Help me build a HTPC for less than $800 - Just movies and music - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 364 Old 09-24-2013, 10:26 PM - Thread Starter
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I know that this can be easily done by some people with more experience with HTPC building.

I have a media server that I am currently ripping my blu-ray collection to in uncompressed MKV files (full 1080p video and HD audio). It also will house a number of cd rips, but that is so minor. The server specs are here:
NickBuol's Media Server

I am cruising along on my rips, and want to start planning for the HTPC. Here is the scoop.

I again need full HD audio and video output. I will NOT be recording TV, watching home videos, or looking at photos. I really just will be outputting full HD Audio/Video.

I doubt that I will do any bit of gaming on it, but maybe an "upgrade option" list in case I do. I really doubt it though as I thought I would hook my xbox360 up, but never have.

I REALLY like the following case that came out at CEDIA:
SilverStone ML05B

I like the slot drive look for being able to just put in a movie rental if need be to completely eliminate the stand alone blu-ray player in the theater. I like slot load because it just looks cleaner than a drive that is black with white lettering stamped on it and such. The slot load just looks more professional to me and less "I built this myself" if you know what I mean. I am planning on a Panasonic UJ-265 slot load blu-ray drive.

I think that a single 120GB or 240GB SSD will be more than enough for my current or future needs, and will help with boot speed and size.

So that case has some limitations. Size, uses a mini-ITX motherboard, and SFX power supply.

I have a Harmony One remote that I would like to be able to program to use with this, so an IR sensor needs to be factored in as well. I will price up a wireless keyboard/touchpad combo separately.

Please help. I feel like I went a little crazy on power/performance for the server, and I don't want to go too far nuts on the HTPC.

Thanks!
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post #2 of 364 Old 09-25-2013, 11:03 AM
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My first question is do you have a rack? With amps and such ? Somtimes a 2U or 4U chassis makes sense for a rack style. I forget if you do or not- but if you do already own a rack then a rack mountable chassis is appropriate. If not- probably a component style chassis is appropriate. There is no right or wrong- and the case you choose is mostly based on where you want to put it- where it fits, and how it looks. Silverstone makes really nice HTPC cases and I could recommend anything in their line up. I'm just questioning if the ITX choice is a good one and if you are really limited to ITX in terms of placement or case size ????

I am a huge fan of the MILO-3 and have built with it many times before. It's M-ATX and cheaper and has a bit more room. I would check that out as a possible alternative. My experience with ITX and smaller chassis is that they run hotter due to less air flow and smaller case size, and they are harder to keep cool. I prefer a larger chassis with a bigger slower fan because it's quieter. It's not that you can't keep an ITX cool, but it's that your fans work harder to do it which creates noise. If you spend all the time and effort sound proofing your theater room you might want to consider this. But if it's not in the room- then I guess it does not matter tongue.gif

The case determines the direction we go with components so I start here.

Your case choice is a nice case. I like how it looks. Once I confirm this is the direction we can spec out some ITX parts to fill it up. The parts we choose won't be the same if we go micro ATX because of size restrictions on PSU, motherboard, RAM height and GPU (if you wanted one)

Is this an SSD only build with no HDD right ?


I can start with the obvious choices:

Motherboard: I like Asrock. Extreme or PRO Z87 with any K series CPU, and H or B series for any locked CPU. ITX or M-ATX does not change things. You will never run dual GPU cards so any motherboard with only a single x16 slot is fine. The main concern would be do you want or need support for faster memory speed? Something like DDR3 2400mhz has a decent performance boost over the slower stuff in some advanced video rendering applications. If I was building a machine that was going to do MadVR up to 1080p or 4k- or I wanted to use something like SVP and Reclock I would want the Z87 board and the faster memory. If your just using integrated graphics and crappy normal simple player like integrated into XBMC then you have no need for faster ram, a GPU card or a Z87 motherboard. Also- you probably have no need for an i5 or i7 quad core CPU either.

I guess sentence above was not accurate since there does not appear to be "obvious" choices. I can list some products I like that are proven winners:

