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HTPC newbie, a little help needed

Discussion in 'Home Entertainment Computers' started by Moor, Apr 1, 2012.

  1. Moor

    Moor Member

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    I am thinking about building my first HTPC, well buying the parts and handing them to a competent mate anyway. I have had enough of DVD cabinets taking up room and I want to put everything on a HTPC and bung all the DVDs and blu rays in the loft out the way.
    I have around 200 blu rays and a similar amount of DVDs and I want to rip them all so I'm going to need a fair few hard drives. From what I have found 6 bays is the most i can get into a PC case which I think should be fine, presumably i can add a NAS at a later date if needed?
    I'm not overly confident when it comes to the more in depth PC stuff but I have come up with the following spec.
    Intel 2120 i3 sandybridge processor
    2x2GB 1333 DDR3 ram
    Zotac H67ITx-C motherboard
    Coolermaster 500W performace quiet PSU
    Lian Li PC-Q08B case
    Samsung SH-B123L blu ray drive
    6X2tb HDs

    What I want from the HTPC is to play movies mainly with some internet browsing and you tube streaming, I have Sky so I don't need a TV tuner, I will be connecting to a Panasonic plasma, Sony AV receiver which is not HD so has optical and coaxial inputs. I do want it to be fairly quiet as its going into the lounge and I plan to use XBMC and control it with my harmony one remote and a HP remote receiver.
    I don't want to go over the top with components, I chose the zotac board because its the only I could find that I could connect 7 HDs (6 3.5 and 1 2.5) but if anything is too much for what I require I'm happy to downgrade and save a few quid as the total is topping £500 atm.
    Any help or input is greatly appreciated.
  2. bryanchicken

    bryanchicken Member

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    i would check that all those 6 sata (and i assume you are planning on utilising the esata also for the 7th) can be used at the same time.
    Some motherboards give you a lot of ports but only allow you to use them if you are using RAID, or the esata can't be used if all the satas are being used.

    I would recommend not having all those drives in your viewing area. I tried to do it once (with 3x3.5" and 1x2.5") and quickly moved it under the stairs with and HDMI cable through the wall because the drive noise was irritating.

    Because you need 6-7 drives already i'd be tempted to build a 'server' rather than all-in-one server/htpc and place it somewhere out of sight and hearing distance. Because its out of sight you can save and get a cheaper case that just has lots of bays.
    Server stuff doesn't usually require much in the way of performance so you can get cheaper CPU etc.
    Get a motherboard with a PCIe slot so you can add sata card(s) and therefore more drives.

    Is your £500 not including drives? Currently a 2tb drive is about £80-90 so thats virtually £500 gone already.

    If you are not including drives in that £500 then you should be able to build a server + htpc for that.
  3. Moor

    Moor Member

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    Thanks Bryan
    You are correct the £500 doesn't include the drives, I forgot to mention that.
    You are probably right regarding the noise in the viewing area, I do have a cupboard behind the tv that it could easily be located. I don't have much idea when it comes to servers, presumably I would need to build a small HTPC with just a drive for the OS and then a separate server in the cupboard? What sort of spec should I look for?
  4. bryanchicken

    bryanchicken Member

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    For the client (playback machine) i would go with something quiet and low powered. The fusion motherboards are popular. Or you could go with nettop like the zbox.

    For the server, if you are not transcoding then most hardware would be ok from a dual core atom upwards. It simply has to make the files available over the network.

    If building myself i'd do something like (prices are guesstimates):
    M350 ITX case - £35
    Pico PSU + brick - £60
    Asus E35M1-I Deluxe motherboard - £130
    2GB RAM - £15
    USB pen drive - £10
    (for booting something like openelec. Saves having to purchase windows or a noisey drive or expensive SSD)

    Total - £250. This would be a totally silent pc. No fans, no mechanical drives. It would also be nice to your electricity bill.

