Anyone ever wish they did their HTPC right the first time? (or better?) - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 335 Old 08-01-2014, 05:49 PM - Thread Starter
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Anyone ever wish they did their HTPC right the first time? (or better?)

So one thing that I noticed in this forum that is of significant prevalence that I don't see in other forums is the continual behavior of pinching every penny, making compromises, or taking the path of least resistance. I know that I am guilty of it too. But I wonder why this is the case with HTPC when many of the same folks doing it I see obsess about the smallest details in other other forums. Is there some inherent thing about HTPC that make people do this?

I know when I first joined this forum I fell victim. I followed the trend that was saying all you need for HTPC is a celeron. Back then people building i5 and i7 machines were constantly being told it's not needed, waste of $$ etc.. So a celeron is what I built. I think I started a thread about it. I spent about $250 on the HTPC.

It wasn't too long I was back for more though. Turns out it wasn't exactly ideal for me and the more I learned the more I wished for something a little more. I was getting sucking into the world of HTPC. But I found a killer deal on a Asrock mobo that was a step up (I think I had an H61 and stepped to Z68 then) for like $75 (normally was like $120) so I jumped on it. I also came across a deal selling Pentium chips for $47 which seemed like a really good deal. It was about 500mhz faster than the celeron I was using so I said sure and ordered it up.

That was cool for a time, but then I realized it didn't do 3D. Crap. Well third time is a charm right? So by this time I had spent a little time in this forum and I really was beginning to understand HTPC better. I went out and grabbed that microcenter special on the i5 3570k and the Asrock Extreme Z77. I've had that for a couple years now, and I can honestly say I am happy and have no intention or need to upgrade that even a couple years later. Part of me looks back and wonders WTF was I thinking? Why waste so much time and money to save like $20 here or $30 there? Was it actually worth it ?

I love a great deal as good as anyone else. I've pieced together a desktop, server and HTPC by jumping on sales and good deals over the years. But at the same time as I get a little more mature about this stuff I see that for the small difference in cost the extra head room is well worth it. The insurance of knowing you have something good that won't need to be replaced anytime soon has a value to most people but I think that value is lost in this forum.

So I'll ask what is it about HTPC that makes people so freakin' cheap? Is it really worth saving that $20 on that suspect PSU? Or the $20 you save by not grabbing that better motherboard? Or faster SSD? How about the CPU? Worth getting a turd?

I see some people spent thousands on their display or speaker or AVR or subwoofer system. I see the same people spent $300 on a microphone to measure their system, and $80 on speaker wire to hook it up. Thousands more on furniture like AV racks or TV stands or theater chairs. In comparison that $20 you saved on that crappy PSU worth it? Or the $40 you saved getting the pentium or Celeron CPU ? I'm not sure what it is about HTPC that makes people think like this.

I know personally when I use something and it works really good it makes me smile. I like it. If I build something, buy something, use something that is great... it makes me happy. I like nice stuff, and I like stuff that works well. In comparison I get a little frustrated when stuff is less ideal, it makes me wish I had better or regret buying it, or make me upgrade. For $100 having a faster snappier HTPC seems like it's worth it to me.

Wait. Scratch that.

Having used HTPC for years now and having owned and built a bunch of them I can say with absolute certainty that having and using a snappier quicker HTPC is more enjoyable and worth it. Especially when I realize that better SSD was $20 and the faster CPU was only $40. It seems like money well spent, even if the cheaper crap is "enough". It's also insurance against the future and realistically will remain viable longer which has a value too.

So what is your story? If you could change something about your first HTPC purchasing what would you change?
What advice would you give someone or wish someone gave you when you started out?

My advice is don't cheap out. Get something nice you'll enjoy for a long time and you won't regret or have to fuss with. If you'll actually use your HTPC consistently and not just once it's pennies on the dollar.

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post #2 of 335 Old 08-01-2014, 06:06 PM
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I like this thread because it is very true. I see people all the time having a heart ache over the idea of spending extra on their HTPC. I myself cut a few corners that I now regret. If I could build my HTPC over again I'm not entirely sure what I would do differently, I think I would opt for a smaller case and perhaps I would have purchased the i7 over the i5-4440. I like the i5 but what the heck!!! Why not right?

Also, I think I like the idea of a server instead of an HTPC/server is a route I would have taken as well. I am using my HTPC as a server right now and I feel like it can be a lot of waisted energy, however, I have the HTPC set to go to sleep when not transcoding. Transcoding is another topic that I want to explore and expand upon as the topic has been vaguely discussed (it seems) here. In the future, transcoding (or some sort of media streaming) will likely be the most important function of my HTPC/home server.

Anyhow, right now I am pleased with my HTPC, it does everything I want it to do and I have most of the control part worked out.

