HTPC Build

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HTPC Build

Postposted on Thu Oct 31, 2013 1:13 am

Hi guys,

Budget = $1200 +/- $100 US
Usage = replacing my comcast DVR, playing games, and media consumption.
Timeframe = Looking to finish up my purchases by the end of November, I'll be watching the sales the next few weeks.
Where I'll be buying = mostly newegg or amazon. I live about an hour and a half from FRY's, but to be honest I prefer to shop online.

I'm planning on having the machine boot to windows media center and have it function similar to my current cablebox/DVR. It's imperative that my wife be able to just turn on the TV and have it look like a regular cable box interface. (I might be dreaming here, please tell me this is possible.) I've youtubed a few videos on windows media center and it looks pretty straightforward, granted I do all the set up and make sure it's running 24/7.

Here's what I have so far:

Case - Fractal Design Node 605 - Already purchased $109.99, on sale last weekend.

PSU - Corsair CX430M - Already purchased 49.99 - $20 rebate, on sale last weekend.

RAM - G.Skill 8gb (4x2) - Already purchased $59.49, on sale last weekend.

now what I don't have yet....

CPU - AMD FX 6350 - $139.99 I'm totally torn here. I was originally planning on going with the Intel i3 3225, but the latest CPU review showed the 6350 at a pretty good position. All I'm looking for is something around $140.00 or less with the most bang for the buck. Please help!

Mobo - Gigabyte GA-970A-D3P - $89.99 - the mobo is going to depend on the CPU choice. I won't be needing integrated graphics or OCing, but I think I will need the extra PCI slots. Originally I was thinking of going micro ATX. But I'll need room for the TV tuner and possibly a sound card.

GPU - something in the $200 range. Was thinking the R9 270x would be the right fit...or should I go HD7000 series? Or Nvidia? Just looking for the best bang for the buck here. I'll be wanting to play BF4 on my 46inch LCD TV at minimum 720p, 1080P would be great but I'm not sure I can achieve that with the budget I've set.

Storage - the cheapest 240-256GB SSD for boot/games drive and a 2-3TB hard drive for media and recorded TV. I'm hoping less than $300 for storage.

Optical Drive - none, hoping to install the OS via thumb drive. I've never done this before but I'm up for the challenge. I have a standalone bluray player already. I don't feel like fussing with Bluray software.

CPU Heatsink - Cooler Master Gemini II S524 - $41.99 - Recommendations for a low profile heatsink are welcome.

Sound Card - AMD has figured a way to pass through 5.1 through the HDMI on their video cards right? If this is the case then I won't need a sound card. But if I do, then I would go the with ASUS DX that is on all the TR guides.

Other - Ceton Infinitv 4 cable tuner - $199.99 - Seems like this is a popular choice but suggestions are welcome. I've read a ton of reviews online, seems like most of the trouble will come from my cable provider not knowing how to set it up with a cable card. I'm willing to go down this path but if there is a better alternative let me know.

OS - Windows 7 - I have a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium that I had installed on my main computer, but then I did a fresh install with 7 professional. I should be able to use the license of Home premium again right? it's currently not installed on any machines. Let me know what you think about this.

Accessories:
logitech K400 wireless keyboard $39.99
wireless mouse - already own, but might upgrade in the future
Xbox 360 controller - Already own
windows media center remote - was looking at the rosewill remotes on newegg, seem decent. $24.99

total so far (including what I've already spent) = $1200

Concerns:

The case will sit in my entertainment center shelf, it fits with about 2 inches of space on each side, and about 2 inches in the back. as far as cooling is concerned, should I get some extra fans for the case? And does the space seem adequate? I'll also need to get USB, HDMI, and a univeral power cable that all have right angle connectors which should reduce the depth needed and will give me some extra room for airflow.

Thanks in advance for your help.
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Re: HTPC Build

Postposted on Thu Oct 31, 2013 9:01 am

Skullzer wrote:Where I'll be buying = mostly newegg or amazon. I live about an hour and a half from FRY's, but to be honest I prefer to shop online.

Where are you in relation to a Microcenter. They have great CPU+mobo combo deals.

CPU - I think the days of an i3 being sufficient for more than just a mid-low end gaming PC are coming to an end. With the new consoles on the horizon, it's smart to be looking at 4 cores for "futureproofing." If you can't afford an i5 in your budget, FX 6350 is your next best bet. However, the i3 is significanly more power efficient than the FX, even at idle. That may be something to take into consideration for an always-on rig.
I actually have an IR eye that I installed in my HTPC that plugs directly into the power button header. I can program the eye to my TV remote. When I press the programmed button on my remote, the HTPC turns on. I can't for the life of me remember what website I got it from, but it'd be worth checking out. I guess you could do the same thing via "power on via Keyboard/Mouse" in the BIOS. With an SSD, your rig should only take about 10 seconds to be up and running. Maybe you're just planning on letting it go to sleep?

