Who else has built a ridiculously overpowered HTPC? What's your story? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 346 Old 03-11-2014, 07:00 AM - Thread Starter
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Why couldn't I resist the urge to buy the I7? Why does it still sort of bother me that when I look at the CPU benchmark tests there are currently two consumer processors that are very slightly faster than the one I am buying but I wanted the Intel 4600 graphics so I had to "settle" for this one. Why did I order 16 GB of RAM and why does it bother me that the board supports 32 and I only have 16. I'm an IT person. I know I don't even need 8 in this thing. I didn't read all the specs on the motherboard I bought other than making sure it had all the connectors and fan headers I needed but from the length of the feature list I think it might be able to complete my taxes for me next year. What is this illness? Is there some sort of 12 step support group I can attend?


My subs play all the way down to 0 Hz!!! It's so low you can't hear or feel anything.

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post #2 of 346 Old 03-11-2014, 07:12 AM
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All because you have the money... I think...

Budget is what usually forces 99.9% to scale back on hardware costs...

But hey man... enjoy your stuff... you don't need no 12 step support group...

It's like wearing a Rolex wrist watch... nothing wrong or unusual if ya have da money... smile.gif
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post #3 of 346 Old 03-11-2014, 07:34 AM - Thread Starter
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I don't know about the money part. I spent so much on the other hardware I ran out of cash for hard drives so the only drive in the thing will be the ssd for the OS and programs. wink.gif For now the old HTPC will be staying online as a file server for the new one until I can budget for the drives for the planned raid in the new one. Fortunately I do have gigabit lan between the two locations so it shouldn't be a problem. Its going to be a big empty case for a while. I have another very old xp machine in the house that will get replaced by what used to be the HTPC. I have a hell of a system now but its been built one piece at a time over a pretty long time period as money allowed.


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post #4 of 346 Old 03-11-2014, 07:44 AM
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You'll find a use for the added horsepower. I built mine with an I5 and wish I went with the I7 simply because I sometimes do transcoding on the server before sending the video to tablets and Roku's. Also wish I sent with 16 gigs of ram over the 8 hadn't needed it yet but it has gotten tight when I'm running a few extenders at once.

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post #5 of 346 Old 03-11-2014, 07:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dae3dae3 View Post
What is this illness? Is there some sort of 12 step support group I can attend?

Nope. All you have to do is get married.

;) 

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post #6 of 346 Old 03-11-2014, 07:48 AM
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This is refreshing to hear!

Too often, posters start with an i5 or i7 spec'd machine, when all they really need is a Celeron/Pentium/i3. Of course, everyone wants the latest and greatest.

I would say the hardest part of building an "HTPC" is figuring out what exactly you want it to do now, AND in the NEAR future. Trying to future proof any PC is futile. There will always be something better tomorrow.

Once you figure out what you want/need it to do, then part selection is easy.

If you don't know what you want, and budget is a concern, then things get difficult. Then you end up spending too much on something you don't utilize fully, and have to compromise on something else.

Also, the more things you want to do, the more complicated it is too.

"HTPC" can mean a lot of things, and it's up to the user to define what is is to them, and express that when asking for help.
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post #7 of 346 Old 03-11-2014, 08:07 AM
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I used my first post-college paycheck in to build a bleeding edge rig. Dual P2s, 1GB, 4x10K RAID0, SLI...the works. It cost about $12K, but it literally was the fastest possible gaming rig buildable at the time (Q1 1999)

The game for which I built it, Quake III, missed the release date by seven months and wasn't that great anyway. That experience killed off any future desire for overspeccing PCs.
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post #8 of 346 Old 03-11-2014, 08:29 AM
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I would probably regret the i7 in my HTPC. I have a Sandy Bridge i5 and only chose that over the i3 because Microcenter had a bundle deal that was only i5 and i7. I want lower power usage and low cooling requirements. I don't want a lot of fans running either. My HTPC only has 4GB of RAM (it is getting a bit old). Any transcoding is done at the server level where I have 16GB of RAM and a six core AMD CPU all stuck in a closet.

If I had to build a HTPC today it would be an i3 with 8GB RAM. If I needed more out of the GPU then I'd add a video card. If I want more processing power I'll put it into my server (or laptop).

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post #9 of 346 Old 03-11-2014, 08:44 AM
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I have the opposite affliction. To me the fun is in figuring the most minimalist (ie. not necessarily cheapest but lowest power, smallest footprint,etc) machine that meets my needs. Which is great until you decide you want something more and have to start over from scratch. (Haven't quite got to that point myself but I can definitely see it coming.)
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post #10 of 346 Old 03-11-2014, 09:10 AM
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My story ???

Haha. Grab a chair and gather around kids. I guess it's story time.

I was always into PC's even as a teen growing up, but it has been a while since I built a PC. I've been a member here on AVS for over a decade and always been into home theater and audio/video but I never entered this forum or realized AVS was a good place for PC talk until about 2010/2011 when the new socket 1155 Sandybridge CPU's launched. At the time I still had a gaming rig that was getting old based on a 4870 X2 Radeon and a E8500 3.16ghz Core2 on a Asus Maximus mobo. I started with Velociraptor 10krpm drives in RAID0 for the OS, but I soon was an early adopter for SSD. I think I paid $350 for my first Vertex SSD (120GB). Clearly I had the "upgrade-itis" or "overkill" bug - but as I was entering my 30's I was trying to be more reasonable with my spending. When I joined this forum there was an overwhelming consensus that all you need is a Pentium, perhaps an i3, and it seemed like every time someone build an i5 or i7 there was a page of people saying "you don't need that" and it went to my head.

