Building a budget HTPC - need some advice

Ci4N

Active Member
Hi all. It's been a long time since I was on here. I was planning on spending quite a bit on a HTPC but then the recession happened:laugh:

Anyway I've gotten the idea stuck into my head again. I just have a few questions on it and would like some suggestions of parts.

I plan to use it for Freesat TV, movies, music and podcasts.

I have Sky+ at the moment for TV but I barely watch any of the stations and the ones I do watch are all available on free satellite so I want to have this replaced. I need it to have DVB-T too though since I'm living in Ireland and the Irish stations don't broadcast in satellite. At the moment I have 2 satellite cables from my dish going to the Sky box so I assume I can just plug these into a card right? Or do I need new cables/dish to get stuff in HD? And if I get an external aerial installed, does it have to be one of the horrible unwieldy things that used to be on most houses or are they a bit smaller and more eye pleasing now? Also, is it possible to record stuff while on standby as a satellite box would do? I need some recommendations on TV cards too and where to get them.

For a case, I really like the look of the Antec Micro Fusion. It's nice and cheap and comes with an IR receiver and 350W PSU. I know it's a weak PSU but I won't really be pushing this thing too hard. I've heard great things about it too.

I'm unsure of a mainboard and CPU combination. I'll go AMD though as they're always cheaper. Mainboard must have HDMI out though, I don't want to have to spend on an extra GPU and I want to be able to get high quality surround sound too. Any well priced recommendations?

For storage, I was planning on putting most of the stuff on a 4TB NAS and connecting it to a gigabit router and then to the PC with an ethernet cable. This could store all my movies, music and pictures easily but would the quality be good? It would only be DVDs really, I don't want to go storing Blu Rays since I can use my PS3 for those and I don't want to incur the cost of Bluray drive, additional storage, graphical power, sound card etc.

I want a hard drive though for TV. How much does Sky come with as standard? Because whatever it is, I can compare how much I need to that (it would have to be a bit more). Also would need to be fairly fast so I could get good boot times.

Only important thing after that is a low profile cooler. I won't be doing any overclocking at all so all I need is one that's fairly quiet and will fit. Any suggestions?

I'll probably think of more stuff tomorrow but thanks to anyone for help in advance.:)
 

spyder viewer

Distinguished Member
Well let's get the ball rolling (it may end up in the gulley). For your needs, you don't need mega processing power and you've already stated low power mATX. I'm an Intel man and as all the world is moving towards Nehalem architecture there are some great deals to be had for Core2Duo combinations. Something like this m/b will meet your needs and is well featured. ASUS P5Q-EM iG45 Socket 775 onboard VGA 8 channel.. | Ebuyer.com. You don't need a GTI processor so this is possibly too much but: Intel Pentium Dual Core E5400 2.7GHz 800FSB Socket 775.. | Ebuyer.com (use a 1.8gB core2duo and it doesn't even break into a sweat for all my tv needs). The stock cooler will meet your needs.

For tv possibly a couple of these: Compro S800F Quad Dual DVB-S + DVB-T/ Analog PCI-E TV.. | Ebuyer.com or as you are only at the design stage, these might eventually be available: BGT3595 - BlackGold

For a hard drive 500-1000gb will be more than enough. This will give you 400-900 hours of tv recording (not hd). Speed isn't an issue plus as you'll probably default to standby, it will turn on faster than your display!

Memory: 2gb of good ordinary. OS W7Home premium (use WMC)

Quality of tv? I never thought internet tv would be good enough but it is and this combo would be much better. My htpc image is as good as the internal one on my Toshiba LCDTV.

Well that should start those balls rolling!
 

Stephen Neal

Distinguished Member
If you're going for a Micro Fusion I think you need to ensure any PCI/PCI-E cards are low-profile models rather than full-height.
 

