Newbie HTPC & NAS

Alukenu

Junior Member
Jan 1, 2010
2
0
0
#1
Hello Anandtech,

I'm looking for a little bit of guidance on what the best setup would be for my situation. I have been wanting to setup an HTPC and a NAS for a while now but every time I take 5 minutes to research I get a little overwhelmed.

Here are some of the things I am looking for:
- Some redundant backup where I can backup a Macbook Air (I've never done a time machine backup so I'm not sure how complex this is). I've looked into a NAS setup however it always leads me back to why don't I just spend a bit more and setup an HTPC. I'd also like to move all my wife's pictures, videos and music to this backup. We have Iphones, Ipads, Apple TV, a Macbook Air and a Lenovo laptop I use for work. I currently backup my work laptop on a USB stick but wouldn't mind backing it up to a more secure system.

- We have recently taken to the netflix bug through our Apple TV so I need a setup that will play netflix and hulu and any other item typically used by ex-cable people. I like the idea of backing up our DVD's and having them easily accessible on the PC. I'm not sure if OTA HD TV is worth it, we live in Ottawa, Ontario so I don't think we would get much of the US channels.

- Something that is truly easy and intuitive to use as far as navigating and quick to respond. I used to be a tinkerer and don't mind initial configuration but don't want something I need to update each month or it crashes.

I looked at the excellent guide from Assassin but it doesn't really seem to blend well with a redundant RAID backup type of device. I'm really not sure what the cost would be but would like to keep it around $1000 or lower if possible and would order from newegg.ca.

I really used to love researching this stuff but I'm now at a point where I just want a recommendation and to go with it!

Any help would be much appreciated.
 

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,375
3
81
#2
Just a little clarification. You say you want an HTPC but then shortly after that mention you have an AppleTV. Are you adding a 2nd TV location that you would like to serve with an HTPC and also use it as a NAS to playback on the AppleTV at the other TV location? I'm generally not a fan of using your NAS as an HTPC, but if NAS duties are limited to light home usage, I don't see why it can't be done easily.

If this is the case, you would be well served with following Assassin Server's guide for a Windows 7 installation with FlexRAID/SnapRAID and Plex. The Windows 7 will give you the Multimedia support for use as an HTPC. FlexRAID or SnapRAID will give you the data storage and parity protection that you are asking for. Plex will allow you to catalog and store your video/DVD rips and stream them to the AppleTV and other devices and take care of any transcoding/remuxing that is necessary.

That's the software side of things.

As far as hardware, NAS duties are not CPU intensive so you don't need anything expensive. Since you're using it as an HTPC, I wouldn't go with any of the low power chips like Atom or anything like that. An AMD APU is a great choice as is something from Intel's I3 lineup. Get something with integrated graphics (motherboard is OK, APU is better) to keep heat down. Get 8GB of memory. With a parity setup, you'll need at least 3 drives, one of which will not be available for storage. So, if you need 2 TB of storage get 3 1TB drives.

Don't forget to add a backup plan in there, too.
 
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Alukenu

Junior Member
Jan 1, 2010
2
0
0
#3
Thanks for the reply smitbret,

The HTPC would most likely replace the apple TV. At first I was thinking of getting a out of the box NAS and using Plex from NAS onto the Apple TV but it looks like a good/decent NAS with the drives is already like $500 which makes me think why don't I scrap the Apple TV and just build an HTPC.

My understanding would be that the SSD would house the OS, and then a 2tb or 1tb drive the media which would be mirrored on another drive. I read that NAS can be noisy as their mirror, seeing as this will be in our living room, does it make more sense to build an HTPC and then also purchase a seperate NAS unit for the media and backup?
 

smitbret

Diamond Member
Jul 27, 2006
3,375
3
81
#4
You can do an AIO or split up duties. Personally, I feel that if the AppleTV is working fine, then why fix what's not broken. However, if you are streaming to an AppleTV, then there is always the opportunity for file incompatibilities so I'd recommend a server that can run Plex so it will transcode any and all file formats automatically for playback on the AppleTV. Something like this:

CPU - http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product...82E16819113288 $109
MB - http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product...82E16813130661 $59.95
RAM - http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product...82E16820148347 $55.49
HDD 1 2TB - http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product...82E16822148834 $98.99
HDD 64GB SSD - http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product...82E16820171645 $69.99
Case - http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product...82E16811163174 $64.99
PSU - http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product...82E16817139026 $44.99
BR Drive - http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product...82E16827136252 $54.99

Total Price $489.39

Don't forget to add your OS cost. If you want to run it as a NAS with Plex then I recommend Windows Home Server 2011. I didn't see that on the Canadian NewEgg website but it can be found on Amazon.ca:

http://www.amazon.ca/Windows-Home-Se...me+server+2011 $54.99

If you think you want to go the HTPC route, then you'll probably wanna step up to Windows 7 professional or Windows 8.

If you go the NAS route, you could drop the BR drive (if you have an external DVD drive laying around for OS installation). There's also ways to stick the installation CD on a flash drive. You could probably also save some $$ just going to 4GB of memory and the SSD is probably overkill. You could get by with a small, cheap mechanical drive for $30-40 since boot up times won't be a consideration. In fact, if you go the NAS route you may wanna spring for 2 Data HDDs and mirror them. If you have a backup system in place, it's really not necessary, though.

If you go the HTPC route, you'll wanna give some special consideration to noise. That means you may also want to consider a 3rd party CPU cooler for about $30-$40 since the CPU fans that come with the CPUs tend to be on the noisier side of things. The Seagates I linked are 72oorpm drives but they run cooler and quieter than my WD Greens. I have that PSU in one of my desktops and it should be fine. But you could also invest a bit more in a quieter PSU but you won't need anything more than 300W. Make sure its 80+ Certified; it'll keep power consumption and heat down. Be prepared to invest in some case fans, too, in case the included ones are on the noisy side of things. And don't forget a way to control the HTPC with a remote control.

If you wanted to get something even a little less power hungry and could spend a little more you could look into an i3 setup instead of AMD APU. I don't think any extra performance you'd gain would be measurable from a user position, though.

You're already familiar with Assassin's guides so if you go the NAS route, just follow the directions for WHS 2011 and Plex and you'll be streaming, backing up and remote accessing in no time.
 
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