Potential HTPC Upgrade -- Is it worth it? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 06-18-2012, 02:19 PM - Thread Starter
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I've perused around the forum quite a bit over the years, but I've never really needed to post as most (read: all) of my questions were answered just through reading, and some simple extrapolating. However, I now find myself with a more unique, and not so black-white question.

Should I upgrade my HTPC or not?

Here's the scenario: Once upon a time, my gaming-machine died, and my original HTPC plans were turned into a gaming-htpc hybrid. I've recently purchased and assembled a brand new gaming machine, and was now considering making it my full-time HTPC again. The components are:

Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 (3GHz)
Asus P5Q-EM motherboard
8GB DDR2 Ram (Forget clockspeed offhand)
Sapphire Radeon 4870 2GB DDR5 w/ Vapor-X
Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB
Silverstone GD02

Due to the heat produced by both the CPU and the processor, I put in a Scythe Shuriken heatsink/fan. This had the adverse affect of leaving no room for a CD drive (or even the support arm across the top of the case).

Now, with this system starting to show it's age, should I upgrade instead of starting fresh with this setup?

I was contemplating replacing it with an i3-2120, a Z68 motherboard, and 8GB of Ram, leaving out a dedicated GPU. It's likely that I'd get a new SSD, and keep the old HDD for storage (I have loads of storage space on a NAS, though, so it's a moot point). I'd possibly have to buy a newer lower wattage PSU that's rated at 80Plus Bronze/Silver/Gold, but I'd have to take a look at mine, as I truthfully forget what it's rated at. I'm very happy with the case, and would be keeping it. Also, I'd use the stock cooler, and would regain the ability to re-use the 5 1/4" bay, if I so choose.

So what are some opinions from some of you more experienced HTPC users? Either way, I'll be starting with a fresh install, so I'd like to do it with the right equipment first. That's removed my desire to "try it now, and if the heat/noise/performance isn't there, then upgrade!", despite knowing that would likely be the best thing to do (I've read THAT enough times on the forums). I will not be doing any gaming (aside from some awesome NES/SNES gaming with the kids), and believe the i3's integrated graphics to be more than sufficient for any video playback I'd be doing. The SSD (which I could get in either case) would be a nice noise reduction and performance boost. Overall, the system would be cleaner inside, have more airflow, use less power, generate less heat, generate less noise, and performance should be slightly higher for HTPC purposes. Also, I'd get a BD drive to put in it.

What are your thoughts? Is this a good idea, or would I just be throwing money away? Lets here it, personal opinion and completely subjective views welcome!
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post #2 of 12 Old 06-18-2012, 05:16 PM
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For HTPC-only use, your current configuration is fine. 8GB of RAM and an i3-2120 is way more than you'll need for an HTPC. A G530 OR G620 CPU will handle anything you need in an HTPC for recording and playback of any media files, including Blu-Ray. An SSD is a definite yes for the OS, but I'd stick with a standard drive for recordings since you won't see any performance gain using an SSD for that purpose.

If you really want to build a new HTPC from scratch, use one of Assassin's recommended builds posted in his guide in the stickys.
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post #3 of 12 Old 06-18-2012, 07:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Hey Captain_Video, thanks for the reply.

I realize from using the current setup is more than adequate to playback all video I have now. However, like I said, heat, power consumption, and possibly noise are things that would be nice to reduce. I know I won't save the cost of a new machine in power, but I'd imagine the newer build would be quicker, quieter, and generate less heat. Basically, I'm on the fence. Though I know I've come off as "Convince me to buy it!", I am more suggesting "I think it's a good idea, am I possibly overlooking anything? What will I lose? What will I gain? Would this be throwing money away?".

Regarding the SSD, I've got loads of space with my NAS. Due to having no optical drive, I've ripped all my content from DVD and stored it on the NAS. The benefit to this is I can play it on my PC, or on my PS3.

Also, I've read through the Assassin's guide (and done quite a bit more research myself, but honestly, thank you for mentioning it). It's a great guide that would have saved me a bunch of time if I'd found it a bit early. I'd likely opt for an i3-2120, and a SSD for the OS (Mushkin, based on everything I've read), but other than that, my findings were spot on with his, and he makes solid recommendations.
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post #4 of 12 Old 06-18-2012, 09:00 PM
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It's not C2D E8400 but HD 4870 that is the major source of the heat. Scythe Shuriken is a "wrong" choice. You should choose *BIG* Shuriken, then ODD would fit fine. Look at these pictures.

 

There are a couple of upgrade paths. As E8400 is fast and cool enough for a dedicated HTPC, the best bang for your buck may be

 

- Replace the graphics card with HD 6570 or HD 7750 (you will see ~50W power reduction at idle). HD 6570 is powerful enough (e.g. HIS passive heatsink version). HD 7750 is the latest and recommended if you have enough money (e.g. HIS).

- Add a SSD for OS, that significantly increase the overall system performance. Crucial m4 64GB is enough for HTPC. m4 128GB if you are going to install lots of programs.

 

If you build from a new system from scratch, you may want to wait for Intel Core i3-3225 (processor with integrated GPU), that is to be released soon (June-the end of this year).