Motherboard: Asrock and socket 1150 is good choice. Asus would be my second choice.
RAM: I've had really good luck with G.SKill Ram, but Mushkin or Crucial seems to work well for me to for value. Corsair makes some nice higher end ram sticks too.
SSD: Samsung 840 PRO SSD is great. I have also seen $89 OCZ Vectors 128GB this week which is a nice SSD for that price. Corsair Neutron, Plextor, Samsung 840 EVO or Vertex450 would be good second choices.
CPU: Intel socket 1150. A Pentium is enough if no MadVR / SVP or any type of advanced video processing for picture quality. If you really want to do that an i5 is the best bet for that.
Case: Silverstone is great. No need to mix it up too much, just pick the size and style you like.
PSU: Seasonic 350 watt is a good choice. Rosewill makes some good PSU, and several MFG have Seasonic OEM's (MKIII, Antec NEO, certain Corsair models etc ) 350-450 watts is more than enough even with beefy GPU card added in. No need go crazy.
GPU Card: Required for best PQ and results with MadVR, SVP and the various video rendering options you might do. Also required for 0-255 FULL RANGE via HDMI. You can not pass 0-255 over HDMI with Intel graphics, you can only get 16-235 limited range and this can create problems in PQ and settings with your AVR, Projector and such. If you choose 16-235 sometimes the signal is just "crushed" to conform which is less ideal. For these reasons a GPU card is preffered in a serious HTPC. Considering your theater is a dedicated theater - and your JVC projector was likely chosen for it's excellent contrast and PQ it's likely you might enjoy optimum PQ provided by GPU card. A RADEON 7000 series for $89-$149 is a good choice without spending too much $$$ Radeon cards also can support both 0-255 full range and 16-235 limited range with a toggle setting change- Nvidia can sometimes require a "hack" to the registry. Also more costly for the same performance in some cases.

In the end, you have two choice that will determine which way you go and what component you choose.

First choice: Finalize a case and form factor. We can find the best components that are compatible.
Second choice: Do you want to do MadVR or any fancy video processing ? Do you care about limited range HDMI outputs ?

Not caring about fancy image processing and limited range HDMI outputs will save you $$$. Caring about such things will not save you any money, but likely increase your performance and capability of your system. (i5 + CPU is just going to add to your cost significantly versus a 1080p streamer build )

Most people just do the simple player route, but considering you have a nice JVC projector, a dedicated theater build, you might want a HTPC that can match up with your system. $800 is not unreasonable to spend, either. I think you are close and realistic.

-

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post #3 of 364 Old 09-25-2013, 12:00 PM
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Why not something like an Intel NUC and continue to rip with your primary machine? I have "built" both an i5 and an i3 (aka put in an mSATA card and memory) and they work great.

Bill
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post #4 of 364 Old 09-25-2013, 12:13 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrfattbill View Post

Why not something like an Intel NUC and continue to rip with your primary machine? I have "built" both an i5 and an i3 (aka put in an mSATA card and memory) and they work great.

Bill

I don't plan to rip on the HTPC at all. The server and my primary desktop both have been my ripping machines.

Isn't a NUC a beefy version, in essence, to a Raspberry Pi HTPC build? Can't upgrade the components later, but a nice compact package? I am sure that there is more to it than that.

I do need to be able to play blu-rays and DVDs right from the box.
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post #5 of 364 Old 09-25-2013, 01:02 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Mfusick View Post

My first question is do you have a rack? With amps and such ? Somtimes a 2U or 4U chassis makes sense for a rack style. I forget if you do or not- but if you do already own a rack then a rack mountable chassis is appropriate. If not- probably a component style chassis is appropriate. There is no right or wrong- and the case you choose is mostly based on where you want to put it- where it fits, and how it looks. Silverstone makes really nice HTPC cases and I could recommend anything in their line up. I'm just questioning if the ITX choice is a good one and if you are really limited to ITX in terms of placement or case size ????

I am a huge fan of the MILO-3 and have built with it many times before. It's M-ATX and cheaper and has a bit more room. I would check that out as a possible alternative. My experience with ITX and smaller chassis is that they run hotter due to less air flow and smaller case size, and they are harder to keep cool. I prefer a larger chassis with a bigger slower fan because it's quieter. It's not that you can't keep an ITX cool, but it's that your fans work harder to do it which creates noise. If you spend all the time and effort sound proofing your theater room you might want to consider this. But if it's not in the room- then I guess it does not matter tongue.gif

The case determines the direction we go with components so I start here.

Your case choice is a nice case. I like how it looks. Once I confirm this is the direction we can spec out some ITX parts to fill it up. The parts we choose won't be the same if we go micro ATX because of size restrictions on PSU, motherboard, RAM height and GPU (if you wanted one)

Is this an SSD only build with no HDD right ?


I can start with the obvious choices:

Motherboard: I like Asrock. Extreme or PRO Z87 with any K series CPU, and H or B series for any locked CPU. ITX or M-ATX does not change things. You will never run dual GPU cards so any motherboard with only a single x16 slot is fine. The main concern would be do you want or need support for faster memory speed? Something like DDR3 2400mhz has a decent performance boost over the slower stuff in some advanced video rendering applications. If I was building a machine that was going to do MadVR up to 1080p or 4k- or I wanted to use something like SVP and Reclock I would want the Z87 board and the faster memory. If your just using integrated graphics and crappy normal simple player like integrated into XBMC then you have no need for faster ram, a GPU card or a Z87 motherboard. Also- you probably have no need for an i5 or i7 quad core CPU either.