Living room theater set-up:  
AVR: Pioneer VSX-1124-K.
Speakers/Sub: (4) NHT Classic Two and an NHT TwoC center + PSA-XV15 subwoofer.
HTPC: z97 mobo, 16GB mem, i5-4440, SSD+HD, LG BD drive, Win 8.1 pro w/WMC + MB3.
Content sources: OTA Winegard HD7698P, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Netflix etc.
HDTV: Sharp LC-60SQ15U (ehhh).
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post #3 of 335 Old 08-01-2014, 06:08 PM
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Bigger faster makes more heat and uses more energy. My displays already dump a boatload of heat into my rooms. So it is not just initial cost, as they say its complicated. I want an HTPC that does what I want in the form factor, price and power consumption of a Roku 3. Trouble is everything is as you point out a compromise. Going bigger, better, faster at the early adopter part of the curve is not called the bleeding edge by accident. I bought a Ceton early on... ouch and it really only met my expectations of appliance like performance in the last few months. It needs a PC to host it just to use it with other PCs... So my 92" TV at 250 watts, the HTPC a Sandy Bridge i3 with the Ceton and a fairly mild Nvidia card is 120 watts doing its thing, add to that my AVR, my Darbee Darblet, the Lumagen Radiance, a couple of Ethernet switches and etc. Oh my goodness that is 600 watts to watch CNN.. it's all crazy. There has to be a better way.
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post #4 of 335 Old 08-01-2014, 06:21 PM
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I don't regret my original build decisions even though I've since upgraded from a celeron NUC running openelec as HTPC and Asus C60M1-I based mITX unRAID server to a Xeon E3-1230 / GTX 750 Ti / Win 8 pro all-in-one. 1) the unRAID server is still perfectly functional and wonderfully cost effective for dumb storage (it's really too bad ASUS discontinued that board btw). 2) the NUC will soon find a new home w / my dad who will use PleXBMC on it to be able to watch all my movies. So for what they cost, I still feel like I'm getting great value for them even though I've upgraded. I'd only be kicking myself if I wound up with a big investment doing nothing but sitting in my garage gathering dust.
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post #5 of 335 Old 08-01-2014, 06:46 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gtgray View Post
Bigger faster makes more heat and uses more energy.
This is the worst crap I've read around here and it's so wrong it's laughable but it get propagated time and time again and the education of the facts doesn't seem to stick.

Efficiency primarily has to do with chip design, not the power of the chip. It takes a certain amount of power to do a certain amount of work. For some reason people think a 3 generations old Pentium running 100% tilt trying to keep it's head above water for a transcode feed uses less energy than a 4.0ghz stock clock i7 4790k chip overclocked another 20% doing the same transcode and that's totally false.

The i7 is using less energy. It's more efficient and it's not running 100% or doing it as long as the old weaker pentium.

My i7 runs 800mhz most of the time like cruising AVS:






Just because the CPU can run high clock speed or do amazing CPU processing power doesn't mean it's burning energy when it's not. Not on modern chips anyways.. they all step down. The efficiency of my Haswell is inherently very good so it's quite energy efficient even though I my i7 can run circles around most CPU.

Think of it as a very efficient high horsepower engine car like a corvette cruising down the highway at very low RPM in top gear, gas mileage is just as good as any normal car out there on the road. now downshift and floor it and well your not getting that same gas mileage, but if you end up needing to get somewhere quick you'll get there a lot quicker. High powered CPU only use more power when they are working hard, and they are only working hard when you need them to do it.

The alternative is a weaker CPU struggles and you get skipping, or perhaps the system itself is just generally sluggish and annoying. When your i7 if going full tilt you are usually glad you have it.

Let's look at another CPU task:

Encoding a video from 1080p to another format for use on phone or something. You need to encode a 30GB MKV to say mp4 or something right? So you run the i7 for like what? 1/4 of the time of the Pentium ?? Ok so for like 15 minutes it's sucking more power than the pentium. Then it's done and watches that pentium suck more power for another 45 minutes trying to finish. That's not being energy efficient. That's just being weak.

The clock speed or max power of your CPU does not determine how efficient it is, it just determines the power or performance level it can reach. If a task takes X amount of processing power it doesn't really matter what you CPU clock speed is, it only matter how efficiently your CPU can do that task. A less efficient CPU running longer isn't going to use less energy, it's just going to use energy over a longer period of time.

Unless you have a CPU that's running under my 800mhz on my i7 and is also more efficient than my i7 it's unlikely you system draws less power than mine playing a video.
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post #6 of 335 Old 08-01-2014, 06:58 PM
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HTPCs are no different than anything else in this world. Some people are enthusiasts, other people dabble with them, and there are still plenty pf people out there that don't even bother with them. I think the confusion comes in when people try to lump the first two groups together.

People who dabble, don't necessarily need to spend extra money as a simple HTPC will do just fine. They don't get distracted by every fad that comes along (Ohhh! 3D! Now I gotta do 3D! Hey what's that? Transcoding? Oh! Now I want to transcode! If I can't figure out how to cram Prometheus in full 1080p onto my 4" smartphone, I'm not complete as a human being! 7.1 bit-perfect surround sound? **** that 5.1 ********! I need those two extra channels or my wife will never be able to enjoy "The Real Housewives of Punxsutawney" the way it was meant to be enjoyed.) That's the sort of mentality that always leaves you wishing you'd spent more.

A huge segment of the population can't tell the difference between 720 and 1080 and many of those who can, don't necessarily care. They're perfectly happy listening to 5.1DD surround for the same reason they're happy listening to lossy MP3s on their iPod. They don't care that the picture they get from Comcast has been compressed, recompressed, multiplexed, and who knows what else, to wreck the picture. They don't care the stream from NetFlix doesn't look as good as the BlurRay. I'd venture a guess most people using NeFlix don't even have more than 2 speakers connected so lossless surround sound would be lost on them.

