Regarding your front end player questions.....
They way I see it is today you have some choices:
Simple to set up
Advanced Video processing / PQ /
Trancoding on fly to various devices / ability to upload and stream over internet when you are away.
You can only pick two of the three. Pick your poison
Plex = Simple to set up with Transcoding and streaming ability
XBMC = Simple to set up, but lacks Transcoding, upstreaming, and advanced video processing.
Mediabrowser = Slick eye candy, Transcoding and streaming ability- but lacks simple to set up.
None of them support MadVR (well not the older traditional version of MB ) or Reclock or SVP etc... You can configure external players (like MPC-HC) but that takes away the simple to set up process, and also you lose the nice slick HD overlay. XBMC, PLEX and Mediabrowser looks coolest when you have the video playing behind the overlay- and you give up this function with external player configuration.
Currently many favor XBMC because it's free and pretty simple to set up. It's really easy to take advantage of pirating with XBMC too, there is tons of plugins that are easy to install let you steal TV or UFC fights etc... and the auto scraping is pretty simple too. It's a favorite of the freeware crowd because it handles torrents and such pretty easy with minimal fuss. Just download it- and point XBMC to your source folders. It does the rest. XBMC player is average at best- it can struggle with some MKV's and video files that MPC-HC or VLC seems to play back with ease. It loses much of it's "simple" appeal of why it's popular one you start messing around with external players, or chasing stuff like MADVR IMO. XBMC is easy and it works- but it's not the best at anything. Those that choose it often choose it because they favor what it offers. It looks pretty good, and it's pretty simple to operate. There is lots of support around it too because it's popular and FREE.
PLEX is very much XBMC like. Most of the things people like about XBMC can usually be said about PLEX too. It's built with XBMC code and has some strong likenesses. The advancement of the PLEX project takes the installation and operation from a single front end player like XBMC all the way to 2 programs- A player and a server program that work in unison. The server program would install onto your server- and the player program would install onto your client. They can talk to each other- and the server program can transcode and allows upstreaming your media over the internet so you can still watch it when you are away from home. I used it when I was in Hawaii on my honeymoon a year ago and watched stuff that was back at home in MA. That's literally half way across the world ! Pretty cool. Plex has good support on devices- you can get an iphone or ipad app- you can do android... you can do PC or windows. You can even do linux and lots of other stuff. In that regard it's cool because it can let you enjoy your collection everywhere on any device- and you can transcode a 7.1 audio 1080p media file to 720p and stereo or 480p and stereo so you can enjoy it better on a laptop or tablet or smart phone. Plex is not hard to set up and it looks pretty good. The menu and navigation is much like XBMC so people that like things about XBMC often like the same things with PLEX. There can be a cost to PLEX for some devices or programs- but it's not much and mostly free.
Mediabrowser 2 - Is the traditional mediabrowser plugin that installs into WMC. Mediabrowser has long been a favorite of HTPC users because it looks awesome and provide great eye candy (much better than WMC) but allows you to retain WMC and it's core features so things like the TV guide, and DVR and such can be taken advantage of. If you prefer to remain inside WMC often times Mediabrowser is the best choice, if not one of the only choices. These days you can install plugins and launch XBMC, or PLEX, or even NETFLIX from inside WMC - too. MBII was often disliked because it's harder to set up compared to XBMC - more downloads and config. You needed to do stuff like codec packs, and LAV audio and Video. Easy option is the Shark 007 CODEC PACK
which can do multiple things in one install and allow for advanced stuff like HD audio and such. Mediabrowser looks best with paid options like CoverART, and can get really cool with stuff like gamebrowser for emlulators (NES, SNES, SEGA etc ). There is plugins for trailers, custom intros- trivia, screen savers... etc... Something people with dedicated theaters have appreciated. But MB2 is old now- it's not super easy to set up. So while it looks really good and allows you to retain WMC the downfall is that some don't want WMC or need it and that it's not super easy or totally free to set up properly.
Mediabrowser3 Classic - is very much like mediabrowser2 - It will install into WMC and be much like MB2. It's only in beta now- but the main difference is MB3 project has moved the direction of PLEX with a "server" and a "player" programs. The server program can run on your server and talk to your HTPC- making the performance better and lighter. Everything you like about MB2 should be in MB3 but with the new server side of things you can also transcode and upstream online your media. There is iOS support and also Android Support for MB3, in addition to Windows support. There is Linux support and Roku box support due really soon- but again MB3 is still in beta and not released. You still have WMC reliance too.