I decided that first I would just try to use my current desktop as a HTPC, it seemed like the advice I was getting kept telling me it was enough and all I needed was a new GPU that did HDMI audio. So I upgraded to a 6870 Radeon and ran a 25foot HDMI wire under the floor from my office to the living room tv.

I didn't really understand what HTPC was yet. I really just wanted to see my computer on my tv and be able to playback music and movies. I suspect this is his many people start around here. My idea was an all in one machine was cheaper and it's all I needed.

That lasted only a short while. I soon discovered how much better the new sandy bridge quad cores were compared to my aging socket 775 core2 duo. Also it was beginning the golden age of SSD and sata3 SSDs where showing nice performance improvements. I decided I would upgrade and try to use my current system at a HTPC.

I bought a 2600k i7, a coolermaster cosmos II case, a Vertex MAX IOPS toggle NAND SSD, a 1000 watt Rosewill lightning PSU, 16GB of Gskill ram, dual GPU cards, all on an Asus deluxe 1155 mobo. My thinking was this would serve as my desktop and workstation but also a media server. I bought a few more storage drives and set it all up.

I quickly learned that while I appreciated the performance of the new build immensely it was hardly ideal. I spend a good amount of time on my PC and when the PC crashed or I needed to restart for an update or whatever it stopped the movie playing my wife was watching in the other room and I got yelled at. It was annoying.

Also the old gaming machine I was using for an HTPC was in a full tower 10 bay thermaltake armor case, it had a noisy aftermarket CPU cooler for overclocking, and the CPU was set to run 3.8ghz. The video card, PSU and case fans were also noisy. Really a terrible HTPC by all standards.

So I was faced with the situation where I really wanted a cooler quieter HTPC in a more appropriate case and set up, and I also needed a dedicated media server. I was starting back at square one, after spending a ton on a new 2600K overkill desktop. So I decided I would actually listen to the forum for once and go with moderate to basic and get me feet wet. I thought I knew about HTPC because I knew about PC and gaming, but really I had no clue. What is important in HTPC was WAF factor, cool, quiet, energy efficient, and great storage solutions. It was not about overclocking, or hardware RAID, or huge cases and fans, high end motherboards etc...

I decided I would try a basic Asrock Motherboard based on socket 1155 (H61) with some cheap Ram. 8GB back then was like $30 (I miss those days). I used that for the HTPC instead and was relatively happy. I started with a G530 CPU in it I grabbed for about $35, and I bought a cheap case to hold it all and a cheap PSU. It worked pretty well, and surprisingly the Celeron G530 CPU seemed faster than the E8500 Core2 Duo I replaced, while running a lot cooler and quieter. I spent only a few hundred bucks on that machine and I was relatively happy.

That got me hooked on HTPC I think. Soon after that I started this thread : http://www.avsforum.com/t/1404685/cheapest-ever-htpc-thats-decent-proud-of-myself/0_100

I was in love with the idea you could build some decent little HTPC machines for only a few hundred bucks. I build a few more for some friends that wanted what I had. I'd say I probably built about 10, including upgrading my own. I upgraded to a newer Asrock Mobo that has USB3.0 and Sata3 ports, I wanted a bigger SSD too because 60GB was not enough. I also started grabbing Pentium chips for only a few bucks more than the Celeron, they seemed to go on sale for $50 pretty often. I was loving what you could get for $250-$300.

The problem was while I seemed to make progress on the HTPC side of things, I was still using my desktop as a storage server too. I needed to build a server. So I basically used the same build as my HTPC, A G630 Pentium, a cheap H61 Asrock Mobo, and 8GB of RAM with a Cheap Vertex3 120GB SSD. I discovered FLEXRAID and set it all up in my old gaming case that was 10 bays. That was my first Flexraid server. I was happy. It worked well. I have about 12 WD GREEN hard drives that were popular back then as my storage drives and I now had a dedicated server, a nice workstation desktop and a nice HTPC. I thought I would be satisfied. Of coarse I was not, I ran out of room quickly in my server and I wanted something a bit more. I started this thread looking to upgrade my server again: http://www.avsforum.com/t/1438027/mfusicks-how-to-build-an-affordable-30tb-flexraid-media-server-information-requested/0_100

In that thread I upgraded my server 4 times. I also upgraded my HTPC twice. And I upgraded my 2600K desktop once.

Today I have the 2600k i7 in my Flexraid Server. I ended up upgrading every part of that server a few times. I started out originally with a G630 CPU, then a G860 CPU.. and finally settled on the 2600K i7 which was a hand me down from my desktop upgrade to a 4770k. I am looking to upgrade to a 4790K next month probably, and the 4770l i7 will replace my current HTPC CPU (3570K i5) soon enough. The 3570K i5 will become my work PC. The G860 CPU in my work PC now will probably get created into something or sold off.

Looking back, I don't regret anything. I enjoyed the journey as much as I enjoy the destination. But I think I am a bit different than many folks. I took the advice that was prevailing at the time that said all you need is a pentium, and that a GPU card or a quad core, or a fast SSD was not important. I learned everyone was wrong. It is important to me. I can tell the difference and if you are accustomed to the performance on a desktop, you will desire it on other machines you use. I hate laptops for that reason. I discovered stuff like MadVR, SVP 60FPS interpololation, and some of the advanced video rendering and software applications that provide better picture quality. I wanted all that. I also upgraded my projector to 3D and decided I wanted that too. The original Pentium I bough could not do 3D, or SVP, or MadVR. Looking back I wish I just did it all right the first time to some degree- it would have save me cash upgrading extra times and saved me time. If I bought an i5 the first go around I likely would still be able to use it today.