Mobo - Normally, I would advise you to just go mATX. But, since you've already got the case, you might as well retain the potential to use the available expansion slots.

GPU - What makes you think the R9-270X can't do BF4 @ 1080p? This page shows 31fps average at 1440p and high/ultra settings. Sounds like a fine choice to me.

Optical drive - Installing the OS via thumb drive isn't difficult. I actually prefer it to using the CD, its faster. Follow this guide.

Heatsink - The CM Gemini II is good ($42 seems high, hopefull you can get it on sale) if you're going with an AMD CPU. AMD heatsinks are junk. Intel heatsinks on the other hand are pretty quiet on stock-clocked processors. They're tuned for low noise rather than low temps. The only real benefit of having and aftermarket heatsink on Intel CPUs is for lower temps at the same noise level. If you can squeeze in an i5, maybe try out the stock HSF before you go buying aftermarket.
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Re: HTPC Build

Postposted on Thu Oct 31, 2013 9:35 am

OS - this was legitimately fresh, right? I mean you installed a full copy of Professional and not an "upgrade" version? If so, yes, I do believe you can use your old copy of Home Premium.

Video Card - You have two options here. You can either wait for holiday price cuts and deals, or you can punce on a 7950 (or 660 Ti) deal when it drops to that ~$200 price point. They're hovering much higher than that right now, but AMD will surely want to phase the 7xxx series out in favor of the 2xx series. Basically, getting the best value is either a "current" AMD/Nvidia series card priced at $200, or a "previous" card that was closer to $300, but has been saled and slashed down significantly. (I guess the 660 Ti still has models floating around that are saleable, too...)

Storage - Depending on how heavy you'll be loading your SSD, you can go with a cheaper, 5400 RPM WD Green for storage. I just wouldn't want my games overflowing into anything slower than 7200 RPM, so check that out beforehand.

Other - If you already have a beefy desktop check out SteamOS when it becomes available. Streaming from your main machine could solve any issues you have with GPU power. I know it probably wouldn't stream Origin right at the start (which means no BF4), but a dual boot would at least open up functionality on your system.

BTW, thanks a lot for leading with a budget. That's usually the biggest detail people leave out.
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Re: HTPC Build

Postposted on Thu Oct 31, 2013 12:36 pm

Looks pretty sound so far. I only have two comments:

1) AMD vs Intel
The AMD FX 6350 is pretty competitive, but if you want a near-silent PC during media playback a low-end i5 will be easier to cool quietly - taking the older 3470 as a sample point from that review, it's about the same speed as the FX6350 but it's 20W cooler at idle and 70W cooler under load. Note that even a small load bumps the power draw up considerably so a constant 20% usage as per media playback is still likely to require nearly the same cooling as full load.

2) OS installation via USB drive:
http://images2.store.microsoft.com/prod/clustera/framework/w7udt/1.0/en-us/Windows7-USB-DVD-tool.exe
Don't worry that it has Windows 7 in the title, it works for all versions from Vista to 8.1
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Re: HTPC Build

Postposted on Thu Oct 31, 2013 1:08 pm

superjawes wrote:Storage - Depending on how heavy you'll be loading your SSD, you can go with a cheaper, 5400 RPM WD Green for storage.

I'm using a 120GB SSD for my OS, games, and programs with some room to spare. I typically only have 3-4 games installed at a time, so it works for me. If the OP doesn't have a SSD in another system to compare with, check the size of your Documents/Music/Pictures/Videos/Etc folders that would reside on the hdd. Subtract that from the used space reported on your C: drive and you've got an idea about how big an SSD you'll need. I would recommend a 5400rpm data drive because they're generally quieter. Maybe the OP isn't as sensitive to HTPC noise as I am.

