Building an HTPC in time for black friday - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 11-07-2010, 02:10 PM - Thread Starter
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Im planning on building a mid grade htpc, taking advantage of the black friday sales. What I purchase will depend entirely on what comes up for sale so I am looking mainly for specs and requirements, as well as what I can expect to pay for it sans sale. I want keep this as small as possible but if it can only be contained in an ATX motherboard, that is fine.

Purpose:
To play 1080p video files without difficulty
To emulate any console before the PS1. If it can be done without a significant increase in cost/hardware, I want to build a machine that can also emulate PS2 , Gamecube, and Xbox
Eventually I want to migrate storage to a Home FTP server

Software :
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate
Frontend: XBMC w/ Aeon Plugin
Emulation Frontend: Hyperspin
*If anyone knows additional software/plugins that are complementary or better, I am open to changes*

Hardware Needs: Basically, I know what I need, but not specifically or how much I should expect to pay.
Solid State Hard Drive (16 GB Max for OS and other programs)
2 TB Hard Drive (Media)
Sound Card (need optical out)
Video Card (I have no idea how powerful a card is necessary)
Processor(Want multi core, dont know how many cores are necessary)
Motherboard(Need to know what the minimum size I can use to achieve my goal)
Power Supply-(Watts will depend on components, I am looking for a quiet solution)
RAM : (again, no clue how much I will need.)
Blu Ray drive: (I have a PS3 incorporated into this Home Theater, so is this necessary?)

Hardware goal: as quiet and small as possible
Budget 600-750$

I am fairly new to this, so please be as specific as possible.
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post #2 of 13 Old 11-07-2010, 05:29 PM
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I like the concept of waiting to see what goes on sale rather than being married to a specific config and paying retail. Something to consider is that there are some great deals that you should be keeping an eye out. A recent example is the excellent samsung f4 for $59.99 at newegg (now $79.99) 2tb hdd.

Something that isn't clear to me is that you're mentioned a need for a nas / home server / and also a front end. Did you want a 2-in-1 or two separate boxes? The place to go for quiet is silent pc review. So things to consider for 24x7 ops: 1) noise level (2) energy efficiency. Other things - expandability (will you need more hdd as your hd video collection grows); what about bitstreaming hd-audio.

It is plausible but unlikely that sandybridge be out in time for BF. Despite that, you should be looking for deals for case, psu, case fans, noise padding material for the case, ram. The two things you'll need to wait for (if you want sandybridge) is cpu and mb.

ssd: 16gb is going to be *very* tight. 60 has some breathing room. Prices for these are going down so good to keep an eye out for sales.

video card: for moderate gaming I like nvidia 460 or ati radeon 6850. Both also do blu-ray 3d and bitstream hd audio. If you're just doing light gaming you can get away with on cpu+gpu like core i3/i5 clarkdales

ram: 4gb. Try to get 1.25v.

psu: I like seasonic x400 fanless psu, but it is pricy ($$$). Some cases bundle the psu so just look for sales on cases

case: i like antec p183. no psu though and it is pricy (was on sale w/fs @ egg for $116 recently). probably too big for you, unless you want the 2-in-1 w/nas+htpc in one.

blu-ray drive: these are usu dirt cheap (esp if you just get the reader). Handy if you want to build a library w/o having to swap the discs.

sound card: you don't need one. Most modern systems have it built on board or the gpu provides the sound handling with hdmi out.
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post #3 of 13 Old 11-07-2010, 05:48 PM
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16GB SSD OS drive? Maybe if you disable hibernation and disable system restore.

If you have hibernation turned on, 2GB of ram will eat up 2GB of drive space, 4 GB will eat up 4GB of drive space.

System restore points will also eat up drive space too.
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post #4 of 13 Old 11-07-2010, 06:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zippenpipper View Post

I want keep this as small as possible but if it can only be contained in an ATX motherboard, that is fine.

Purpose:
To play 1080p video files without difficulty
To emulate any console before the PS1. If it can be done without a significant increase in cost/hardware, I want to build a machine that can also emulate PS2 , Gamecube, and Xbox

Actually, if you want inexpensive, your best bet is to go with microATX. Both ATX and Mini-ITX hold a price premium over mATX. M-ITX is doable if you want small sizes, but it'll likely be a bit more expensive compared to mATX.

Quote:
Originally Posted by zippenpipper View Post

Hardware Needs: Basically, I know what I need, but not specifically or how much I should expect to pay.
Solid State Hard Drive (16 GB Max for OS and other programs)
2 TB Hard Drive (Media)
Sound Card (need optical out)
Video Card (I have no idea how powerful a card is necessary)
Processor(Want multi core, dont know how many cores are necessary)
Motherboard(Need to know what the minimum size I can use to achieve my goal)
Power Supply-(Watts will depend on components, I am looking for a quiet solution)
RAM : (again, no clue how much I will need.)
Blu Ray drive: (I have a PS3 incorporated into this Home Theater, so is this necessary?)

