Help with Budget HTPC Build

Arkitekt

Standard Member
Looking to build a low-cost HTPC. I do not require it to do 3D, or gaming, nor do I require a ODD. I just plan on watching media and streaming media. I have done a little bit of research and these are the components I have selected so far (I am in Canada so all links are for Canadian online retailers in CAD):

CPU: Intel Pentium Dual Core G850 Processor LGA1155 2.9GHZ 3MB Retail Box

MOBO: Gigabyte H77M-D3H mATX LGA1155 H77 DDR3 2PCI-E16 1PCI-E1 HDMI CrossFireX SATA3 USB3.0

RAM: Corsair CMV4GX3M2A1333C9 4GB DDR3 2X2GB DDR3-1333 CL9 Dual Channel Memory Kit

CASE: Silverstone Milo ML03B Black mATX HTPC Case 1X5.25 2X3.5INT USB3 Supports 4 80MM Case Fan

PSU: Antec 450W Power Supply (VP450)

SSD: Crucial m4 64GB SATA Solid State Drive (CT064M4SSD2)

CASE FANS: Silenx Effizio Thermistor 80mm Quiet Fan 1700RPM 32CFM 15DBA Fluid Dynamic Bearings 3/4PIN x4

Remote: Rosewill RRC-126 Windows 7 Certified Media Center Infrared Remote Control

OS: Either Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 8

I have selected Intel only because I do not know anything about AMD, it was easier for me to search for an select an Intel CPU and Mobo. If someone has a better cost effect method that is AMD please let me know :)

I have chosen a SSD for OS and programs, the HDD will be for media storage. Any help on making this better suited for my needs and cheaper will be greatly appreciated, currently this set up would cost approx. $550 CAD not including OS cost.

I have also created a thread here regarding questions I have about which media server software to use
 
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Andy98765

Distinguished Member
Only a few tweaks.
Better for HTPC would be.
AMD A6-3650 APU w/ AMD Radeon 65XX HD GFX Quad Core Processor Socket FM1 2.6GHZ 4MB 100W Retail Box - AMD - AD3650WNGXBOX with built in radeon graphics it will handle Blu-ray etc.
ASUS F1A55-M/CSM mATX AMD A55FCH FM1 APU DDR3 SATA2 USB3.0 2PCI-E16 1PCI-E HDMI DVI VGA Motherboard - ASUS - F1A55-M/CSM
The AMD set is ideal for HTPC as you get great graphics capable of running anything HD at it.

As for the SSD your choice is way too small, get as close to 256M as possible, 120G being the smallest.
 

DavidT

Well-known Member
If this is just for media playback I recommend either of the systems below;

Intel G530 CPU
ASRock B75M or H77M motherboard
Or
AMD A6-3500 CPU
ASRock A75M motherboard

Both systems will only need;
4Gb DDR3 1600 RAM
64GB SSD is plenty or 128GB if you want the faster speeds.
300watt PSU is more than enough.

Have you thought about miniITX systems, if so a psu of about 90 watts will be enough with either of the above options, just swap the motherboards for miniITX versions.

The good thing about the Intel option is that you could upgrade to Ivy bridge if required in the future, whereas the AMD solution is going to be stuck on FM1 as the next generation AMD cpu's will use an FM2 socket.

The case you have selected is a great case. No additional fans should be required. The Intel CPU cooler is very quiet but the AMD cooler is thought to be noisy by some but try them for yourself before looking at aftermarket coolers.

Where are you streaming your media from?

David
 
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DavidT

Well-known Member
..........
As for the SSD your choice is way too small, get as close to 256M as possible, 120G being the smallest.

256gb is massive overkill, window7 and media software such as xbmc will only use about 20-25gb.

David
 

Arkitekt

Standard Member
If this is just for media playback I recommend either of the systems below;

Intel G530 CPU
ASRock B75M or H77M motherboard
Or
AMD A6-3500 CPU
ASRock A75M motherboard

Both systems will only need;
4Gb DDR3 1600 RAM
64GB SSD is plenty or 128GB if you want the faster speeds.
300watt PSU is more than enough.

Have you thought about miniITX systems, if so a psu of about 90 watts will be enough with either of the above options, just swap the motherboards for miniITX versions.

The good thing about the Intel option is that you could upgrade to Ivy bridge if required in the future, whereas the AMD solution is going to be stuck on FM1 as the next generation AMD cpu's will use an FM2 socket.

The case you have selected is a great case. No additional fans should be required. The Intel CPU cooler is very quiet but the AMD cooler is thought to be noisy by some but try them for yourself before looking at aftermarket coolers.

