Help me buy my first HTPC - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 08-21-2012, 10:29 AM - Thread Starter
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Well I think I am ready to start my journey into the HTPC world but after hours of researching, I have learned a lot but feel I am ready for some advice or to be pushed in a certain direction. I am more comfortable with tech than most, but this is a new world to me, so please bear with me. I want to accomplish a few things:

- Get rid of my cable box from TimeWarner and use my HTPC for live TV and recording.
- Use the HTPC for other media, mainly 1080p movie files.
- Have a Windows device in my entertainment center to run a few programs on my TV that I use that need Windows.
- Have a secondary storage in my entertainment center within the HTPC or next to it for storage of media files and the backup of a few small files. (2-3TB)


At the moment I am leaning towards purchasing the HTPC because I am not completely comfortable building from scratch and I have some Best Buy gift cards to be used. After researching many net-top type units that claim to be for HTPC use, it seems maybe just buying a desktop would be better for me especially considering I want to use this for PVR use? Seems like a desktop would give me more computer power, as well as option and upgrade flexibility. Am I right in this thought? What are the specs I should be looking for? Any popular models that are used? I prefer not to put a huge upright tower in my entertainment center although I am not ruling it out, I would prefer something that would lay horizontally.

The Ceton InfiniTV seems to be a great product and the main component I need to add to use my TimeWarner cable for premium channels as well as record multiples? This should fit in anything with a PCI slot?

Lastly, I will want to control all this with my Logitech Harmony remote, just as I use it to control everything else in the living room. How will this be possible for watching TV and media with the HTPC? .. Obviously it will still work with the RF signal to the TV, but can, or how will it interact with the computer running Windows Media Center or XBMC?

I guess that is all for now. What else am I missing or not thinking of? Thanks so much in advance.
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post #2 of 19 Old 08-21-2012, 11:35 AM
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Seriously, build your own

One, It's easy.

Two, most of the effort is in integrating software which you'll have to do anyhow and will be easier with the correct parts.

If you have to buy get a purpose built one from someone like Assassin.
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post #3 of 19 Old 08-21-2012, 08:43 PM
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Check out my thread, the HTPC/DVR replacement. Use a 3 GB data drive, and it will do just what you want!
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post #4 of 19 Old 08-22-2012, 05:55 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zon2020 View Post

Seriously, build your own
One, It's easy.
Two, most of the effort is in integrating software which you'll have to do anyhow and will be easier with the correct parts.
If you have to buy get a purpose built one from someone like Assassin.

I am starting to think building almost needs to be done to get everything I want unless I am missing something.
Quote:
Originally Posted by kimifelipe View Post

Check out my thread, the HTPC/DVR replacement. Use a 3 GB data drive, and it will do just what you want!

Where is your thread?
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post #5 of 19 Old 08-22-2012, 08:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mgftp View Post

I am starting to think building almost needs to be done to get everything I want unless I am missing something.

First, read Assassin's free hardware guide if you haven't already.

Second I suggest paying the $25 for Assasssin's paid guide and it will walk you through the build step by step Betty Crocker like.

Third, after you decide on a case, go to Youtube and you'll undoubtedly find numerous videos of people assembling pcs using that case. Some are very professional by the mfg or Newegg or various tech blogs, some are by amateurs, but all of them will give you a lot of advance familiarity and confidence in what it entails. It's really worthwhile. You might also find videos about your particualr motherboard. Spending an hour whatching those before you start can be a good use of time.

Trust me, it's easy. A lot easier than it was 5 or 10 years ago, that's for sure, because of the high level of integration in modern motherboards, the replacement of the IDE drive interface with SATA, and the evolution of Windows.

It's nearly impossible to find a case you like in a pre-built, they tend to be noisy and have poor cooling, they typically have limited flexibility and expansion opportunities, and I've seen too many threads here from folks who went the pre-built route and then are struggling to add the components they actually want (and it seems to me, they end up spending more in the end).
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post #6 of 19 Old 08-22-2012, 08:09 AM
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post #7 of 19 Old 08-22-2012, 08:47 AM
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By the way, I urge you to read Assassin's guide, and it will have lots of differences and alternatives, but just as a straw man for you to massage, here is a pretty standard build using some pretty popular quality parts. You need to do more research and choose your preferred parts:

Silverstone GD04 or GD05 case $95 Amazon (good looking, easy to build, great cooling, yet will hold full height expansion cards (I assume, but don't know, it will hold a Ceton without a problem)).
Intel DH67BL Micro-ATX motherboard - $89 Newegg or Amazon (there are plenty of other choices, this one is a rock solid choice that's come down in price about $40)
SeaSonic S12II 380B power supply $58 Newegg (this is a very good one, you can certainly get cheaper ones. Look for a 300-400w model that comes well recommended)
Intel i3-2120 or G630 ($99 or $49 at Micro Center) (use the stock cpu cooler that comes with the cpu)
G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 $28 Newegg (Mushkin, Kingston, etc would also be fine)
128/120GB Intel 330, Samsung 830, Crucial M4 etc solid state drive - around $100
2TB hard disk (around $119)

So that's around $590, but that's for a quality system without trying to cut dollars or shopping around or looking for sales or rebates. All good qualtiy components. It's a list you can work against to design your own. You can do it for a lot less (or for a lot more).