Ci4N

Active Member
Well let's get the ball rolling (it may end up in the gulley). For your needs, you don't need mega processing power and you've already stated low power mATX. I'm an Intel man and as all the world is moving towards Nehalem architecture there are some great deals to be had for Core2Duo combinations. Something like this m/b will meet your needs and is well featured. ASUS P5Q-EM iG45 Socket 775 onboard VGA 8 channel.. | Ebuyer.com. You don't need a GTI processor so this is possibly too much but: Intel Pentium Dual Core E5400 2.7GHz 800FSB Socket 775.. | Ebuyer.com (use a 1.8gB core2duo and it doesn't even break into a sweat for all my tv needs). The stock cooler will meet your needs.

For tv possibly a couple of these: Compro S800F Quad Dual DVB-S + DVB-T/ Analog PCI-E TV.. | Ebuyer.com or as you are only at the design stage, these might eventually be available: BGT3595 - BlackGold

For a hard drive 500-1000gb will be more than enough. This will give you 400-900 hours of tv recording (not hd). Speed isn't an issue plus as you'll probably default to standby, it will turn on faster than your display!

Memory: 2gb of good ordinary. OS W7Home premium (use WMC)

Quality of tv? I never thought internet tv would be good enough but it is and this combo would be much better. My htpc image is as good as the internal one on my Toshiba LCDTV.

Well that should start those balls rolling!

Hey, thanks for the reply. I'm a little dubious about the motherboard and CPU though. I'm not sure that board does audio out via HDMI and I don't have as much confidence in Intel's graphics as AMD's/ATI's either. It also costs a fair bit more and I know that the Pentiums are old CPUs. I've had a peek around at the AMD motherboards and processors and it looks like AM3 is what I'm after. I found the MSI 785GM-E51 for £62 (around £30 cheaper) and AMD Athalon II X2 3Ghz for £50 (around £5 cheaper but higher clock speed). Would that still work fine for me or are there any problems with that?

How many channels can the Compro record? The main thing is that I can get 2 channels over satellite and one analogue at any time. Is DVB-S2 necessary too? I've heard some people say it is for HD channels and others say it isn't. If it is then the Blackgold looks like my best bet, can I get one anywhere a little cheaper or only off their site?

Well the only thing I really need is a comparison with what I already have. I get by on my current TV but I wouldn't mind doubling it or even tripling it. Would 500GB be way more than the standard Sky allowance or would I need to crank it up a bit? And can it record while on standby or would it have to be turned on?

2GB sounds good. Shouldn't cost too much. I plan on Windows 7 although I want to experiment with some different software (WMC being one of them;)).

What sort of stuff is on internet TV? Do you mean shows streamed from websites (I know South Park does this but I don't know any other shows that do)?
 

spyder viewer

Distinguished Member
MSI 785GM-E51 for £62 (around £30 cheaper) and AMD Athalon II X2 3Ghz for £50 (around £5 cheaper but higher clock speed). Would that still work fine for me or are there any problems with that?

As said, my knowledge of AMD products is limited but both of your choices are well reviewed and have the ability to go into low power modes (for a cool quiet system).

[How many channels can the Compro record? The main thing is that I can get 2 channels over satellite and one analogue at any time. Is DVB-S2 necessary too? I've heard some people say it is for HD channels and others say it isn't. If it is then the Blackgold looks like my best bet, can I get one anywhere a little cheaper or only off their site?

Low profile DVB_S tv cards are few and far between which is why I suggested these two. The Compro card can do 1 each dvb-s dvb-t and analog and is available now. For your needs you would need 2X. You can watch or record each mode simultaneously. They would take up both of your pci-e slots and there will be a thermal overhead for circuitry duplication. The Blackgold card has 2 each dvb-s2, dvb-t and 1 analogue tuners. Unfortunately I know of nobody who has even seen one let alone bought or reviewed one. This is normal when a company is pushing to be first in the market (and before a "chinese" clone floods it). If you can wait and it works, you're behind me in the queue. As for cost: how much over premium would you be prepared to pay for what looks to be the best? They control availability closely on new products in my experience.