I also discovered PLEX and MB3 and transcoding. I discovered that I needed a more robust CPU if i wanted to transcode full bit rate 1080p to stream on my ipad, or if I needed to lower the bit rate to server it up online to my parents, or myself when I am traveling. The Pentium CPU would not allow me to do that. First the G530 was too slow. Then the G630 was too slow. Then the G860 was too slow. Today the 2600K i7 is perfect. My flexraid server is so much better at everything these days and I am super happy with the i7. I can do 3 streams at once now.

The 3570K i5 is perfect for the HTPC, it's very fast and it can handle MadVR and SVP pretty well. I am still using the Radeon 6870 card, but I have a R9 card soon to be purchased. That and my 4770K i7 will become my next HTPC when the second generation of socket 1150 hits next month.

If I learned anything in this journey it's a couple things I learned the hard way:

Over buy and you will be happy you did. Under purchase and you will be upgrading sooner than desired. There is value alone in the additional headroom of buying a little better than you need, even if you don't need it yet. The small cost upgrade for an i5 or an i7 over an i3 is generally worth it. Same story on the SSD, that is another area you can feel a difference and 60GB is often not enough, but 120/128GB is not much more cost. I've been a PSU snob in the past, but I have never had a PSU fail in about 30 builds in the last few years so I'd say skip the $80 PSU and get a $25 one and use the money on better CPU and SSD. The dudes buying $80 PSU for a Pentium or i3 build make me laugh sometimes. I guess it might stem from the fact I don't really think it's a big deal if the machine blew up in the worst case scenario, so I'd rather save my $50 now and deal with it later in the unlikely event the cheaper PSU actually failed and melted down the machine (which never happens).

Don't let people tell you that you don't need something. Don't let others tell you that you are not worth it. You are worth it. I am. You are. Everyone deserves a good experience and a high level of performance IMO. I learned the hard way that cheaper isn't always better. Learn from my mistakes and you might be happy without needing to upgrade 50 times. There is an advantage in building a nice performance, nice build, dedicated HTPC. There is another advantage in building a dedicated media storage server. I am not a fan of all in one. I also want my HTPC appliance like. I don't have a keyboard or mouse on my HTPC. I have not had one connected to it in 6 months. There is an advantage in having a workstation to do media management with, leaving the server to serve and the HTPC to be an HTPC. That's the best solution I have found, but I am still looking.
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post #11 of 346 Old 03-11-2014, 09:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElJimador View Post

I have the opposite affliction. To me the fun is in figuring the most minimalist (ie. not necessarily cheapest but lowest power, smallest footprint,etc) machine that meets my needs. Which is great until you decide you want something more and have to start over from scratch. (Haven't quite got to that point myself but I can definitely see it coming.)

I have this too. But what I learned after building 20+ minamilist builds for myself and others is really it's not about minamilist because you end up being left wanting. It's about chasing maximum value. So if you can grab a Z87 mobo and i5 CPU on sale and combo special for only $25 more than newegg is selling the i3 and the H87 motherboard- that's where you win! You won't regret the faster more powerful CPU and better motherboard. You will be even happier because you got so much more for so little extra cost. Chasing value is really the game I want to play. Not chasing the least possible amount of something I can get by on. I just want to get as much as I can for the money I spend. I think chasing minimalist sometimes gets confused with chasing value. I think the value is in the upper mid range if you deal hunt, and the performance differential is worlds apart.
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post #12 of 346 Old 03-11-2014, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Mfusick View Post

I have this too. But what I learned after building 20+ minamilist builds for myself and others is really it's not about minamilist because you end up being left wanting. It's about chasing maximum value. So if you can grab a Z87 mobo and i5 CPU on sale and combo special for only $25 more than newegg is selling the i3 and the H87 motherboard- that's where you win! You won't regret the faster more powerful CPU and better motherboard. You will be even happier because you got so much more for so little extra cost. Chasing value is really the game I want to play. Not chasing the least possible amount of something I can get by on. I just want to get as much as I can for the money I spend. I think chasing minimalist sometimes gets confused with chasing value. I think the value is in the upper mid range if you deal hunt, and the performance differential is worlds apart.

+1

-RobNY
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post #13 of 346 Old 03-11-2014, 09:17 AM
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have an i7 with 16gb 2400 ram and a 7790.
reasons:

- more powah!!!
- not much more than i5.
- can be reassigned for other duties if needed

note: the post above is my opinion. as such, when reading any recommendations from me, please do you research and seek out other recommendations and make up your own mind on your next course of action. i mean, most reasonable adults should know that, but it seems this should be stated anyways.
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post #14 of 346 Old 03-11-2014, 09:40 AM
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I'm the cheapest bastard around here too. If I added up what I really spent on my Flexraid server versus what it should have costs or usually costs others I'm way better off. One of the advantages in doing it one step at a time was that I got to capitalize on the market and great sales over a period of time and build and upgrade one step at a time.

Some examples:

I bought the Pentium CPU for $51.50 (retail was $69)
I bought the Asrock Mobo (first one) for $47 open box from Newegg
I bought the Z77 Extreme 3 I have now for $99 on Black Friday 2012 for $99 and it came with 8GB of Skill RipJaws for free ! ($40 value then)
I bought every hard drive in my server on sale, never spending more than $99 on a 3TB- some as cheap as $75 each.
I bought an IBM M1015 and flashed it to HBA with LSI firmware for $79 because I was too cheap to spend $150 on a retail option
I bought DELL PERC cards flashed from Andy Steb stupid cheap, because he hooked me up and got a deal himself.
I got my NORCO 4220 server case for 15% off + Free shipping with a coupon code which came out to about $85 in savings.
I got the Rosewill Capstone PSU in my server for 15% off ( paid $50 shipped)
The i7 was a hand me down, but Microcenter is the best for i7/i5 K version chips by far
I paid $49 for the 120GB Vertex3 SSD in my server on Black Friday special.