    For the server, i'd do something like:
    MSI H61 mATX motherboard - £50
    (MSI tend to be pretty good on the old energy efficiency without the price of intel who are generally the best. Make sure you get right amount/type of expansion slots)
    Pentium or Celeron G CPU (eg, G620) - £60
    (overkill for most server tasks but still fairly powerful and low energy. Gives you at least the option of transcoding)
    4GB RAM (in case you want to run background tasks) - £30
    Any case you wish with lots of drive bays - £30
    (£30 should be doable if its tucked away and you don't mind what it looks like).
    Decent PSU - £75
    (i wouldn't bother with a bundled PSU with it hosting all your drives and data)
    Sata card - £50
    (if needed depending on sata connectors on motherboard)

    Total - £215-265.

    I would, and do, run ubuntu on my server. If you aren't that way inclined then unfortunately you have to add £75ish for windows.

    Please don't rush out and buy anything i've mentioned, i'm just giving you an option. Make sure its right for what you want to do :thumbsup:

    [Edit]
    I don't think you mentioned power consumption, but its one of the things i looked into when i did my build, hence i've mentioned it a couple of times.
    In terms of power figures a server like that would draw maybe 40-45W at idle with the drives spun down (assuming efficient PSU). My 'server' (in sig) draws in the low 30s with the drives spun down. A NAS would likely beat that but then a NAS for the number of drives you are talking about is expensive.
    [/Edit]
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2012
  5. bryanchicken

    bryanchicken Member

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    If you can run an HDMI cable from the cupboard then you could do an all-in-one server/htpc like i have and forego the client, that is what i do. You can always add a client that accesses data on the server at a later stage if you wished.
    I'd go Pentium or 'i' class CPU in that case though.

    I don't know anything about AMD i'm afraid, hence sounding like an intel fanboy
  6. Moor

    Moor Member

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    Many thanks Bryan really appreciate your input. Since noise is an issue and I don't want the pc on all the time, just when I want to use it I could go for a bigger and uglier system in a bigger case that holds all the HDDs and everything else in one place and be out of sight and have the hdmi and remote receiver coming from the cupboard into the lounge?
  7. bryanchicken

    bryanchicken Member

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    Yep, you could do that. You might still get a bit of vibration from the drives that you might hear. Depends how fussy you are. If you have concrete floors i'm sure that will help compared to my suspended timber ones. You can always set the idle drives to spin down too.
    I use XBMC which has remote apps for ipad/iphone/android etc which don't use infra-red, so i only have the HDMI. I switch on using the app (via wake-on-lan). I'm sure mediaportal has something similar, not sure about windows media centre.
  8. Moor

    Moor Member

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    That might be an easier and cheaper option as if I'm hiding it away I don't mind what it looks like.
    I hadn't considered the iPhone apps actually, looks like a good idea. The only thing that concerns me about hiding the unit away is powering the unit on, is it possible to do this remotely without going into the cupboard as access isn't that easy with my tv unit in front, I want to shut down completely ideally to save power.
  9. bryanchicken

    bryanchicken Member

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    Some motherboards can WOL from off but most can't. Using hibernate will use as much energy as off (both use a little unless you turn off at plug) and you can normally WOL awake from hibernation.
  10. Moor

    Moor Member

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    Thanks again Bryan, have just found a wake from LAN app for iPhone too.
  11. bryanchicken

    bryanchicken Member

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    No worries. I'm still hoping some others will chip in with some alternative suggestions.

    The xbmc (xbmc commander) app i use has WOL built-in, so its all from one app.
    • Thanks Thanks x 1
  12. Moor

    Moor Member

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    I'm most likely going for a bigger unit now, it gives me more options to add more drives at a later date too.
    Spec I have come up with is;
    Fractal design define R3 case which is very quiet apparently so could be put out in the lounge if need be without too much noise
    Corsair cx600 psu
    Gigabyte z68 motherboard
    Intel i3 2120 processor
    4GB ram
    Samsung blu ray drive
    Overall it's better for my needs and is cheaper, any thoughts on this spec?
  13. bryanchicken

    bryanchicken Member

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    Do the zXX motherboards have the inboard graphics? The hXX do and the pXX don't but not sure on the z.