You may or may not need or want:

Windows 7 Home Premium
Optical Drive
Tuner or capture card

By the way, if you intend to use a Ceton, I don't think you can use a m-ITX case or motherboard. It just won't fit. EDIT - I'll modify this to say that there are some ITX motherboards with the necessary PCIe slot and some ITX cases like the Silverstone Sugo SG05 that would probably work if you wanted to go small and ITX. But you do need a full height case for a Ceton card.

Just some thoughts to get you started thinking.
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post #8 of 19 Old 08-22-2012, 07:49 PM
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You do NOT need a full height case for the Ceton card. there is a short bracket in the package.
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post #9 of 19 Old 08-23-2012, 10:24 AM
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Building the HTPC is really easy. As someone else mentioned, you are only plugging together 6 parts. That may vary depending on how many drives you use. My wife was un-impressed when she saw how quickly things went together. I think the only tool needed was a #2 Phillips screwdriver.

I did spend some time figuring out which components I wanted to use. Making sure the CPU did what I needed & that the motherboard had the slots & connections I wanted. And I bought most of the items on sale, thanks to the information on another thread, "Cheapest ever HTPC that's decent. Proud of myself."
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post #10 of 19 Old 08-23-2012, 11:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kimifelipe View Post

You do NOT need a full height case for the Ceton card. there is a short bracket in the package.

How tall is the card itself? I assume it won't fit in something like a Lian Li PC-Q05 or PC-Q12 or an Antec ISK 300-150, will it? Will it fit in a Silverstone ML03? You still have to be careful about the size of the case so that it will accomodate the card if you plan to use one.
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post #11 of 19 Old 08-23-2012, 02:53 PM
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When I build a machine, I look at the latest builds from the Tech Report. They come out quarterly, if not sooner. Maximum PC has them also. I usually downgrade the video cards - their builds are oriented towards gamers.
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post #12 of 19 Old 08-23-2012, 03:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karl Beem View Post

When I build a machine, I look at the latest builds from the Tech Report. They come out quarterly, if not sooner. Maximum PC has them also. I usually downgrade the video cards - their builds are oriented towards gamers.

Because they are oriented towards gamers they are totally excessive in nearly EVERY respect for an HTPC. It's not just the video card. Seriously, MaxPC's "baseline" system has a 650W PSU, an i5-3570K, a big tower case, a Hyper 212 cooler, and costs $1330. The "deluxe" build uses a ridiculous bright red NZXT Phantom 410 case that looks like something out of Transformers movie and "upgrades" it to an overclocked Intel i7-3820 and 16GB of sdram and costs nearly $1900. The "ultra" is over $3300 (I could build a really nice server four or so nice ITX HTPCs for that amount of money.) I really don't see how those are remotely useful for someone thinking about building a nice compact, cool, quiet, inexpensive HTPC Those are vastly excessive in power and cost and you end up with a big noisy box that won't fit in with your AV equipment at all. Might as well just buy a Dell. You really ought to look at the latest builds here on this site and other htpc specific sites.
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post #13 of 19 Old 08-23-2012, 04:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zon2020 View Post

Because they are oriented towards gamers they are totally excessive in nearly EVERY respect for an HTPC. It's not just the video card. Seriously, MaxPC's "baseline" system has a 650W PSU, an i5-3570K, a big tower case, a Hyper 212 cooler, and costs $1330. The "deluxe" build uses a ridiculous bright red NZXT Phantom 410 case that looks like something out of Transformers movie and "upgrades" it to an overclocked Intel i7-3820 and 16GB of sdram and costs nearly $1900. The "ultra" is over $3300 (I could build a really nice server four or so nice ITX HTPCs for that amount of money.) I really don't see how those are remotely useful for someone thinking about building a nice compact, cool, quiet, inexpensive HTPC Those are vastly excessive in power and cost and you end up with a big noisy box that won't fit in with your AV equipment at all. Might as well just buy a Dell. You really ought to look at the latest builds here on this site and other htpc specific sites.

You have no idea what you're talking about. Tech Report has the EconoBox (which I use for our office machines), the Sweet Spot, Editor's Choice, Double Stuffed Workstation and this time, the Dorm PC . I usually use the Sweet Spot for my machines. My HTPC is usually a 2-3 year old build.
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post #14 of 19 Old 08-24-2012, 04:58 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies everyone... I have been convinced to build and got some good suggestions and things to think about from you.