I think that is one area where upgrading has an advantage. I tend to wait until I can capitalize on a good deal. If you are buying everything at once you are limited to the current market you are in to some degree. Not that you can't still find deals, but sometimes things just cost what they cost. If you want something then you pay it.

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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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post #15 of 346 Old 03-11-2014, 06:23 PM
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Thanks for the perspective Mfusick. I agree w/you and will take your approach when I am ready to step up. For me I was so new to all this when I started (never built a PC before, wasn't familiar w/a lot of things you could do w/an HTPC, etc) that I can't really kick myself for the direction I went. The unRAID server I built w/an Asus C60M1-I board and 6x 3TB hard drives + the Celeron NUC as HTPC running openelec off a thumb drive -- for me that was a perfect entry point and still today the most efficient solution I could have come up with for what I wanted (to play all my blurays and DVDs ripped to MKV including w/HD audio). It's just that now that I'm starting to entertain thoughts about, say, MadVR to upscale my DVD content, I want to resist the urge to figure out the perfect minimalist build for that and think instead about all the other things I may want to expand to in another year or 2 down the road and avoid tying my hands on that w/the choices I make next.

Not that anything is going to future proof beyond 3-5 years anyway. But I definitely think value shopping in that mid to higher end range is the way to go, just to leave open some functionality I still haven't even thought of yet.
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post #16 of 346 Old 03-12-2014, 03:44 AM
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I built an i3-2105 HTPC back in the day and am currently putting together a more powerful rig to replace it, just waiting on the case to be released to finish it.

If I had spent a lil extra and started with something more powerful I'd be completely content with it still today but because I went budget I'm starting over and am giving my old rig to my brother.

I come from the camp that it is better to spend more now than have to spend more later. The only change I see myself having to make in the next 5 years with the new rig is to get a new GPU with HDMI 2.0. And that'll only happen when I get a 4k set in which case a new GPU will be a fraction of the cost of the TV.

Go big or go home.
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post #17 of 346 Old 03-12-2014, 04:43 AM
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Building just these days

I7 4770k
As rock m-atx oc formula
16gb 2400
Amd 270x
Seasonic 1000 platinum


Reasons? (Do we need a reason? biggrin.gif )

Just keep in mind a question
"and if I need some extra power for some other feauture?"
Then I Can use HTPC even for other purpose (good excuse biggrin.gif )

Second excuse? 4K is coming better be prepared


Power not used just rest, is not wasted
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post #18 of 346 Old 03-12-2014, 05:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElJimador View Post

Thanks for the perspective Mfusick. I agree w/you and will take your approach when I am ready to step up. For me I was so new to all this when I started (never built a PC before, wasn't familiar w/a lot of things you could do w/an HTPC, etc) that I can't really kick myself for the direction I went. The unRAID server I built w/an Asus C60M1-I board and 6x 3TB hard drives + the Celeron NUC as HTPC running openelec off a thumb drive -- for me that was a perfect entry point and still today the most efficient solution I could have come up with for what I wanted (to play all my blurays and DVDs ripped to MKV including w/HD audio). It's just that now that I'm starting to entertain thoughts about, say, MadVR to upscale my DVD content, I want to resist the urge to figure out the perfect minimalist build for that and think instead about all the other things I may want to expand to in another year or 2 down the road and avoid tying my hands on that w/the choices I make next.

Not that anything is going to future proof beyond 3-5 years anyway. But I definitely think value shopping in that mid to higher end range is the way to go, just to leave open some functionality I still haven't even thought of yet.

You did everything correct and the best you could with the knowledge and resources you had available at that time. I did too. I also did the same on each subsequent rebuild. Chasing it is what elevates it to a hobby rather than just a product and solution. That's what makes it fun. biggrin.gif

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post #19 of 346 Old 03-12-2014, 05:52 AM
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I have to laugh because I tend to criticize Mfusick for being too anal about performance. After reading his last couple of posts it seems like we're actually a lot alike in our approach to HTPCs. I've been down the minimalist path that ended up in disappointment far too often. I've found that, although you may be able to eek out enough performance out of a minimalist setup for playing Blu-Rays and such, it may not always be a satisfying experience.

My feeling is that you need to determine what you're looking to do with a HTPC and then pick out the parts that will meet these requirements. Then, jump up one or two notches in performance to cover any contingencies. For instance, if a Celeron will do what you want, move up to a Pentium or an i3. If 4GB of RAM is sufficient, get 8GB. The extra cost isn't usually that great and will pay off down the road. OTOH, going with the fastest quad core i7 or something that can decipher the secrets of the universe is complete overkill for a HTPC, that is, unless you plan to use it as a gaming platform as well.

PSUs seem to be built to last these days, as long as you stick with the brand names. If you can find a deal on one of the good brands then it's worth the money for a little extra peace of mind. I'm not saying to buy the $80 PSU, but there are some good deals on less expensive models that should more than fill the bill. I used to buy the cheap PSUs or use the ones that came with PC cases and just about every one of them failed, usually late on a Sunday afternoon when all of the PC shops in my area were closed. Now I keep one or two of the Corsair CX430 Buiilder Series PSUs on hand as spares that routinely go on sale for about $20.

My latest HTPCs are based on a pair of Intel 1st generation Core i3 NUCs. These little guys are plenty powerful enough to do whatever I want, which mainly consists of watching live and recordedTV and streaming ripped Blu-Rays from my unRAID server.

