First HTPC build with a path to upgrade storage - Specs ok?

EdFoxwell

Standard Member
Dear respected forum members!

I am about to embark on the adventure of my first HTPC build! I am av tech savvy but have no experience of building computers! Eeek!

I have been researching this for over two weeks and have found some great articles on these forums but I was hoping to get a once over of my specs to see what you guys think? Thanks in advance.

What it has to do:

Ripping my ever growing DVD and Bluray collection to internal hard drives with mirrored backup internally.
Watch and record freesat, Dual tuners
Faultless playback of Bluray/DVD rips including MKV etc.
Playback of HD online content such as iPlayer, 4OD etc
Integration to Lovefilm account
DVD and Bluray playback direct from the drive when needed
7.1 audio (where available on the original disc) over HDMI
Gigabit Ethernet
Lots of storage and a path to much more!
Quiet!
Serious wife approval factor

What I have spec'd at the moment:
Case: Silverstone LC-13E
PSU: Corsair 430CX
Processor: Intel i3 2100
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z68MA-D2H-B3
RAM: Corsair XMS3 DDR3 2 x 2GB
Optical Drive: Samsung SH-B123L/RSBP
Tuner Card:TBS Dual DVB-S2 PCIE card
OS Drive: Intel 40GB SSD
Storage Drive: WD Green 3TB 6GB/s
Backup Drive: WD Green 3TB 6GB/s
Recorded TV Storage drive: WD Green 750GB 3GB/s
Software: Win 7 Home Premium 64Bit with 7MC

I am planning that when the 3TB drive is full I will build an unraid server that will be able to add storage as and when I want over the GB ethernet. Im planning on a 15 drive setup with hot swap cages. The backup drive will become the parity drive and then I can add a drive whenever I like. Great thing about unraid is that you don't have to renew the raid every time you add a disc. Oh and you only need one "redundant" drive for the backup solution so if you add a 3tb drive you add 3tb of storage not 2tb. Oh and if you lose more than two discs at the same time for some ungodly reason you only lose the data on those discs, not the whole raid array like conventional raid!!! Sounds good to me! I appreciate this is not a fully secure backup solution, i'm happy with that. If the house burns down I'll be more worried about my Home Cinema than my Media server! :rolleyes:

As I want to migrate this drive to a server in the future I have a dedicated drive for my recorder TV which will be coming and going all the time, anything I really want to keep can be migrated onto the 3tb media drive.

In terms of FE software I want to run Media Centre on startup and use the MC remote to control it all. I think I will rarely use a mouse and keyboard. There are some nice plugins available out there for iPlayer, 40d etc and Lovefilm. Also there is a great plugin for one click DVD/Bluray ripping within 7MC, see link below. Looking forward to seeing how that works!

Windows Experts Community

I appreciate this is a high spec for an HTPC but I want Faultless HD playback and fast ripping/converting of media and for it still to be current in 5-10 years.

So what do we think? Have I got it kind of right? Any suggestions?

Also very happy to answer any questions on how I got to where I am now if anyone else is thinking of starting out.

Thanks a lot guys!
 

EndlessWaves

Distinguished Member
RAID is not backup. Accidentally delete that program you recorded off TV after it's dropped off iPlayer and poof, both copies are instantly gone, if you go for a backup system instead of or as well as raid then you won't lose it.

An HTPC is less likely to need restorations from backup than a normal PC as you won't be installing new programs all the time and have much less that's irreplaceable but if you're buying the extra disk it is still worth considering whether you really want to use it as RAID instead of backup.
 
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EdFoxwell

Standard Member
Thanks but I'm not sure if you understood. I will have one data drive and one backup for my movies. In the future I will move these over to an unraid system. This data will then be protected but not backed up. I won't likely delete much from here though and if the house burns down.... Oh well! I just can't afford a 1:1 backup for the amount of storage I'll eventually want and I'm happy with the level of protection unraid will give.

The drive I'm using for recording tv will not be backed up. That's ok I won't be keeping anything long and it won't be that precious to me!

Any comments on the spec? Thanks
 

bryanchicken

Novice Member
i have not used RAID before but i'm not sure you can put drives populated with data into a RAID array.