The question, @Mfusick , is why do you drive a Mazda? Why not Lexus or Mercedes? Why not a Ferrari to quench your insatiable thirst for more speed and more power? Heck, if you're looking for a good deal, you can pick up a 'Vette that will keep pace with a Ferrarri for 1/6th the price. (I know how you love a good deal and all)

If you can tell me why you drive a Mazda, I'll tell you why not everyone want's to splurge on their HTPC setup.

But I'll tell you this... If you're always chasing after the next gimmick to come down the pipe, and be an early adopter, buying a faster PC is no guarantee that you'll be ready when that next thing comes around the corner.

RAID protection is only for failed drives. That's it. It's no replacement for a proper backup.
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post #7 of 335 Old 08-01-2014, 07:05 PM
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I simply don't value cable TV and other home video entertainment enough to spend very much money on it. I'd rather spend my money on other things. I just want something that works well and is quiet, reliable and efficient. It only costs me a couple of hundred dollars to meet those requirements. I rent, stream and record cable TV. I don't need vast amounts of storage, servers or high performance. I have no desire to run my own Netflix service. I guess it's my engineering mentality that compels me to find the optimum solution for every problem, nothing more than is necessary and nothing less.
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post #8 of 335 Old 08-01-2014, 07:13 PM
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As far as advice for first time builders:

Do lots of research before you spend a dime. Figure out everything an HTPC could possibly do. Then figure out what you want it to do. Make a list of well defined requirements. Then buy parts or a whole PC to match those requirements.

Assemble.
Configure.
Enjoy.

That, or save yourself a huge number of headaches, and go buy a Roku or AppleTV.

RAID protection is only for failed drives. That's it. It's no replacement for a proper backup.
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post #9 of 335 Old 08-01-2014, 07:17 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElJimador View Post
I don't regret my original build decisions even though I've since upgraded from a celeron NUC running openelec as HTPC and Asus C60M1-I based mITX unRAID server to a Xeon E3-1230 / GTX 750 Ti / Win 8 pro all-in-one. 1) the unRAID server is still perfectly functional and wonderfully cost effective for dumb storage (it's really too bad ASUS discontinued that board btw). 2) the NUC will soon find a new home w / my dad who will use PleXBMC on it to be able to watch all my movies. So for what they cost, I still feel like I'm getting great value for them even though I've upgraded. I'd only be kicking myself if I wound up with a big investment doing nothing but sitting in my garage gathering dust.
Welcome to my world.

I think I've upgraded like 3 HTPC myself, another 3 for my parents.. My server got upgraded a bunch of times too.

The same story about my HTPC also happened on my server.

Originally I thought heck I'd do an all in one. It made sense. One machine, cheaper. So I built a big desktop in a Coolermaster Cosmos II case which I figured I'd just run an HDMI input to my AVR and I'd be good. I was still a gamer mostly so I was thinking big, i7 + SSD + 16GB DDR3.. case was a monster and held 14 hard drive bays + 2 more hot swap bays. Plenty of space for storage.

Well that plan crashed and burned because I soon realized if I was on the desktop surfing or playing a game my wife (girlfriend back then) could't watch something on the living room tv. That was annoying. So I build a cheap HTPC (that celeron) for use as a dedicated HTPC so it would not effect my desktop/server, I set up the new HTPC to just feed from my desktop all in one I built.

Well... nope. That still sucks dirty balls. Every time I restart or crash or fool around on the PC wifey's video stops playing. Can you say annoying ???? She can. I heard it a lot. Plus my gaming machine with overclocked i7, big GPU card and 1000 watt PSU wasn't as stable as I like overclocked 30% and gaming. Such is just how those kind of systems are.

Back then windows 7 seemed like it was less stable too. It's gotten better in the last few years I think. Or drivers and stuff have just matured.

So I decided to build a dedicated flexraid server. Nothing crazy. $300. Celeron. I wanted to use that H61 motherboard I had in the HTPC when I upgraded that HTPC to Z68. So I used the old celeron and H61 motherboard from the HTPC for the new flexraid server. I set up flexraid in an old desktop tower I had and ran Window Home server. It was nice. I liked it. WHS was stable, flexraid was great ! I moved about 12TB of storage (mostly WD green drives) over to the flexraid server and I set it up with full drives which was really nice. No data loss and everything worked great. I also gained parity back up and recovery and the new WHS server was very stable. Having a dedicated HTPC and a dedicated media server was SOOOO much better. No more restart or crash problems. No problem surfing or gaming on desktop while wifey watches movie on the HTPC either.

But, that celeron was too weak. It was always near 100%. The server was rather sluggish. I knew that G530 CPU I was using was not going to cut it very long. I eventually upgraded my HTPC to the i5, so then I took the Pentium and the Z68 board from the HTPC again and use it in the server. That was a little better. Then I bought a 3.0ghz G860 CPU for it because it was really cheap again, and basically it was the i3 2100 I was considering but without the HD2000 graphics, 3D or quicksync. Since it was a headless media server I figured I did not need any of that and grabbed the G860 for only $64. If you are keeping track that's $40 for the Celeron, $50 for the first pentium, then $64 for the second.

Turns out with PLEX and MB server and transcoding coming up in the world of HTPC and with my media collection growing and my wanting to share my collection with my parents and brother/sister my new Pentium CPU was not enough. It barely could transcode, and it could not do dual streams. Soo.. YES YOU GUESSED IT! Time to upgrade the CPU in my server a 4th time.

