Guide to Building a HTPC, Workstation and Server - Page 369 - AVS Forum
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Recommended HTPC Systems – November 2009 Edition
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Last Update on December 7, 2009

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post #11042 of 19319 Old 11-23-2009, 06:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Introduction
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Organization of the Contents
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Here is a brief summary of the contents.
  • Peripheral Components and OS: I collected common hardware components used in each system here. OS (Windows only) is also mentioned.
  • The list of recommended HTPC systems: This longest part is classified into several categories as stated below for convenience.
  • DAS (Direct Attached Storage): If you need more storage space, a quick solution is here.
  • Workstation: A system for (serious) video editing tasks.
  • Server: HD video files occupy lots of storage spaces. So you may need a dedicated media storage server.
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Classification of HTPC Systems
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HTPC systems here are classified into several categories for convenience, according to the following three criteria.

1. Form Factor

A form factor specifies the physical dimensions of a system. Basically it is the motherboard form factor that defines the overall size of a system. There are dozens of standardized form factors. Among them we will be concerned with the following three most popular form factors.
  • Mini-ITX: 170mm x 170mm (6.7″ x 6.7″)
  • MicroATX: 244mm x 244mm (9.6″ x 9.6″)
  • ATX: 305mm x 244mm (12″ x 9.6″)
Here is a picture of a motherboard/case of each form factor, Mini-ITX, microATX, ATX, from left to right, the bottom being an AVR.

(FYI the model number of each motherboard/case in the picture is:
Form Factor Motherboard Case Case Size
Mini-ITX Zotac GF9300-G-E Apex MI-008 W220 x H129 x D300 mm
MicroATX GIGABYTE GA-MA785GM-US2H Antec Fusion Remote W445 x H145 x D414 mm
ATX ASUS P7P55D EVO Zalman HD503 W450 x H170 x D455 mm
The AVR is ONKYO TX-NA807, W435 x H199 x D436 mm. You may wonder why the width of the microATX case is almost the same as that of the ATX case. The reason is simple: the PSU is usually laid flat in a microATX case, while it is laid vertically in an ATX case. As a consequence, a microATX case is usually shorter in height than an ATX case.)

Because of the size, Mini-ITX provides the least expandability (0 or 1 expansion slot), usually 2 memory slots and CPU support is often limited by the cooling performance of a small Mini-ITX case. MicroATX supports up to 4 expansion slots, while ATX supports up to 7 expansion slots. Usually a Mini-ITX/microATX motherboard comes with an integrated graphics so that you may not need to use a discrete graphic card. An ATX case can usually hold more storage drives than an microATX case, and a microATX case can hold more storage drives than an Mini-ITX case.

2. Performance and Cost

Typical tasks done by a HTPC are
  • Playing back (or watching) media contents including:
    • Non-streamed media such as DVD movies, Blu-ray Disc movies, CDs.
    • Streamed media such as TV (terrestrial, satellite, cable, Internet) and radio.
    • Media files stored locally.
  • Creating media files from various sources, non-streaming or streaming (usually called "ripping" or "recording"), and storing them for later use.
  • Editing, including re-encoding, media files.
Hardware components that are important for each task is:
  • Playing back video: This includes video decode and various post-processing (deinterlacing, rescaling etc.). GPU is the most important for this task (unless you resort to a software playback solution such as ffdshow). A couple of GPUs integrated in motherboard are good. If you want to get the best picture quality, a good mid-range discrete GPU is recommended, however. A high-end card is good for better gaming experience of course, but it rarely improve video playback performance.
  • Ripping: The speed of ripping DVD/BD discs is often limited by the reading speed of the optical disc drive used.
  • Recording: HDTV contents are already encoded (in either MPEG-2 or H.264). So this is relatively easy for any system.
  • Editing and re-encoding video (except for simple cut and join): This is one of the most CPU-intensive tasks. A good quad-core processor is recommended. A trend is that GPU (stream processors) offloads CPU, and several video editing applications already support it (keywords: GPGPU, OpenCL, Microsoft DirectCompute, NVIDIA CUDA, ATI Stream).
In general better performance means costing more.

Performance and cost is the secondary category of the list.

3. CPU-Chipset-GPU Manufacturers

CPU, chipset (in motherboard; controlling various I/O devices and connecting them to CPU/memory) and GPU are the three main hardware components of a system. Intel and AMD are the main suppliers of CPU for PC. Intel and AMD are producing chipsets for its own CPUs and NVIDIA for both. Intel (integrated GPU only), AMD and NVIDIA are the top three GPU manufacturers.

CPU/chipset/GPU manufacturers is the third category of the list.
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My Pick of HTPC
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In case you have no idea what to choose (and no time to dig), here is my pick.
  • MicroATX or ATX Mid-Range AMD-AMD System (with ATI or NVIDIA Graphics Card): The best video playback performance, as well as good performance in various CPU intensive tasks with a decent quad-core processor. The only caveat is that HDMI audio (ATI or NVIDIA) supports multichannel LPCM and Dolby Digital/DTS bitstreams, but does not support Dolby TrueHD/DTS-HD Master Audio bitstreams. For the latter support, you can go with ATI Radeon HD 5750 (with Corel WinDVD Pro 2010 or CyberLink PowerDVD 9 Ultra) right now or wait for the cheaper HD 5600 Series expected in Q1 2010.


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post #11043 of 19319 Old 11-23-2009, 06:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Peripheral Components and OS
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A HTPC needs peripheral components (input devices, optical drive, TV tuner, sound card etc.) to be functional besides the core components (CPU, motherboard, memory, graphics card, HDD, PSU and case). The following is a quick list of recommended peripheral components and OS. In the subsequent sections, I will give only core components.