Where are you streaming your media from?

David

I haven't thought about a mITX system, no. What benefits would that provide over a mATX system? and a 90w PSU would suffice? that seems awfully low to me (but I am just learning about building HTPC's, I have built other rigs in the past).

Right now I am trying to build my system for as cheap as possible, while still having good quality. I am really not to worried about upgrading for a long time, by the time I upgrade probably both the CPU and Mobo will need replacement lol. It looks like a Llano based system would provide better bang for my buck right now, as well as saving me a little bit of money. I just haven't decided whether I should go with a A55 chipset or the A75. Is SATAIII and USB3.0 worth the little bit extra in price?

As far as case fans, I was just thinking of putting some extra fans in the case connected to the PSU because the case will be in a entertainment stand cubby.

I will be storing my media on the HDD within the HTPC. From there I plan on accessing it with the HTPC frontend on my HDTV, as well as stream it through something like a Roku w/ Plex to my other two tv's.

Also, someone else somewhere else was suggesting I add a TV Tuner. What benefit would that provide me if I am canceling my cable service? I currently have Telus Optik TV (which is IPTV).
 
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DavidT

Well-known Member
Thats what I was thinking too, is 64gb good? or should I go down to a 30gb and save about $20?

No, 64gb should be the minimum. Its not worth the hassle of managing 30gb ssd's when you are only left with a few gb's to spare for any additional data requirements.

David
 

DavidT

Well-known Member
I haven't thought about a mITX system, no. What benefits would that provide over a mATX system? and a 90w PSU would suffice? that seems awfully low to me (but I am just learning about building HTPC's, I have built other rigs in the past).

Right now I am trying to build my system for as cheap as possible, while still having good quality. I am really not to worried about upgrading for a long time, by the time I upgrade probably both the CPU and Mobo will need replacement lol. It looks like a Llano based system would provide better bang for my buck right now, as well as saving me a little bit of money. I just haven't decided whether I should go with a A55 chipset or the A75. Is SATAIII and USB3.0 worth the little bit extra in price?

As far as case fans, I was just thinking of putting some extra fans in the case connected to the PSU because the case will be in a entertainment stand cubby.

I will be storing my media on the HDD within the HTPC. From there I plan on accessing it with the HTPC frontend on my HDTV, as well as stream it through something like a Roku w/ Plex to my other two tv's.

Also, someone else somewhere else was suggesting I add a TV Tuner. What benefit would that provide me if I am canceling my cable service? I currently have Telus Optik TV (which is IPTV).

If you want to add an hdd for media storage and possibly a TV tuner then I would go with a microATX case and 300 watt psu although there are miniITX cases available that would also work but at a premium cost wise.

The only benefit the llano gpu will give over the Intel igpu is 3D. The Intel system is cheaper than llano for non-3D. You will also need an h77 motherboard for the Intel system to have 2 sata3 ports.

I still think 4 case fans will not be needed, try just 2 and add more if needed later.

David
 
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Arkitekt

Standard Member
No, 64gb should be the minimum. Its not worth the hassle of managing 30gb ssd's when you are only left with a few gb's to spare for any additional data requirements.

David

Ok. What about SATAIII & USB3.0, opposed to just SATAII & USB2.0?

I won't be doing any 3D. Never got into it, and most likely never will.

With a H77M motherboard, if I went Intel should I stick with the Pentium G850? or step down to the G630 or G620? or step even further down to the Celeron G530/G540?

Whatever solution I go with I want to go with the best bang for my buck, while keeping it as cheap as possible. The HTPC will be on a lot of the time, chances are that it will often be downloading, playing on the main HDTV, and streaming to up to 2 extenders. It might need to also be transcoding while streaming. Which processor would allow that without sacrificing performance or graphic quality?

As for fans, I will take your advice and go down to 2. I found these for relatively cheap:
Thermaltake Thunderblade 80mm Blue LED Fan
 

DavidT

Well-known Member
Ok. What about SATAIII & USB3.0, opposed to just SATAII & USB2.0?

I won't be doing any 3D. Never got into it, and most likely never will.

With a H77M motherboard, if I went Intel should I stick with the Pentium G850? or step down to the G630 or G620? or step even further down to the Celeron G530/G540?

Whatever solution I go with I want to go with the best bang for my buck, while keeping it as cheap as possible. The HTPC will be on a lot of the time, chances are that it will often be downloading, playing on the main HDTV, and streaming to up to 2 extenders. It might need to also be transcoding while streaming. Which processor would allow that without sacrificing performance or graphic quality?