I guess sentence above was not accurate since there does not appear to be "obvious" choices. I can list some products I like that are proven winners:

Motherboard: Asrock and socket 1150 is good choice. Asus would be my second choice.
RAM: I've had really good luck with G.SKill Ram, but Mushkin or Crucial seems to work well for me to for value. Corsair makes some nice higher end ram sticks too.
SSD: Samsung 840 PRO SSD is great. I have also seen $89 OCZ Vectors 128GB this week which is a nice SSD for that price. Corsair Neutron, Plextor, Samsung 840 EVO or Vertex450 would be good second choices.
CPU: Intel socket 1150. A Pentium is enough if no MadVR / SVP or any type of advanced video processing for picture quality. If you really want to do that an i5 is the best bet for that.
Case: Silverstone is great. No need to mix it up too much, just pick the size and style you like.
PSU: Seasonic 350 watt is a good choice. Rosewill makes some good PSU, and several MFG have Seasonic OEM's (MKIII, Antec NEO, certain Corsair models etc ) 350-450 watts is more than enough even with beefy GPU card added in. No need go crazy.
GPU Card: Required for best PQ and results with MadVR, SVP and the various video rendering options you might do. Also required for 0-255 FULL RANGE via HDMI. You can not pass 0-255 over HDMI with Intel graphics, you can only get 16-235 limited range and this can create problems in PQ and settings with your AVR, Projector and such. If you choose 16-235 sometimes the signal is just "crushed" to conform which is less ideal. For these reasons a GPU card is preffered in a serious HTPC. Considering your theater is a dedicated theater - and your JVC projector was likely chosen for it's excellent contrast and PQ it's likely you might enjoy optimum PQ provided by GPU card. A RADEON 7000 series for $89-$149 is a good choice without spending too much $$$ Radeon cards also can support both 0-255 full range and 16-235 limited range with a toggle setting change- Nvidia can sometimes require a "hack" to the registry. Also more costly for the same performance in some cases.

In the end, you have two choice that will determine which way you go and what component you choose.

First choice: Finalize a case and form factor. We can find the best components that are compatible.
Second choice: Do you want to do MadVR or any fancy video processing ? Do you care about limited range HDMI outputs ?

Not caring about fancy image processing and limited range HDMI outputs will save you $$$. Caring about such things will not save you any money, but likely increase your performance and capability of your system. (i5 + CPU is just going to add to your cost significantly versus a 1080p streamer build )

Most people just do the simple player route, but considering you have a nice JVC projector, a dedicated theater build, you might want a HTPC that can match up with your system. $800 is not unreasonable to spend, either. I think you are close and realistic.

Good points and good questions.

Let me list through some answers and thoughts.

1) I do not have a rack system, so "component" style look is best/required

2) I am not stuck on the idea of having to have the SilverStone ML05B, but I liked the clean look and the slot load feature of the case for that "streamlined" look. I see that some of the other Silverstones (like the larger Grandia GD04) use a regular drive, but they provide a drive tray front "cover plate" that matches the finish of the case. That is an option as well. the Grandia GD04 is a LOT larger than the ML05B at almost 6" tall instead of 4" (50% taller) and 17.3" wide vs. 13.75" Should make for more room (too much?) for air flow, etc. Price is double though at $100 from Amazon (still good price). The Milo ML03 looks nice, but the concern is that the look of the blu-ray drive on the front (with it completely exposed) makes it look a little more "DIY" than I want.

3) I am looking for the "best" picture and sound I can get. I don't want to gain the convenience of all of my movies in one spot, if I am going to have a degraded viewing experience vs. the physical disc in a dedicated player. So that probably means a video card and some additional software to be factored in.

4) Full HD Audio support obviously

5) SSD only since I won't be saving anything to this machine, and the SSD will give good boot speeds.

(Comments: I am really liking the ASRock Extreme4 mobo, i5-4430, G.Skill DDR3 2400 RAM combo for my server. Seems rock solid and very speedy.)
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post #6 of 364 Old 09-25-2013, 01:12 PM
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What do you think of a case like this one?

 

 

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post #7 of 364 Old 09-25-2013, 01:25 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StardogChampion View Post

What do you think of a case like this one?