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Input Device
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MCE Remote

A MCE remote is a (usually IR) remote control and a receiver to be attached to the HTPC (internally or externally via USB) that controls Windows Media Center and other front ends/media players at a distant place. Some HTPC cases and TV tuner cards come with a MCE remote. If not, you can buy one.
  • Anyware GP-IR01BK Windows Vista MCE Remote Control External IR Receiver and Remote, $21.
  • Antec Multimedia Station Basic Internal IR Receiver and Remote, $25.
  • Antec Multimedia Station Elite Internal IR Receiver w/VFD and Remote, $59.
Universal Remote

If you want to control all entertainment equipments at your home theater room, a universal remote is a must. Your HTPC needs to have an IR receiver (so you first need to have a MCE remote).
  • Logitech Harmony One Advanced Universal Remote, $186.
  • Logitech Harmony 700 (A stripped version of Harmony One: up to six devices, non-touch screen), $133.
  • Logitech Harmony 900 (Harmony One + RF capabilities), $300.
  • Logitech Harmony 1100 (3.5ˮ touch screen; RF capabilities), $330.
You may be able to find an older model cheap:
  • Logitech Harmony 880 Advanced Universal Remote, $130.
  • Logitech Harmony 890 Advanced Universal Remote (Harmony 880 + RF capabilities), $220.
The following is a universal remote (PC via RF + three CE devices via IR) with Gyration's MotionSense technology, eliminating the need for a mouse.
  • Gyration Air Music Remote GYR4101US, $68.
  • Gyration Air Music Remote with Compact Keyboard GYR4101CKUS, $83.
or the editions without music library LCD:
  • Gyration Media Center Remote GYR3101US, $68.
  • Gyration Media Center Remote with Compact Keyboard GYR3101CKUS, $108.

Keyboard & Mouse
  • Adesso 2.4 GHz RF Wireless Multimedia/MCE Keyboard with Optical Trackball WKB-3200UB, $55.
  • Logitech diNovo Edge, $135.
  • Logitech diNovo Mini, $126.
So what do you need?

So what do you need (besides a keyboard and a mouse when installing software)? There is no simple answer.
  • If you just want to control a front end remotely, a cheap MCE remote may be enough. But you still need to a keyboard/mouse, for example, to surf the web.
  • Logitech Harmony is good to control lots of CE devices as well as HTPC. But you still need to a keyboard/mouse, for example, to surf the web.
  • If you want to use your HTPC more like a normal PC (e.g. web browsing) without using a keyboard/mouse, Gyration is a good choice. This can also control three other CE devices.
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Optical Disc Drive
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BD Rewriter/BD-ROM/DVD Rewriter
  • LG WH08LS20 Super Multi Blue BD & DVD Rewriter, $180.
  • LG CH08LS10 Super Multi Blue BD-ROM/DVD Rewriter, $104.
  • LITE-ON iHOS104 BD/DVD Reader, $60.
  • SilverStone TOB02 SST-TOB02 Slim Type BD-ROM/DVD Rewriter, $148.
DVD Rewriter
  • LG GH22NS50 Super Multi DVD & CD Rewriter, $29.
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TV Tuner/Capture Card
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Digital+Analog
  • AVerMedia AVerTV Combo G2 PCIe x1 Card (White Box or Media Center Upgrade Kit), $90.
  • Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 PCIe x1 Card (White Box or MC Kit), $114.
Digital Only
  • AVerMedia AVerTVHD Duet PCIe x1 Card (White Box), $60.
  • Silicondust HDHomeRun Networked Device, $149.
HD Capturing
  • Hauppauge HD PVR model 1212 USB Device, $205.
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Sound Card
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This is purely optional. Necessary hardware for HD digital audio is provided by either a motherboard, a graphics card, or a (upcoming) Intel CPU:
  • Dolby Digital and DTS bitstreams: The motherboard's coaxial or optical S/PDIF is enough. HDMI from AMD 785G chipset motherboards as well as all the solutions mentioned below also support them.
  • Multichannel LPCM over HDMI: All the Radeon HD 4xxx/5xxx discrete graphics cards, GeForce 8200/8300/9300/9400 chipset motherboards, Intel G45 chipset motherboards, and the upcoming Intel Core i5/i3 (Clarkdale) processor support it.
  • Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio bitstreams over HDMI: All the Radeon HD 5xxx graphics cards and the upcoming Intel Core i5/i3 (Clarkdale) processor support them.
So you don't need a sound card unless you want:
  • Good analog sound (coupled with a good amplifier);
  • Support for EAX 5.0 in gaming (to output via analog, S/PDIF with Dolby Digital Live/DTS Interactive or HDMI)
Here are a list of a couple of recommended sound cards if you are in the above two cases:
  • ASUS Xonar HDAV1.3 Deluxe PCIe x1 Card, $240. (Topnotch analog sound as well as HD audio bitstreaming with ArcSoft TotalMedia Theater.)
  • Auzentech Auzen X-Fi HomeTheater HD PCIe x1 Card, $250. (EAX 5.0 support by an X-Fi audio chip; HD audio bitstreaming with a retail copy of CyberLink PowerDVD 9 Ultra.)
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OS
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  • Windows Vista Home Premium or Ultimate Service Pack 2, 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) edition. OEM should be enough.
  • Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional or Ultimate, 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) edition. OEM should be enough.
A couple of remarks:
  • Vista vs. Windows 7: If you own a license of Vista, do you need Windows 7? The answer depends on your usage. A notable improvement of Windows 7 over Vista is better TV integration in Windows Media Center. If you don't use TV feature of Media Center or don't use Media Center itself, then you may want to stay with Vista.
  • Vista editions: Vista Ultimate has several features that are not found in Home Premium, for example, complete PC backup and remote desktop, although you can find alternative programs easily (e.g. Acronis True Image; VNC, RAdmin).
  • Windows 7 editions: 7 Home Premium offers full-system backup and restore unlike Vista Home Premium. You can find comparison of Windows 7 editions in this Microsoft web page and Wikipedia.
  • x86 vs. x64: Currently the main advantage of Windows x64 is the support for more than 4GB memory. However Windows Media Center x64 is a 64-bit application and a couple of useful DirectShow filters are not available in x64 (e.g. madFlac Decoder, ReClock [a must tool for bit-perfect LPCM HD audio]). Unless you are sure you will take advantage of more than 4GB memory, you may want to stay with x86.



Lower-cost components




Higher-cost components

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Brackets
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S/PDIF Bracket

If your motherboard does not have an S/PDIF port in the rear panel, then you can build your own coaxial S/PDIF bracket: buy
from FRONTX and attach it to an empty PCI bracket by drilling a hole.

COM (Serial) Port Bracket

If your motherboard has an internal COM connector, use LPT (Parallel) Port Bracket

If your motherboard has an internal LPT connector, use


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Mini-ITX System
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General Consideration
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Mini-ITX form factor has become popular because of its small footprint. Almost every Mini-ITX motherboard has an integrated graphics processing unit (iGPU), and there are a couple of iGPUs that are very good for playing back HD contents. The number of expansion slots is at most 1 and the number of HDDs in a Mini-ITX case is usually 1 or 2. If you agree with these limitations, a Mini-ITX system can be not only a good HTPC (with iGPU) but also a gaming machine or a video encoding machine by placing a powerful discrete graphics card and/or CPU (as long as the motherboard and the case support them).

