Jamesaevans’s Gaming HTPC Build Log

jamesaevans

Novice Member
1 - Introduction

Welcome to my build log where I will be documenting the build of my gaming HTPC to perform the following functions:
  • Multi-region playback of Blu-rays and DVDs from the original disc with HD audio bit streamed over HDMI to my Denon amp
  • Playback of ripped Blu-rays, DVDs and downloaded content from my NAS using XBMC as the front-end and the streaming of online media e.g. YouTube, iPlayer
  • Playing PC racing games at the native resolution (1920 x 1080) of my 50” Pioneer plasma with all graphics options set to maximum quality

In planning my build I found the following threads to be an excellent source of advice and guidance, and I would recommend that anyone planning to build a gaming HTPC reads these threads before starting their own build:

I also came across this series of time lapse videos on YouTube showing a HTPC build in a Silvestone LC13-E case which make interesting viewing:
YouTube - SilverStone Lascala LC13-E (Part 1)

YouTube - SilverStone Lascala LC13-E (Part 2)

This will be the first PC that I have built, so all advice and suggestions will be very gratefully received. :)

James
 
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jamesaevans

Novice Member
2 – Selecting the components

Case: Silverstone LC13-E
There were a number of criteria which lead me to select this case for my HTPC build. These included the high quality build, clean styling, large internal space and good cooling. In particular I dislike seeing exposed USB ports and optical drives, so the door on the Silverstone LC13-E provided a clean and minimal look which few other HTPC cases could match.

CPU: Core i5 2500K
The reviews of the Sandy Bridge CPUs found the processors to be powerful, efficient and cool, so they were ideal for a gaming HTPC build. I went for the cheaper i5 2500K CPU as the faster and more powerful i7 2600K processor would provide negligible benefit for my build.

CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-U9B-SE2
The Silverstone LC13-E case that I had selected for my build is relatively large for a HTPC case, but it is still smaller than a regular desktop PC case. Therefore, a low height CPU cooler was required. The Noctua NH-U9B-SE2 came highly recommended by Razor for its excellent cooling combined with low noise levels.

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-P67A-UD4-B3
From the first time I saw the previews of the P67 series of Gigabyte motherboards with their black PCBs and chunky heat sinks I knew this was the motherboard for my build. All I had to do was wait for the revised “B3” motherboards to be released with the fixed Intel chipset before I could begin my build.

Memory: 8GB Mushkin Silverline DDR3 1333MHz 1.5V
Mushkin have a reputation for producing high quality ram with a lifetime warranty and providing excellent customer service, so I decided that this was the memory for my build. I went for 8GB of DDR3 1333MHz memory as the premium over 4GB was not too great and you can't have too much memory.

The low height design and lack of any fancy heat spreaders also meant that the memory should fit underneath the Noctua CPU cooler without causing any issues. The recommended memory voltage of 1.5V is supposed to be better for the long term reliability of Sandy Bridge motherboards, but I don't think this has been conclusively proved. Either way this was another reason I went for the Muskin memory.

After ordering the memory for my build it was suggested that I should have gone for the faster 1600MHz memory. I did some research, however the articles that I found indicated that the potential benefit from running the faster 1600MHz memory over the 1333MHz memory that I had purchased was only 1-2 frames per second when gaming, so a negligible improvement at best. If you want to find out more about the impact of memory speed on Sandy Bridge based PCs these articles should make interesting reading:

Graphics Card: Gainward GeForce GTX 570 Phantom
The graphics card was probably the most difficult component of my build to select. As this was to be a gaming HTPC which would be connected to my 50” Pioneer plasma I would be gaming at a resolution of 1920 x 1080. Therefore I didn't need the most powerful graphics card available or multiple graphics cards. However, I wanted to make sure that I could run my chosen racing games (e.g. NFS Shift 2) at this resolution with all of the graphics settings maxed out. Therefore, I chose the Nvidia GTX 570 as this provided a good balance of price to performance, and also supported the bit streaming of HD audio.

When it came to picking the manufacturer and model of GTX 570 graphics cards there were plenty of options to pick from. After reviewing the available options I decided to purchase the Gainward GeForce GTX 570 Phantom graphics card, as it had a 2 year warranty, full size HDMI socket, mild manufacturer overclock and a custom cooler which had received rave reviews for its excellent cooling and low noise levels. The styling of the graphics card with a black circuit board and custom cooler which looked like a water cooling radiator was also a great match for the other components of my build.

PSU: Corsair HX 650W Modular Power Supply
When it came to choosing a power supply my main priorities were reliability, efficiency, low noise and modular cables. Therefore, the Corsair HX 650W power supply with its 7 year warranty, quiet 120mm fan and 85% energy efficiency was the ideal choice for my build.

Blu-ray Drive: Samsung SH-B123L
Since they were originally released a couple of years ago Blu-ray drives have down significantly in price. This Samsung model came highly recommended from Razor for its ability to rip Blu-ray discs, which was one of my key requirements. The clean bezel with the simple Blu-ray logo was also appealing from an aesthetic point of view.