Is this going to be the primary gaming PC in your home? My HTPC has much less programs and games than my main rig. You mentioned this will be acting as a DVR and the wife would be using it so I assumed this is going to be connected to the main TV in the house. I find it hard to get TV time to play games on our HTPC when the wife always wants to watch the Kardashians / E! so I just go upstairs and game on my main rig and let her watch that junk. If that's the case for you, you could probably get by with a ~120GB SSD for the HTPC.
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Re: HTPC Build

Postposted on Thu Oct 31, 2013 1:23 pm

DPete27 wrote:I actually have an IR eye that I installed in my HTPC that plugs directly into the power button header. I can program the eye to my TV remote. When I press the programmed button on my remote, the HTPC turns on. I can't for the life of me remember what website I got it from, but it'd be worth checking out. I guess you could do the same thing via "power on via Keyboard/Mouse" in the BIOS. With an SSD, your rig should only take about 10 seconds to be up and running. Maybe you're just planning on letting it go to sleep?
If you ever do remember, please mention it here. Getting my HTPC to wake on IR input has been an ongoing nightmare for me. My research terminated at "some IR receivers just don't support wake-on-USB". I would have to start shopping eBay and kind of hope that the one I received has the functionality.

I recently got Steam to integrate with my Microsoft Media Center and it's a blast with Big Picture Mode. There are instructions online that are a little wonky, but they do work for what little I asked of it. Right now, I'm running Batman Arkham Origins at 720p on a front projector and it's just @#?!! awesome.

A discrete sound card is nice in theory, but I recommend you try without for starters. With a decent receiver, you won't really need all the sliders and adjustments that come with a discrete sound card unless you start wanting fine control over your soundscape.
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Re: HTPC Build

Postposted on Thu Oct 31, 2013 1:31 pm

As for a cpu I would go with a Ivy bridge or haswell I5 CPU since once you get into customizing movie players like MPHC or pot player with The Smooth Video Project that plays all you MKV's etc at 60 fps and looks a heck of a lot better then 24fps. It brought my 2600k to its knees when I turned everything to max with SVP....My i3 2120s with amd cards do fine but its on the ragged edge and i cannot turn up everything the SVP will let you do. Then on top of the CPU usage once you start tweaking the MADvr to jinc with 4 taps it can really load your video card. I prefer to transfer my Blurays to MKV and watch them with the SVP over my stand alone bluray player by far. My wife is hard to impress when it comes to video quality and for once in her life she noticed and said "did you adjust the TV settings or something? It looks like I am standing there watching it" That's how much of a difference it makes when you up your video framerate from 24 to 60+fps since it will play it as high as the refresh rate of the monitor...but we can say 60fps since its a TV :)

For graphics I would go with AMD I have always noticed better colors etc compared to NV. A 2gb AMD 7870 or 270 wouold be great letting you game at 1080p with pretty high to ultra settinmgs along with taking GPU load from watching MKV's etc with customized players like I said above...the 270 is marginally faster due to higher clocks.....The main thing would be find a 7870/270 with the quietest cooler, blower style if possible. This HIS IceQ H787Q2G2M Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 x16 HDCP Ready has a fantastic blower style cooler with a over sized squirrel cage fan that is pretty quiet besides you can use any of many GPU tweaking programs like HIS's own I turbo and make a quiet fan profile and a separate profile for gaming since it is a very capable 1080p gaming card.
This HIS IceQ H787Q2G2M Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition 2GB 256-bit GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 x16 HDCP Ready is 209$
or pay another 10$ but only get half the blower style cooling for this his 270 with higher clocks at $219
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6814161442

Good luck...as for IVY or Haswell i would get whatever you can get cheaper MB and CPU wise with the same clock speeds performance is pretty much the same. But i would aim for 3.1ghz or higher if possible in your budget. Also I would like to add that with my 2600k and the SVP Hyper-threading on is the way to go, I turned it off and my current SVP settings were unusable going from 60% cpu usage to 99% and dropping frames galore. So for the ultimate HTPC if you can fit a i7 quad core with HT or perhaps this for 234$ Intel Xeon E3-1230 V2 Ivy Bridge 3.3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo) 4 x 256KB L2 Cache 8MB L3 Cache LGA 1155 69W Quad-Core Server Processor BX80637E31230V2 for $234.99 making it a great buy for 4 true cores and the extra hyper-threading you just might want to have up your sleeve. Plus it is only 35$ more then a non K I5 3570 but you get a extra 4 threads and its much cheaper then a i7 3770 cpu but you are getting the same performance but at 8 watts lower power consumption also with 69 watts to 77 watts. edit sorry forgot the cpu link http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6819117286
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Re: HTPC Build

Postposted on Thu Oct 31, 2013 2:37 pm

vargis14 wrote:As for a cpu I would go with a Ivy bridge or haswell I5 CPU since once you get into customizing movie players like MPHC or pot player with The Smooth Video Project that plays all you MKV's etc at 60 fps and looks a heck of a lot better then 24fps. It brought my 2600k to its knees when I turned everything to max with SVP....My i3 2120s with amd cards do fine but its on the ragged edge and i cannot turn up everything the SVP will let you do.


