Build me an HTPC for gaming and 1080p streaming - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 4 Old 03-31-2013, 01:33 PM - Thread Starter
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Budget
Possible to stay $500 or below? If not, that is okay

Goal
To centralize my media streaming to one device and play games. I want the smallest footprint possible (don't need more than 1 HD)

Current setup
Living Room
Panasonic 65 VT50
AVR
PS3 (games, netflix, amazon prime)
Xbox 360 (games, netflix, amazon prime)
AppleTV 2 (airplay)
Router
Synology ds213air w/ 2x 3gb WD Red raid 1

Bedroom
Pioneer Kuro 500m
AVR
Roku 2 XS

Requirements
Generic
1. Quiet as possible
2. Cool as possible

Steaming
1. 1080p streaming of mkv files on nas
2. Runs plex/xbmc
Soft Requirement 3. 1080p streaming of netflix and amazon prime - can utilize TV/ps3/xbox for this if necessary
Soft Requirement 4. Accessible via internet - I can utilize the synology plex/videostation apps to do this

Gaming
1. Run latest games (Bioshock infinite) in 1080p
2. Future proof for 1-2 years?

Question(s)
1. Is there a dual hdmi solution to split the streaming feed to the bedroom? Or is it best to use the roku+plex?
2. What OS is best for this?
3. Is it possible to reduce quality when streaming to ipad/iphone to reduce bandwidth?

I already have 1 TB WD Green hard drive.. is this fast enough for games?

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post #2 of 4 Old 04-01-2013, 09:03 AM
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It's going to be pretty challenging to pull that off for $500 given your requirements. Since you want gaming, we'll start with a intel i5 quad core....dual core won't be enough.

Intel i5-3470 (3.2/3.6 turbo) is $149 at microcenter - this is a really crazy price, it might not last. The i5-3570k is marginally faster (3.4/3.8), and is fully unlocked for over clocking, but its $189. The 3470 can be OCed a bit, I personally don't think the 3570 is worth the extra $40 in your case. These CPUs are typically $50 more at other retailers.

A non-overclockable h77 motherboard will run you $100ish, an overclockable z77 around $120ish.

8GB of DDR3 is about $60, 4GB is too small, 16GB is overkill for you.

Doesn't sound like you *need* a bluray drive, but if you want to use this box to rip, that's another $50.

Your HDD will work, but WD greens aren't known for their speed. You'll just have to sit at load screens for quite some time with it. If you really want to store a few games at once, you need a minimum of 250GB IMO, I bought a 120GB SSD and I can really only fit like 5 games on it. You have a few options:

1) just use the WD green (free)
2) buy a 32-64GB SSD to use as a cache to speed up things tremendously (~$50ish)
3) buy a hybrid drive (1TB for ~$100ish) - similar performance to the SSD cache but simpler
4) buy a 250GB SSD (~170), highly recommended if you want to splurge, IMO its worth every penny, SSDs will cut your load times down to almost nothing

If you want it quiet, you'll need a quality power supply, a $40 corsair CX430 is an excellent value. You'll also want a decent case....I personally really like the bitfenix prodigy - its a small tower that uses mini-itx boards, but has room for real 3.5" HDDs, and large video cards...and the installed fans are super quiet and cool extremely well ($80 at microcenter). You can cheap out on the case and PSU and get a combo, but what you'll end up with may be big, ugly and loud. (~$50)

Then the final and most important part - the video card. If you want to run bioshock infinite in 1080p, a GTX 650 (~$100ish) will barely run it at 30fps. A 650ti (~$130ish with 1GB) will get you 45ish, a 650 ti boost (~$170ish with 2GB) will get you a pretty solid 60. I recommend Zotac cards, they're super quiet.