I will give a standard HTPC system with iGPU and a gaming HTPC with dGPU for each of the Intel chip-Intel chipset, the Intel chip-NVIDIA chipset, the AMD chip-AMD chipset and the AMD chip-NVIDIA chipset. Here is a feature comparison chart (needs to be updated).

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Standard System
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Intel-Intel (iGPU)

System
  • CPU: Pentium Dual-Core E5300 2.60GHz 2MB L2 LGA775, $64.
  • CPU Cooler: SilverStone NT07-775, $19.
  • Motherboard: Intel DG45FC (BOXDG45FC) LGA775 Intel G45 chipset Mini-ITX, $115.
  • Memory: A-DATA ADQVE1A16K DDR2-800 2 x 1GB Kit, $50.
  • Graphics Card: Intel GMA X4500HD (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HDD: WD Caviar Blue WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: ATX12V 250W SFX PSU (included in the case): $0.
  • Case: Apex MI-008 Mini-ITX, $40. An alternative is Apex MI-100BK Mini-ITX, $50.
  • Total Cost: $348

Remarks
  • BD playback under Windows XP is not supported in this system due to the chipset driver limitation.
References
Intel-NVIDIA (iGPU)

System
  • CPU: Pentium Dual-Core E5300 2.60GHz 2MB L2 LGA775, $64.
  • CPU Cooler: SilverStone NT07-775, $19.
  • Motherboard: ZOTAC GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi GF9300-G-E LGA775 GeForce 9300 mGPU Mini-ITX, $130.
  • Memory: A-DATA ADQVE1A16K DDR2-800 2 x 1GB Kit, $50.
  • Graphics Card: GeForce 9300 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HDD: WD Caviar Blue WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: ATX12V 250W SFX PSU (included in the case): $0.
  • Case: Apex MI-008 Mini-ITX, $40. An alternative is Apex MI-100BK Mini-ITX, $50.
  • Total Cost: $363

References
AMD-AMD (iGPU)

System
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 240 ADX240OCGQBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $60.
  • CPU Cooler: SilverStone NT07-AM2, $20.
  • Motherboard: J&W MINIX 780G-SP128MB AM2+ AMD 780G chipset Mini-ITX, $129 (at MvixUSA).
  • Memory: Crucial CT2KIT12864AC800 DDR2-800 SO-DIMM 2 x 1GB Kit, $49.
  • Graphics Card: Radeon HD 3200 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: ATX12V 250W SFX PSU (included in the case): $0.
  • Case: Apex MI-008 Mini-ITX, $40. An alternative is Apex MI-100BK Mini-ITX, $50.
  • Total Cost: $358

Remarks
  • You need to add a discrete graphics card such as SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 4550 DDR3 512MB, $45, for multichannel LPCM over HDMI.
AMD-NVIDIA (iGPU)

System
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 240 ADX240OCGQBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $60.
  • CPU Cooler: SilverStone NT07-AM2, $20.
  • Motherboard: ZOTAC GeForce 8200-ITX WiFi GF8200-C-E AM2+ GeForce 8200 mGPU Mini-ITX, $100.
  • Memory: A-DATA ADQVE1A16K DDR2-800 2 x 1GB Kit, $50.
  • Graphics Card: GeForce 8200 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: ATX12V 250W SFX PSU (included in the case): $0.
  • Case: Apex MI-008 Mini-ITX, $40. An alternative is Apex MI-100BK Mini-ITX, $50.
  • Total Cost: $330


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Gaming System
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The systems here are based on SilverStone SG05 Mini-DTX/Mini-ITX case. The case supports a 2-slot graphics card of up to 9″ length and has a 300W PSU, good enough in most cases.

Intel-Intel

System
  • CPU: Core i5 750 2.66GHz LGA1156, $196.
  • CPU Cooler: Cooler Master 風神鍛 (Geminii S) RR-CCH-PBU1-GP, $30, with Scythe Slip Stream Slim 120 mm Case Fan SY1212SL12M 1600rpm, $8 (the stock fan is too tall for the selected case), and Cooler Master RR-ACC-1156-GP LGA1156 Retention Bracket Set, $4 (necessary to attach the cooler to the LGA1156 socket).
  • Motherboard: DFI LANPARTY MI P55-T36 LGA1156 Intel P55 chipset Mini-ATX, $150.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3-1600 2 x 2GB Kit, $96.
  • Graphics Card (ATI): SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 5770 GDDR5 1GB, $159.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): XFX GS-250X-ZDFC GeForce GTS 250 DDR3 1GB, $145.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60. You will need a 12 inch Right Angle SATA to Straight SATA Cable, $2.
  • PSU: ATX12V 300W SFX PSU (included in the case), $0.
  • Case: SilverStone Sugo SG05 SST-SG05B Mini-ITX/Mini-DTX, $99.
  • Total Cost: $804 for ATI, $790 for NVIDIA

Remarks
  • The case supports a slim type optical drive, e.g., SilverStone TOB02 SST-TOB02 Slim Type BD-ROM/DVD Rewriter, $148.
Intel-NVIDIA

System
  • CPU: Core 2 Quad Q9400 2.66GHz 6MB L2 LGA775, $183.
  • CPU Cooler: Cooler Master 風神鍛 (Geminii S) RR-CCH-PBU1-GP, $30, with Scythe Slip Stream Slim 120 mm Case Fan SY1212SL12M 1600rpm, $8 (the stock fan is too tall for the selected case).
  • Motherboard: ZOTAC GeForce 9300-ITX WiFi GF9300-G-E LGA775 GeForce 9300 mGPU Mini-ITX, $130.
  • Memory: A-DATA ADQVE1B16K DDR2-800 2 x 2GB Kit, $92.
  • Graphics Card (ATI): SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 5770 GDDR5 1GB, $159.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): XFX GS-250X-ZDFC GeForce GTS 250 DDR3 1GB, $145.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60. You will need a 12 inch Right Angle SATA to Straight SATA Cable, $2.
  • PSU: ATX12V 300W SFX PSU (included in the case), $0.
  • Case: SilverStone Sugo SG05 SST-SG05B Mini-ITX/Mini-DTX, $99.
  • Total Cost: $763 for ATI, $749 for NVIDIA

Remarks
  • The case supports a slim type optical drive, e.g., SilverStone TOB02 SST-TOB02 Slim Type BD-ROM/DVD Rewriter, $148.
References
AMD-AMD