FYI, SVP runs like a dream on max settings for 720p video using only a 7750, about 65% GPU load
AMD's GCN cards are the dog's danglies when it comes to video decode, the 7850 does 1080p at 45% load.
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Re: HTPC Build

Postposted on Thu Oct 31, 2013 4:34 pm

FYI I am using a 7750 also and I had my 2600k in my HTPC rig with it "it's back where it belongs so I am down to 2120 again" Anyways Chrispy did you adjust MADvr upscaling and chroma etc? I can get close to 100% usage if you use jinc with 3 taps .....4 taps is overkill but if I can use it I will.
There are so many adjustment you can make between SVP managrer, FDDshow and MADvr to utilize more of your GPU and increase picture quality. Give it a try...Just so you know I did the full SVP install with MPHC and everything else in the install, it made it nice and simple until you start tweaking madvr along with the SVP manager profile settings.
Madvr seems to use mostly GPU where SVP manager uses tons of CPU over the GPU. Yes i have the open CL selected in SVP.

I have not messed with FDDshow too much yet. Also I do 1080p most of the time, but 720p looks fantastic also.
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Re: HTPC Build

Postposted on Thu Oct 31, 2013 7:46 pm

No idea what any of that stuff you just said means :D

I chose the highest quality setting/profile (5) when I installed it, selected GPU acceleration and left it at that.

It looks awesome and I don't mess with the settings, I'm too busy watching 60fps tv shows to care ;)
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Re: HTPC Build

Postposted on Thu Oct 31, 2013 11:12 pm

DPete27 wrote:
Skullzer wrote:Where I'll be buying = mostly newegg or amazon. I live about an hour and a half from FRY's, but to be honest I prefer to shop online.

Where are you in relation to a Microcenter. They have great CPU+mobo combo deals.


I wish I lived closer to a Micro Center! They had one in San Jose but it's closed :(

superjawes wrote:OS - this was legitimately fresh, right? I mean you installed a full copy of Professional and not an "upgrade" version? If so, yes, I do believe you can use your old copy of Home Premium.


yeah, it was legitimately fresh. Nice to hear I shouldn't have any problems here.

Thanks for all the comments guys. At this point I think I will go ahead with the AMD 6350 since it's right at my price range. The 270x will bee good too. Also, thanks for all the comments regarding the video player software. I hadn't really put much thought in to that.

As far as storage is concerned, I have a 240gb SSD on my main computer and with my steam and origin library it only has about 40 gb left. So I think I'll need an SSD that's equivalent in size. I wasn't sure if a 5400rpm HDD would be fine for the media/storage, nice to know that I won't have a problem there either, I'll be able to save a few bucks.
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Re: HTPC Build

Postposted on Sun Nov 03, 2013 2:03 pm

Reading another thread about power supplies got me thinking...will the corsair cx430m I purchased be compatable with the R9 270x I want to get? Just noticed the PSU only has one 6 pin connector and the GPU needs two. Also, is 430 watts enough to power the system? Pc parts picker says the system will use 408 watts.
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Re: HTPC Build

Postposted on Sun Nov 03, 2013 2:14 pm

Many graphics cards will include PCIe power adapter cables in the box. You can see the contents in the Newegg photo gallery for this Sapphire model, for instance.

Failing that, there are other easy options.
Some lunatic in another thread wrote:One 6-pin PCIe cable becomes two 6+2 pin PCIe cables for $4½ with free shipping:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6812198016


For half the price, the (20% crippled) Pitcairn GPU in the Radeon HD7850 could be a bargain compared to the full version in the Radeon HD7870 / R9-270X. Otherwise, I'd encourage you to spend slightly more to get a Tahiti-based (12½% crippled) Radeon HD7950 or (full) HD7970 / R9-280X.
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Re: HTPC Build

Postposted on Sun Nov 03, 2013 3:05 pm

Since I have it bookmarked now, use this power supply calculator to make your decision on PSU wattage. That will factor in wear on your PSU, too.
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Re: HTPC Build

Postposted on Mon Nov 18, 2013 1:44 pm

Just a quick update an some additional questions. I'm still working on gathering all the components for my build.