This time I went all the way and bought a 4770k i7 basically over a year ago when it first launched haswell and Z87; I got the microcenter deal on the Asrock Z87 Extreme combo. That free up my 2600K i7 from my desktop for use in my media server so today I have a i7 in my media server it works wonderfully.


in fact I just looked:





Looks like my wife is watching pure trash TV and my dad is watching (at his house on ROKU) COPPER because he likes american history and I told him it was good. Sometimes my brother is watching at his house, and if I was not on AVS I'd either be on the projector watching a movie or laying in bed with headphones watching something on the ipad.

4 Streams and 3 transcodes is no sweat now!

Funny I spent as much on the three previous CPU as I did on the i7 when I think about it. If I had really known I would have just grabbed an i5 in the first place. I got a little lucky because I was able to repurpose and trickle down so many parts. As I went from all in one to dedicated HTPC then to dedicated HTPC and dedicated media server and a desktop I was able to resuse machines and parts.

I actually ended up using the pentium for my brothers HTPC and also my parents HTPC. I had nothing else to do with them. Then my dad got a new 1080p 3D projector and wanted 3D so I just bought an i3 Haswell for him, I'm upgrading his pentium to a new CPU and machine tomorrow
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post #10 of 335 Old 08-01-2014, 07:24 PM
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I'm quite happy with my cheap build, which I got started on because of Mfusick's thread.
Cheapest ever HTPC that's decent. Proud of myself.

Sometimes I hear some fan noise but I'm not sure which fan is creating most of it. The Intel CPU, the PSU, & PC case came with their fans so I really didn't buy cheap fans because they were included with the components. Maybe I could have bought a fanless video card, but for $15 the cheap one I got fixed the 29/59 bug. So I guess that's $15 that could have been spent more wisely.

I actually splurged a bit & bought a dual core Pentium instead of Celeron. For less than $400 I have a 4-tuner OTA DVR which can also be used to watch Hulu or other channels, & of course can be used as a regular Windows 7 PC.
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post #11 of 335 Old 08-01-2014, 07:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by ajhieb View Post
If you can tell me why you drive a Mazda, I'll tell you why not everyone want's to splurge on their HTPC setup.
Haha. Because I'm poor and can't afford a BMW and the mazda drove the best. Mostly cost, but also the CX5 just seemed like it drove and handled the best and it was basically the best driving cheapest thing I found that could fit two car seats in the back. Well, that and I used to run a Mazda dealership years ago and friend still does.

But I hear you what you are saying. Cars are not always a good analogy. At least not for me because I'm really not too caring about what car I drive. I have zero tolerance for something crappy old and unreliable, but if was to lease a Honda, toyota, Mazda, Nissan.. Ford... whatever... I would't really care. It's all the same just a car. Not my thing. It just needs to work reasonably well. That's it. It takes me to work. But it's not total crap either, it's still a 2014 model under warranty and it's well reviewed and compares well with others. Like I said cars are perhaps a bad comparison, because if my Mazda was an i3 and your BMW was an i7 that means a celeron is what ? A 10 year Chevy with 100k on it? Yeah no thanks.

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post #12 of 335 Old 08-01-2014, 07:37 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Mike99 View Post
I'm quite happy with my cheap build, which I got started on because of Mfusick's thread.
Cheapest ever HTPC that's decent. Proud of myself.

Sometimes I hear some fan noise but I'm not sure which fan is creating most of it. The Intel CPU, the PSU, & PC case came with their fans so I really didn't buy cheap fans because they were included with the components. Maybe I could have bought a fanless video card, but for $15 the cheap one I got fixed the 29/59 bug. So I guess that's $15 that could have been spent more wisely.

I actually splurged a bit & bought a dual core Pentium instead of Celeron. For less than $400 I have a 4-tuner OTA DVR which can also be used to watch Hulu or other channels, & of course can be used as a regular Windows 7 PC.
Yeah I remember you doing a build about the same time I was doing a few. But you represent a great point though, I think the one Ajhieb was stressing about. You built what works for you and what you needed, nothing you didn't need. So years later it's still going strong for you doing exactly what you want it to do, and it's not failing to do anything you want it to do.

So in your case you did great. You did not spend tons of money, (actually almost nothing considering what you have) and even years later it's working rather well for what you do with it.

If someone could actually figure out exactly what they needed to do with an HTPC, and exactly what they'd never need to do it's a lot easier to get it right!

In my case I did not know enough to do that very well, and in a lot of cases the world of HTPC just rapidly grew around me like a giant bean stalk I needed to climb. There was no mediabrowser server, or transoding, or even PLEX back then. Slowly it all came out months later forcing me to upgrade.

Since I have two streams running now as I type this obviously I use it. We use it a lot and enjoy it. So depending on what you need to do with your HTPC or server will dictate the proper level of hardware you'll need. The hard part is for someone that's new to a lot of this they might not really know enough to make those determinations and understand things. I think for that reason having a little headroom or buffer zone isn't a bad idea generally speaking, especially for the people who have the money or don't have a huge budget restriction.

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post #13 of 335 Old 08-01-2014, 07:40 PM - Thread Starter
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@ajhieb you've calmed down a little bit I think. Nice job on that! That or I think I am just more relaxed about a lot of this stuff. IDK. Seems like it's been a while since I argued with you. haha.