System
  • CPU: Phenom II X4 905e HD905EOCGIBOX 2.5GHz AM3, $175.
  • CPU Cooler: Cooler Master 風神鍛 (Geminii S) RR-CCH-PBU1-GP, $30, with Scythe Slip Stream Slim 120 mm Case Fan SY1212SL12M 1600rpm, $8 (the stock fan is too tall for the selected case).
  • Motherboard: J&W MINIX 780G-SP128MB AM2+ AMD 780G chipset Mini-ITX, $129 (at MvixUSA).
  • Memory: OCZ OCZ2M8004GK DDR2-800 SO-DIMM 2 x 2GB Kit, $90.
  • Graphics Card (ATI): SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 5770 GDDR5 1GB, $159.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): XFX GS-250X-ZDFC GeForce GTS 250 DDR3 1GB, $145.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60. You will need a 12 inch Right Angle SATA to Straight SATA Cable, $2.
  • PSU: ATX12V 300W SFX PSU (included in the case), $0.
  • Case: SilverStone Sugo SG05 SST-SG05B Mini-ITX/Mini-DTX, $99.
  • Total Cost: $752 for ATI, $738 for NVIDIA

Remarks
  • The case supports a slim type optical drive, e.g., SilverStone TOB02 SST-TOB02 Slim Type BD-ROM/DVD Rewriter, $148.

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MicroATX System
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General Consideration
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A microATX system is perhaps the most popular form factor in HTPC because it generally costs less and is smaller than ATX, yet has enough expansion slots of four for many people. Almost every microATX motherboard has an integrated graphics processing unit (iGPU) and there are a couple of iGPUs that are very good for playing back HD contents. If you want the best video playback performance, a mid-range discrete graphics (dGPU) is the way to go, however.

I will give a low-end system, a mid-range system, a high-end system and a premium system for each of Intel chip-Intel chipset and AMD chip-AMD chipset. Basic distinctions are:
  • Low-end system: provides reasonably good video playback performance by iGPU at a low cost.
  • Mid-range system: provides the best video playback performance without compromise by dGPU.
  • High-end system: should be able to handle other HTPC-related tasks such as video re-encoding and games with reasonably good performance.
  • Premium system: is intended to be the best (but not too expensive) overall system available today.
Here is a feature comparison chart (needs to be updated).

[IMG][/IMG]

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Low-End System
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I used here a budget, but well-built low-profile case. Alternative microATX cases are
  • Antec NSK1480 microATX, low-profile, $95.
  • Antec Micro Fusion Remote 350 microATX, low-profile, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $175.
  • Lian Li PC-C37B MUSE microATX, low-profile, $144.
  • Lian Li PC-C39 microATX, low-profile, with RF receiver/remote, $180.
  • Moneual MonCaso312 microATX, low-profile, with IR receiver/remote, $220.
  • Moneual MonCaso301 microATX, low-profile, with VFD/IR receiver/remote, $300.
  • Antec NSK2480 microATX, $94.
  • Antec Fusion Remote Black microATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $140.

Intel-Intel (iGPU)

System
  • CPU: Pentium Dual-Core E5300 2.60GHz 2MB L2 LGA775, $64.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-EG45M-UD2H LGA775 Intel G45 chipset microATX, $124. A cheaper alternative is Intel DG45ID (BOXDG45ID) LGA775 Intel G45 chipset microATX, $103.
  • Memory: A-DATA ADQVE1A16K DDR2-800 2 x 1GB Kit, $50.
  • Graphics Card: Intel GMA X4500HD (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: 80 PLUS 350W ATX PSU (included in the case), $0
  • Case: Antec NSK1480 microATX, $95.
  • Total Cost: $393

References
Intel-Intel (dGPU)

A budget Intel system with dGPU is here:

System
  • CPU: Celeron E3200 2.40GHz 1MB L2 LGA775, $43. A better alternative is Pentium Dual-Core E5300 2.60GHz 2MB L2 LGA775, $64.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-G31M-ES2L LGA775 Intel G31 chipset microATX, $50.
  • Memory: A-DATA ADQVE1A16K DDR2-800 2 x 1GB Kit, $50.
  • Graphics Card: SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 4550 DDR3 512MB, $45.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: 80 PLUS 350W ATX PSU (included in the case), $0
  • Case: Antec NSK1480 microATX, $95.
  • Total Cost: $343

AMD-AMD (iGPU)

System
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 240 ADX240OCGQBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $60.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-MA785GM-US2H AM2+ AMD 785G chipset microATX, $80. A cheaper alternative is ASRock A780GMH/128M AM2+ AMD 780G chipset microATX, $60.
  • Memory: A-DATA ADQVE1A16K DDR2-800 2 x 1GB Kit, $50.
  • Graphics Card: Radeon HD 4200 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: 80 PLUS 350W ATX PSU (included in the case), $0
  • Case: Antec NSK1480 microATX, $95.
  • Total Cost: $345

Remarks
  • If you prefer DDR3 SDRAM (with little performance increase, but DDR3 memory modules are reusable in future), choose
    • GIGABYTE GA-MA785GMT-UD2H AM3 AMD 785G chipset microATX, $89.
    • G.SKILL F3-10600CL9D-2GBNQ DDR3-1333 2 x 1GB Kit, $57.
References
AMD-AMD (dGPU)

Radeon HD 4200 does not support multichannel LPCM over HDMI. If you want multichannel LPCM, you have to add a discrete graphics card. Here is an example of such a system.

System
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 240 ADX240OCGQBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $60.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: ASRock A780GMH/128M AM2+ AMD 780G chipset microATX, $60. An alternative is GIGABYTE GA-MA785GM-US2H AM2+ AMD 785G chipset microATX, $80.
  • Memory: A-DATA ADQVE1A16K DDR2-800 2 x 1GB Kit, $50.
  • Graphics Card: SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 4550 DDR3 512MB, $45.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: 80 PLUS 350W ATX PSU (included in the case), $0
  • Case: Antec NSK1480 microATX, $95.
  • Total Cost: $370


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post #11049 of 19319 Old 11-23-2009, 06:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Mid-Range System
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Intel-Intel