MediaBrowser3 Theater - MB3 Theater is beta testing. It is a stand alone player that does not require or use WMC. It also uses directshow- and can support stuff MadVR, SVP and Reclock. It won't require an external player like mediabrowser, plex or XBMC do to do these things so you can retain your slickness, and the HD overlays. Mediabrowser 3 does support IOS, Android, Roku, Windows and Linux- and it does support transcoding and up-streaming. It's promising to combine the best of everything and take the crown for the most modern and capable platform but we can't count our chickens before they hatch. To me-- Server Client + Player combos are the most modern and best - and things like PLEX or MB3 platforms allow you consistency to enjoy your media everywhere- on laptops, tablets, smart phones, HTPC's with MS windows, or cheap non windows streamer boxes. It's the more modern way to do things and often people like to stick with a single consistent solution because it's easy and simple and has a small learning curve. MB3 should allow you both iOS and Android, streamer boxes, WMC, and Stand Alone high end MB Theater with MadVR and Reclock for dedicated theater systems.
You will likely end up on MB3 would be my guess- but for today you might need to go without streaming or uploading if you choose Mediabrowser2 or XBMC. Or use one of them in combo with PLEX (I do this). Or you might just like PLEX as a total solution. Each of them has a nice benefit so you will have to decide what is important to you.
You can install PLEX, Mediabrowser and XBMC on the same machine and try them out. I am not a huge fan of MB3 classic and I am expecting more from MB Theater
Originally Posted by nickbuol
I have (finally) locked in on a case. It is almost the complete opposite end of the spectrum from where I started (with that tiny ITX case)...
The SilverStone SST-LC10B-E-USB3.0 (This is the same as the LC10B-E shown above, but with USB3.0 ports on the front)
It is pretty big at 430mm/16.93in wide, 425.5mm/16.75in deep, and 170.2mm/6.7in tall.
Back of the case:
Top down view:
I freaking love that case how it looks and how versatile you can build with it. NICE CHOICE! This is shaping up to be one helluva HTPC
Originally Posted by nickbuol
New Specs list (not much has changed)... Still at $1175, but I should be able to shave a few bucks off with some current sales that aren't reflected in the pricing yet.HTPC Round 3
I still need to sort out the CPU fan yet. Looking for quiet, means a massive and not always well reviewed fan...
Still deciding on video. NVidia GTX 660ti is a lot more performance over the Radeon 7790, but there is an $80 price difference too.
Regarding a GPU card- 7790 is more than enough. $99 is fine. If you wanted more you would be better off with a 7870 Radeon. Keep in mind Radeon support full range 0-255 and often times there is some overrides or hacking you need to do with Nvidia. Additionally, the type of processing that is utilized in AMD GPU cards excels at things like MADVR too and the interface for the Radeon control center seems more modern and simpler to me for HTPC. If we were talking about gaming we would have an entirely different conversation about GPU cards but often times the things that make Nvidia great at gaming don't necessarily translate to HTPC. ReneTHX has posted some comparisons of different cards, and settings and results in the past - might be worth taking a close look to help your decision. This thread had some info- but I recall another more specifically that I can't track down or remember.
If you are trying to trim your budget and your not 100% on hard core gaming I would suggest saving the $80 on the Nvidia GPU. That's real money there with little to no effect on your HTPC experience or PQ unless your gaming. In some ways the Radeon might even be preferred. Choose a really quiet Radeon card 7790 that has HDMI and displayport and DVI just in case is my advice.
As for a CPU fan- Coolermaster Gemini series is cheap and works well for HTPC component style cases. I use the EVO212 in my desktop and it's as quiet as the stock fan. But honestly I think you might be able to use the stock fan unless you are overclocking, I use the stock intel fan on my 3570k i5 HTPC and it works fine without being noisy (no OC) The EVO212 cools much better but it's also way bigger (not sure it fits, usually it's too big) Noctua = over-rated and overpriced IMO unless you are planning some overclocking. STOCK FAN is not always evil. $80 for a HTPC CPU cooler seems excessive to me. (I am a cheap bastard)
Unless you have cooling issues (much less likely in the bigger cases and for non overclocking or just video playback) save your cash. Cooling is really only an issue in the smaller cases if all you are doing is video playback on stock clock and voltages.
I would save the $80 on the CPU cooler, Save $80 and ditch the Nvidia card. I would step up on the SSD to a Vector or Samsung PRO. I would also step up to 2400mhz DDR3. Step down on the PSU- 650 watts is way too much. 350watt seasonic or a 450 watt ROSEWILL capstone (superflower) is a good choice. As would be a smaller MKIII, a 400 watt Antec NEO. You could go super cheap with the Corsair 430 watt (for $20) which isn't horrible if you get the version that is quieter. (I think the M version)
You can get a smaller PSU and save some $$$ too.
And very lastly PM me if you want a Windows x64 PRO code instead of $90 for the home retail pack. I have an extra one. (I bought 5)