I've lost track of how many times I've upgraded my HTPC. My original setup was an AMD socket 939 setup running XP and BeyondTV. I have since gone through probably a half dozen motherboards and CPUs to my current socket 1155 setup with a Core i3 CPU. I've also gone through several upgrades with my server hardware, although my last one proved to be problematic so I had to revert to the previous setup (AMD FM1 microATX).
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post #20 of 346 Old 03-12-2014, 06:11 AM
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Originally Posted by captain_video View Post

My feeling is that you need to determine what you're looking to do with a HTPC and then pick out the parts that will meet these requirements. Then, jump up one or two notches in performance to cover any contingencies. For instance, if a Celeron will do what you want, move up to a Pentium or an i3. If 4GB of RAM is sufficient, get 8GB. The extra cost isn't usually that great and will pay off down the road. OTOH, going with the fastest quad core i7 or something that can decipher the secrets of the universe is complete overkill for a HTPC, that is, unless you plan to use it as a gaming platform as well.

Well said.

I noticed you stopped at i3, and I would agree. Is there ever a case though where you would recommend an i5 or i7 for a build? Outside of the obvious statement if the OP intends to run MadVR or SVP, etc, or use it as a dual HTPC/Server combo where transcoding would be involved, or Gaming HTPC? (BTW, for those who don't know, there is a separate forum for Gaming HTPC's)

Far too often I see someone recommend an i5, where there is no evidence an i5 would be needed. Then I lose it, and typically withdraw from this site for a while.mad.gif

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post #21 of 346 Old 03-12-2014, 06:29 AM
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Well said ^ biggrin.gif (captain video)

It's funny on PSU thingy ... I seem to flip flop back and forth on that. It's a grey area to me; I'm usually a decisive person with an inherent self confidence in my decisions but PSU always seems to throw me off.

On one hand I've never been bitten by a PSU and I've used some cheap crappy ones. I've built a lot of computers too. I've built 10 office machines in last couple years with the crappy PSU that comes with a case (think logisys, or apex, etc) that are 400 watt rates but probably only $8.99 to 14.99$ each as individual items. This is what you get inside $30-$50 cases that come with PSU. Outstanding value but suspect quality. In three years not a single problem.

I've built another 15 or so HTPCs for friends or forum members that have ranged from $17 coolermaster elites and like $25 corsairs like you mentioned all the way up to platinum Seasonics and high end Rosewills. (Superflower OEM).

None of those has failed either to my knowledge.

Based on my experience it's led me to the conclusion that you can indeed go cheap on the PSU if your budget demands it. The reasonableness inside me thinks it needs to be relative to the build. So if you are building a $250-$350 HTPC a $20 PSU is ok. As you spend up more and more you probably want to do do on your PSU too. Keep things in a nice match. 10% or 20% of budget seems reasonable to me. A $500 HTPC probably should have a $50 or so PSU but not more than $99. A $1000 HTPC might break a $100 PSU but that might not be likely since around $60+ you start to get into pretty decent stuff.

I get further confused because I tend to put my money where my mouth is and in this case my money is all over the place. I have three personal machines as related to my HTPC hobby: my desktop, my server, my HTPC. I also have a personal office PC for work, plus a bunch of other employee PCs. I've built HTPC for my brother, patents and best friends that I maintain.

My three machines have decent PSU. My desktop has a 1000 watt Rosewill Lightning (superflower golden green) that's $199 on Newegg. To me that's not a cheap PSU. I bought it because it's also very well reviewed and acclaimed and also I liked it. My server has a 550 watt (I think ) Rosewill capstone. It might be a 600 watt or so... I forget exactly. It's like an $80 PSU on Newegg. My HTPC has an Antec Neo 400 watt (Seasonic) and I got it on Newegg for the shell shocker deal for $29 but it's a better than $29 PSU for most intensive purposes being OEM Seasonic.

So immediately and personally I think I have a decent quality PSU in my machines. But my office PC has a $17.99 coolermaster elite 430 watt and the same in my partners 2500k based office PC (that he flight sims on too with GPU card)

I used the same coolermaster in my brothers HTPC. The same in my parents. My best friend has a cheap $9.99 on his (lulz) and same with another friend and a bunch of office computers.

They all work fine for what they do. I'm not sure if trust the $9.99 model in my desktop when I'm overclocking to 4800mhz my i7 but I do trust it to power a Celeron build and it hasn't let me down yet.

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post #22 of 346 Old 03-12-2014, 07:26 AM
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Well said.

I noticed you stopped at i3, and I would agree. Is there ever a case though where you would recommend an i5 or i7 for a build? Outside of the obvious statement if the OP intends to run MadVR or SVP, etc, or use it as a dual HTPC/Server combo where transcoding would be involved, or Gaming HTPC? (BTW, for those who don't know, there is a separate forum for Gaming HTPC's)

Far too often I see someone recommend an i5, where there is no evidence an i5 would be needed. Then I lose it, and typically withdraw from this site for a while.mad.gif

It's funny that I have the exact opposite reaction than you. tongue.gif

First let me say no one wants to offend anyone, and certainly you should not take offense to an i5 recommendation to the point it forced you to withdraw from this forum.