System
  • CPU: Core 2 Duo E7500 2.93GHz 3MB L2 LGA775, $113.
  • CPU Cooler: Cooler Master 風神鍛 (Geminii S) RR-CCH-PBU1-GP, $30.
  • Motherboard: Intel DG43GT (BOXDG43GT) LGA775 Intel G43 chipset ATX, $87.
  • Memory: A-DATA ADQVE1B16K DDR2-800 2 x 2GB Kit, $92.
  • Graphics Card (ATI): SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 4670 DDR3 1GB, $70.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): XFX GT-220X-ZNF2 GeForce GT 220 DDR2 1GB, $70.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: Corsair VX450W CMPSU-450VX 450W, $65.
  • Case: Antec Fusion Remote Black microATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $140.
  • Total Cost: $657 for ATI, $657 for NVIDIA

AMD-AMD

System
  • CPU: Athlon II X4 630 ADX630WFGIBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $122.
  • CPU Cooler: Cooler Master 風神鍛 (Geminii S) RR-CCH-PBU1-GP, $32.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-MA785GMT-UD2H AM3 AMD 785G chipset microATX, $89.
  • Memory: A-DATA HY63I1B16K DDR3-1333 2 x 2GB Kit, $88.
  • Graphics Card (ATI): SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 4670 DDR3 1GB, $70.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): XFX GT-220X-ZNF2 GeForce GT 220 DDR2 1GB, $70.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: Corsair VX450W CMPSU-450VX 450W, $65.
  • Case: Antec Fusion Remote Black microATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $140.
  • Total Cost: $664 for ATI, $664 for NVIDIA


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Intel-Intel

System
  • CPU: Core i5 750 2.66GHz LGA1156, $196.
  • CPU Cooler: Cooler Master 風神鍛 (Geminii S) RR-CCH-PBU1-GP, $30, with Cooler Master RR-ACC-1156-GP LGA1156 Retention Bracket Set, $4 (necessary to attach the cooler to the LGA1156 socket).
  • Motherboard: ASRock P55M Pro LGA1156 Intel P55 chipset microATX, $100.
  • Memory: A-DATA HY63I1B16K DDR3-1333 2 x 2GB Kit, $88.
  • Graphics Card (ATI): HIS H575FN1GD iCooler IV Radeon HD 5750 GDDR5 1GB, $145.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): XFX GT-240X-ZNFC GeForce GT 240 DDR3 1GB, $105.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: Enermax PRO82+ 525W EPR525AWT, $100. A cheaper alternative is Corsair VX550W CMPSU-550VX 550W, $89.
  • Case: Antec Fusion Remote Black microATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $140.
  • Total Cost: $863 for ATI, $823 for NVIDIA

AMD-AMD

System
  • CPU: Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition HDZ955FBGIBOX 3.2GHz AM3, $175.
  • CPU Cooler: Cooler Master 風神鍛 (Geminii S) RR-CCH-PBU1-GP, $30.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-MA785GMT-UD2H AM3 AMD 785G chipset microATX, $89.
  • Memory: A-DATA HY63I1B16K DDR3-1333 2 x 2GB Kit, $88.
  • Graphics Card (ATI): HIS H575FN1GD iCooler IV Radeon HD 5750 GDDR5 1GB, $145.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): XFX GT-240X-ZNFC GeForce GT 240 DDR3 1GB, $105.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: Enermax PRO82+ 525W EPR525AWT, $100. A cheaper alternative is Corsair VX550W CMPSU-550VX 550W, $89.
  • Case: Antec Fusion Remote Black microATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $140.
  • Total Cost: $827 for ATI, $787 for NVIDIA


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Premium System
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Intel-Intel

System
  • CPU: Core i7 860 2.80GHz LGA1156, $284. A cheaper alternative is Core i5 750 2.66GHz LGA1156, $196.
  • CPU Cooler: Xigmatek Dark Knight-S1283V, $45, with Xigmatek Crossbow ACK-I5361, $11 (necessary to attach the cooler to the LGA1156 socket).
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-P55M-UD4 LGA1156 Intel P55 chipset microATX, $140.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3-1600 2 x 2GB Kit, $96.
  • Graphics Card (ATI): Radeon HD 5850 GDDR5 1GB, $300; two of this card for CrossFireX, $600. An alternative is Radeon HD 5870 GDDR5 1GB, $400.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): GeForce GTX 275 DDR3 896MB, $255; two of this card for SLI, $510. An alternative is GeForce GTX 285, $320 or GeForce GTX 295, $525.
  • HDD: Intel X25-M SSDSA2MH080G2 80GB SATA 3.0Gbps SSD, $223.
  • PSU: Enermax MODU82+ 625W EMD625AWT, $128. An alternative is Seasonic M12D 850W, $156.
  • Case: LUXA2 LM200 Touch microATX, with 7 touch screen/IR receiver/remote, $481. If you don't need or don't like a touch screen, choose LUXA2 LM200 microATX, with VFD/IR receiver/remote, $288.
  • Total Cost: $1708 for non-CrossFireX, $2008 for CrossFireX; $1663 for non-SLI, $1918 for SLI.

AMD-AMD

System
  • CPU: Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition HDZ965FBGIBOX 3.4GHz AM3, $195.
  • CPU Cooler: Xigmatek Dark Knight-S1283V, $45, with Enzotech Type-X AM2 Retention Modules, $2, and four nuts (necessary to attach the cooler in the correct orientation).
  • Motherboard: DFI LANPARTY JR 790GX-M3H5 AM3 AMD 790GX chipset microATX, $135.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3-1600 2 x 2GB Kit, $96.
  • Graphics Card (ATI): Radeon HD 5850 GDDR5 1GB, $300; two of this card for CrossFireX, $600. An alternative is Radeon HD 5870 GDDR5 1GB, $400.
  • HDD: Intel X25-M SSDSA2MH080G2 80GB SATA 3.0Gbps SSD, $223.
  • PSU: Enermax MODU82+ 625W EMD625AWT, $128. An alternative is Seasonic M12D 850W, $156.
  • Case: LUXA2 LM200 Touch microATX, with 7 touch screen/IR receiver/remote, $481. If you don't need or don't like a touch screen, choose LUXA2 LM200 microATX, with VFD/IR receiver/remote, $288.
  • Total Cost: $1605 for non-CrossFireX, $1905 for CrossFireX.


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post #11052 of 19319 Old 11-23-2009, 06:31 PM - Thread Starter
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General Consideration
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The ATX form factor supports up to seven expansion slots vs. four in microATX. Moreover motherboard manufacturers tend to implement better CPU power circuitry and cooling solution for MOSFET/chipset in ATX motherboards than microATX motherboards.