I do like that case. In fact, I have it saved it as a search on eBay (your listing BTW) when I was looking at the SilverStone ML05B, but now I am wondering about the additional video card and thus more air flow.
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post #8 of 364 Old 09-25-2013, 02:28 PM
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To be honest, if you have your heart set on a particular case, that's the one to go with. The case is the visual part and if you've fallen in love with a particular one, that's the one to get. Otherwise, you'll be like me waiting until this year's Black Friday hoping the Lian-Li PC-C50B goes on sale for $90 like it did last year when I DIDN'T BUY IT! biggrin.gif

Just a comment on the 0-255 and 16-235 thing. My TV and HTPC are set to 16-235 and it looks fantastic. You just need the values to match on each end. It's when they aren't matched it looks bad. Check your TV and see what it supports. In the AMD CCC I saw you could pick either 0-255 or 16-235 so an AMD system (A10-6700?) might be worth considering if being able to play with more PQ settings is important to you. But, if your TV can accept either, Intel or AMD won't matter for 1080p video playback. My personal observation of live TV 1080i broadcast is AMD looks better but I am sure you'll find plenty who don't see issue with Intel.

 

 

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post #9 of 364 Old 09-25-2013, 02:45 PM - Thread Starter
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I want it to look like it 1) is a professional product (which a lot of them are nice, but seeing a PC grade blu-ray drive with white words and logos stamped on it isn't very professional looking to me, and no I am not going to paint it. LOL), 2) looks like it fits in with the audio/video components. that meansthat the larger case is probably a better visual fit than the small ML05B that I was looking at, and it also means none of those "cube" style cases either.

That means a blu-ray that is slot load, or at least most of the drive is covered (all but the tray itself) with the case, and then some sort of matching tray "cover" or "faceplate" for the front.
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post #10 of 364 Old 09-25-2013, 02:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StardogChampion View Post

To be honest, if you have your heart set on a particular case, that's the one to go with. The case is the visual part and if you've fallen in love with a particular one, that's the one to get. Otherwise, you'll be like me waiting until this year's Black Friday hoping the Lian-Li PC-C50B goes on sale for $90 like it did last year when I DIDN'T BUY IT! biggrin.gif

Just a comment on the 0-255 and 16-235 thing. My TV and HTPC are set to 16-235 and it looks fantastic. You just need the values to match on each end. It's when they aren't matched it looks bad. Check your TV and see what it supports. In the AMD CCC I saw you could pick either 0-255 or 16-235 so an AMD system (A10-6700?) might be worth considering if being able to play with more PQ settings is important to you. But, if your TV can accept either, Intel or AMD won't matter for 1080p video playback. My personal observation of live TV 1080i broadcast is AMD looks better but I am sure you'll find plenty who don't see issue with Intel.

+1. I agree that if you love a case that is the one to get. ITX does have some trade offs in air flow, cooling, and GPU card possibility- so if you can find a bigger case that looks just as good it might be an option too. I'll stick with the ITX for now and see what we come up with biggrin.gif

On the second issue of 16-235:
Quote:
Originally Posted by madshi View Post

The problem with 16-235 is that *probably* (although I don't know for sure) the GPU stretches the rendered video from 0-255 to 16-235 without using dithering, which should introduce banding artifacts. So "just go with" probably comes with a quality penalty.

madshi(madvr developer) had said this recently which got me very interested in testing this out. I've used both and I can see where StarDog is coming from. The differences we are talking about are minor and only going to be noticed on a large high quality calibrated display.

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post #11 of 364 Old 09-25-2013, 03:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nickbuol View Post

I want it to look like it 1) is a professional product (which a lot of them are nice, but seeing a PC grade blu-ray drive with white words and logos stamped on it isn't very professional looking to me, and no I am not going to paint it. LOL), 2) looks like it fits in with the audio/video components. that meansthat the larger case is probably a better visual fit than the small ML05B that I was looking at, and it also means none of those "cube" style cases either.

That means a blu-ray that is slot load, or at least most of the drive is covered (all but the tray itself) with the case, and then some sort of matching tray "cover" or "faceplate" for the front.

This is the case I have. It's a perfect match to my Onkyo receiver. It hides the optical drive behind a door:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811204032

This is the case I'd like to get to replace it since I would rather have one consistent material (aluminum) across the front. It too hides the optical drive behind a door.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811112303

I built a customer an HTPC in this case a while ago and it looks very much like an appliance/component:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811112403

This would be nice without the large logo and the knob:
http://www.amazon.com/Silverstone-Tek-Aluminum-Center-LC16B-M-USB3-0/dp/B00CY95988

HTPC disguised as a power amp:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811352028

 

 

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post #12 of 364 Old 09-25-2013, 04:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nickbuol View Post

I want it to look like it 1) is a professional product (which a lot of them are nice, but seeing a PC grade blu-ray drive with white words and logos stamped on it isn't very professional looking to me, and no I am not going to paint it. LOL), 2) looks like it fits in with the audio/video components. that meansthat the larger case is probably a better visual fit than the small ML05B that I was looking at, and it also means none of those "cube" style cases either.