That said,

My reaction is totally different. I literally have been that guy on the other end of the advice. I literally listened to the forum and built a Pentium HTPC and Pentium server and then swore back and said "moth3RF@#$er I knew I should have trusted my gut and got the i5!" and then literally rebuilt or upgraded a less than 1 year old machine that was otherwise pretty nice and modern. I have literally done this multiple times on my server and my HTPC. I discovered the Pentium did not do 3D, nor would it run SVP. I discovered MadVR and realized iGPU was not enough too. On the server side I discovered PLEX and MB3 server and realized a Pentium was not enough to transcode. Especially if I wanted to share my server with my parents and brother or I want to enjoy it when I am way from home. So my HTPC is an i5, and my server is an i7 2600k Hand me down... (equal to about a modern i5 4670 today)

I still don't think this means every build advice should contain an i5 or i7, and I definitely agree with you and the points you are making. But this is another grey area, it's no one else responsibility but the individual doing the buying and building to make the decision. The responsibility is on them, not anyone giving the advice. I'd hope they would get both sides of the story so they can make an informed decision. If I said to get a quad core and you said get a cheaper dual core- that's good! Not bad. Let them hear it all so they make a good decision. At the end of the day there is no right or wrong answer, at least not one we can judge someone on from a distance. It's their decision, they own it, and only they can make the choice if it's right or wrong in retrospect.

I think some of the reason you get frustrated is some of the same reasons I get frustrated. We both have a passion for this hobby that goes beyond your average person. Like I said I am totally opposite. I get frustrated and even slightly offended when someone tries to tell me I don't need something or I don't deserve the performance. I literally take it that way too. Like someone was standing in front of me judging me and telling me I don't deserve the performance, I don;t need it, and I am not worth it. I'm perhaps being a bit exaggerated here for the sake of making my point but you get the idea. It's no one else business but my own to say or decide that. In return it's not my business to make that decision on others. I can only offer my experience and advice and opinion, but in the end it really means nothing. When I do it I do it for the right reason, to be sincere and try to help someone asking for it.

I will readily admit that I sometimes get a bit crazy and my appreciation for performance might extend beyond others. I can't apologize for this though. It's who I am. I am proud of it. I think I have enough self worth to deserve the performance and I take offense when someone tells me otherwise. The concept of "it's enough" is almost insulting to me sometimes in the cases where the higher performance is the same cost. It happens all the time, and I do get upset because I believe in my heart taking the free performance or the higher performance for the same cost or near cost is the better value.

If I have the choice between:
Option A at $100 cost and option B at $100 cost and Option A is "enough" and option B is "more than enough/better performance" I'll take and choose option B every time. I can't understand why not; unless option B has some terrible other negative about it I see no reason to choose option A ever.

I think when you start to mix in personal brand preference and opinion into things this is where the bickering often starts. The reality is both products are equally great. Sometimes we all need to just take a step back, respect each other and realize there really is not any bad advice or bad choices. Hard drive is a hard drive, CPU is a CPU. i3 or i5 both would work great, so would a Pentium or an i7.

The fact that an i5 is often available at a good price - and the fact that i5 is the first CPU that is truly up to the tasks of trans-coding, encoding, gaming, SVP, and whatever else is the reason why it's recommended so much. In a lot of cases the small cost difference to the i5 ($150-$200) is worth the step up from the i3 ($110-140) and you are better off with a quad core vs a dual core CPU. I think there is some inherent value there even if you won't immediately transcode, or game, or try SVP. The value is there because if you wanted to do it you can. I think a lot of people coming here for built advice are starting at a lower level and the avid enthusiast, but I don't want to judge them and say they will never escalate or rise to the next level. If someone is coming here simply wanting a machine to run XBMC on a single TV they probably do not need an i5 and I suspect this is a decent amount of folks. But some of those folks (like me) might discover PLEX or that they can run XBMC off MB3 server and enjoy it all over the place- even using XBMC they love on the TV they originally intended but also enjoying MB family on a host of other stuff like ROKU, windows phone, iphone, Ipad, Android, Kindle, Linux, Windows, Chromcast etc.. Same with PLEX, which does the same things. They could evolve into a situation where the Pentium is great for simple XBMC playback single machine, but it's not good enough for a complete lifestyle solution. For me, all the effort I put into this hobby makes me want to enjoy it as much as I can, and be able to share it with others. That is the direction HTPC is headed and has been headed for a while now. At the heart of that is a machine that is not low end, or low performance. You can't run that total solution with a great experience and results with a a single Pentium based CPU. An i3 might pull it off in some ways today- but what about tomorrow ? That's where the value is in the i5 IMO.

Now for someone who can honestly stand up and say "I will never do that, I will never transcode, I will never game, I will never want to do MadVR or SVP, I will never encode my videos, and I will never want to do 3D" then they are getting bad advice if someone recommends them an i5 and not a Pentium or cheap AMD cheap. But still there might be value in an i3 or i5 or higher AMD chip "just in case" but it's that person's responsibility to make that decision and if it's worth the cost. There is just simply too many different factors to ever make the answer clear. It's always going to be a case by case basis. I noticed the most frustration often comes from those who build an overkill HTPC like an i7 - by the folks that see it as overkill. I think there is nothing wrong with that, but the difference in personal wealth and income influence some of these feelings. The most frustration I see often comes from the guy who has plenty of money, and to him the cost of a $300 i7 CPU is nothing at all. He spends more than that on dinner on Friday night so to spend it for a machine you would own for years is not a big deal. Then there is another who $300 might be the entire budget they can afford or want to spend on an HTPC so spending so much on a CPU alone is foolish if you don't need it. The truth is neither is wrong, they just come from different places. Both opinions are equally valid. The only opinion that counts is your own. The only choice that matters is your own. At the end of it all the individual needs to own all of that. Not the forum or the other folks giving advice.