Hard Drive: Crucial RealSSD C300 64GB
Like Blu-ray drives, Solid State Drives (SSDs) have come down significantly in price. The key benefits of using an SSD is lower noise and faster loading of applications and games. As I will be storing my media on a NAS a small SSD with 64GB of storage should be plenty for Windows and a couple of games. The Crucial RealSSD C300 had received many positive reviews and was well priced, so I decided to include this in my build.

Keyboard: Microsoft Media Centre 2005 Keyboard
I have really liked the design of the Microsoft Media Centre 2005 Keyboard it was originally launched, and I managed to purchase a brand new one from eBay about a month before I began purchasing the other components for my build. Not sure if it is going to be any good, but for only £12 I thought it was worth giving it a go to see if it was as good as it looked.

Software: Operating System and Applications
The following software was required for my HTPC build:
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (64 bit)
  • Xbox Media Centre (XBMC)
  • Total Media Theatre 5
  • SlySoft AnyDVD HD

Misc: Other bits and pieces
In addition to the major components listed above I also purchased the following smaller items to complete my HTPC build:
  • Noctua NF-R8 80mm and NF-B9 120mm fans
  • Acousti anti-vibration fan gaskets
  • MDPC cable sleeve kit
  • Plasti-kote Super Spray matt black
  • Draper ratchet screwdriver set
  • Rubber washers (9.3mm O/D X M3 I/D X 0.8mm)
  • Heat it up! hot air gun

Getting the best deal
Once I had finalised the components for my HTPC build I created a spreadsheet of prices from a number of popular online retailers (e.g. Amazon, Aria, CCL, Dabs, eBuyer, MicroDirect, Overclockers, Scan, YoYo Tech). At this point I also discovered that a number of retailers have daily / weekly special offers. Having a spreadsheet of prices made it quick and easy to compare prices and to determine if these special offers really did offer significant savings over the regular prices. For example I was able to purchase the i5 2500K CPU from Aria at the special offer price of £150, a saving of almost £20 over the best price that I had previously found online.


Once all of the components for my build have arrived I'll update this thread.

James
 
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jamesaevans

Novice Member
Looks like it will be a good build, will be doing a build myself when the new ASUS deluxe boards are in the UK and read them same threads like you.

Another one i read was

Grangeys

http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-entertainment-pcs/1352421-grangeys-i5-760-gaming-htpc-build.html


And good luck with the build.
Hi bald1,

Thank you for the heads up, I'll add Grangey's thread to my list of recommened pre-reading as there is lots of useful information in his thread.:thumbsup:

I've got a couple of interesting / unusual additions coming for my build, for example a custom intake fan bracket, so hopefully this will be of interest to other forum members.

I hope your build goes well and please create a thread to share your HTPC build, always good to compare progress.

Best wishes
James
 

bald1

Novice Member
I've got a couple of interesting / unusual additions coming for my build, for example a custom intake fan bracket, so hopefully this will be of interest to other forum members.

Best wishes
James
Would be interested in that myself and see your post in the gaming htpc thread. :smashin:

Have you managed too sort out with Tom at ChilledPC on the costs, will gladly pay for one myself saving having to cut up the middle cage.
 

Razor

Member
Nice to see you started a thread, good luck with the build mate. :)
 

scorpionix

Novice Member
Nice one James, looks like a cracking build. I have to agree that the Phantom GFX looks the business.
Best of look for a smooth build and looking forward to reading the progress
 

jamesaevans

Novice Member
Would be interested in that myself and see your post in the gaming htpc thread. :smashin:

Have you managed too sort out with Tom at ChilledPC on the costs, will gladly pay for one myself saving having to cut up the middle cage.
Hi bald1,

Hopefully Tom will order my case this week and once he has the case in hand he will have a better idea about what is possible. Probably going to be a week or two before we have finalised the design, but I'll post any updates I receive in the main gaming HTPC thread so that you can follow our progress.

I don't want to speculate on price at this point, but I will let Tom know that there are a couple of other forum members who may in interested in a custom intake fan mount for the Silverstone HTPC cases.

James
 

jamesaevans

Novice Member
Nice to see you started a thread, good luck with the build mate. :)
Hi Razor,

Thought it was about time I started a thread now that I have ordered the first components.;)

Thank you for all of your help and advice so far, and hopefully you will be able to point me in the right direction if I get stuck during the build.

James
 
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jamesaevans

Novice Member
Nice one James, looks like a cracking build. I have to agree that the Phantom GFX looks the business.
Best of look for a smooth build and looking forward to reading the progress
Hi scorpionix,

Thank you for words of encouragement for my build.

I think I'm going to get the GTX570 version of the Phantom graphics card, but just waiting for some reviews of NFS Shift 2 to make sure this card can run the game at maximum settings at 1080p. With the game being released on 1st April 2011 I am expecting that the reviews will start appearing this week.