    Otherwise it's fairly similar to my spec, so I like it. My gigabyte motherboard does use more energy than my intel board or similar MSI ones though. Giga tend to have more functionality and tweakability though.

    One thing to consider depending on the price - is it worth going for the 2105 or the 2125 which come with the hd3000 graphics instead of the hd2000? It'll be a bit more powerful and hackintosh compatible if that's of interest.

    The R3 is a nice case for the money. Quite quiet thanks to the sound absorbing material. I've got 2, an R3 and an R3 mini. Think the R3 shades it and the size difference isn't that much anyway.
    Got 6 drives in mine now. When they're spun down its totally silent (fanless psu) and even when they're running it's pretty good. All my floors are bare so I sat mine on some extra rubber feet to further reduce vibrations.
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2012
  14. Moor

    Moor Member

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    Thanks again Bryan. I think the Z68 has on board graphics but I'm happy to admit I'm way out of my depth when it comes to motherboards, spec sheet is here
    GIGABYTE - Motherboard - Socket 1155 - GA-Z68AP-D3 (rev. 2.0)
    I'm more than happy to accept suggestions on more suitable boards, I'm also not sure that board supports 3D blu ray which might be an issue in the future. Basically I want a board that had HDMI, optical out to give me the best viewing experience and is able to support upto 8 3.5 drives and one 2.5 drive and doesn't cost a fortune, I don't want much as you can see ;)
  15. Moor

    Moor Member

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  16. wokeye

    wokeye Member

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    My HTPC is just in a rack under the tv and has 2 x 2TB 3.5" drives for storage and it is as quiet as a Sky + box. It never used to be as it used to have a Samsung F4 2TB 5400rpm hard drive in it as one of the drives. It was noisy when spinning and used to resonate really badly in my Silverstone case. I just swapped this drive out to be the same as the other drive a Western Digital green 2TB WD20EARX and now I can hardly hear it. I know you are going to put your PC in a cupboard but these are great drives for storage as they are so quiet. They are maybe not the fastest so I read, but I find them quick enough for a HTPC and everything else I use my PC for.
  17. bryanchicken

    bryanchicken Member

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    Thats funny, because i've got the previous version of the WD green (1.5tb) and two Sammy F2 (1.5tb) and i think the Samsungs are much better.

    If it has the HDMI etc ports then it must support the onboard graphics :thumbsup:
    The board has HDMI 1.4, so that is the latest. I've never understood its use in HTPC though as apparently it isn't needed for 3D bluray.
    The actual graphics capability is on the CPU with these chips so that is more likely to determine whether you can do 3D bluray.

    The board only has 5 sata connections as far as i can tell, so you'll need a card for 8x3.5+1x2.5.
  18. wokeye

    wokeye Member

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    Maybe I got a duff one although I have read other comments on forums about the F4 being noisy. It worked faultlessly and I am now using it in a USB caddy for data back-up. When the F4 starts spinning up it sounds like somebody charging a defibrillator. Everybody to their own though, just pleased that I am finally happy with my HTPC as that noisy drive used to get on my nerves. I know that there are different models of WD green drives, the ones I mentioned (WD20EARX) is the latest 2TB I think. Great HTPC 3.5" drives, just IMHO.
  19. bryanchicken

    bryanchicken Member

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    Mine are completely different models i suppose. My WD has given me no end of grief. Difficult to get it to spin down, vibrates etc. Incompatible with a NAS i had previously.
    Its not that noisy, its just not as good as the samsungs.
    I think my F2s do have the same defib noise though
  20. Moor

    Moor Member

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    Thanks guys. Motherboard buying does seem to be a very confusing business, looking around a bit more I have come across this asus board at £75 which looks to do everything I need and then I just need to add a 4 port Sata expansion pci card to get all the drives going.
    Asus P8Z68-V LX S1155 Intel Z68 DDR3 ATX (P8Z68-V LX) - dabs.com
    It's good to know about the noise of drives too, I have only had a brief look but do far I have settled on a seagate barracuda 2tb 7200 drive.
  21. bryanchicken

    bryanchicken Member

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    What colour R3 are you going with?
    Quietpc have the white for £68. Bought mine from there, great customer service after city link messed up.
  22. Moor