I noticed that newegg has the silicondust hdhr homerun prime on sale for $99...that's half of what my budget was intended for my tv tuner! Should I jump on that deal or stick with the ceton infinitv 4? I would be losing a tuner, but would gain access on my main computer to utilize a tuner over my network..which is pretty cool.
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Re: HTPC Build

Postposted on Mon Nov 25, 2013 4:32 pm

Well, got all my components and ran into a few problems. I decided to make a few changes to my original build. Instead of going AMD I went with a haswell i5 that was on sale for $189 and a H87 mother board. I figured spending the extra $50 on the CPU and an extra $10 on the motherboard wouldnt be too out line since I saved $100 on the cable tuner.

Here's where the problem is, I got everything assembled and I couldn't get the motherboard to post! No power, no fans, no beeps, nothing! So I figured it was the pSU. I took a trip to the local best buy and picked up a replacement for testing, put it all together, pushed the power button on the case, and nothing! Now I'm upset, decided to take apart my known working computer, plugged it all in my new case, used the original PSU I thought was defected and it ended up working. So now I think the problem lies with the new motherboard. I powered down the computer, put a lid on the case, connected to TV and went to power it on....and nothing started!!!! I determined that the actual power switch on the case was defective, if I bent the wires just right it would work. Lol.

So now I'm awaiting a new mother board so I can put my new i5 in it and ill be using that as main gaming computer. All of the old stuff (see my signature below) is installed in my new HTPC case and are connected to my tv. Just working out a few setup issues and ill need some extra cooling to keep the 125w amd phenom x4 and radeon 6950 cool. My temps were getting pretty high in the cramped HTPC case.

So yeah, that was a fun Sunday building computers!
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Re: HTPC Build

Postposted on Mon Nov 25, 2013 4:59 pm

Sounds like I'm too late, but most "failure to POST" with new hardware that I've seen on Socket 1155 and 1150 is often because it's very VERY easy to bend a pin in the motherboard socket.

An underling builds or assists with the builds I do for the office and so far every failure to POST that I've seen in the last few years has been him bending a pins slightly. They can be bent back into place very carefully with an exacto knife.
I'd call him clumsy but you really have to be super-careful inserting the processor to these LGA sockets.
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Re: HTPC Build

Postposted on Mon Nov 25, 2013 10:30 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:Sounds like I'm too late, but most "failure to POST" with new hardware that I've seen on Socket 1155 and 1150 is often because it's very VERY easy to bend a pin in the motherboard socket.


Oh boy....I put in a claim today for the RMA but hadn't shipped it back yet. Figured I'd take a look at the pins, i didn't even think of that when I was troubleshooting. Sure enough....there are like 4 bent pins! So here are my options...send it back like I never noticed or try and fix it. I feel like such a dumbass :oops: . I was sooo careful putting it in the socket too. Live and learn right?
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Re: HTPC Build

Postposted on Mon Nov 25, 2013 11:12 pm

Grab a coffee stir-straw and go to town (gently).
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Re: HTPC Build

Postposted on Tue Nov 26, 2013 4:39 pm

Yeah, be careful and try it yourself. I don't think bent pins are even covered by warranty, though many retailers are too dumb to realise it's the bent pins causing the problem, and RMA them anyway.

If your eyesight is good and your hands are steady, bending pins back is easy enough. I've never failed to repair a socket with bent pins although I've never had any heavily damaged sockets. Normally it's just a handful of pins that are misaligned by less than one grid space on the socket, and I wouldn't be surprised if the damage was caused by either the motherboard manufacturer fitting the plastic socket protector, or people taking the protector off when the socket clamp is locked, which can lever pins out of place in the last corner the plastic comes up from.

This thread might help you, too.
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Re: HTPC Build

Postposted on Fri Nov 29, 2013 1:55 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:Yeah, be careful and try it yourself. I don't think bent pins are even covered by warranty, though many retailers are too dumb to realise it's the bent pins causing the problem, and RMA them anyway.

If your eyesight is good and your hands are steady, bending pins back is easy enough. I've never failed to repair a socket with bent pins although I've never had any heavily damaged sockets. Normally it's just a handful of pins that are misaligned by less than one grid space on the socket, and I wouldn't be surprised if the damage was caused by either the motherboard manufacturer fitting the plastic socket protector, or people taking the protector off when the socket clamp is locked, which can lever pins out of place in the last corner the plastic comes up from.

This thread might help you, too.


I did it! It works! Thanks for all the help guys, just finishing my windows install now.
AMD Phenom II x4 955 | ASUS M4A87TD Evo | 8GB G-Skill ddr3 | XFX Radeon 6950 2gb | Antec BP 550 | Antec 300 | Windows 7 64
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Re: HTPC Build

Postposted on Sun Dec 01, 2013 12:55 pm

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