So adding it all up, the cheapest way possible:

$150 CPU
$100 GPU
$100 MB
$60 RAM
$50 Cheap case + PSU

$460 before tax and shipping, so probably just about $500. This is of course excluding the OS (~$100ish for Win 7/8), and any peripherals (keyboard, mouse, controllers, etc)

I personally wouldn't skimp on the case, PSU and video card, but its your money. smile.gif

As far as your other questions:

Most video cards come with dual HDMI outputs, but its a real PITA to manage this in two separate rooms. Between the extra cabling and accessories (extra remote etc)....if all you want to do in the bedroom is stream video, just use a cheap streamer to pull off the net and your NAS and leave the PC out of it. The WDTV boxes tend to work pretty well with local media, will stream a 1080p MKV and netflix just fine on its own and are pretty cheap. ($70ish I think). Likewise, for streaming to iPhone, if your synology can transcode in real time, just use that. If your synology cant, rather than leaving your PC on full time (don't underestimate the impact on your power bill of doing this) as a transcoding video server, you can convert your videos to a more iOS friendly format on the PC and store them on the synology. I've got one of those too, video station works great over the net provided its the right format.

Just to put the power cost into perspective. In order to do what you want, you'll basically need the PC idling 24/7. Burning about 100W idle at 20c a kwh that's like $15 a month. Your power is prob cheaper than mine, but it adds up quick. The synology is always on anyway, and a streamer box will idle at like 5W at most. Over the course of a year it'll basically pay for itself and then some.
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post #3 of 4 Old 04-01-2013, 09:43 AM - Thread Starter
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Wow, good info. I'm thinking about ditching the gaming/steambox setup for now and to reevaluate after the next-gen consoles are released. What would you suggest for that setup with a case that could support a gaming rig in the future?

And since you have a synology I have another question for you. Videostation works great on my phones/tablets around the house. Is Videostation or plex capable of downgrading VQ when streaming over the internet? I know the transcoding will be dependent on my synology device.. which has me wondering about a headless media server set up that runs videostation or plex. But then I still have the issue of transcoding mkv files on the fly on the media server. While it can handle it, I rather not transcode at all (don't want to lose HD audio tracks)

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post #4 of 4 Old 04-01-2013, 10:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbrady3324 View Post

Wow, good info. I'm thinking about ditching the gaming/steambox setup for now and to reevaluate after the next-gen consoles are released. What would you suggest for that setup with a case that could support a gaming rig in the future?

In that case, basically the exact same recommendation, except skip the video card and just use the integrated one, which is as good as anything for video. I will say though, by the time you finally decide to make a full on gaming rig, you'd probably get a better value out of buying updated parts at that time. For purely HTPC, you don't need a quad core CPU, 8GB of memory, or even that case. You can definitely put a pure HTPC together for much less, but if you want to leave the door open and not start from scratch, you're going to have to accept a certain amount of overkill for a HTPC.

Quote:
And since you have a synology I have another question for you. Videostation works great on my phones/tablets around the house. Is Videostation or plex capable of downgrading VQ when streaming over the internet? I know the transcoding will be dependent on my synology device.. which has me wondering about a headless media server set up that runs videostation or plex. But then I still have the issue of transcoding mkv files on the fly on the media server. While it can handle it, I rather not transcode at all (don't want to lose HD audio tracks)

Like you say, it's dependent on the capabilities of your diskstation. Mine doesn't support video transcoding at all, for those that do....I'm not sure to the extent of it or what limitations it has. Downscale or upscale, its still a transcode, and requires a CPU capable of it. There's no way you're getting HD audio out of an iOS device, so your options remain transcoding everything manually ahead of time and storing the mobile files separately on the diskstation, getting a diskstation that can handle the transcode transparently (hopefully), or setting up the HTPC to do it and cutting the easy to use synology apps out of it.

The only one of those options I'd be sure would work 100% of the time is transcoding manually.

Edit: I looked it up, your diskstation doesn't support transcoding. So it can't automatically drop the quality for you over the net. If you have a reasonably sized library, manually transcoding mobile versions shouldn't be that time consuming, and its easy enough to do with free tools on a decent PC. As far as using a PC as the media server, someone else might be able to better help you out with the setup on that. I've used the air video app and server to stream xvids to my iPhone for a little bit, but I don't know how well that would handle mkvs with HD audio, and the interface is nowhere near as nice as DS video. You'd definitely need a pretty good CPU to transcode that in real time.

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