For me, the toughest thing to achieve is quietness. Especially with three 3.5" mechanical drives.
I have some of the 1.5tb WD green drives and while they are quiet, you definitely notice the difference when they spin-down or aren't connected.

You haven't mentioned cpu or case fans. The stock i3 cooler (i have the 1156 one) is actually pretty good, i was coloured impressed.
I have a silverstone (GD06) and wasn't impressed with the silverstone fans. I replaced them.

How important is power consumption? You might find the gigabyte board is a bit power hungry. Mine is. Intel tend to be best (and also either more expensive or less feature packed) followed by msi, although there are exceptions.
If you keep the power down you could go with a pico. These ARE silent as they have no moving parts. I've got a gigabyte board, i3-550, ssd, 3x1.5tb green drives running on a 150w pico. No optical drive though.
 

EdFoxwell

Standard Member
Hi Bryan,

Thanks for your comments. I think you can add discs with storage with unraid. It doesnt act like a conventional array it uses parity to protect the data. If not, when I get to that I'll have a couple of spare drives so I can always transfer.

I'm not too worried about power consumption and the features of the gigabyte board are a draw. 1080p hdmi, gigabit ethernet and surround sound over hdmi. Do you think intel have a better product for this?

I would love to know how the i3 is working for you? I'm tempted by the i5 to make my encoding times even shorter. I'll be encoding lots of DVD and bluray burns to mkv or something similar. Do you use your i3 for encoding? If so does it work well?

Not sure if the pico will give me enough power given the bluray drive aswell, don't want to be underpowered. Anyone know a decent online power calc that doesn't over estimate? I was tempted by a larger fanless psu but they are really expensive. Do you think the corsair will be loud?

In the end I think my mechanical drives will end up in another room as nas. So the only noise making items will be the psu and internal fans. Which after market fans did you use? Any good?

Anyone got experience with the corsair psu?

Thanks!
 

bryanchicken

Novice Member
I would love to know how the i3 is working for you? I'm tempted by the i5 to make my encoding times even shorter. I'll be encoding lots of DVD and bluray burns to mkv or something similar. Do you use your i3 for encoding? If so does it work well?
i3 is ok for my purposes. I was a little disappointed by the idle power consumption, but i believe that is more the motherboard than the chip. Afraid i don't use it for encoding, sorry.

Have your read about the 24fps issue on the intel graphics? Do you know if you notice it?

In the end I think my mechanical drives will end up in another room as nas. So the only noise making items will be the psu and internal fans. Which after market fans did you use? Any good?
That is what most people do, move the drives out the room. However, if you need them in the 1 computer with a optical drive to start then a pico might not be suitable.
Fan wise i've got a couple of noctua NF-R8s. They come with a couple of adapters to restrict the speed/airflow/noise, so you can have a tinker.
I've also got a sharkoon silent eagle 80mm 1000rpm. This is as quiet as the noctuas but it doesn't have the ability to push more air and be noisier like the noctuas.
 

Monty Burns

Well-known Member
...
RAM: Corsair XMS3 DDR3 2 x 2GB
Tuner Card:TBS Dual DVB-S2 PCIE card
OS Drive: Intel 40GB SSD
Storage Drive: WD Green 3TB 6GB/s
Backup Drive: WD Green 3TB 6GB/s
....
I do exactly the same as you however, my 2 DVB-S2 cards are used to access a Sky HD subscription rather than FreeSAT. Not sure if that will make a diference but I believe some FreeSAT HD channels are higher bit rate than the Sky equivalent which means you need fast disks.....

So, on to disks. The only reason you need an SSD in a HTPC is for noise (you really don't need to worry about boot up and once its running, a 5400rpm is fine for most tasks! - caveat), so the moment you introduce one or more 3.5" disks you wipe out the only real advantage.

Now on to that Caveat: I recently upgraded my 3.5"'chers from 5400rpm to 7500rpm as the 5400's sometimes struggled with through-put. For example, if I was recording 2 HD channels, I couldn't stream a third recorded HD tv to a 2nd computer. Now they are 7500rpm I can do this fine. As you are talking about DVB-S2 cards, this may become a factor for you. If however, you don't plan on watching recorded tv on a diferent PC then a 5400rpm disk will work fine and if this is the case, get 2.5" to complement the SSD as they make FAR less noise.