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post #14 of 335 Old 08-01-2014, 08:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mfusick View Post
Haha. Because I'm poor and can't afford a BMW and the mazda drove the best. Mostly cost, but also the CX5 just seemed like it drove and handled the best and it was basically the best driving cheapest thing I found that could fit two car seats in the back. Well, that and I used to run a Mazda dealership years ago and friend still does.

But I hear you what you are saying. Cars are not always a good analogy. At least not for me because I'm really not too caring about what car I drive. I have zero tolerance for something crappy old and unreliable, but if was to lease a Honda, toyota, Mazda, Nissan.. Ford... whatever... I would't really care. It's all the same just a car. Not my thing. It just needs to work reasonably well. That's it. It takes me to work. But it's not total crap either, it's still a 2014 model under warranty and it's well reviewed and compares well with others. Like I said cars are perhaps a bad comparison, because if my Mazda was an i3 and your BMW was an i7 that means a celeron is what ? A 10 year Chevy with 100k on it? Yeah no thanks.
That's why this is the perfect analogy.

You don't really care about your car. That's the answer. It is simply a means to and end for you, and as long as it serves its purpose that's all you care about. That is the answer to your question. Some people don't care about the specs of their PC as long as it does what they bought it to do. You don't care that newer cars can park themselves. You have no interest in such driving shenanigans. Lots of people don't care if their HTPC can transcode 4 streams at once. They bought it to play MKV rips and it does that just fine. (@Mike99 is a perfect example.) The two are no different. Not everyone is a car enthusiast. Not everyone is a computer enthusiast. Not everyone is a home theater enthusiast.

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post #15 of 335 Old 08-01-2014, 09:02 PM
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I think of all the crappy $2000 PCs I bought back in the 90s and early 2000s and still shake my head when someone complains they can't get a PC that does everything they want for $100 like someone's trying to rip them off or god forbid make a profit for their time and actually cover the cost of parts, shipping, PayPal fees, etc. "How can it cost so much when it's just metal and plastic?" For real?

Anyway, I've been through a few HTPCs and servers now. I don't necessarily regret those past builds. At the time they were a good mix of speed, cost and efficiency. After a while though they do get long in the tooth or are missing some feature I'd like to have so I upgrade then. I like my current A8-3820 HTPC but even though it's a 2.5GHz quad-core it still has it's slowdowns and annoyances. I'll probably go Intel CPU + discrete GPU in my next one. At this point though I've got so much unsold hardware lying around I might not have a choice what I use.

My main HTPC through the years:
1. AMD Athlon 5050e + Gigabyte 780G motherboard
2. AMD Athlon II x4 + ASUS 785G motherboard (add HD5670 GPU to get HD-audio)
3. Intel i3-2100 + ASUS H55 motherboard (added back HD5670 GPU because of 29/59 issues)
4. AMD A8-3820 + ASUS A55 motherboard (current)

My servers through the years:
1. Off-lease Dell GX620 tower (WHS v1)
2. ASUS E35M1-I + Lian-Li PC-Q08 (WHS2011)
3. Giada N70E-DR + Lian-Li PC-Q08 (WHS2011 - current)

My bedroom HTPC is usually something I am experimenting with. Right now it's a Q1900B-ITX in a SH-55 case with a picoPSU. Past has been everything from Intel i3-530 to Intel G620 to Atom D2700 to AMD E1-2100, i3-3217U, and who knows what else.
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post #16 of 335 Old 08-01-2014, 09:18 PM - Thread Starter
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That's why this is the perfect analogy.

You don't really care about your car. That's the answer. It is simply a means to and end for you, and as long as it serves its purpose that's all you care about. That is the answer to your question. Some people don't care about the specs of their PC as long as it does what they bought it to do. You don't care that newer cars can park themselves. You have no interest in such driving shenanigans. Lots of people don't care if their HTPC can transcode 4 streams at once. They bought it to play MKV rips and it does that just fine. (@Mike99 is a perfect example.) The two are no different. Not everyone is a car enthusiast. Not everyone is a computer enthusiast. Not everyone is a home theater enthusiast.

I agree. Although I do make some minor assumptions that everyone here shares at least a little passion for HTPC.

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post #17 of 335 Old 08-01-2014, 09:28 PM
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Haha. Because I'm poor and can't afford a BMW and the mazda drove the best. Mostly cost, but also the CX5 just seemed like it drove and handled the best and it was basically the best driving cheapest thing I found that could fit two car seats in the back. Well, that and I used to run a Mazda dealership years ago and friend still does.

But I hear you what you are saying. Cars are not always a good analogy. At least not for me because I'm really not too caring about what car I drive. I have zero tolerance for something crappy old and unreliable, but if was to lease a Honda, toyota, Mazda, Nissan.. Ford... whatever... I would't really care. It's all the same just a car. Not my thing. It just needs to work reasonably well. That's it. It takes me to work. But it's not total crap either, it's still a 2014 model under warranty and it's well reviewed and compares well with others. Like I said cars are perhaps a bad comparison, because if my Mazda was an i3 and your BMW was an i7 that means a celeron is what ? A 10 year Chevy with 100k on it? Yeah no thanks.

I am a big fan of Mazda cars have and still own a bunch of them. Have a first-off-the-boat first gen 2004 Mazda 3 and a couple of Miatas including a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata with a number of very effective bolt-ons and only 19k on the clock .