Hardware goal: as quiet and small as possible
Budget 600-750$

ePSXe is easy. Even an Atom can handle it (provided you go easy on the post-processing). If you want best PQ, though, you'd want to go with a halfway decent dual-core (seriously, even a $50 Celeron E3300 or Athlon II X2 is good enough for this) and a discrete GPU. I don't know what's the lowest GPU you could use but IGP definitely doesn't cut it, at least for the filtering settings I use. I'm using the Xenogears intro and Chrono Cross status page for my tests. Xenogears worked fairly well with the GeForce 9300 with only a couple of drops to 40 FPS. However, the Chrono Cross status page was steady at 25 FPS - less than half the full speed. Lowest card I tried that can handle full speed with my OpenGL2 settings is a GT 240 1GB GDDR5.

PCSX2, even top of the line stuff can't handle all games without speedhacks but for the most part, it's actually quite doable with your budget.

Blu-ray playback is going to add considerable expense (mostly because of software). If you're fine watching on your PS3, just stick to that.

Here's a sample M-ITX build for reference.
  • Silverstone Sugo SG-05B w/300W PSU, $105
  • Gigabyte GA-H55N-USB3, $105
  • Intel Core i5-760 2.80GHz, $205
  • Sapphire Radeon HD 5750, $125
  • Kingston 2x2GB DDR3 1333, $70
  • Intel X25-V 40GB, $95
  • Samsung F4EG 2TB, $80
  • TOTAL: $785

Prices taken from both Newegg and Amazon. Total is slightly above your budget but it's the cheapest you can go for without sacrificing performance in PCSX2. You can shave $80 from the cost by going with a Core i3-530/540 but they're around 10% slower clock for clock and a significant downgrade if you use any heavily threaded applications such as video encoding. I think you can downgrade the GPU but I wouldn't recommend it. Playing PS2 games in native resolution just ain't pretty.

Here's an AMD version of the above. Had to stick a dual-core in because for some reason, I couldn't find high-clocked Phenom II X4's with 95W TDP anymore.
  • Silverstone Sugo SG-05B w/300W PSU, $105
  • ASUS M4A88T-I Deluxe (max 95W TDP CPU), $125
  • Phenom II X2 560 BE 3.3 GHz, $100
  • Sapphire Radeon HD 5750, $125
  • Kingston 2x2GB DDR3 1333, $70
  • Intel X25-V 40GB, $95
  • Samsung F4EG 2TB, $80
  • TOTAL: $700

Some notes:
SSD - You really want at least 40GB here. Either Intel or SandForce. SSD prices are dropping fast so you might actually get a 60GB SSD Black Friday.

HDD - Go with whatever is on sale.

GPU - For max filtering, I'd say minimum GT 240 GDDR5 or equivalent for ePSXe (Pete's OpenGL2). You might be okay with lower, but the GT 240's the slowest card I've tested that can still deliver full speed. Dolphin, I think, is fine with low-end cards, too. It appears to be more CPU-bound than GPU-bound, anyway. PCSX2, I've never actually played a game that's GPU-bound at 2x scaling. PC gaming is much more taxing on the GPU than emulators tend to be. If you play modern PC games, I suggest you select the GPU based on performance on those games rather than on emulators.

CPU - Intel Core i-series. Unfortunately, emulators just work better on Intel CPU. You'd need a much higher clock rate on AMD to get the same performance as Intel. Emulators don't really make much use of more than 2 cores. Both PCSX2 and Dolphin supports 3 threads but the third thread barely gets used so you're fine going with dual. Despite that, the extra cache on Bloomfield and Lynnfield seem to help as they get higher FPS clock for clock compared to Clarkdale.

PSU - A good quality 500W should be more than enough for any single CPU/GPU build. Depending on selected parts, you could probably make do with less. The above builds should work just fine on the Sugo's 300W PSU. Realistically speaking, those builds will probably only use 150~200W max during gaming.

For reference:
CPU Benchmark designed for PCSX2 based on FFX-2
GPU Benchmark designed for PCSX2
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post #5 of 13 Old 11-07-2010, 08:18 PM
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This is my build list. On a budget, but wanted some staples for the system. will add hdd as needed. hope this gives you some ideas.

Antec New Solution NSK2480 Black/Silver 0.8mm cold-rolled steel MicroATX Desktop Computer Case 380W Power Supply

ASUS M4A785TD-M EVO AM3 AMD 785G HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard

G.SKILL Ripjaws Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL

AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Deneb 3.2GHz Socket AM3 125W Quad-Core Processor HDZ955FBGMBOX

SAMSUNG Black Blu-ray Combo Drive - Bulk SATA Model SH-B083L/BSBP LightScribe Support - OEM

Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3500418AS 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive

forgot to add i have.. HIS H467PR1GH Radeon HD 4670 1GB 128-bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.0 x16 HDCP Ready CrossFireX Support Video Card
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post #6 of 13 Old 11-07-2010, 11:30 PM
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Good luck - also working on an HTPC/unRaid black friday build :-)
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post #7 of 13 Old 11-08-2010, 06:43 AM - Thread Starter
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Alright, I'm picking up a cheap 2tb hard drive, and I've decided on micro atx. I really like the nmedia 5000b, both because of the way it looks and the amount of hard drive bays. Just forget about the ftp server for now. Is a ssd necessary right away? I'm tempted to leave that and the blu ray drive out initially and add them later.
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post #8 of 13 Old 11-08-2010, 08:26 AM
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Nope. The SSD isn't necessary at all. It's really, really nice to have, but unnecessary. By the way, I realize you want this by Black Friday but consider this: Sandy Bridge will be released in January. At that time, you'll be getting more performance for the same price you'll be paying for a CPU now. Granted, current processors are already overkill for old school emulators and HTPC use, but both PCSX2 and Dolphin love processing power - lots of it. Mind you, actual CPU requirements differ from game to game. Just because a PC can handle Kingdom Hearts doesn't mean it'll be able to handle Shadow of the Colossus as well. Bulldozer also sounds promising but that's probably going to be half a year's wait for general availability.

Come to think of it, it might actually be a good idea to wait until January for the SSD, too. New drives will be coming from Intel and while you might not be buying those models, they're bound to affect prices of other SSD's. Still, if you find a really good sale on SSD's (e.g. $1.50/GB), I think you won't go wrong in snapping one up.

Blu-ray, again, you already have a PS3 which you can use. The drives are inexpensive enough but software is the one that's gonna cost you. It's an easy enough upgrade that if you have to sacrifice CPU or GPU power for Blu-ray, I'd say skip it for now.
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post #9 of 13 Old 11-08-2010, 01:31 PM - Thread Starter
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ok then, I think ill look for a budget processor and skip the SSD for the time being. Skip the blu ray as well.
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post #10 of 13 Old 11-08-2010, 02:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zippenpipper View Post
ok then, I think ill look for a budget processor
If you're looking at a budget processor thinking you can upgrade later, then don't. You'd need a new motherboard for either Sandy Bridge (LGA-1155) or Bulldozer (AM3+). Current motherboards won't work. If you must build soon, then best to go straight to i5-750/760 and just don't upgrade for a while. Perhaps just aim to overclock the CPU. A Lynnfield running at 3.8~4.0GHz is nothing to sneeze at.
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post #11 of 13 Old 11-24-2010, 03:14 PM
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Great topic. I'd like to hear more input, as I plan to do the same thing as well, and places like newegg have already started some deals.
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post #12 of 13 Old 11-24-2010, 03:19 PM
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I just placed my NewEgg order for my media server. This same thing could certainly be used as a powerful HTPC by adding a good video card such as the 5450. A more powerful GPU could be added for a gaming system. I have a total of $459 in this, not including the 1.5 and .5 terabyte drives I have on hand (still means I have a pair of 2tb drives!). Pretty crazy how cheap you can build a system nowdays!

ASUS M4A88TD-V EVO/USB3 because it has RAID 0/1/5/10/JBOD in case WHS goes to the wayside, USB 3.0, the 880 chipset, and plenty of memory capability.

AMD Athlon II X4 610e Propus 2.4GHz 4 x 512KB L2 Cache Socket AM3 45W Quad-Core Desktop Processor because it's 45w instead of 95w or higher, 4 core, plenty of cache per core, etc.

Two of the 2 TB Seagate Barracuda LP ST32000542AS 2TB 5900 RPM SATA low power drives that are on sale now at NewEgg. PLUS, I'll be adding a 1.5 TB drive I have on-hand, and a 500gb 7200 as a system drive.

4 GB of PC1333 DDR3

And of course case with 450w power supply, (I think 450w will work but I can replace it later if needed).
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post #13 of 13 Old 11-24-2010, 06:53 PM
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HTPC
$99.99 - Intel Core i3-530 Clarkdale 2.93GHz 4MB L3 Cache LGA 1156 73W Dual-Core Desktop Processor BX80616I3530
$89.99 - ASRock H55M Pro LGA 1156 Intel H55 HDMI Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
$64.99 - G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ
$85.00 - Plextor PX-64M1S 2.5" 64GB SATA II Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) - OS Drive
$139.98 (69.99 a piece) - Seagate Barracuda LP ST32000542AS 2TB 5900 RPM 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard - Drive -Bare Drive x2 for DATA
$79.99 - OCZ ModXStream Pro OCZ700MXSP 700W ATX12V V2.2 / EPS12V SLI Certified CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Modular Active PFC Power Supply compatible with core i7
$79.99 - LG WH10LS30K 10X Blu-ray Burner - LightScribe Support - Bulk - OEM
Total $639.93

With some extra's
$107.21 - Gyration GYR4101US Black 88-key Normal Keys 15 hot keys Function Keys 2.4GHz RF Wireless Mini Air Music Remote w/ MotionSense & Compact Keyboard
$185.00 - Hauppauge 1212 HD-PVR High Definition Personal Video Recorder
$32.99 - D-Link DGS-2208 10/100/1000Mbps 8-Port Desktop Green Ethernet Switch 8 x RJ45 8K MAC Address Table 144KB per Device Packet Buffer Memory Buffer Memory


Grand Total $965.13

Everything from new egg accept the HD PVR (Amazon), I had some Gift Certificates I had to use up.
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