[Well the only thing I really need is a comparison with what I already have. I get by on my current TV but I wouldn't mind doubling it or even tripling it. Would 500GB be way more than the standard Sky allowance or would I need to crank it up a bit? And can it record while on standby or would it have to be turned on?

I'm afraid I don't know what a "Sky allowance" is so I can't help you. You will be able to record 4/5 and watch one or record 5/5 and watch something recorded and anything in between. I can record 2, watch one recorded on my main tv and stream the same or another recorded programme wirelessly to my netbook. Alternatively, you can record as before and surf or listen to music. I sometimes start a recording, take a shower and then watch the recording delayed by 15 minutes so I can skip over the ads. Programming the recorder is easy: just click on the programme in the 2 week programme guide. I always switch to standby (for faster booting), the system will wake up, record the programmes and go back to sleep.

What sort of stuff is on internet TV? Do you mean shows streamed from websites (I know South Park does this but I don't know any other shows that do)?

I'm not sure what is available to you in Ireland but I assume you can get Freesat off the Astra cluster (don't Sky bundle it?) If you can get something like BBC-iPlayer then you will see what the quality of i-tv is. I've signed up to NeverMiss.TV which also has a TVCatchup - Never Miss A Show Again link in.

Hope this helps!
 

Ci4N

Active Member
Low profile DVB_S tv cards are few and far between which is why I suggested these two. The Compro card can do 1 each dvb-s dvb-t and analog and is available now. For your needs you would need 2X. You can watch or record each mode simultaneously. They would take up both of your pci-e slots and there will be a thermal overhead for circuitry duplication. The Blackgold card has 2 each dvb-s2, dvb-t and 1 analogue tuners. Unfortunately I know of nobody who has even seen one let alone bought or reviewed one. This is normal when a company is pushing to be first in the market (and before a "chinese" clone floods it). If you can wait and it works, you're behind me in the queue. As for cost: how much over premium would you be prepared to pay for what looks to be the best? They control availability closely on new products in my experience.

So just to be clear, the Comporo can do 1 Satellite (via DVB-S) and 1 Terrestrial (via DVB-T) at any time? What's the difference between analogue and DVB-T?

The Blackgold though, can do 2 Satellite channels (via DVB-S2) and 1 Terrestrial (via DVB-T) and 1 analogue at a time right?

My only real question is whether DVB-S2 is needed. Can I get my BBC HD and ITV HD with DVB-S? Because if I could then the Blackgold seems unnecessary.

Someone also showed me a card called the Pinnacle 7010iX too which has 2 DVB-T and 2 DVB-S for just a little more than the Comporo one (if you include shipping). I don't know if it's low profile though. If it is then it looks like it would be perfect right?


I'm afraid I don't know what a "Sky allowance" is so I can't help you. You will be able to record 4/5 and watch one or record 5/5 and watch something recorded and anything in between. I can record 2, watch one recorded on my main tv and stream the same or another recorded programme wirelessly to my netbook. Alternatively, you can record as before and surf or listen to music. I sometimes start a recording, take a shower and then watch the recording delayed by 15 minutes so I can skip over the ads. Programming the recorder is easy: just click on the programme in the 2 week programme guide. I always switch to standby (for faster booting), the system will wake up, record the programmes and go back to sleep.

It's okay, I did a bit of digging and found that I currently get by on just 80GB of storage!:rotfl: So it seems like a 500GB HDD will do me very well.

The way it records sounds fine to me. So basically I can just tell it to record something, put it in standby and leave it and it will be there when I get back.

I'm not sure what is available to you in Ireland but I assume you can get Freesat off the Astra cluster (don't Sky bundle it?) If you can get something like BBC-iPlayer then you will see what the quality of i-tv is. I've signed up to NeverMiss.TV which also has a TVCatchup - Never Miss A Show Again link in.

Hope this helps!

We can't get the BBC i-Player unfortunately, they have it blocked:( There some sort of complicated roundabout way to do it which involves screwing with the broadband router and proxy settings but it's really too much hassle for me. I wish I could get it but it will be a long time, if ever.