I am a car guy and understand what and why Mazda cars are special and understand how they deliver solid value while providing a driver experience far superior to what the competition delivers at anywhere near the price point.


i7s in HTPCs are pretty much unnecessary for people who aren't transcoding. I am hard pressed to see their value in an HTPC if the PC is client playback device. I am not even sure transcoding is really the work of an HTPC. That is more of a server type task in my opinion. But we all define an HTPC differently I guess.


Your everything to the max 30 TB storage system kind of thinking seems a weird philosophy for a Mazda guy. Mazdas are about balance and almost always a bit down on raw power but embued with superb driving dynamics right out of the box. The idea behind Mazda cars is that it is more fun to drive a slow car fast than it is to drive a fast car slow. Tasking an i7 Haswell to do 1080P playback is kind of like buying a new 600 hp vette to get groceries.


It may feed your ego to be seen in such a conveyance but it is otherwise ill suited or at the very least an excessively large hammer. I usually wonder what is being compensated for when so much power is applied to such a mundane task. We are all guilty of a bit of bench racing on this kind of forum... but if you understand what a Mazda is than you ought to be able to understand that there is certain esthetic beyond raw power. And while we all have at one time or another been pennywise and pound foolish most of us have also wasted a lot of dollars on buying what ended up in as wastefully excessive impractical solution. Some people think the solution to mkv playback is an 8 core XEON cpu and 3 or 4 Nvidia Titans. You and I are on different ends of the spectrum on what it takes to get that job done well.


So while everyone has an opinion, don't open a thread and asked opinions and experiences unless you genuinely want to hear them. Because the way your react it is pretty clear if someone does not think like you then their opinion must be worthless. Maybe I am misreading your attitude but honestly you are one hell of a blowhard.
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post #18 of 335 Old 08-01-2014, 09:42 PM - Thread Starter
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I think you misread my attitude. I don't disagree with most what you say.
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post #19 of 335 Old 08-01-2014, 09:56 PM
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I think you misread my attitude. I don't disagree with most what you say.

"Too much is almost enough. Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing. Moderation is for cowards."
Which attitude do you think is being misread?

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post #20 of 335 Old 08-01-2014, 10:57 PM
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I'll just save everyone some time and reading and get to the point ajheib was indirectly getting to : Mfusick, by his own logic, is a coward for owning a Mazda. Now, onto the next argument . No need to continue this spat for 37 pages. On either side. Move it along.
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post #21 of 335 Old 08-02-2014, 12:39 AM
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Welcome to my world.

I think I've upgraded like 3 HTPC myself, another 3 for my parents.. My server got upgraded a bunch of times too.
21,000+ posts and only 3 upgrades? I'm SO disappointed...
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post #22 of 335 Old 08-02-2014, 12:54 AM
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Lol...
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post #23 of 335 Old 08-02-2014, 01:06 AM
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I primarily wanted an HD DVR to record, watch, & delete TV programs. And to watch Hulu if I missed something. It was a bit confusing to get started building an HTPC because I read about things such as madVR, XBMC, etc. Turns out all that was needed was WMC7.

My HTPC is basically an appliance. I used to record movies & programs with a DVD recorder or VCR. But we rarely watch a movie twice so I basically stopped collecting. So I didn’t need a server or fancy front end to display a lot of movies.

I have a single HDD & the HTPC wakes up from sleep in about 10 seconds when I click on the remote so I never added an SSD.

I do want a more powerful desktop PC & plan on doing that upgrade in the near future so will spend a few bucks on that. But the HTPC just keeps working as is.

And I do like cars. If I had a bigger budget I’d like to get one of these.
http://www.drivesrt.com/2015/challenger-srt-hellcat/
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post #24 of 335 Old 08-02-2014, 05:57 AM
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I wish I had built a crappier HTPC 4 years ago, so I'd have an excuse to build a new one. But no, the thing just keeps on working. No fun.
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post #25 of 335 Old 08-02-2014, 06:38 AM - Thread Starter
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21,000+ posts and only 3 upgrades? I'm SO disappointed...
I'm a dinosaur around here. Computers couldn't even do video when I joined. Sadly HTPC is only a few years old for me. Before that I was just a gamer.

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post #26 of 335 Old 08-02-2014, 09:29 AM
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The builds that I regret are the ones where there I didn't have a plan. On those I was always thinking "ooh, what if I added X?". I constantly tinkered with them. They had frequent downtime and horrible WAF. They were overspecced because I wanted flexibility. At the end of the day, all I did was pay extra for a worse HTPC. Sure, I learned stuff along the way, but what I really learned was not to do that.

The builds that I don't regret...those were the cheap ones. I had a finite list of features and paid only for the minimum hardware to perform them. Once built, I didn't fiddle with them. They sat and ran and ran and ran and nobody even thought about them as computers...they were appliances. Those were my good builds, with high WAF and worth every penny.

I agree with Stardog and ajhieb. Have a plan. Build to spec. Save the what-ifs for next time. Ignore the "moar power" crowd; that path leads to a white elephant HTPC that could do everything but actually does nothing.
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post #27 of 335 Old 08-02-2014, 09:53 AM
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I've lost track of how many times I've upgraded my HTPC. I've gone through a multitude of changes in recording technologies and formats since the early days of VCRs. I've been a diehard couch potato most of my life so once I tried time shifting I was hooked. I went through VHS, Beta, S-VHS, Tivo, and ReplayTV for cable and OTA and eventually switched to DirecTV. I still used Tivos and ReplayTVs with sat receivers for recording and also used D-VHS recorders with an early Hughes sat receiver that could also get Dolby Digital. When the dual tuner DirecTivo came out I jumped on it, although we had to hack them to enable the 2nd tuner at the time. I built my first HTPC to record OTA because DirecTV didn't provide all of my locals and only one of the two markets that was available in my area. I was using BeyondTV with a socket 939 motherboard and CPU at the time and it worked great.