As for fans, I will take your advice and go down to 2. I found these for relatively cheap:
Thermaltake Thunderblade 80mm Blue LED Fan

The latest motherboards like the Intel H77 and AMD A75 will have sata3 and USB3 anyway so no need to think about it really.

Those led fans are a no no IMO, they would really annoy me for sure.

I think it would be worth upgrading the CPU from the G530 to a G830 or above as you have added further requirements. Even the A6 should also be upgraded IMO to an A6-3650 if you go the AMD route.

David
 

Arkitekt

Standard Member
Hmm, guess I will go with a SATAIII/USB3.0 motherboard, will be better for the future.

Why would they be a no no? I was planning on just disconnecting the LED. I was only looking at fans because I am going to put this HTPC into a cubby slot on my entertainment stand. I just wanted to make sure that it had ample airflow and stayed cool.

With Intel I was looking at the G850, but why the step up to the 3650? I can get the 3500 for $75-$80 CAD, the 3650 would cost me $20 more. The quad core A8-3850 is also $20 more then the 3650.

Not sure how much it matters, but isn't the 3650 100w TDP? whereas the 3500 is only 65w?
 
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STdrez625

Banned
I have a G530 with 4gb ram 2 x HDD 1 x SSD 1x Dual Tv tuner 1xgfx card and the whole lot idles at 88w. It does peak at 140w when Booting. Sata3 will probably be of no concern or need in a HTPC, but USB3 will be useful (as it even speeds up usb2.0 xfers). Power Consumption for something thats on all/most of the time should be a concern, even if power is cheap, as power wasted is heat, heat requires fans, fans create noise.
 
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DavidT

Well-known Member
Hmm, guess I will go with a SATAIII/USB3.0 motherboard, will be better for the future.

Why would they be a no no? I was planning on just disconnecting the LED. I was only looking at fans because I am going to put this HTPC into a cubby slot on my entertainment stand. I just wanted to make sure that it had ample airflow and stayed cool.

With Intel I was looking at the G850, but why the step up to the 3650? I can get the 3500 for $75-$80 CAD, the 3650 would cost me $20 more. The quad core A8-3850 is also $20 more then the 3650.

Not sure how much it matters, but isn't the 3650 100w TDP? whereas the 3500 is only 65w?

The thing is you started only wanting to stream media to the htpc but now you want to transcode as well as stream media to two other devices which I believe is a CPU intensive task. The A6-3500 gets a slightly lower CPU score than the G530 hence why I recommended a CPU upgrade but thinking more about this you may need something like a quad core CPU to handle multiple tasks at the same time which unfortunately means an increase in power consumption and cost. I don't do any transcoding and all my media is on a separate NAS so I don't need quad core power.

David

David.
 

Arkitekt

Standard Member
Hmm ok. With transcoding I was just thinking of what TVersity does when streaming from a PC to the 360. Coverting it on the fly to a playable format. For a quad core, the A6-3650, and the A8-3850 are only $95-$99. The i5 2310 though is $180. Or were you suggesting that only go to the quad core for AMD, if Intel go to the 850 or into the i3 2100?
 

DavidT

Well-known Member
Hmm ok. With transcoding I was just thinking of what TVersity does when streaming from a PC to the 360. Coverting it on the fly to a playable format. For a quad core, the A6-3650, and the A8-3850 are only $95-$99. The i5 2310 though is $180. Or were you suggesting that only go to the quad core for AMD, if Intel go to the 850 or into the i3 2100?

I see, when you said transcoding I was thinking encoding which needs CPU power to do it in a timely manner. I think a core 2 should be OK but maybe go for a G8xx to be sure.

David
 

Arkitekt

Standard Member
I did a bit of research, and it looks like Plex will only play H.264 MP4's directly streaming to the Roku, it will remux what it can, or transcode if it can't remux.

With the possiblity of transcoding to the Roku via Plex, as well as needing my HTPC to multitask, I agree with you that I need a beefier CPU. The A8-3850 is quad-core with better graphics then the Intel CPU's (although I will not do any serious gaming on the machine, at most I might install Lego Batman or something like that and let me kids play it via gamepads).

After doing a lot reading it seems clear that the Intel i3's are better at CPU intensive tasks, although with lesser GPU power then the AMD's. The i3-2120 is dual-core but with hyper-threading (total of 4 threads) and HD-2000 graphics, the i3-2105 has HD-3000 graphics.

I was thinking that due to the ability requirements of my HTPC that I should go with the i3-2105, is my thinking correct?
 