    Moor Member

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    I was going to go for the black because the white was more than I wanted to spend but that's a great price so I might have to reconsider, thanks for sharing that.
  23. Moor

    Moor Member

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    I will be going for a black R3 case, the mrs was not keen at all on the white one, shame as that was a good deal.
    Going back to motherboard options, I'm gonna need 10 sata ports, am I right in thinking there is no card with 10 ports? The most I can find is on the second gigabyte board I posted above with 8, will a 6 port board and a 4 port pci internal sata card do what I need?
    Like this?
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B002USU1JU/ref=aw_ls__1?coliid=I1URM8WSA2C7FO&colid=2FZQ50RZXWW2F
  24. bryanchicken

    bryanchicken Member

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    It's PCI not PCIe so check you have the correct slot. PCIe ones will give better performance as the lane has more bandwidth I believe. The drives on the motherboard will always be quicker than the ones on the card though.

    The aoc-saslp-mv8 is popular (I have one) but more expensive. Might be worth it if it enabled getting cheaper motherboard?

    What operating system are you going to be running? Plain windows should work with most cards. WHS you might have to check. Linux is dependent on chipset.
  25. Moor

    Moor Member

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    Thanks Bryan, I think I might go with this Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3P LGA1155 Intel Z68 DDR3 ATX (GA-Z68XP-UD3P) - dabs.com as it has 8 ports already and will enable to to buy an expansion card later on, it's a little more expensive but if motherboard sockets are faster than expansion cards then it's probably worth it.
    I'm planning on using windows vista that's preloaded on a 2.5 drive from an old laptop which I'm hoping will work, if it doesn't then I shall buy windows 7.
  26. bryanchicken

    bryanchicken Member

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    Fair enough.

    Not sure how well a vista installation from a laptop will work. You are changing every bit of hardware. Have you got the disk for a fresh install?
  27. Moor

    Moor Member

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    I haven't got the disc which makes me think it might not work but if that's the case then I don't have a lot of choice but to buy windows, I'd rather not as it's £70ish I could put towards more drives but if it can't be helped then I will do what needs to be done.
    I think I'm pretty sorted with hardware now so I will start buying parts soon, many thanks for your help Bryan its been great and really appreciated.
  28. Moor

    Moor Member

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    I have just read a bit more about moving an OS to a new computer and it doesn't sound like its a good idea due to drivers etc for the old hardware and there are also legal issues which I didn't consider so it looks like I will have to get an OEM copy of windows 7 and I will probably make a good excuse to get a small ssd to install it on so it's nice and fast to boot up
  29. Mr_Fantastic

    Mr_Fantastic Member

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    Only if they are the ones integrated into the chipset. Some of the ports on motherboards are connected to PCI-e so would be no better than a PCI-e card.

    Intel only supports 6 SATA so any more will be on the PCI-e bus.

    The new 7 series chipsets are released on monday I believe and include integrated USB3.0, so I think it would be best waiting a bit. At the very least it could push down the price of the current boards by a little bit.

    White is the new black ;) :laugh: AV gear and PC's are moving away from black and heading back to white and silver. At last, it should make it easier getting stuff for my white/beige desktop case after all the trouble and extra expense that I have had with optical drives.
  30. Moor

    Moor Member

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    It's good to know that only 6 ports would be supported on an intel board, might make more sense to go for a 6 port card and the expansion card to cover the rest of the ports I need.
    I may well wait a little and see what arrives with the new chipset, I'm not in any hurry to build so I will probably collect parts over the next few months and get the motherboard and processor last.
    I am noticing that there are a lot of white cases around, however everything av I have is black so it will stick out, that may or may not be a good thing, we shall see.

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