Quick question, will a Logitech Harmony remote work with any media centre software?

I'll try and put a setup together tomorrow and see what it looks like. I'd like to get this before the month is out. Hopefully it won't be too expensive.
 

spyder viewer

Distinguished Member
So just to be clear, the Comporo can do 1 Satellite (via DVB-S) and 1 Terrestrial (via DVB-T) at any time? What's the difference between analogue and DVB-T?
Yes. Analogue in the UK is only BBC1,BBC2,ITV1,Ch 4, Ch 5. It's what you got without a settop box. It's gonna get switched off by ~2012
The Blackgold though, can do 2 Satellite channels (via DVB-S2) and 1 Terrestrial (via DVB-T) and 1 analogue at a time right?
Yes
My only real question is whether DVB-S2 is needed. Can I get my BBC HD and ITV HD with DVB-S? Because if I could then the Blackgold seems unnecessary.
Your choice. Yes you can: you may not be able to get some of the future HD channels but to be honest I doubt if that many FTA channels will go HD. I am assuming that there are no geographic impediments.
Someone also showed me a card called the Pinnacle 7010iX too which has 2 DVB-T and 2 DVB-S for just a little more than the Comporo one (if you include shipping). I don't know if it's low profile though. If it is then it looks like it would be perfect right?.
Nice to see they are available again as the company was bought by Hauppage. It's full height.

The way it records sounds fine to me. So basically I can just tell it to record something, put it in standby and leave it and it will be there when I get back..
Yes
We can't get the BBC i-Player unfortunately, they have it blocked:( There some sort of complicated roundabout way to do it which involves screwing with the broadband router and proxy settings but it's really too much hassle for me. I wish I could get it but it will be a long time, if ever.
Somebody will find a way to get you something equivalent before long!
Quick question, will a Logitech Harmony remote work with any media centre software?.
As far as I'm aware it works with most mainstream software.
 

Ci4N

Active Member
Your choice. Yes you can: you may not be able to get some of the future HD channels but to be honest I doubt if that many FTA channels will go HD. I am assuming that there are no geographic impediments.

I'll probably stick with DVB-S for now then. If I need an S2, I can buy a new one. It'll probably be a while anyway.

Nice to see they are available again as the company was bought by Hauppage. It's full height.

So does that mean it won't fit? If not then it looks like I'll have to go with the Comporo which is fairly expensive when I buy 2:( No other cards with 2 DVB-S ports are there?

Okay, here's the current basket with the 2 Comporos:

Antec Micro Fusion 350 - £75
MSI 785GM-E51 - £65
AMD Athlon II X2 250 - £52
Kingston 1x2GB DDR3 1333Mhz - £50
Western Digital WD5000AADS 500GB - £38
2xComporo S800F - £106

Total = £385

That seems like just about everything. The only thing I need now is a low profile cooler. Anything would really be better than the free one, all I need is for it to be quiet.

Would this Zalman fit okay?
 

spyder viewer

Distinguished Member
So does that mean it won't fit? If not then it looks like I'll have to go with the Comporo which is fairly expensive when I buy 2:( No other cards with 2 DVB-S ports are there?

No that case only takes low profile cards.

That seems like just about everything. The only thing I need now is a low profile cooler. Anything would really be better than the free one, all I need is for it to be quiet.

Would this Zalman fit okay?

Don't knock the stock cooler for this application, it will certainly be adequate to get you started and I think you'll be unlucky to hear it sitting on the sofa from 12 foot away. CPU temps should be 30-35deg for tv viewing.

There's a very good review/build guide here: Antec Veris MicroFusion Remote 350 HTPC Case Review Its a little old but I think it's relevent still.

3 things you've not mentioned or may not need: OS W7HP:thumbsup:, a DVD writer and a wireless lan card. Also, I'm not sure if this will actually be a problem for you but: 4 of the sata connections come off that M/B towards the rear and in the same plane as the motherboard. Therefore the cable exiting the normal straight sata plug may foul the hard drive. If it does, you may need a right angle plug. Here it gets complicated: because the plug is notched it can only go in one way round. Some bent plugs turn down: no good for you because it would foul the case and some turn up:thumbsup: If you have the wrong sort of lead, you can get a range of leads from PC World, Maplin or independent computer shops. If you get stuck, pm me and I'll send you one.

