Proposed HTPC build - opinions, please - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 01-29-2013, 01:45 PM - Thread Starter
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I have had it in mind to build an HTCP for some time. The eventual purpose is to place my DVD collection onto a central server and have it all be playable by the HTPC and any other deives, such as tablets, that I may have by the time I'm nearing the end of the project. That will take some time. It will be done in a series of progressive steps given the time it will take to rip and encode the DVDs (I plan to use Handbrake) and funds limitations. I'm in the UK by the way so hence no links to NewEgg!


Here is the build I propose:

I will be reusing my existing Thermaltake PSU - it's actually over-rated for what I have and was bought at the time for a serie sof upgrades that never happened! I will also be reusing my existing WD 7200 system drive; it's only 320Gb but adequate. Also keep on using existing Windows 7.

Unfortunately, the rest of my existing kit is ancient and quite entry level - an old Athlon X2 4200 and NVIDEA GeForce 8600 so I forsee no immediate reuse for them, simiarly the motherboard has only two SATAII ports. And all in a hideous early 90's beige case with little in the way of room for more HDD's or anything else!

The new kit would consist of

Case: Fractal Design R3 Black Pearl Mini (as I like the design and want a tower type)
Motherboard: Asus P8B75-M-LE; this was selected as it provides a decent number of SATA ports, two PCI-e (one x16, one x4) and lets me re-use my ketboard and mouse (hey, every pound saved is a pound to spend on something else!)
Processor: Intel Core i3 Ivy Bridge 3220
HDD for storage: one (or two, funds permitting) 3Tb drives (I;d like advice on these - the obvious choices are Caviar Reds for some more money, Caviar Green for a bit less, or some Seagates, although the price differential is fairly trivial between these and the Greens.)
Plus the usual stuff like RAM, DVD drive and a remote control!

This system would simply use XBMC and also be my desktop. I don't play games so it;s main job is just daily net useage, and of course ripping/encoding. A beefier processor would be desirable, but funds do not allow.

An SDD would be an obvious choice but funds don't allow for that right now but it would be a priority upgrade. It's not a big issue and SDD prices drop all the time.

When the R3 case HDD capacity is reached - which is going to take some time - I would propose to build either a pure NAS or Media Server. At that point I would re-use most of the hardware in the above system in a large case, such as the antec Nine Hundred plus of course hard-drive cages and HDD controller card (hence the selection of the PCE-e slots for maximum potential expandability - though of course by that time HDD's will probably have more capacity so I wouldn;t need so many...ah, but then, there's BluRay to think about...) whilst the HTPC/desktop would be upgraded to whatever prevailed at the time. I would think about either a simple NAS - probably WHS +FlexRAID, or possible a media server with those plus Plex. Depends on whether I have Smart TV, tablets etc.

The only other possibility, which might save a little money, is to reuse the Athlon+motherboard as the basis for the NAS and keeping the i3 as the HTPC. I guess even a lowly processor like that could manage a NAS, but not a media server.

This would all be in a single room and using Gb LAN wired.

I don;t currently own any BluRays.

Obviously this is going to take a long time so I don;t see the point (and don;t have the funds for) a "big bang" right away, because I might spend 18 months filling five or six 3Tb drives and by that time who knows how big HDD's will be or how the price will have come down?

The only alternative I see to this is to re-use almost all of the current hardware in a new case and just add a graphics card and HDD's. But I suspect things like Handbrake would be painfuly slow. Then the Athlon would definitely be the base for the NAS when the time came, and the HTPC built with whatever was the hardware of choice at that time.

Sorry to ramble on. Does this sound a reasonable plan?
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post #2 of 7 Old 01-29-2013, 07:53 PM
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Perfectly reasonable.

You've put a lot of thought into your upgrade plans, so kudos! The Athlon X2 will be fine as a NAS/Media Server. The only sore spots will be in power usage, and if you plan on ripping/transcoding, it will be a little slow. That and depending on how many SATA ports that mobo has, you might have to buy a cheap SATA controller for more than a handful of hard drives.
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post #3 of 7 Old 01-29-2013, 08:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Puwaha View Post

Perfectly reasonable.

You've put a lot of thought into your upgrade plans, so kudos! The Athlon X2 will be fine as a NAS/Media Server. The only sore spots will be in power usage, and if you plan on ripping/transcoding, it will be a little slow. That and depending on how many SATA ports that mobo has, you might have to buy a cheap SATA controller for more than a handful of hard drives.