As I said, I do the same as you and have 8gb. RAM is so cheap now its silly not to. Doing so allows you to turn off your swap file/page file and this will help cut down on disk thrashing. You could also create a RAMdisk of maybe 2gb and put temp directories there? Note: If you do this though, you will have trouble un-rar'ing stuff as it un-rars to temp first and if it ain't big enough....

The above are really personal tweaks and not really required. If you don't take any notice of the above, your system should still be fine.


Oh and for a while I used I3 on-board gfx and didn't see this 24fps effect thats widely documented. I have no idea to this day what it is supposed to be or how it manifests itself... As someone put it to me, if you can't see it, don't go looking for it :smashin: And if you do see it, how much is a cheap HDMI gfx card? ;)

edit: I last used the Lovefilm plug-in about a year ago..... don't get your hopes up! However, TunerFreeMCE rocks.
 
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EdFoxwell

Standard Member
Thanks Monty, really helpful comments. Having looked into the 24fps issue I think I want to avoid it! So new plan I'm looking at a separate graphics card to playback my movies to get accurate 23.9 fps.

This has prompted further questions. I would like a graphics card that can playback smooth 1080p with embedded surround sound. I have heard that some cards can offer hardware acceleration for encoding, is this true?

Any recommendations on a graphics card?

I would also want to gear my CPU and moboard to encoding bluray and dvd rips rather that utilising on board video. Anyone got any recommendations for the best option for encoding? Any cost savings over my previous spec? I still need onboard gigabit Ethernet. I was looking at the i5 2100 or the AMD X6.

Monty, thanks for the comment about hdds. Can you recommend a quiet 2.5"?

Thanks guys, your help is really good!!
 

Monty Burns

Well-known Member
First off, why don't you just try it? You may be like me and not see the issue - i watch my "tv" and films on a 120" 720p projector so if anyone *should* see it, i should be prime candidate! You can then always buy a card AFTER you notice the affect, if you do.

Of course though, that won't help you speed up encoding.

Any i5 will be spanky at encoding I would have thought.

HDD? The 2.5"ers are all built for laptops and so are normaly very quiet. I don't think you can go wrong with any 5400 rpm disk .... as long as 5400rpm is fast enough (see my previous caveat).
 

EdFoxwell

Standard Member
Thanks, sounds like I won't save any money by taking the playback off the moboard and CPU.

So new spec is as before but with an i5 2100 ( the low power consumption version) to get that spanky encoding and add a graphics card if necessary. 2.5" drive for storing recorded tv to keep noise down.

I'm also looking at a 400w seasonic fanless psu to reduce on noise from the corsair.

What do we think? I appreciate the 3tb wds will be loud but once I migrate these to nas outside the room do we think it will be silky quiet?

Any more power efficient options for the motherboard that do the same or better?

Thanks!
 

EdFoxwell

Standard Member
I just read that if you add a discrete gpu then all the benefits of a speedy encoding i5 are removed! Is that true?

If so I'm tempted by an AMD apu with on board everything and native 23.9 fps support. Anyone have a good experience with these for encoding and playback?
 

Monty Burns

Well-known Member
I just read that if you add a discrete gpu then all the benefits of a speedy encoding i5 are removed! Is that true?

If so I'm tempted by an AMD apu with on board everything and native 23.9 fps support. Anyone have a good experience with these for encoding and playback?
Not sure but, the sheer grunt of an I5 with encoding software that can utilise the cores is going to be VERY fast. Having said that, GPU's are fast becoming the "supercomputer" in every home.....

Programmable GPU's are the speed/processing daddy for certain tasks (maths usualy, of which this is I guess).

I really don't know much about modern processor design as my assembler/virus writing days are long gone but, would you mind linking to the article so I can have a look and learn a bit and also give my opinion if it makes sense?

( I date back to Commodore 64 then Amiga (68MC000) )
 

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