Lastly, it will take time to get the machine working properly and exactly as you want it but I have found it very satisfying (and I hope you will too) and there's a good mix of helpers on this forum if you need us (even if some of us are a bit cranky - or so I'm told;)).
 

Ci4N

Active Member
Also have a look at the Alpenföhn Panorama. I have this in a similar setup & is very quiet.

It is a bit cheaper but I'd have to buy off a different site and I'd probably end up making up the difference with postage.

No that case only takes low profile cards.

Bah humbug! Guess it'll be the Compros for me. Just so I'm sure, will 2 of them fit on the board I linked? It only has one PCI-E x1 slot but I've heard people say that PCI-E x1 card will fit into PCI-E x16 slots fine too. If not, I'll need a new board.


Don't knock the stock cooler for this application, it will certainly be adequate to get you started and I think you'll be unlucky to hear it sitting on the sofa from 12 foot away. CPU temps should be 30-35deg for tv viewing.


I've never actually used a stock cooler so I don't know for certain, but I've heard that they'd might as well be chucked in the bin. I can buy the Zalman and if I don't need it in my Antec case, I have another (windowed) PC with an old ugly cooler that I could put it in as a backup.

There's a very good review/build guide here: Antec Veris MicroFusion Remote 350 HTPC Case Review Its a little old but I think it's relevent still.


I'm taking a look at it now. I'll read more of it later (only a few pages in yet). Pretty interesting and detailed. Thanks for that:smashin:

things you've not mentioned or may not need: OS W7HP:thumbsup:, a DVD writer and a wireless lan card.


Nope, it's okay.:) I have a friend who has a spare copy of Windows 7 that he said he'd give me so I won't need to spend £90 on it, all movies and music will be ripped to a NAS from another PC so it seems like I won't need a DVD drive and I'm also getting a long ethernet cable and switch routed around for internet and streaming on both this and my PS3 so I won't need a WLAN card. Thanks for the reminder anyway though, one can never be too careful.

Also, I'm not sure if this will actually be a problem for you but: 4 of the sata connections come off that M/B towards the rear and in the same plane as the motherboard. Therefore the cable exiting the normal straight sata plug may foul the hard drive. If it does, you may need a right angle plug. Here it gets complicated: because the plug is notched it can only go in one way round. Some bent plugs turn down: no good for you because it would foul the case and some turn up:thumbsup: If you have the wrong sort of lead, you can get a range of leads from PC World, Maplin or independent computer shops. If you get stuck, pm me and I'll send you one.


Thanks for the offer. I could need one if I end up installing a second HDD (could happen if I want an SSD in the future) but for now, the upward facing one should be fine. It sounds like the reverse right angled leads are easy enough to find though so I should be okay.

Lastly, it will take time to get the machine working properly and exactly as you want it but I have found it very satisfying (and I hope you will too) and there's a good mix of helpers on this forum if you need us (even if some of us are a bit cranky - or so I'm told;)).

Don't worry, I'm not entirely inexperienced, I built my own PC entirely by myself, this is just my first venture into the HTPC area;) I expect to have a bit of fun tinkering with software and skins on it.

I just realized I'll need a keyboard too. Would the Logitech Wireless PS3 Bluetooth keyboard be ok? I know it's a little more expensive than some alternatives but it has a touchpad and some media keys and I have a PS3 so it would be nice to have one that will work with both.
 
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Ci4N

Active Member
I was looking on eBuyer there putting the parts together when I noticed this Compro card. It looks a little taller than the other so does that mean it wouldn't fit? If it did then it would be great to save £75 off buying the two cards. It says it's 10cm tall and I know the case is 12cm tall but there's the mainboard to consider too which would elevate it a little. So would it be okay?
 

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