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post #5 of 12 Old 06-18-2012, 11:38 PM - Thread Starter
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I had no idea about the i3-3225. That's exactly the type of information I'm looking for, thanks. I doubt I'd replace the GPU with anything other than the onboard if I were to build a new system, as I realistically have no need for one.

Regarding the SSD and performance, I've heard/seen the best reviews on the Mushkin Chronos drives are not only the fastest but (on paper) are some of the most reliable.

Thanks again!
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post #6 of 12 Old 06-19-2012, 12:12 AM
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Actually SSD speed does not matter for HTPC. The most important as an OS drive is random read/write and every SSD is a lot faster (like 20 times) than HDD. "Faster" SSD are fast in sequential read/write, that's important for, for example, Photoshop and games.

 

As for reliability, Intel 330 Series / 520 Series is one of the best. User reviews of Mushkin Chronos 60GB (no so good, isn't it?). I recommend Crucial m4 (the best combination of speed, reliability and price).

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post #7 of 12 Old 06-19-2012, 12:22 AM - Thread Starter
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I concur. The Mushkin Chronos reliability isn't that great, but the Chronos Deluxe is rated just under the Intel/Samsung drives (user reviews). Read/Write speeds are some of the highest on SSD's, too. The intel's would be a great choice though. Since I'll be waiting for the i3-3225 now, I'll have some time to mull it over.
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post #8 of 12 Old 06-19-2012, 12:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

Actually SSD speed does not matter for HTPC.

I agree, any new SSD made today is incredibly faster than any HDD out there. Upgrading to a Crucial M4 was the most noticeable performance boost I've done to my system.

Sequential speeds don't mean jack for opening programs or navigating menus.
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post #9 of 12 Old 06-19-2012, 01:00 AM
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FYI

 

Quote:
vRPM White Note.bmp
 
Client PC usage model captured under Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Adobe Photoshop CS2. Note that nearly all of the traffic is random and more than 50 percent of random writes are 4KB or smaller.

 

Source

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post #10 of 12 Old 06-19-2012, 06:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Naverest View Post

I concur. The Mushkin Chronos reliability isn't that great, but the Chronos Deluxe is rated just under the Intel/Samsung drives (user reviews). Read/Write speeds are some of the highest on SSD's, too. The intel's would be a great choice though. Since I'll be waiting for the i3-3225 now, I'll have some time to mull it over.

Look, I even own a Mushkin, and it's fine, but it's just a standard Sandforce drive, just like any other Sandforce drive with similar NAND type - no better, no worse. Only difference betwee the regular and deluxe is the NAND type (which should tell you something about the reliability of those reviews, 'cause if they're radically different, they're nonsense.)

And in terms of recommendations, it doesn't even get on my list when compared to Plextor M3S, Samsung 830, or what is today during the Intel rebate program by far the best value and quality combo -- the Intel 330. Right now there is no reason to buy anything other than a 330.

And reading about read/write times for SSDs especially in an HTPC, or worrying about SATA II vs III, or NAND type, is a total waste of time. Anyone agonizing about these things needs to read this article from Tom's Hardware: Upgrade Advice: Does Your Fast SSD Really Need SATA 6Gb/s?

As but one example from real life:

510

The point is, just get an SSD, ANY SSD. I have 9 in use of various makes, models, sizes, controllers, and types, and i guarantee you will never see any difference in real life use. So unless you enjoy agonizing over minute differences in benchmarks, just ignore them.
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post #11 of 12 Old 06-19-2012, 06:49 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm always willing to admit I'm wrong, and here, it looks like I'm wrong. I had no idea about the Intel 330 rebate. Also, I'll read that article before commenting further. Thanks for the information, Zon2020!
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post #12 of 12 Old 06-19-2012, 07:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Naverest View Post

I'm always willing to admit I'm wrong, and here, it looks like I'm wrong. I had no idea about the Intel 330 rebate. Also, I'll read that article before commenting further. Thanks for the information, Zon2020!

There has been a good reason to choose a Mushkin over other similar drives, and that's because they've recently been some of the very best values, both in the SATA III Chronos, and the SATA II Callisto. (And I happen to like Mushkin products in general). But basically all Sandforce controller based SSDs of the same SATA speed and with the same NAND type (ONFI Asynchronous, ONFI Syncronous or Toggle) will be essentially identical in performance and probably in reliability. Intel is the one exception because it wrote its own firmware. (you might want to read this article too - .http://www.anandtech.com/show/5508/intel-ssd-520-review-cherryville-brings-reliability-to-sandforce

There are somewhat more differences among the Marvell controller models (Crucial M4, Plextor M2 and M3, Intel 510 and Corsair Performance) because their firmware is different, but there's still not much difference. And Samsung makes its own controllers and memory.

But the Intel 330 at $135 after rebate for the 180GB is a total steal. And the 60GB at $69 is probably not the cheapest you can find at that size, but it's the best value at that size.

BTW, my impression is that the Newegg reviews on SSDs have been even more inconsistent and unreliable than usual. I'd look for reviews on places like Anandtech, Tom's Hardware, and similar legitimate tech websites.
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