Now prepare yourselves for me to ask a ton of questions as I try to map this all out smile.gif
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post #15 of 19 Old 08-24-2012, 07:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Karl Beem View Post

You have no idea what you're talking about. Tech Report has the EconoBox (which I use for our office machines), the Sweet Spot, Editor's Choice, Double Stuffed Workstation and this time, the Dorm PC . I usually use the Sweet Spot for my machines. My HTPC is usually a 2-3 year old build.

What???? I know exactly what I’m talking about. What we have here in this thread is a new builder looking for advice on building his first HTPC, and you’re telling him to go look at the “model builds” at Maximum PC and Tech Report? Sorry if you don’t like it, but that is just horrible advice, and I used Maximum PC to demonstrate how oversized, overpowered, overheated, overpriced and otherwise wholly inappropriate those builds are for an HTPC. And, as you know, not one thing I said in my reply was inaccurate. So of course you ignore your MaxPC recommendation and my post and say “well what about Tech Report”. Well, other than being cheaper, those are just as bad. Not one uses an appropriate HTPC styled case. All except the econobox have far too much processor. Only the most expensive ones use a solid state drive. None use the integrated graphics processor. Even the econobox has an excessive GPU. And all of them are overpriced. Seriously, do you want to put in your living room or TV room an HTPC that looks like this



or even worse this?



Most people want their HTPC to be small and to look decent along with the rest of their AV equipment. They should be low power, cool running and quiet. They should have graphics appropriate for displaying HD video. They should have necessary storage. And there’s no reason they should cost $1000, much less $3000.

Why would you recommend basing an HTPC build on one of those MaxPC or Tech Report model builds when there are sites like this one giving great advice specifically about building purpose-built HTPCs? Those builds are fine for what they're intended, but none of them are intended to be HTPCs. What you should tell them is go read Assassins guides, or the threads here like “Cheapest ever HTPC that's decent. Proud of myself” or “Official OrigenAE thread” or “DQ77KB Thin Mini-ITX” or “Unofficial mini-ITX case thread” or any of the many many other excellent build threads. Even telling them to go read the XBMC Community Forums “Hardware for XBMC” forum or the new Anandtech HTPC forum, or MyMediaExperience.com would be reasonable (even though I think the advice here on AVS is better). Your chosen Tech Report “Sweet Spot” build uses an i5-2500K, a GTX 560i superclocked, a 520W psu, a 750GB hard disk, no SSD, no blu ray reader, puts it all in a huge NZXT H2 case, and costs nearly $1000. Tell me just one thing that makes that a good recommendation for a first time HTPC. Just one. There isn’t one. The fact you use their "EconoBox" build for your office pcs simply underscores how unsuitable it is for an HTPC. Really, if you’re going to tell people looking to build a first HTPC to go build some general purpose tower computer, you might as well just tell them to go buy a Dell, and I will continue to tell them just how bad a choice that would be.
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post #16 of 19 Old 11-25-2012, 11:30 AM
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I highly recommend dhubcomputers.com. As far as I know, there is no place to get more for less. Every system comes pre-configured at no extra cost, and even has an XBOX360 controller bundled with it.
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post #17 of 19 Old 11-25-2012, 11:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danieldale33 View Post

I highly recommend dhubcomputers.com. As far as I know, there is no place to get more for less. Every system comes pre-configured at no extra cost, and even has an XBOX360 controller bundled with it.

Hmmm. 1st ever post and he recommends a company.

I wholly disagree with your post, btw.
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post #18 of 19 Old 11-26-2012, 05:30 AM
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I always get a laugh when I see articles in the mainstream PC magazines about building HTPCs. These guys are so used to building PCs that are on steroids that they are totally clueless about what the requirements are for a HTPC.
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post #19 of 19 Old 11-26-2012, 08:01 AM
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Here's a build for you:

Processor: Intel dual core Sandybridge (Microcenter G645: $50 or Newegg G630: $65)
Mobo: Asrock H77M (Newegg: $60)
SSD: OCZ Vertex 4, Samsung 830, Crucial M4 (various stores should have the 128GB for $80 or less)
HDD: Any 'green' 5400 RPM drive, max $50/TB, assume at least 2TB
RAM: Crucial Ballistix Sport 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (Newegg: $30)
PSU: PC Power and Cooling Silencer MK III 400W (Newegg: $50 after MIR)
Case: Silverstone GD05 (Amazon: $95)
Tuner: SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime (Newegg: $130)

Total Cost (ex software): $595 to $610 (higher is if you don't live near a microcenter).
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