Or better said the athlon x2 is barely "just good enough". Even puwaha should agree with this and I am surprised he didn't recommend better hardware given the fact that you are encoding.

I am shocked actually at his recommendations given his track record.

I would go with a $30 celeron and $40 motherboard which will run extremely cool and have about 3x the CPU power as your 5 year old X2.

Edit: Part of this poking fun at Puwaha. The X2 would be fine for a NAS but nothing more, imo. I would scrap it altogether if it were me.
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post #4 of 7 Old 01-29-2013, 08:19 PM
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Or better said the athlon x2 is barely "just good enough". Even puwaha should agree with this and I am surprised he didn't recommend better hardware given the fact that you are encoding.

tongue.gif

I have no problem with people repurposing existing hardware. If they are buying new, then I always suggest that they budget in a bit of growth, or at least a sound upgrade path.

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I am shocked actually at his recommendations given his track record.

Poke the bear!

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I would go with a $30 celeron and $40 motherboard which will run extremely cool and have about 3x the CPU power as your 5 year old X2.

Edit: Part of this poking fun at Puwaha. The X2 would be fine for a NAS but nothing more, imo. I would scrap it altogether if it were me.

I do not disagree... but he already has the Athlon... saves him $70 to use elsewhere.
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post #5 of 7 Old 01-29-2013, 08:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Puwaha View Post


I have no problem with people repurposing existing hardware. If they are buying new, then I always suggest that they budget in a bit of growth, or at least a sound upgrade path.

I do not disagree... but he already has the Athlon... saves him $70 to use elsewhere.

Sure. Except that for a 24-7 server something that draws over 100 watts even at idle like a AMD X2 is going promptly in the garbage at my house when I can get something so much better for so little expense. It will pay for itself easily in the first few years, will be easier to cool and will be a much more capable machine if I want to use it for something other than a NAS.

Also there is no upgrade path. X2 is a dead technology and terrible for a 24-7 server. Time to move on.
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post #6 of 7 Old 01-29-2013, 10:59 PM
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Originally Posted by assassin View Post

Sure. Except that for a 24-7 server something that draws over 100 watts even at idle like a AMD X2 is going promptly in the garbage at my house when I can get something so much better for so little expense.

100W at idle? Spshhhhhhh come on man. The 4400 had a TDP of 89 watts... they support "cool n quiet", so idle would be much much lower. According to Tom's Hardware, it would idle at about 12 watts: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/amd-power-cpu,1925-7.html

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It will pay for itself easily in the first few years, will be easier to cool and will be a much more capable machine if I want to use it for something other than a NAS.

I know power costs are different around the world, but where I live, a 50W average system (and I'm being generous here) would only cost a bit over $26 per year to operate. I'd need almost 3 years to make up the cost of buying a new CPU/Mobo.
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Also there is no upgrade path. X2 is a dead technology and terrible for a 24-7 server. Time to move on.

My point is, he already has this equipment... no reason not to repurpose it.
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post #7 of 7 Old 01-30-2013, 02:31 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Puwaha View Post

Perfectly reasonable.

You've put a lot of thought into your upgrade plans, so kudos! The Athlon X2 will be fine as a NAS/Media Server. The only sore spots will be in power usage, and if you plan on ripping/transcoding, it will be a little slow. That and depending on how many SATA ports that mobo has, you might have to buy a cheap SATA controller for more than a handful of hard drives.

The existing mobo has only two SATA ports so I would need to add an HDD controller immediately on using it as the basis for a NAS. This is possible, I could use something like the Supermicro 8 port card - the mobo will accomodate that.

As you say, the Athlon is relatively power inefficient. Also, the existing mobo has only 10/100 LAN.

Note, thatthe NAS is a distant prospect, I would only be bullding that once the proposed HTPC case can no longer hold any more storage. It holds up to six HDD's, five of which can be storage as one will be a system drive.

I presume from the responses that the very cheapest proposal, to utilise the Athlon as an entry level HTPC by adding a new graphics card and large HDD (mobo will only take two) in the Fractal case is really not viable. Though cheap I don't favour this approach myself. I suspect the process of ripping/encoding would simply be too painfuly slow for one thing.

There is also the consideration that the existing components are approaching five years in use!
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