I think what gets me the most worked up sometimes is not just the fact that I hate when someone tells me I don't need something or I don't deserve the extra performance - but the fact that I have live this and I have as much right if not more to feel like I do. Not saying I am right all the time either, clearly I can be wrong tongue.gif

But the difference is I feel like if I built a Pentium HTPC at the advice of this forum and it was not enough, and I built a Pentium server at the advice of this forum and it was not enough, and I upgraded to an i5 in my HTPC and an i7 in my server - and I have lived both; THEN I HAVE EARNED THE RIGHT TO GIVE ADVICE.
There is nothing wrong at all with someone else giving alternative advice or having a different opinion at all. But when someone has not lived both and tried to tell me my opinion is wrong I do take offense. I've never seen the flip side around here. I have never seen someone who had an i5 or i7 and then say, I don't need this so I am selling it off, or rebuilding it to be only a dual core Pentium or i3. I've never seen that once. In comparison to folks upgrading all the time, is seems like the direction people go is up and the regret people have is for having less, not having more. So when I lived it and feel like I have the right to give some advice it does sometimes bother me that the person who is telling me I am wrong has not lived it too. They did not have an i5 or i7 and step down while I had a pentium and i3 and stepped up. They still have an equal right to voice an opinion as me, but when they try to tear mine down and I realize they probably have not earned that right as much as me I can't help but get offended. I think this is at the heart of most of the bickering I get involved in. That's not right either, but sometimes it's hard to step back when I am passionate.

BTW- I was not talking about you in all this. Just making some comments and voicing my opinions on the subject your post. I like you and agree with you most of the time biggrin.gif including that an H series mobo and dual core is often a good choice on a budget.
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post #23 of 346 Old 03-12-2014, 07:54 AM
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I feel like somebody just poked the bear. First, let me say that nobody is trying to tell anyone what or what not to buy. I think most people recommend what they feel is needed for the tasks at hand. For instance, if you do a lot of transcoding or other computational tasks on your HTPC or server then you'll need more horsepower to accomplish it. If you're just watching TV or Blu-Rays then you don't need anywhere near as much. The choice is ultimately left up to the buyer/builder based on their needs. I'm not sure where the concept of anyone deserving a certain level of performance came from, but you buy whatever you feel you need. There's no privilege involved other than the obvious fact as to whether you can afford it or not. If you feel you deserve an i7, then go with it.

Most newbies come here seeking parts advice and make an attempt to describe what they intend to do with their HTPC. However, most newbies really don't know what they'll be doing with it until they actually start using it. There's nothing wrong with future-proofing your HTPC and going with an i7 CPU if you think there's even the remotest possibility you might need it down the road. If you see a good deal on an i5 vs. an i3 then it just makes sense to go with the i5.

I went with an i5 on a previous build because someone over at The Missing Remote used one in their reference HTPC. It became pretty clear that I had no need for an i5 and an i3 or even a Pentium would have suited my needs at the time. I stuck with an i3 just to be on the safe side. I personally find that an i3 is the sweet spot for my setups. If I plan to do any transcoding or something else that requires a beefier CPU, then I'll consider an upgrade. However, I never will as I prefer not to screw with any native formats or resolutions other than a straight conversion to mkv. I don't use portable devices for watching videos. If I did, I'd perform any such functions on my main PC and use the HTPC strictly for playing media, which is what I do now. Using a HTPC for such tasks moves it more towards being a workstation than a HTPC. There's nothing wrong with combining functions into a single device, but I prefer to keep workstation functions on a workstation and HTPC functions on a HTPC.
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post #24 of 346 Old 03-12-2014, 08:04 AM
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I love seeing Mfusick's post and that I took a very similar path when I first started getting into the HTPC game. I didn't start with the big powerful desktop though. I started with the "cheap as possible all in one HTPC". I had a small case that I crammed as many drives into it as I could and then got a processor that could barely handle 1080p playback. If I had just done it right the first time, I can't tell you how many upgrades it would have saved me. I do recognize that money is a big factor though, and it wasn't as available when I started the hobby, but then again I had less money to waste on all the upgrades I've burned through.

One of my biggest realizations was the benefit of having the media server and the HTPC be separate computers. I need a powerful multi-core processor in the media server to transcode media with Plex, but having the computer also house a giant, power hungry video card that was only used a fraction of the time was a huge power waste. Also, boot times in that computer aren't important since it's always on (it got my old SSDs though). RAM was also more important. Sadly, Linux also made a much better server OS than a media computer due to some minor annoyances with HD audio and lack of support for many games.

As for having a lot of power in the HTPC, I'd make the argument that people frequently under power these machines. To me, the HTPC needs to be as quick and seamless as an appliance. It needs to boot almost immediately (disclaimer: mine now boots too quickly and turns on before my AVR and projector are ready sometimes, causing it to not recognize the HDMI output. Still gotta fix that). XBMC shouldn't have delays between page changes, videos should start instantly, and add-ons should too. SSDs are critical to making that happen. A faster CPU might not make a video play faster, but it will impact boot and loading times. I think all of these things are crucial to having a device that's at home in the livingroom (or any room outside of the office). This means my wife will actually use the thing. Also, as some people have mentioned, it will last through the growth of technology into 4K, saving me a future upgrade. Lastly, as I use the system for gaming too, it was important that it be more powerful than the latest round of consoles that just hit the market, ensuring that it can play all the games in this new generation.

Too me, doing the HTPC right was worth the cash outlay in the end. I have never fired up the theater and thought to myself "man, getting that i5/16 gb of RAM sure was a waste". I'm sure you won't either... It works so perfectly!
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post #25 of 346 Old 03-12-2014, 08:12 AM
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I just started my upgrade from my "intro" build 2 years ago (G530). Open box at *egg, ASRock H87M, $60; to quote Assassin (which I know some people don't like to do ;)), "Great priced entry level motherboard.  2 RAM slots, 6 Sata (6) ports, 4x USB 3.0.  It has everything you need and nothing you don’t."