I will give a low-end system, a mid-range system, a high-end system and a premium system for each of Intel chip-Intel chipset, Intel chip-NVIDIA chipset, AMD chip-AMD chipset and AMD chip-NVIDIA chipset. Basic distinctions are:
  • Low-end system: provides reasonably good video playback performance at a low cost.
  • Mid-range system: provides the best video playback performance without compromise.
  • High-end system: should be able to handle other HTPC-related tasks such as video re-encoding and games with reasonably good performance.
  • Premium system: is intended to be the best (but not too expensive) overall system available today.
As the expandability is an distinguishing feature of the ATX form factor, I set the following criteria: the motherboard should have
  • Low-end:
    • 1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 for a 2-slot graphics card
    • 3 x PCIe x1 for HBA, a sound card and a TV tuner
  • Mid-range and high-end:
    • 1 x PCIe 2.0 x8 for a 2-slot graphics card
    • 1 x PCIe x8 for HBA
    • 2 x PCIe x1 for a sound card and a TV tuner
  • Premium system:
    • 2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (or x8) for dual 2-slot graphics
    • 1 x PCIe x1 and 1 x PCIe x4 for a sound card/TV tuner/HBA
But a few systems do not meet this criteria (simply because there is no good motherboard). In addition, fully usable 6 SATA ports (I mean not blocked by a large graphics card) is a norm.

Here is a feature comparison chart (needs to be updated).

[IMG][/IMG]

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ATX Cases

The case selected here is just one example. Here are a list of well-built ATX cases. All SilverStone cases except for LC16M and GD01 can hold a graphics card of any length by removing a HDD cage.

Without LCD/VFD/IR receiver/remote:
  • SilverStone Lascala LC10-E SST-LC10B-E ATX, $109.
  • SilverStone Lascala LC13-E SST-LC13B-E ATX, $115.
  • SilverStone Lascala LC17 SST-LC17B ATX, $120.
  • SilverStone Lascala LC20 SST-LC20B ATX, $129.
  • SilverStone Lascala GD01 SST-GD01B-R ATX, with card reader, $136.
  • nMEDIAPC HTPC 2000B ATX, with card reader, $100.
  • nMEDIAPC HTPC 6000B ATX, with card reader, $90.
With LCD/VFD/IR receiver/remote:
  • SilverStone Lascala LC10-MX SST-LC10B-MX ATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $179.
  • SilverStone Lascala LC16M-R SST-LC16B-MR ATX, with VFD/IR receiver/remote & card reader, $240.
  • SilverStone Lascala LC20M SST-LC20B-M ATX, with VFD/IR receiver/remote, $180.
  • SilverStone Lascala GD01MX SST-GD01B-MXR ATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote & card reader, $233.
  • Thermaltake DH101 VF7001BNS ATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $200.
  • Thermaltake DH202 VJ80011N2Z ATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote & card reader, $240.
Intel-Intel (iGPU)

System
  • CPU: Pentium Dual-Core E5300 2.60GHz 2MB L2 LGA775, $64.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: Supermicro MBD-C2SEA LGA775 DDR3 Intel G45 chipset ATX, $125.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-10600CL9D-2GBNQ DDR3-1333 2 x 1GB Kit, $57.
  • Graphics Card: Intel GMA X4500HD (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: Corsair VX450W CMPSU-450VX 450W, $65.
  • Case: SilverStone Lascala LC10-E SST-LC10B-E ATX, $109.
  • Total Cost: $480.

Intel-Intel (dGPU)

System
  • CPU: Celeron E3200 2.40GHz 1MB L2 LGA775, $43. A better alternative is Pentium Dual-Core E5300 2.60GHz 2MB L2 LGA775, $64.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: ASRock P43DE LGA775 Intel P43 chipset ATX, $68.
  • Memory: A-DATA ADQVE1A16K DDR2-800 2 x 1GB Kit, $50.
  • Graphics Card: SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 4550 DDR3 512MB, $45.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: Corsair VX450W CMPSU-450VX 450W, $65.
  • Case: SilverStone Lascala LC10-E SST-LC10B-E ATX, $109.
  • Total Cost: $440.

Remarks
  • If you prefer DDR3 SDRAM (with little performance increase, but DDR3 memory modules are reusable in future), choose
    • ASRock P43DE3 LGA775 DDR3 Intel P43 chipset ATX, $75.
    • G.SKILL F3-10600CL9D-2GBNQ DDR3-1333 2 x 1GB Kit, $57.

AMD-AMD (iGPU)

System
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 240 ADX240OCGQBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $60.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-MA785G-UD3H AM2+ AMD 785G chipset ATX, $83.
  • Memory: A-DATA ADQVE1A16K DDR2-800 2 x 1GB Kit, $50.
  • Graphics Card: Radeon HD 4200 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: Corsair VX450W CMPSU-450VX 450W, $65.
  • Case: SilverStone Lascala LC10-E SST-LC10B-E ATX, $109.
  • Total Cost: $427

Remarks
  • If you prefer DDR3 SDRAM (with little performance increase, but DDR3 memory modules are reusable in future), choose
    • GIGABYTE GA-MA785GT-UD3H AM3 AMD 785G chipset ATX, $93, or ASUS M4A785TD-V EVO AM3 AMD 785G chipset ATX, $95.
    • G.SKILL F3-10600CL9D-2GBNQ DDR3-1333 2 x 1GB Kit, $57.
AMD-AMD (dGPU)

Radeon HD 4200 does not support multichannel LPCM over HDMI. If you want multichannel LPCM, you have to add a discrete graphics card. Here is an example of such a system.

System
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 240 ADX240OCGQBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $60.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-MA770-UD3 AM2+ AMD 770 chipset ATX, $75. An alternative is GIGABYTE GA-MA785G-UD3H AM2+ AMD 785G chipset ATX, $83 (with IGP; useful in case you use the motherboard for a server in future).
  • Memory: A-DATA ADQVE1A16K DDR2-800 2 x 1GB Kit, $50.
  • Graphics Card: SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 4550 DDR3 512MB, $45.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: Corsair VX450W CMPSU-450VX 450W, $65.
  • Case: SilverStone Lascala LC10-E SST-LC10B-E ATX, $109.
  • Total Cost: $464

  • If you prefer DDR3 SDRAM (+$10 with little performance increase, but DDR3 memory modules are reusable in future), choose
    • GIGABYTE GA-MA770T-UD3P AM3 AMD 770 chipset ATX, $79, or GIGABYTE GA-MA785GT-UD3H AM3 AMD 785G chipset ATX, $93 (with IGP; useful in case you use the motherboard for a server in future).
    • G.SKILL F3-10600CL9D-2GBNQ DDR3-1333 2 x 1GB Kit, $57.