James
 

jamesaevans

Novice Member
Here is a rough design for the intake fan bracket that I have just sent to Tom to give him a better idea of what I have in mind:

Once Tom has the case he will be able to fine tune the design, but hopefully something like this should work and not be too expensive to create. In the mean time any thoughts on my design for the fan bracket?

James
 

Attachments

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holtehero

Well-known Member
Looking good so far :)
 

Razor

Member
Hi Razor,

Thought it was about time I started a thread now that I have ordered the first components.;)

Thank you for all of your help and advice so far, and hopefully you will be able to point me in the right direction if I get stuck during the build.

James
Your more than welcome James, it was a pleasure to help you out. If you get stuck and I miss the cry for help feel free to pm me directly. :smashin:
 
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kav

Distinguished Member
Good stuff james, have fun with it! Will be interested to see how you get on with that backplate thing, could be a nice solution instead of modifying the drive bay. :thumbsup:
 

wolvers

Novice Member
I like the look of the cooler on that 570. :thumbsup: Looks to be almost 3 slots wide though, I take it that will fit and won't interfere with any of your other components? Also, isn't there a problem with NV drivers and playback in 24hz?

Just one other thing, are you intending to put your game installs on the SSD? 64GB may not last very long if you do. I had a 80GB one for OS and games and it wasn't big enough.

Looking forward to the build pics. :smashin:
 

jamesaevans

Novice Member
Good stuff james, have fun with it! Will be interested to see how you get on with that backplate thing, could be a nice solution instead of modifying the drive bay. :thumbsup:
Hi Kav,

Hopefully the fan bracket should work out well.

Tom has ordered my case from his supplier so as soon as it arrives and Tom's had a chance to have a proper look inside I should know what's going to be possible.

From your signature it looks like our builds have a very similar specification.:)

James
 

jamesaevans

Novice Member
I like the look of the cooler on that 570. :thumbsup: Looks to be almost 3 slots wide though, I take it that will fit and won't interfere with any of your other components? Also, isn't there a problem with NV drivers and playback in 24hz?

Just one other thing, are you intending to put your game installs on the SSD? 64GB may not last very long if you do. I had a 80GB one for OS and games and it wasn't big enough.

Looking forward to the build pics. :smashin:
Hi Wolvers,

I think the card and cooler is about 2.5 slots wide, but I don't think there will be a problem with fitting the card in my case, especially as I will be removing two of the drive cages. However, I don't think this would be a good card if you were planning to go for an SLI setup in the future.

I am planning to put my games on the SSD, but I don't think storage capacity will be an issue as I will only have a couple of games installed at once. Just I don't have enough time to play lots of different games.:(

James
 

wolvers

Novice Member
Sounds like it will be a nice, quiet and fast build. I think streaming all the media from a network drive is the way forwards too, it's certainly worked out better for me.
 

jamesaevans

Novice Member
Quick update on the design that I am working on with Tom:

As you can see we are trying to use the existing holes in the case to mount the fan brackets. Tom thinks we may be able to mount two 120mm fans in the front of the case, but will find out more today.


I also came across this build of a water cooled Silverstone LC13-E build which is very impressive:
Full thread:Case Mod: Lascala LC13B-E + Watercooling - Overclock.net - Overclocking.net

Thanks
James
 

Attachments

kav

Distinguished Member
James, where do you intend putting your hard drive cage? I ask because with a fan behind it, your hard drive cage will likely be right up against your PSU and not leave much clearance for running cables.
 

jamesaevans

Novice Member
James, where do you intend putting your hard drive cage? I ask because with a fan behind it, your hard drive cage will likely be right up against your PSU and not leave much clearance for running cables.
Hi Kav,

My plan is to remove the centre drive cage and left-hand 3.5" drive cage, which should free up a lot of space in side the case.

I plan to use an SSD for the Operating System and a couple of games and intent to mount this underneath the Blu-ray drive in the 5.25" drive cage on the right. This will require a drive bay adaptor, something like this:

Do you think this will work or is there something I may have overlooked?

James
 

Attachments

kav

Distinguished Member
Oh right, I see. That seems like it would work fine - I just realised upon re-reading that you are using a NAS for storage. I had it in my head that you would need space for HDDs, but that would be very neat and tidy to just have your single SSD sitting underneath the BD. It's looking like it will be a lovely build. :smashin:

I kind of agree with wolvers though - since you're putting games on the SSD too, would it not be worth your while upping it to 128GB? Otherwise you are going to get to the stage of having to remove and add games all the time, plus you are supposed to leave 10-20% of the drive free for it to run properly, IIRC. Obviously that's additional expense though, and if you're confident you'll only ever need one or two games at a time, then fair enough. FWIW, after installing multiple programs plus my OS to my 64GB SSD, I only have about 23GB left - adding two games to that could be pushing it right to the limit (obviously depending on how big they are).
 

Razor

Member

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