That means a blu-ray that is slot load, or at least most of the drive is covered (all but the tray itself) with the case, and then some sort of matching tray "cover" or "faceplate" for the front.

I get it biggrin.gif

Nothing wrong with what you want.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nickbuol View Post


1) I do not have a rack system, so "component" style look is best/required


Confirmed. You pick out the form factor and case biggrin.gif Looks like stardog posted some really great ones. Plus your looking at a nice one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nickbuol View Post

2) I am not stuck on the idea of having to have the SilverStone ML05B, but I liked the clean look and the slot load feature of the case for that "streamlined" look. I see that some of the other Silverstones (like the larger Grandia GD04) use a regular drive, but they provide a drive tray front "cover plate" that matches the finish of the case. That is an option as well. the Grandia GD04 is a LOT larger than the ML05B at almost 6" tall instead of 4" (50% taller) and 17.3" wide vs. 13.75" Should make for more room (too much?) for air flow, etc. Price is double though at $100 from Amazon (still good price). The Milo ML03 looks nice, but the concern is that the look of the blu-ray drive on the front (with it completely exposed) makes it look a little more "DIY" than I want.


The MILO is a nice looking case. You have a few options in this range. The only thing would be incorporating a GPU card - it becomes very tricky with ITX and smaller cases. I'd suggest proper planning around this so you don't box yourself in a corner.


Quote:
Originally Posted by nickbuol View Post

3) I am looking for the "best" picture and sound I can get. I don't want to gain the convenience of all of my movies in one spot, if I am going to have a degraded viewing experience vs. the physical disc in a dedicated player. So that probably means a video card and some additional software to be factored in.

Actually with a GPU card you can get better quality than a stand alone player. Specifically with lower resolution sources like 720p, 480p etc.... You can also get perfect audio video sync and frame rates too. It's just these are things you can't do with a low powered "streamer" style player. Apples and oranges.

It's not a big deal either. I know the "24p bug" got beat up a lot around here in the past with HTPC but the reality that no one ever wanted to admit is that HTPC's get beat up because it's really easy to measure your frame rates with a HTPC and advanced CPU- so it' really easy to see when you drop a frame or things are not perfect. Lots of the results would never get noticed in real life and casual viewing- you have to look for them. But HTPC makes it so easy to see them or detect them because the HTPC tells you about it.

In comparison your stand alone blu ray player can not tell you when it drops a frame. So how do you know if it does or it does not ? Or when it does ? If you really care about such things you can perfect them in HTPC, and also really control your video processing for a result that is superior to a stand alone up converting player or what is built into your Onkyo AVR. 1080p is going to look good all the time- but if you really want to make sure your audio in video is always in sync, and you want to get full range uncompressed and uncompromised 0-255 contrast scale- and make sure you never drop even a single frame, you can do that with a HTPC but you have to spend more than a streamer box.
Quote:
Originally Posted by nickbuol View Post

4) Full HD Audio support obviously

Any modern HDMI port on mobo or GPU is fine. 3D would be the consideration here too. You have a 3D projector with glasses right ? So I assume you will at least want to ability to do 3D even if you don't use it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nickbuol View Post

5) SSD only since I won't be saving anything to this machine, and the SSD will give good boot speeds.


GOOD. There is much more than just boot speeds SSD will help with biggrin.gif Everything is snappier and better including your front end browser.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nickbuol View Post


(Comments: I am really liking the ASRock Extreme4 mobo, i5-4430, G.Skill DDR3 2400 RAM combo for my server. Seems rock solid and very speedy.)


How about swapping CPU with a Pentium, take the i5 and put it into the HTPC and drop in the Pentium into the server. Save some cash, and use what you got. I only use a G860 pentium in my server. I chose it because it was $56 and 3.0ghz. Basically nearly i3 of the time but without the graphics I did not need. It's only a Sandy bridge so old by Today's standards but perfectly fine for my server.

I have a 4770k in my desktop and a 3570k in my HTPC. I just did not need the horsepower in my server. I actually RDP into the HTPC and use the i5 for encoding before (while also using the i7) when I needed to quickly put some movies on iphones and laptops for vacation trip. No reason you could not use the HTPC in a RDP session for encoding if you needed the quad cores. If you would never need the encoding in the server it might be smart. But if you need the server to do encoding or more likely transcoding on the fly- then you will likely want to keep the i5 in the server. I am just thinking out loud trying to avoid you buying a second quad core if possible. Ideally, you probably want to do it though.