Years later, DirecTV announced they were dumping Tivo for their own DVR and it turned out to be pretty buggy at first. I decided to switch to FIOS as soon as it came through my neighborhood and I'm still with it today. I was able to swap out my DirecTivos for the current series 3 model that worked with digital cable so I could record from FIOS. Fast forward again and Ceton announced the InfiniTV 4. I got on the notification list and placed my pre-order as soon as I got the word it was going into production. When it finally arrived five months later I made the switch to Windows 7 and Media Center.

Since then I have probably invested at least a couple grand and made numerous upgrades. I bought a nice Silverstone HTPC case and have probably swapped out the motherboard, CPU, and memory about 5 or 6 times since then (I had two bad Intel motherboards in a row, both different models). I've gone through more ATSC tuners than I can count. I currently own thre InfiniTV 4's, an InfiniTV 6, and a HDHomeRun Prime.

My original Windows 7 setups were more than a bit buggy, but things seemed to even out after a few more hardware swaps and the release of Service Pack 1. Nowadays I just install Windows 7 and associated drivers along with any additional software and everything just works. I've got three satellite HTPCs in addition to my primary HTPC, all of them i3 NUCs. I've tried using hardware that was supposed to be "good enough, " but it always fell short. I've adopted a philosophy that if something is supposed to be "good enough" it's usually marginal at best and stepping up one or two CPUs better (i.e., from a Celeron to an i3) will usually do everything I ask of it and do it well. Going to anything more powerful is just a waste, unless you actually need your HTPC to do more than record and watch TV or stream Blu-Ray rips from a server.

I've found that if you go cheap with your HTPC, you'll probably be disappointed in the results. You get what you pay for, but only up to a point. Buying way more than you need doesn't make any more sense than not buying enough. Look at the basic requirements and then bump it up a notch or two just in case. If you think you'll need to transcode or play games, then plan for that as well.

I initially based most of my builds using recommended components from the build threads from both renethx and Assassin. The main problem I had was that many of those threads were outdated and the hardware was getting hard to find. I have since found that most current hardware will work just fine, especially with the latest CPUs and integrated GPUs. Windows 7 has matured to where it is extremely stable and hardware drivers have reached the same level of stability. It's gotten to where it's becoming difficult to have a problematic HTPC build. Life is good.
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post #28 of 335 Old 08-02-2014, 10:17 AM - Thread Starter
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The builds that I regret are the ones where there I didn't have a plan. On those I was always thinking "ooh, what if I added X?". I constantly tinkered with them. They had frequent downtime and horrible WAF. They were overspecced because I wanted flexibility. At the end of the day, all I did was pay extra for a worse HTPC. Sure, I learned stuff along the way, but what I really learned was not to do that.

The builds that I don't regret...those were the cheap ones. I had a finite list of features and paid only for the minimum hardware to perform them. Once built, I didn't fiddle with them. They sat and ran and ran and ran and nobody even thought about them as computers...they were appliances. Those were my good builds, with high WAF and worth every penny.

I agree with Stardog and ajhieb. Have a plan. Build to spec. Save the what-ifs for next time. Ignore the "moar power" crowd; that path leads to a white elephant HTPC that could do everything but actually does nothing.
You make some great points, but I don't think it's about "MOAR POWER". I think people are reading my signature and just misinterpreting some of what I am trying to say. Or perhaps they just know my personality and are making assumptions.

The main thing I was asking in the opening post was what is it about HTPC that makes it like a red headed step child to a lot of people? It seems like there is a strong prevalence in this forum to cheap out, or cry about dollars, or quickly make compromises- and there is an abnormally strong tendency to be conservative or appreciate moderation even if it means slow and low performance come for a ride too.

I saw one dude spend $300 on a microphone to measure his subs and speakers and then only $200 on a laptop, then realized it was only a netbook and he needed a real laptop with windows ($350)... LOL! Ended up costing him $550.

I saw another not to be named poster talk about energy efficiency and choose a weak ass CPU because of misplaced concerns of heat and energy consumption and when I clicked the link in his signature I looked as his system and the dude was posting about running a 4th 20amp circuit to his AV closet for another amp for his subs. He had like two full closets full of stuff sucking juice... and I just lol-ed.

This happens all the time. Because it's computer related or HTPC people treat it differently. They are quick to make a compromise or give up performance, and they are pinching every penny worry about a difference of $20. I saw another guy spend $2500 on his TV stand then cry about $40 difference in price from a nice HTPC case to a rather crappier one. WTF? Some of the compromises people make around here on stuff they would never do if they were buying a TV or speakers or sub woofers, or a projector or screen.

It seems like to me that the cost of HTPC and PC components is really pennies on the dollar compared to the rest of the average home theater system on this website. This is after all AVS, so it's not like there's a ton of walmart $99 special home theater systems on here. The folks around here (even the less affluent ones) tend to have nicer stuff and a general appreciation for audio and video performance. The cost of a HTPC compared to a display, or AVR, or speakers, or subs is really small. It's less than what people spend on TV stands or racks, or even interconnect cables for their components. Then think about how much you spend on media! $100+ a month for cable and internet. plus rentals. Plus movies or tv box sets you buy. It's way more than HTPC, even a rather premium one is going to cost you.

