Advice requested on my HTPC build

Tama-Chan

Junior Member
Mar 31, 2013
16
0
0
#1
Hi everyone,

I’ve been meaning to rig up an HTPC for a while now - even made a few posts about it enquiring for advice about a year ago:
After much procrastinating about it, I’ve decided to really set myself to it.

I have a 50 inch 1080p TV to connect the HTPC to via HDMI for sound and picture - I do not have separate speakers or amplifier yet, and although I wouldn’t rule it out, it is not in my immediate plans.

Now, I have a fairly good idea of what I want the HTPC to be able to do:
  • Watch Blu-rays discs and DVDs (I have a fair number of physical disks at home)
  • Mount and watch ISOs of Blu-rays and DVDs
  • Play some music / radio (MP3s, Youtube, live radio streams, podcasts, etc)
  • Netflix / Amazon Prime movies and TV shows
  • Possibly serve as a backup storage. I have three 1TB disks, and one 3TB disk, and I haven’t decided yet if I want to put those in a separate NAS server, or in the HTPC. I want to keep my options open, so that means a mATX format (microITX and smaller are out of the way)
  • Occasional gaming: I want to be able to occasionally move the HTPC into another room, and be able to play some games (e.g. CounterStrike, Stalker, Civilization 5, Heroes of Might and Magic - nothing besides Stalker perhaps that seems wildly crazy in terms of GPU requirements)
  • Occasionally put a memory card from my camera and watch the photos on the TV

Nice extra:
  • Watch / record live TV. At least I want that door to be open in the future, even if I don’t do it now.
  • IR / Bluetooth / RF receiver for a remote. But I’m thinking I’ll use my phone / tablet as the primary way to control the HTPC.


I tend to keep my machines around for a long while, so I don’t mind overpowering it a little bit, so long as I’m not doing something crazy like quadrupling the cost of the machine, or having an uneven build where half the components are way overpowered, and half are way underpowered.

Here’s what I have in mind so far:

Case: Silverstone GD05B USB 3.0 Grandia HTPC Black Micro ATX Case (http://www.scan.co.uk/products/silverstone-gd05b-usb-30-grandia-htpc-micro-atx-black-w-o-psu)
Alternative:

I wanted the microATX form factor. I don’t need the fancy LCD display on the case - actually, that might be a distraction more than anything when watching movies.

Now, I’m a bit concerned that I’m limited to 70mm clearance for the CPU heatsink + fan with the GD05B because of the Blu-ray drive. But the Lian Li is quite a bit more money. Thoughts?


PSU: Seasonic SS-400FL2 400W 80+ (http://www.scan.co.uk/products/400w...tinum-full-modular-eps-12v-fanless-atx-silent)
Alternative choices:

Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s fanless (so quiet), and modular (so I can improve airflow in the case easily). Although I’ve heard some say that fanless was not necessarily best because of the reduced airflow; with the components I chose, is that likely to be a problem for either case?


CPU: Intel i5-4570S (http://www.ebuyer.com/467627-cpu-core-i5-4570s-2-90ghz-lga1150-box-bx80646i54570s)
Alternative choices:

I know AMD is supposed to have a better GPU in their APUs, but I figure the HD4600 in Haswell should be good enough for many games, and if I have a game that requires more, I might as well get a dedicated graphics card at that point. Plus Intel CPUs are supposed to run quite a bit cooler, which matters to me since I want quiet operation.


CPU cooler: Scythe SCBSK-2100 Big Shuriken 2 Rev.B Low Profile CPU Cooler (http://www.scan.co.uk/products/scyt...ts-2011-1366-1155-1156-775-fm1-am3plus-am3-am)

Given that I want to install a Blu-ray drive in the HTPC, I have a maximum of 70mm clearance for the CPU cooler for Silverstone. That restricts the choice of CPU coolers quite a bit.

With the Lian Li, I might be able to go with something else, such as the Noctua NH-C12P or Noctua NH-L12. Maybe that’d be better?


Motherboard: Asus Z87-K (http://www.scan.co.uk/products/asus...raid-pcie-30-(x16)-d-sub-(vga)-dvi-d-hdmi-atx)
Alternative choices:


Memory: Corsair Memory Vengeance Jet Black Low Profile 8GB DDR3 (http://www.scan.co.uk/products/8gb-...pc3-12800-(1600)-non-ecc-cas-9-9-9-24-xmp-15v)

Maybe 4GB would be enough?


Storage: Crucial 256GB M550 SSD (http://www.scan.co.uk/products/256g...lc-flash-read-550mb-s-write-500mb-s-90k-80k-i)
Alternative choices:


Blu-ray drive, hard drive: I already have.


Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?

Thanks!
 
Last edited:

Charlie98

Diamond Member
Nov 6, 2011
5,941
0
81
#2
If you are going to go with a Z87 board, you might as well go with the i5 4670K processor, or just drop down to a H87 board and the plain vanilla i5 4570 or the i3 4340... I would skip the 'S' processor.

If you are going to game, stick with 2x4GB RAM.

I would probably go with the Corsair CX430 PSU... it's what I have and it works very well. On HTPC duty I can't hear it.

Try gaming with the iGPU and see if it works... either it will or it won't. You may wind up having to go with a smaller GPU to get decent gaming out of it...
 
Nov 22, 2008
15,252
55
126
#3
You haven't said much about your budget, if money is no object they definitely go for Z87 with i5-k, otherwise for HTPC and games you mentioned, I think H87 and i3 along with 8GB memory should suffice.

For CPU cooler I would lean towards ZALMAN CNPS8900, they are direct contact heat pipes...

I am a crucial fanboy so would definitely recommend M500 or 550
 

Tama-Chan

Junior Member
Mar 31, 2013
16
0
0
#4
If you are going to go with a Z87 board, you might as well go with the i5 4670K processor, or just drop down to a H87 board and the plain vanilla i5 4570 or the i3 4340... I would skip the 'S' processor.

If you are going to game, stick with 2x4GB RAM.

I would probably go with the Corsair CX430 PSU... it's what I have and it works very well. On HTPC duty I can't hear it.

Try gaming with the iGPU and see if it works... either it will or it won't. You may wind up having to go with a smaller GPU to get decent gaming out of it...
Why would you suggest to skip the 'S' processor? It seems to me that I would want to have a lower TDP rating for the CPU in a HTPC.

Agreed on the iGPU.
 
Nov 22, 2008
15,252
55
126
#5
Why would you suggest to skip the 'S' processor? It seems to me that I would want to have a lower TDP rating for the CPU in a HTPC.

Agreed on the iGPU.
Not for gaming you don't, for HTPC, yes, lower power consumption is a good thing. Also, you can always take a "k" processor and under-clock it.
 

Tama-Chan

Junior Member
Mar 31, 2013
16
0
0
#6
You haven't said much about your budget, if money is no object they definitely go for Z87 with i5-k, otherwise for HTPC and games you mentioned, I think H87 and i3 along with 8GB memory should suffice.

For CPU cooler I would lean towards ZALMAN CNPS8900, they are direct contact heat pipes...

I am a crucial fanboy so would definitely recommend M500 or 550
Sorry, yes; £600-£700 is about as much as I would want to spend (so, about $1000?).

I'll look into the Zalman - thanks!
 
Nov 27, 2001
28,952
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#7
Honestly, after reading your list, I think your biggest concern is going to be the software setup! For example, if you want to get a high WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) score on this build, you're going to be in for a lot of trouble. Netflix is easy to handle, but I don't know of any simple, 10-Foot UI methods for doing Amazon Prime. There isn't even an app for it on the Windows Store! That was a rather disappointing thing that I noticed when setting up my newer Windows 8 touch-based HTPC.

Why would you suggest to skip the 'S' processor? It seems to me that I would want to have a lower TDP rating for the CPU in a HTPC.
TDP is really more of a ceiling and there's a good chance that you won't even get that close to it. I would say go with a normal i5 with an H87 board. Unless you plan on overclocking, the K-series is typically more expensive and offers no benefit. Also, I don't know what features you're looking for, but the reason why I mentioned the H-series is that you may not need all the features on the (usually pricier) Z-series boards. Also, a somewhat general rule of thumb is that more on-board features = longer boot time. That's because all those controller chips need to start up during boot as well.

I would also keep in mind that an iGPU may not be nearly as good as you want for gaming. This doesn't mean that you need to go crazy, but I would consider going with a low-mid discrete GPU. You can even get a passive unit from AMD if you want something that will always be quiet (they do require good case airflow though).
 

Tama-Chan

Junior Member
Mar 31, 2013
16
0
0
#8
Honestly, after reading your list, I think your biggest concern is going to be the software setup! For example, if you want to get a high WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) score on this build, you're going to be in for a lot of trouble. Netflix is easy to handle, but I don't know of any simple, 10-Foot UI methods for doing Amazon Prime. There isn't even an app for it on the Windows Store! That was a rather disappointing thing that I noticed when setting up my newer Windows 8 touch-based HTPC.
Ha, interesting! I had assumed that there was a plugin for Amazon Prime on XBMC - maybe I was mistaken?