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post #13 of 364 Old 09-25-2013, 10:42 PM - Thread Starter
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I've looked more into things, and lets skip the ITX cases. They seem to limit a lot of what I want to do particularly when needing a GPU card.

Of course, whatever case I pick also limits the length of the video card and vice versa.

Here are my choices in order based off of looks alone.

SilverStone GD04 - $100


SilverStone LC10-E - $165


LIAN LI PC-C37B - $160 (This is probably too short for what we need depending on specs, but it it my favorite of the last 3 choices).


LIAN LI PC-C50B - $175


nMEDIAPC 2000B - $100 (Looks like a component, but it also looks like it needs a LCD display which is just more cost for little functional use.)


Lets work something up without swapping around the CPU with the server and see where we are at. If I really need to cut costs, I will have that as an option.

I know that I haven't picked a case exactly. I am pretty much fine with any of them if the system requires a particular height or depth.

My projector does have 3D capabilities, but 3D glasses and the emitter are a separate purchase that I haven't done. My family hates 3D, and I don't care enough about it at this point to invest into it. Being able to handle 3D down the road might be nice, but I am thinking that it will be many, many years before I upgrade away from my JVC RS45. So 3D isn't critical
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post #14 of 364 Old 09-26-2013, 12:50 AM
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Wouldn't worry too much about overpowering your server. It's an appropriate place to have the power if you plan to transcode to other devices. Also, an i5 idles like a pentium, so just because it could use more power doesn't mean it sits there using it all the time

One of stardog's barebones would do just fine (g1610) as an HTPC. Nothing more than a celeron is necessary unless you start wanting 3d and advanced post-processing. Might as well save some cash, since it looks like you are going to be purchasing a blu ray suite for disc playback (from the drive)

If you want 3d or madvr/svp then you might want to reconsider ITX. Not everyone wants those things. I'm perfectly content without them. I don't even bother outputting my videos to MPC-HC w/ madvr/reclock even though my hardware is fine up to madvr level 5

edit: just saw your comment about 3D, and I'm in exactly the same position
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post #15 of 364 Old 09-26-2013, 07:31 AM
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If you are anything like the rest of us, you WILL at some point down the line want to upgrade, replace and/or add components. That's why I strongly suggest (=agree with Mfusick) you go with a case that is easy to work with and leaves room for expansion.

It's great to have that small cute case nestled on a shelf above your AVR - until you want to change something and realize you can't reach the rear ports and have to spend an hour to pull out the AV stand in order to get the HTPC out.

I went with the Silverstone FT03 for my latest build. Unconventional but brilliant.

I also seem to be the only one here who is not an Asrock lover. I have had many issues with them - cheaply built, flimsy and badly aligned I/O shields and inop RAM slots. Nowadays I always use EVGA for both motherboards and graphics cards. Awesome build quality and top notch support.

Just my 2¢
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post #16 of 364 Old 09-26-2013, 07:38 AM
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The LCD isn't necessary for the nMediaPC 2000B. The LCD window comes blacked out so it's not really noticeable unless you take the blackout tape off the inside. The LCD is definitely not worth it. It's nearly impossible to see except dead-on. But, again, you don't have to install one and again my 1000B looks almost identical to my Onkyo receiver.

If the GD04 didn't have the big Silverstone logo, that's the one I would have gone with at some point. I got the 1000B way back when it was part of something called "AMD Maui" which I thought looked so cool I had to replace my Antec NSK1380, my original HTPC case, with it.

 

 

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post #17 of 364 Old 09-26-2013, 08:32 AM - Thread Starter
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I've seen the screenshots showing MADVR vs. everything else, and it seems really nice and at 138" I think that there is a good chance that I would see a difference. What are the pros/cons? Obviously there is a price tag and some hardware limitations/requirements...

If I did that, then it would mean a dedicated GPU card, and that pretty much scraps an ITX size case anyway, which is fine. I am starting to wonder if a larger case would look better with the size of the receiver, amp, DishDVR all being regular component width and the ITX box is small. Plus, as mentioned, there are more options for components and cooling. The Fortress is cool looking politby. Not for what I am going for, but there are some nice features in that unconventional box.

4K is a nice option, but I think that I am putting it up there with 3D... By the time I would ever want/or could afford to upgrade the projector, I would be able to build a well suited HTPC replacement for the theater, and relocate this box elsewhere.

There is someone who has sent me a PM about a build. Here is what he is spec'ing out. It is a bit spendy, and I am wondering where I could trim...