And HTPC last for a while, especially if you spec it right and make it nice. A $500-$750 HTPC has potentially many years of viability. I'd think any i3 or higher or equivalent powered AMD build should suffice for an excess of 3 years so cost broken down per year is so small compared to a cable bill, or any other part of your system. The viability and longevity of an HTPC only increases with better performance parts. Spending that $20 extra on the Samsung PRO SSD and that $40 extra on that core i5 quad core instead doesn't mean lower reliability or problems either. I know what you are saying and I agree 100% about the needing a good plan part, and if you piece something together on a whim it's less ideal and more problematic. I agree. But that's user error, it's nothing wrong with the hardware. Choosing a faster SSD for $20 doesn't make your HTPC less reliable or more problematic. Actually the Sammy Pro has a 10 year warranty is reasonably expected to be more reliable. Spending $40 on that i5 CPU doesn't lead to more problems either, it just means your HTPC is faster and more powerful and should last you longer before it loses it's viability as a proper solution. It's not burning any more juice playing a video either, not enough to be of any consequence to anyone, including even the most excessively brain damaged tree huggers. It's so insignificant compared to other areas of your home, lifestyle, or even home theater system. But no one looks at those areas, it all about the HTPC like it's the single point source in your house for excessive energy consumption. Lol. Just turn your AC up a couple degrees, or upgrade your fridge to something more efficient. My wife blow drying her hair for 5 minutes burns way more energy than my HTPC. That extra 5 minutes in a hot shower with an electric water heater ? It's just weird to me how people are so misinformed about energy and HTPC in relation to other parts of their lives yet seemingly everyone has some obsession about HTPC and energy and treats it differently than stuff like it's of way more and paramount importance.

So what is it about PC or HTPC and in this forum that has such a prevalence for moderation and compromise, and an inherent universal tendency to pinch every penny so tight? It seems like the same folks crying over seemingly little money differences in parts or a build options goes off full tilt in another forum on speakers, or subs, or displays or amps. It's like mismatched. It's something funny about this forum that's been this way for a while where compromise and moderation is appreciated and that leads to a culture that promotes that. I feel like sometime people who are not naturally like that get bad advice here because of this. I know it happened to me when I first joined. I even jumped on the bandwagon and called people out for using a quad core saying "it's not needed". I've learned the error of my ways.
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post #29 of 335 Old 08-02-2014, 11:13 AM
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No regrets here. I feel that I've always chosen the best parts for my intended use and have just been limited by the technology available at the time of building.

Could I have overspecced my first HTPCs to be quad-core Q6600 guzzlers? Sure. If I had though, I would have have wasted money in parts, cooling and electricity unnecessarily. I had also been considering spending a few grand on a dual-socket LGA-771 Xeon build with FB-DIMMs for my server and boy, what a mistake that would have been. I'm happy I just saved the funds and stuck with a single socket Yorkfield LGA-775 solution.

The thing is even now, my old Celeron E3300 builds paired with appropriate GPU can accomplish all the tasks I require of my front-end HTPCs. They can handle Blu-ray (3D), live TV, Flash HD, Netflix HD and even my PSX emulators. Not once have I felt that my 4-year old i3-530 HTPC was too slow to handle HTPC duties and the occasional system maintenance (at least once I replaced the HDD with SSD).

For me, a lot of the fun in HTPCs is the planning, speccing and building. Alas, the HTPCs have been running pretty stable for 4 years and aside from switching to SSD, have never needed upgrades. I recently built 2 Mini-ITX Haswell Pentium and 2 Mini-ITX Ivy Bridge Celeron ULV and have the parts for an i5-4570 build partly to satisfy my itch.

I can see Mfusick's point. With current CPU options, I'd pretty much always go i5 quad over i3 "fake quad" for the extra $50 or so. However, between a $50 Celeron/Pentium and a $200 i5, I'm likely to save the extra $150 if my intended usage doesn't require much CPU power. Same thing between a Crucial MX100 and a Samsung 850 PRO. In 10 years time, I expect we'll have moved to PCIe SSDs anyway (or even a totally different technology) and you can probably buy 2TB or more for the same price 500GB will cost you now.

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post #30 of 335 Old 08-02-2014, 12:13 PM
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This thread speaks to exactly why I've been putzing about the HTPC forums for the past month. I'm trying to make sure that the machine I end up with (whether I build or purchase off the shelf) is able to do the things I need it to do the first time. I want to leave a little wiggle-room for increased performance demands, but I don't want to overshoot the mark so much that I am using a .50 caliber Desert Eagle when a lady's clutch .22 Beretta would have done everything just as nicely.

I now know I am best off making my HTPC and my server separate machines, something I originally was not going to do in order to save money on the second machine (which it turns out can be rather inexpensive). I now know that, despite many claims to the contrary, that those i3 PCs I was looking at really aren't going to handle everything I need them to. Coming here, I have actually found many places where I was clearly over-spending (like investing in a high-end vid-card), meanwhile, I have found a few places where I would be wise to invest a bit more.

The "final" server PC is being acquired in less than three weeks. Hopeffully by then I'll have learned even more and can really refine what specs I actually should be shooting for the first time around.
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