Will probably go with HD 4600, even though 4400 is "enough." Price will determine.

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post #26 of 346 Old 03-12-2014, 09:47 AM
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Please don't get me wrong, I love tinkering with PC's as much as anyone.

I'll agree that putting together a HTPC is a little different than putting together a desktop PC. When I started piecing together my HTPC, I went a little overboard, not much though, and have since changed out parts over time, not to upgrade, but downgrade!

I decided after a while after I started using my HTPC, that I wanted to build a media server, then when I finished the server, I wanted to upgrade my desktop. Two things remained constant in my HTPC though, the case, and the i3-2120 CPU. The biggest thing to change was my server. As my collections/storage needs grew, I've made adjustments there. Being that I built all three machines on the same Socket (1155), I've been able to swap different parts here and there between machines.

Now I don't do any gaming, and have not yet ventured out into any of the advanced programs like MadVR, or SVP and the like, but to me, I consider that an "Upgrade" of the purpose of my HTPC, so if I wanted to do those things, I would expect to have to upgrade my components. I don't think it would have been a good idea to purchase an i7-2600k in 2012 expecting to get into MadVR in 2014, as a modern Haswell i5 is probably better suited for those tasks now.
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post #27 of 346 Old 03-12-2014, 10:08 AM
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It's interesting that you have an i3 though. That is kind of the most grey area to me, as it's actually enough much of the time and it also does 3D. One would be less quick to upgrade an i3 to an i5 is my guess. (I would). I think the more extreme the differences the more likely you see people making the jump. From a Celeron or Pentium to an i5/i7 has an inherent value and wide performance differential. From i3 to i5 not so much. Plus in a lot of cases an i3 is probably just enough, where as the Pentium or Celeron might just barely be not enough. Hard to replace something that for the most part works. In your case you did a nice job spec-ing out your first CPU and it's paying dividends now. Kudos. You did better than I did anyways. biggrin.gif

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post #28 of 346 Old 03-12-2014, 10:20 AM
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What I find interesting is the baseline for HTPC performance seems to vary all over the place. The old rule of thumb used to be any dual core CPU running at a minimum of 2.0 GHz. Then came Atom-based systems running at 1.8 GHz or less followed by other SFF systems running as low as 1.2 GHz, but still capable of playing Blu-Rays. My NUCs run at only 1.8 GHz, but don't skip a beat when playing back any sort of media I throw at it.

Boot times are probably more related to your hard drive and RAM than your CPU. Changing your OS drive to a SSD will speed up your boot times tremendously without having to upgrade the CPU. Every PC should have a SSD for the OS, IMHO (and I'm sure Mfusick will agree with me here). Pretty much any standard drive will work for everything else.
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post #29 of 346 Old 03-12-2014, 10:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LastButNotLeast View Post

I just started my upgrade from my "intro" build 2 years ago (G530). Open box at *egg, ASRock H87M, $60; to quote Assassin (which I know some people don't like to do wink.gif ), "Great priced entry level motherboard.  2 RAM slots, 6 Sata (6) ports, 4x USB 3.0.  It has everything you need and nothing you don’t."
Will probably go with HD 4600, even though 4400 is "enough." Price will determine.
The fun begins anew!
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Nice point you make. But considering you can get the i5 4570 for $159 At microcenter or you can get a combo like the 4670K with the Asrock Extreme 4 for $289 (which just went up in price because it's dropping to $250 soon with announcement of 4670K) also it does not make as much sense IMO.


I checked Newegg for the H87M Asrock and it's consistently $80+ from my experience. An i3 is nearly the same cost as $159 i5 I linked above so for anyone that did not need the overclocking that's a good alternative. Of coarse there is a lot more to the Z87 and the 4670K combo for the short money extra.

The cheapest i3 on newegg is $125 and the i3 4340 with HD4600 is $160 eek.gif So you get a combo of $240 before shipping on Newegg right now if you choose the cheapest H87 motherboard by Asrock that also has HDMI.

So it's not too much more for the Z87 and the 4670K. And you could save $30 and be nearly the same with the non K 4570 i5.

Assassin is not quite right about that motherboard because having build a few HTPC using the Z87 and the H87 I found that in the cases of the Z87 I appreciated the better fan controller built into the Extreme 4, and also the additional fan headers. This lets you run a nice case and case fans like a Silverstone case with a good level of control and keep it very quiet. A fan controller is worth $20. So is the two extra Sata ports IMO if you are doing an all in one machine.

I compared the Asrock Exteme 4 to the H87M you listed quickly and I saw a few additional things.

The Extreme 4 has Giga PHY Intel I217V LAN chipset and the H87 has Qualcomm Atheros AR8171. The extreme4 also has Realtek ALC1150 chipset and the H87 Realtek ALC892 (might not matter). You get eSATA port on the Extreme too. There is also better parts on the Extreme series including "premium gold capacitor design, Digi Power, 8 power phase Design" and you can run memory up to 2800mhz too. You get two extra sata cables ($10 value) with it as well.

Not saying the H87M isn't a good choice at all either. Just pointing out that sometime value hides in different places. You really need to look deep into things sometimes, and that is what is great about forums. More minds are better than one. I think there it plenty of great circumstances that makes the H87 Asrock ideal and I've used it myself more than once. Typically non 3D and Pentium builds it excels with. But when you make the jump to i3 and HD4600 that's the are that the i5 and combo deals on Z87 have some extra value.

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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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post #30 of 346 Old 03-12-2014, 10:33 AM
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+1 on the SSD statement.

My i3, coupled with a Samsung 830 still has an almost instant power-up from an off state.

I'm running it rather lean though, with very few applications running at startup.
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