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Intel-Intel

System
  • CPU: Core 2 Duo E7500 2.93GHz 3MB L2 LGA775, $113.
  • CPU Cooler: Xigmatek NEPARTAK S983, $30.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3P LGA775 Intel P45 chipset ATX, $115.
  • Memory: A-DATA ADQVE1B16K DDR2-800 2 x 2GB Kit, $92.
  • Graphics Card (ATI): SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 4670 DDR3 1GB, $70.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): XFX GT-220X-ZNF2 GeForce GT 220 DDR2 1GB, $70.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: Enermax PRO82+ 525W EPR525AWT, $100. A cheaper alternative is Corsair VX550W CMPSU-550VX 550W, $89.
  • Case: Antec Fusion Remote Max ATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $178.
  • Total Cost: $758 for ATI, $758 for NVIDIA.

Intel-NVIDIA

System
  • CPU: Core 2 Duo E7500 2.93GHz 3MB L2 LGA775, $113.
  • CPU Cooler: Xigmatek NEPARTAK S983, $30.
  • Motherboard: ASRock N7AD-SLI LGA775 nForce 740i SLI MCP ATX, $100.
  • Memory: A-DATA ADQVE1B16K DDR2-800 2 x 2GB Kit, $92.
  • Graphics Card (ATI): SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 4670 DDR3 1GB, $70.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): XFX GT-220X-ZNF2 GeForce GT 220 DDR2 1GB, $70.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: Enermax PRO82+ 525W EPR525AWT, $100. A cheaper alternative is Corsair VX550W CMPSU-550VX 550W, $89.
  • Case: Antec Fusion Remote Max ATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $178.
  • Total Cost: $743 for ATI, $743 for NVIDIA.

Remarks
  • nForce 740i SLI MCP (codenamed MCP7A-D-SLI) is a discrete graphics version of GeForce 9300/9400 mGPU (codenamed MCP7A-U and MCP7A-S). Here is a comparison chart of the MCP7A family.
  • The motherboard supports both SLI and CrossFireX.
AMD-AMD

System
  • CPU: Athlon II X4 630 ADX630WFGIBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $122.
  • CPU Cooler: Xigmatek NEPARTAK S983, $30.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-MA790XT-UD4P AM3 AMD 790X chipset ATX, $110. An alternative is GIGABYTE GA-MA790GPT-UD3H AM3 AMD 790GX chipset ATX, $114 (with IGP; useful in case you use the motherboard for a server in future).
  • Memory: A-DATA HY63I1B16K DDR3-1333 2 x 2GB Kit, $88.
  • Graphics Card (ATI): SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 4670 DDR3 1GB, $70.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): XFX GT-220X-ZNF2 GeForce GT 220 DDR2 1GB, $70.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: Enermax PRO82+ 525W EPR525AWT, $100. A cheaper alternative is Corsair VX550W CMPSU-550VX 550W, $89.
  • Case: Antec Fusion Remote Max ATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $178.
  • Total Cost: $758 for ATI, $758 for NVIDIA.

AMD-NVIDIA

System
  • CPU: Athlon II X4 630 ADX630WFGIBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $122.
  • CPU Cooler: Xigmatek NEPARTAK S983, $30.
  • Motherboard: MSI NF750-G55 AM3 nForce 750a SLI MCP ATX, $97.
  • Memory: A-DATA HY63I1B16K DDR3-1333 2 x 2GB Kit, $88.
  • Graphics Card (ATI): SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 4670 DDR3 1GB, $70.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): XFX GT-220X-ZNF2 GeForce GT 220 DDR2 1GB, $70.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: Enermax PRO82+ 525W EPR525AWT, $100. A cheaper alternative is Corsair VX550W CMPSU-550VX 550W, $89.
  • Case: Antec Fusion Remote Max ATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $178.
  • Total Cost: $745 for ATI, $745 for NVIDIA.

Remarks
  • nForce 750a SLI is an SLI x8 version of the GeForce 8200 mGPU (so it still supports multichannel PCM over HDMI).

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Intel-Intel

System
  • CPU: Core i5 750 2.66GHz LGA1156, $196.
  • CPU Cooler: Zalman CNPS9500A LED, $41, with Zalman ZM-CS5B Clip Kit for Socket 1156/775, $3 (necessary to attach the cooler to the LGA1156 socket).
  • Motherboard: ASRock P55 Extreme LGA1156 Intel P55 chipset ATX, $140.
  • Memory: A-DATA HY63I1B16K DDR3-1333 2 x 2GB Kit, $88.
  • Graphics Card (ATI): HIS H575FN1GD iCooler IV Radeon HD 5750 GDDR5 1GB, $145.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): XFX GT-240X-ZNFC GeForce GT 240 DDR3 1GB, $105.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: Enermax MODU82+ 625W EMD625AWT, $128. A cheaper alternative is Corsair TX650W CMPSU-650TX 650W, $85.
  • Case: Zalman HD503 ATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $300.
  • Total Cost: $1101 for ATI, $1061 for NVIDIA.

Intel-NVIDIA

System
  • CPU: Core 2 Quad Q9400 2.66GHz 6MB L2 LGA775, $183.
  • CPU Cooler: Zalman CNPS9500A LED, $41, with Zalman ZM-CS5B Clip Kit for Socket 1156/775, $3 (necessary to attach the cooler to the LGA1156 socket).
  • Motherboard: ASRock N7AD-SLI LGA775 nForce 740i SLI MCP ATX, $100.
  • Memory: A-DATA HY63I1B16K DDR3-1333 2 x 2GB Kit, $88.
  • Graphics Card (ATI): HIS H575FN1GD iCooler IV Radeon HD 5750 GDDR5 1GB, $145.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): XFX GT-240X-ZNFC GeForce GT 240 DDR3 1GB, $105.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: Enermax MODU82+ 625W EMD625AWT, $128. A cheaper alternative is Corsair TX650W CMPSU-650TX 650W, $85.
  • Case: Zalman HD503 ATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $300.
  • Total Cost: $1049 for ATI, $1009 for NVIDIA.