Here is that spec list... Note: I just picked a somewhat random CPU cooler as a placeholder to fill in for the other items he spec'd.
Build Option #1 $1285 (yikes)

I then trimmed a few things, like the GPU a little (went to a non-TI version), mobo, SSD, and got it down a little...
Build Option#2 $1116 (still yikes)


Those still don't include software for blu-ray disc playback on the HTPC...

I am wondering if I need to push back on my wife's "requirement" for being able to play a blu-ray disc on the HTPC itself. I mean, we rarely watch purchased movies the moment we get them (as in never) and I could rip those right away.... It just is a rental or when one of the kids' friends brings over a movie. Using my Harmony One remote, I could just have two activities for watching movie content: "Watch a Movie" (which fires up the HTPC setup), and "Watch a Disc" (or something like that). When I explain to my wife that I can save some $$$ on the drive and software for the playback of an occassional disc, she might change her tune. I mean I could drop $70 on the drive, not have to pay $90 for something like TMT6 (unless there is good reason to).

I am also wondering about people's thoughts on Windows 7 vs. Linux.

I saw this, of course it means that I would have to go XBMC (haven't decided what to use yet) but could save another $90:
Linux and XBMC in 15 minutes

I've heard that Windows will give me the most flexability though, and I have never used Linux so maybe that would be better for if I build a Raspberry Pi HTPC down the road for the bedroom or something.

Again, thoughts on all of this?
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post #18 of 364 Old 09-27-2013, 12:46 AM
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That's a cool site smile.gif

The $1116 example is certainly great (except the Asrock wink.gif) but if you want to shave off a bit more I think a 3470 CPU and GTX650ti GPU should be just fine. That's what I am using and it runs SVP level 5 and MadVR with room to spare.

Agree with your choice of nVidia GPU. Much less driver hassle. Everytime AMD releases a new driver to squeeze an extra .00000002 FPS out of some game, they break something for us HTPC folks.

I am firmly stuck in the Windows camp (ex Windows PM at MS smile.gif) but as you are not going to use the machine for TV Linux would probably work okay. I understand nVidia has better support for Linux than AMD, something to keep in mind. If your server is running WHS or WSE remember there is no client connector for Linux.
I also do not believe there is any Linux software that can play Blu-ray discs with full menu support.
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post #19 of 364 Old 09-27-2013, 05:37 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks politby...

So, if not ASRock (which has seemed popular in a number of builds I've seen for servers and HTPC and what I put into my server), then what brand do you recommend?

I am thinking that Windows is worth the $80 (on sale right now at NewEgg) for the additional features/functions that it provides.

What about front end? WMC/XBMC/J River?
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post #20 of 364 Old 09-27-2013, 06:20 AM
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Hi Nick,

I'm away on business until today (headed home) but I will try to get you a nice parts list when I'm on my PC.

Asus would be my choice next if your trying to avoid Asrock. (I like Asrock)

For front ends, it's personal choice so I'd say start with the one you think you'll like, then test out the others too. No reason you can't try them all.

Long term probably MB3 theater is going to be best solution . Short term it's a crap shoot.

If you went MBclassic you could install the theater product later. XBMC or plex will work and install simultaneous. I'd say Plex has some nicer features over XBMC these days (like transcoding and remote access) but depending in what's important to YOU isn't a universal answer we can agree on. You are going to have to test for yourself.

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post #21 of 364 Old 09-27-2013, 07:35 AM - Thread Starter
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politby, I was hoping to stay with the Haswell 1150 socket line of CPU/mobo just so that it is at least current gen today (I know, 1155 is still out there and readily available, but you know what I am saying).
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post #22 of 364 Old 09-27-2013, 08:12 AM
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Asrock socket 1150 extreme 4 is good choice with a 4670k - micro center deal combo discount special. You'll be hard pressed to find a more appropriate or capable option at such a value or cost.

It's probably just a bit more than you want to spend ideally, but no other options like pentium or i3 or AMD come close on performance capability.

A 7790 Radeon GPU would go really well with that combo.

8gb DDR 2400mhz Ram. 128GB SSD. 350-450 watt quality PSU. That's a solid HTPC IMO.

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post #23 of 364 Old 09-27-2013, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by nickbuol View Post

politby, I was hoping to stay with the Haswell 1150 socket line of CPU/mobo just so that it is at least current gen today (I know, 1155 is still out there and readily available, but you know what I am saying).

Right, I forgot I have Ivy Bridge not Haswell. As I said I swear by EVGA nowadays but a s1150 Z87 EVGA board is 2x the price of the Asrock and honestly in everyday use it won't make much difference.

