 RPM drives available these days though How about a 1 TB drive instead of the 2 TB drive? I don't think I'll be filling up that 2 TB drive any time soon at any rate, and this will give me a few more options. Also, I'll be able to snag a small SSD for the OS.

SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 ST1000DL004 / HD105SI 1TB 5400 RPM 32KB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16822152379

SSD - SAMSUNG 830 Series MZ-7PC064D/AM 2.5" 64GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16820147133
Newegg is out of stock on these, but I assume I can find one somewhere.


Also, Price keeps going down. Under $900 without the SSD now. I love you guys.
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Last edited by wanderica; 01-18-2013 at 07:46 PM.
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Old 01-18-2013, 08:40 PM   #9
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If you want to cut a little more cost:

You can save $40 on the case if you have a fry's nearby: http://www.frys.com/product/6079538?...H:MAIN_RSLT_PG

I'd swap the BD drive for this one: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16827106325 It's got a lot more reviews and cost 1/2 as much. Aside from the one time you install the OS I don't think you'll ever be bothered by a slower drive, chances are you'll seldom put a disc in the drive anyway.

I'd save a few dollars on RAM, you can find 8gb brand name RAM for $10-20 less that should work just as well as the premium stuff you picked out, this is a HTPC not an overclocked gaming rig. I doubt you'll need 8gb, for $25 you can get 4gb which should be more than enough.

Finally, you might consider a Trinity core AMD processor, although you'll sacrifice some computing power you'll get better graphics that would be nice if you think you might end up playing any games at some point in the future, cost should be a wash if not slightly cheaper.
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Old 01-18-2013, 09:00 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kornphlake View Post
If you want to cut a little more cost:

You can save $40 on the case if you have a fry's nearby: http://www.frys.com/product/6079538?...H:MAIN_RSLT_PG

I'd swap the BD drive for this one: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16827106325 It's got a lot more reviews and cost 1/2 as much. Aside from the one time you install the OS I don't think you'll ever be bothered by a slower drive, chances are you'll seldom put a disc in the drive anyway.

I'd save a few dollars on RAM, you can find 8gb brand name RAM for $10-20 less that should work just as well as the premium stuff you picked out, this is a HTPC not an overclocked gaming rig. I doubt you'll need 8gb, for $25 you can get 4gb which should be more than enough.

Finally, you might consider a Trinity core AMD processor, although you'll sacrifice some computing power you'll get better graphics that would be nice if you think you might end up playing any games at some point in the future, cost should be a wash if not slightly cheaper.
Trinity is often cited as a good "gaming build" but have you ever used one or read the reviews? You have to really dial back the quality. The limiting factor is going to be the CPU when and if you ever want to upgrade.

If you are even close to being a serious gamer go with a stonger CPU and GPU. If you are using the Trinity for HTPC or Madvr then its a good choice.

For most moderate to serious gamers I think Trinity (and Ivy Bridge) are both overrated. The difference is with Intel you can easily upgrade the GPU and utilize the stronger CPU.

For this reason one should be careful to only recommend these to the "casual" or "light" gamer not wanting to play any of today's more demanding games.

That's my $.02.
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Old 01-18-2013, 09:23 PM   #11
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Your pick of mobo does indeed have HDMI... I'm using it as we speak!

Maybe try this Seagate HDD... it's 2TB but a little less expensive than what you originally picked. This is the HDD I got at MicroCenter for $99 on sale. Yes, it's a 7200RPM drive, but it's very quiet, and I know I have room to spare in the long run. I'm trying to phase out all my 500GB HDD's for 1-2TB drives. If you can find a 5400RPM/variable speed drive in the same price range (WD 'green' or 'red' drive, for example) go for it.

For an SSD, based on Newegg's site, I would pick either the Crucial M4 64GB or the Agility4 64GB. You might be able to find something less expensive on sale or clearance, but I would stay away from OCZ's 3-gen SSD's (Agility3, Vertex3, etc.)

If you have W7 with WMC, Netflix opens right from WMC... it's very nice. About 50% of what we watch is Netflix, so that's important to us (and easy for my wife to operate... doubly-important!)
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Old 01-23-2013, 10:02 PM   #12
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Thanks again everyone. Definitely have a few things to consider. Been toying around with XBMC the last few days, and it certainly has some nice features. Still torn between that and WMC though. Not 100% on the Ceton card or the HDHomerun anymore either. Again, plusses and minusses to both.

Will update with my final decisions and, hopefully, some build pics before long. Thanks again.
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Old 01-23-2013, 11:39 PM   #13
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win7mc if you want the best.

i too am getting to know xbmc though and i plan on building some systems. if i can get live pvr functions without much hassle i could easily see it being a viable alternative though. xbmc is easy to use too.
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Old 01-24-2013, 08:28 AM   #14
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I don't get why everyone seems gung-hoe with spending so much money? I've built two HTPC's which do the exact same thing including multiple other functions (torrent box etc.) and I've built them for FAR less. My last one was a Mini-ITX AMD A8 cpu based PC, and it does everything you need to do flawlessly and the whole system cost ~300. Like for instance I don't get why you want a SSD in a media streaming PC? For what? To load the OS faster? It's going to be on 24/7. All of your movies/recorded stuff will be on a 7200 RPM drive anyway so what's the point? It's wasted money IMHO.

Personally i'm a big advocate of 7MC as well. I use that blended with Mediabrowser and either Chocolate or Vanilla plug-in. Looks amazing. Here let me do you another solid. Read this link

http://www.avsforum.com/t/1302559/as...c-buying-guide
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Old 01-24-2013, 08:32 AM   #15
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Oh if i was to name a regret (slight at that) it's going with a dual cable card tuner on each PC. I wish I would've gone with perhaps at least a quad tuner on one PC.
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Old 02-16-2013, 09:34 PM   #16
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OK folks. New HTPC is up and running complete with the Ceton InfiniTV 4, and I have to say, WOW, what a pain in the ass! I suppose these things are just a bit of trial and error, but totally worth it once it was all sorted. Cable cards are a serious pain, but My Hat's off to Time Warner's cable card division. The tech guys at the cable card specific support line were all very knowledgeable and got my issues nailed down quick. Now the regular support guys were clueless, but I guess that's how it goes.

At any rate, I have 2 tuners in the living room and one a piece split over the network to two bedrooms, one of which is mine, and that brings me to my issue. I have recently added a second monitor (a Dell 27" LED), but the second monitor is an old 24" from back in 2005 which sadly was just before HDCP came about. If I drag WMC to the secondary monitor to play games or make use of my primary monitor, the display cuts out. I think I already know the answer to thise, but is there any way of getting around these HDCP restrictions? Either with an adapter to convert the signal or even software to allow WMC to display on a PC?

This is my last hurdle, but otherwise the rig is everything I hoped it would be. Thanks one final time for all the suggestions.
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