DavidT

Well-known Member
The i3 processors are extremely capable and will be well up to what you want to do. The benefits of i3 over the pentiums are, as you say, slightly more capable igpu's as well as better cpu's. If you go with the H77 motherboards you could get an ivy bridge i3 which I believe will have HD4000 igpu's. To be honest for media playback even the HD1000 in the celerons is good enough just lacking 3D support.

If you go with the sandy bridge i3 don't bother with the low power versions, they cost more but with no real benefit in reduced power consumption.

David
 

Arkitekt

Standard Member
Thanks :). My budget won't allow for an Ivy Bridge right now, so I will just go with a Sandy Bridge and get the H77 motherboard, that way I can upgrade in a year or 2 to an Ivy Bridge when they are cheaper.

I think I will go with an i3-2120 (or 2130 if I can get it on sale). It seems to add the best bang for my buck when it is only $5 more then the i3-2100. I don't need 3D support, so hopefully the HD-2000 graphics will suit me well.

I am either going to get the ASUS P8H77-M Pro motherboard or the Gigabyte GA-H77M-D3H motherboard. I like the Asus, lots of media connections in the rear, even an eSATA port (which could definitely come in handy) and 6 SATAIII ports in the front. The Gigabyte is decent, doesn't have as many ports overall, and has 5 SATAIII in the front, although they are upfacing, whereas the ASUS ones are forward facing.

I like the idea of Gigabytes 3D bios, makes BIOS user friendly to a degree, although I am not sure if that should be enough for me to choose it over the ASUS. ASUS's UEFI bios is apparently known to be pretty good. So far I like the ASUS a little bit more.

I am wondering though, the i3-2120 caps RAM speed at 1333, should I go with 1600 and step it down, that way the RAM is future-proof a bit and will can be capitalized on if I ever upgrade to an Ivy Bridge?
 
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EndlessWaves

Distinguished Member
After doing a lot reading it seems clear that the Intel i3's are better at CPU intensive tasks, although with lesser GPU power then the AMD's. The i3-2120 is dual-core but with hyper-threading (total of 4 threads) and HD-2000 graphics, the i3-2105 has HD-3000 graphics.

Compared to the A8s which are old phenom mobile chips (and shiny new GPUs) they're faster, they do trade blows with the FXs though - and the FXs tend to win in the more time intensive parts of video encoding.

Hyperthreading is just an efficiency measure and gives 5-10% more performance, it's nowhere near as fast an an equivalent quad core (in the case of the i3-2120 that's the i5-2500).
 

Arkitekt

Standard Member
Hyperthreading is just an efficiency measure and gives 5-10% more performance, it's nowhere near as fast an an equivalent quad core (in the case of the i3-2120 that's the i5-2500).

Thanks for explaining that :) unfortunately, no room in my budget for a quad core. Although, by going with a H77 motherboard I will have the option to upgrade to an Ivy Bridge quad-core in a year or two when they are a bit cheaper.
 

Arkitekt

Standard Member
Anyone have any thoughts on which motherboard to get? Either the ASUS or the Gigabyte?

I was thinking the Gigabyte is decent for the money, trying to figure out if the ASUS has enough extra features to warrant an extra $30.
 

DavidT

Well-known Member
Anyone have any thoughts on which motherboard to get? Either the ASUS or the Gigabyte?

I was thinking the Gigabyte is decent for the money, trying to figure out if the ASUS has enough extra features to warrant an extra $30.

I like the ASRock boards either H77M or H77 Pro4-M. Have a look and see what you think.

David
 

Arkitekt

Standard Member
I like the ASRock boards either H77M or H77 Pro4-M. Have a look and see what you think.

David

I was looking at the ASRock H77 Pro4-M but the ASUS P8H77-M Pro is only a few dollars more, and has a little bit more features (other then a CIR header). So I had removed the ASRock in favor of the ASUS and just narrowed my choices down to either the ASUS or the Gigabyte
 

DavidT

Well-known Member
I was looking at the ASRock H77 Pro4-M but the ASUS P8H77-M Pro is only a few dollars more, and has a little bit more features (other then a CIR header). So I had removed the ASRock in favor of the ASUS and just narrowed my choices down to either the ASUS or the Gigabyte

In the UK Amazon want £66 for the ASRock and £88 for the Asus.

David
 

Arkitekt

Standard Member
In Canada the cheapest I could get the H77 Pro4-M is $120, the P8H77-M Pro I can get for $122. The Gigabyte GA-H77M-D3H is only $90. After comparing them all, I don't think I need any of the extra features of either the ASRock or the ASUS and will probably just go with the cheaper Gigabyte.
 

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