(I have a Z87 Stinger ITX board on order for a new SFF office PC smile.gif)
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post #24 of 364 Old 09-27-2013, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by nickbuol View Post

What about front end? WMC/XBMC/J River?

I use WMC but if I did not need TV/PVR I would probably use Plex for consistency since I use it for streaming to the portables. If only the Win8 Plex app was remote control friendly.

How important is the music library/playback to you? I understand Jriver is good for music.

I have uploaded all my music to Google Play Music and I do all my listening via Chromecast. I love the Google app on my Nexus 4; no better way to navigate a music library. Unfortunately it is not lossless but I am too old to hear the difference...

Anyone know if MBtheater will be remote control compatible?
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post #25 of 364 Old 09-27-2013, 10:00 AM - Thread Starter
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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:


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.
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post #26 of 364 Old 09-27-2013, 10:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nickbuol View Post

I don't plan to rip on the HTPC at all. The server and my primary desktop both have been my ripping machines.

Isn't a NUC a beefy version, in essence, to a Raspberry Pi HTPC build? Can't upgrade the components later, but a nice compact package? I am sure that there is more to it than that.

I do need to be able to play blu-rays and DVDs right from the box.

The NUC is an ultra book processor and chipset in a 4"x4" box. The build quality is very high.

I have a Synology DiskStation DS1813+, which one role is a media server. The NUC has Windows 8 and XBMC Frodo. It works like an appliance and you can configure it to boot like one. Actually, it boots Windows 8 into the XBMC shell as fast or faster than many blu-ray players. The NUC also has a VESA mount so you can easily hide it behind a TV and keep the blu-ray player.
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post #27 of 364 Old 09-27-2013, 10:05 AM
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That is a decent sized case....I like it.

Bill
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post #28 of 364 Old 09-27-2013, 11:01 AM
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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



Quote:
Originally Posted by nickbuol View Post

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 biggrin.gif


Quote:
Originally Posted by nickbuol View Post


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.

http://www.avsforum.com/t/1477339/so-youve-built-your-htpc-now-what-is-next-how-to-get-the-ultimate-picture-and-sound-quality-from-your-htpc-madvr-svp-xbmc-mediabrowser-jriver

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)

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post #29 of 364 Old 09-27-2013, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Mfusick View Post

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.

If you just want to use a directshow player like MPC-HC , its extremely easy to setup an external player in XBMC, you don't even notice that it's not XBMC internal player.

The difficulty starts when you want to play full BD with menu's and 3D in players like TMT/PDVD. Which as far as I know would be the same in any of the other solutions (I don't think any of them can play a full disc correctly without external player help)
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post #30 of 364 Old 09-27-2013, 11:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by acejh1987 View Post

If you just want to use a directshow player like MPC-HC , its extremely easy to setup an external player in XBMC, you don't even notice that it's not XBMC internal player.

The difficulty starts when you want to play full BD with menu's and 3D in players like TMT/PDVD. Which as far as I know would be the same in any of the other solutions (I don't think any of them can play a full disc correctly without external player help)

I know this. But using an external player like MPC-HC is not unique to XBMC. You can do it with mediabrowser or many others just the same. I made specific mention of this, but in general the set up of madvr and the extra configuration of MPC-HC to bitsteam HD audio and launch as external player, and set up reclock- often negates the "simple" people want or like about XBMC. It's not simple anymore. Perhaps just setting an external player might not be too hard, but the entire set up process to enjoy MadVR with reclock is not as simple. There is a sticky guide for doing it but often many do not do it because it's not as easy as just setting up XBMC. Therefore if your are wanting such things as MADVR/RECLOCK/SVP - the "simple" becomes not so simple and therefore the "simple" people like about XBMC goes away. Once simple is taken away from XBMC- that advantage lost might suggest another choice other than XBMC. XBMC strength is it's simpleness and that it is free. It can't transcode, it can't upstream, it does not support madvr without external player- it's oldschool and lacks a modern server program and full functionality. There is lots of band-aids and unique tweaks because it's a long established player- but it's probably a poor choice for anyone that wants consistency across ios, windows, android, and non windows streamers and XBMC is also a poor choice for someone wanting transcoding or upstreaming online. Personally I prefer how my MB2 looks and feels from a "slickness" and eye candy standpoint too, and I prefer PLEX over XBMC because it adds some functionality I like and retains most of the "good" about XBMC anyways.

I am really hoping the MB3 Theater allows for all the niche and enthusiast high end stuff I want- with superior eye candy and also increased simplicity with total consistency across devices and ability to transcode and upstream too.

I want my cake and I want to eat it too tongue.gif

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"Too much is almost enough. Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing. Moderation is for cowards."
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