That being said, I don't foresee us watching all that many shows / movies on Amazon Prime (at least until their offering in the UK improves) - we're mostly using Netflix and good ol' physical discs.

TDP is really more of a ceiling and there's a good chance that you won't even get that close to it. I would say go with a normal i5 with an H87 board. Unless you plan on overclocking, the K-series is typically more expensive and offers no benefit. Also, I don't know what features you're looking for, but the reason why I mentioned the H-series is that you may not need all the features on the (usually pricier) Z-series boards. Also, a somewhat general rule of thumb is that more on-board features = longer boot time. That's because all those controller chips need to start up during boot as well.

I would also keep in mind that an iGPU may not be nearly as good as you want for gaming. This doesn't mean that you need to go crazy, but I would consider going with a low-mid discrete GPU. You can even get a passive unit from AMD if you want something that will always be quiet (they do require good case airflow though).
Point taken - I was thinking of nabbing a Z87 mobo because the difference with H87 was a few £.

For gaming, do you have any particular GPUs to recommend for quiet HTPCs, that would fit in a standard micro-ATX case? If I go for one of those, would it be advisable to get a non-fanless PSU to increase the airflow?

Thanks!
 

Tama-Chan

Junior Member
Mar 31, 2013
16
0
0
#9
Not for gaming you don't, for HTPC, yes, lower power consumption is a good thing. Also, you can always take a "k" processor and under-clock it.
That being said, the main use case for the HTPC will be movie watching. What is the downside of the "S" processors for gaming? Is it that the drop in frequency / performance is such that it would measurably impact the performance of the game? Is it that I would simply be paying more money for less performance where it's not warranted?

My main thinking in going for a low TDP processor was to ensure that the processor would stay cool and the fans quiet at all times. I guess that means I would trade a higher fan noise with a normal CPU (because it would run hotter at 100% performance) vs the risk of dropping frames with a "S" CPU when playing for instance (because the CPU can't handle it all seamlessly)?
 

Charlie98

Diamond Member
Nov 6, 2011
5,941
0
81
#10
Power = heat, lower TDP processors get there with less performance... less power = less heat. Instead of buying the i5 'S' chip, I'd just get the i3 (in this instance) or just go with a standard i5 like the 4570. And remember, HTPC duty is not taxing on a CPU... it will remain quiet and cool in that role no matter the TDP. Because you want to game, you need a bigger processor... don't shortchange yourself by getting an 'S' processor.

do you have any particular GPUs to recommend for quiet HTPCs, that would fit in a standard micro-ATX case
The GD05B isn't a standard mATX case... don't forget that. It should fit a reasonable GPU, for sure, but double-check the dimensions before ordering it. I don't know enough about GPUs and the games you are playing to make a reasonable suggestion on a GPU for you.

When I first built my current rig, I didn't have the money for a good GPU, so I used the iGPU on my i5 chip... to play Modern Warfare 1 & 2. While it was playable, it wasn't what I would call quality play... but it worked. Give it a try unless you just want to get a GPU.
 
Last edited:

Tama-Chan

Junior Member
Mar 31, 2013
16
0
0
#11
Power = heat, lower TDP processors get there with less performance... less power = less heat. Instead of buying the i5 'S' chip, I'd just get the i3 (in this instance) or just go with a standard i5 like the 4570. And remember, HTPC duty is not taxing on a CPU... it will remain quiet and cool in that role no matter the TDP. Because you want to game, you need a bigger processor... don't shortchange yourself by getting an 'S' processor.
Gotcha.

The GD05B isn't a standard mATX case... don't forget that. It should fit a reasonable GPU, for sure, but double-check the dimensions before ordering it. I don't know enough about GPUs and the games you are playing to make a reasonable suggestion on a GPU for you.

When I first built my current rig, I didn't have the money for a good GPU, so I used the iGPU on my i5 chip... to play Modern Warfare 1 & 2. While it was playable, it wasn't what I would call quality play... but it worked. Give it a try unless you just want to get a GPU.
Sounds good. As for the case, I've heard the same feedback about it being a little small. At the moment, I'm considering the Silverstone LC10-E (http://www.silverstonetek.com/product.php?pid=197) or the Lian Li PC-C60B for more room (especially for CPU cooler) and therefore better airflow.


Thanks!
 

Charlie98

Diamond Member
Nov 6, 2011
5,941
0
81
#12
Actually, the GD05 is bigger than I thought... I was thinking of the ML series. You should be OK with the '05, or, obviously, the LC10 or Lian Li.
 

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