Remarks
  • nForce 740i SLI MCP (codenamed MCP7A-D-SLI) is a discrete graphics version of GeForce 9300/9400 mGPU (codenamed MCP7A-U and MCP7A-S). Here is a comparison chart of the MCP7A family.
  • The motherboard supports both SLI and CrossFireX.
AMD-AMD

System
  • CPU: Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition HDZ955FBGIBOX 3.2GHz AM3, $175.
  • CPU Cooler: Zalman CNPS9500A LED, $41.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-MA790XT-UD4P AM3 AMD 790X chipset ATX, $110. An alternative is GIGABYTE GA-MA790GPT-UD3H AM3 AMD 790GX chipset ATX, $114 (with IGP; useful in case you use the motherboard for a server in future).
  • Memory: A-DATA HY63I1B16K DDR3-1333 2 x 2GB Kit, $88.
  • Graphics Card (ATI): HIS H575FN1GD iCooler IV Radeon HD 5750 GDDR5 1GB, $145.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): XFX GT-240X-ZNFC GeForce GT 240 DDR3 1GB, $105.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: Enermax MODU82+ 625W EMD625AWT, $128. A cheaper alternative is Corsair TX650W CMPSU-650TX 650W, $85.
  • Case: Zalman HD503 ATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $300.
  • Total Cost: $1047 for ATI, $1007 for NVIDIA.

AMD-NVIDIA

System
  • CPU: Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition HDZ955FBGIBOX 3.2GHz AM3, $175.
  • CPU Cooler: Zalman CNPS9500A LED, $41.
  • Motherboard: MSI NF750-G55 AM3 nForce 750a SLI MCP ATX, $97.
  • Memory: A-DATA HY63I1B16K DDR3-1333 2 x 2GB Kit, $88.
  • Graphics Card (ATI): HIS H575FN1GD iCooler IV Radeon HD 5750 GDDR5 1GB, $145.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): XFX GT-240X-ZNFC GeForce GT 240 DDR3 1GB, $105.
  • HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • PSU: Enermax MODU82+ 625W EMD625AWT, $128. A cheaper alternative is Corsair TX650W CMPSU-650TX 650W, $85.
  • Case: Zalman HD503 ATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $300.
  • Total Cost: $1034 for ATI, $994 for NVIDIA.

Remarks
  • nForce 750a SLI is an SLI x8 version of the GeForce 8200 mGPU (so it still supports multichannel PCM over HDMI).

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post #11056 of 19319 Old 11-23-2009, 06:32 PM - Thread Starter
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Premium System
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Intel-Intel

System
  • CPU: Core i7 860 2.80GHz LGA1156, $284.
  • CPU Cooler: Xigmatek Dark Knight-S1283V, $45, with Xigmatek Crossbow ACK-I5361, $11 (necessary to attach the cooler to the LGA1156 socket).
  • Motherboard: ASUS P7P55D EVO LGA1156 Intel P55 chipset ATX, $189. An alternative is Intel DP55KG (BOXDP55KG) LGA1156 Intel P55 chipset ATX, $205 (supporting Dolby Home Theater, good for S/PDIF gamers; single Gb LAN).
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3-1600 2 x 2GB Kit, $96.
  • Graphics Card (ATI): Radeon HD 5850 GDDR5 1GB, $300; two of this card for CrossFireX, $600. An alternative is Radeon HD 5870 GDDR5 1GB, $400.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): GeForce GTX 275 DDR3 896MB, $255; two of this card for SLI, $510. An alternative is GeForce GTX 285, $320 or GeForce GTX 295, $525.
  • HDD: Intel X25-M SSDSA2MH080G2 80GB SATA 3.0Gbps SSD, $223.
  • PSU: Seasonic M12D 850W, $156.
  • Case: Thermaltake DH104 VH4001BNS ATX, with 7 touch screen/IR receiver/remote, $454. If you don't need or don't like a touch screen, choose Thermaltake DH103 VH3001BNS ATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $270 or SilverStone Crown CW02 SST-CW02S-MXR ATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $360.
  • Total Cost: $1758 for non-CrossFireX, $2058 for CrossFireX; $1713 for non-SLI, $1968 for SLI.

Intel-NVIDIA

System
  • CPU: Core 2 Quad Q9550 2.83GHz 12MB L2 LGA775, $229.
  • CPU Cooler: Xigmatek Dark Knight-S1283V, $45.
  • Motherboard: XFX MB-N790-IUL9 LGA775 nForce 790i 3-Way SLI ATX, $165.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3-1600 2 x 2GB Kit, $96.
  • Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 275 DDR3 896MB, $255; two of this card for SLI, $510. An alternative is GeForce GTX 285, $320 or GeForce GTX 295, $525.
  • HDD: Intel X25-M SSDSA2MH080G2 80GB SATA 3.0Gbps SSD, $223.
  • PSU: Seasonic M12D 850W, $156.
  • Case: Thermaltake DH104 VH4001BNS ATX, with 7 touch screen/IR receiver/remote, $451. If you don't need or don't like a touch screen, choose Thermaltake DH103 VH3001BNS ATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $270 or SilverStone Crown CW02 SST-CW02S-MXR ATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $360.
  • Total Cost: $1623 for non-SLI, $1878 for SLI.

AMD-AMD

System
  • CPU: Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition HDZ965FBGMBOX 3.4GHz AM3, $195.
  • CPU Cooler: Xigmatek Dark Knight-S1283V, $45, with Enzotech Type-X AM2 Retention Modules, $2, and four nuts (necessary to attach the cooler in the correct orientation).
  • Motherboard: MSI 790FX-GD70 AM3 AMD 790FX chipset ATX, $164.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3-1600 2 x 2GB Kit, $96.
  • Graphics Card: Radeon HD 5850 GDDR5 1GB, $300; two of this card for CrossFireX, $600. An alternative is Radeon HD 5870 GDDR5 1GB, $400.
  • HDD: Intel X25-M SSDSA2MH080G2 80GB SATA 3.0Gbps SSD, $223.
  • PSU: Seasonic M12D 850W, $156.
  • Case: Thermaltake DH104 VH4001BNS ATX, with 7 touch screen/IR receiver/remote, $451. If you don't need or don't like a touch screen, choose Thermaltake DH103 VH3001BNS ATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $270 or SilverStone Crown CW02 SST-CW02S-MXR ATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $360.
  • Total Cost: $1635 for non-CrossFireX, $1935 for CrossFireX.

AMD-NVIDIA

System
  • CPU: Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition HDZ965FBGMBOX 3.4GHz AM3, $195.
  • CPU Cooler: Xigmatek Dark Knight-S1283V, $45, with Enzotech Type-X AM2 Retention Modules, $2, and four nuts (necessary to attach the cooler in the correct orientation).
  • Motherboard: MSI NF980-G65 AM3 nForce 980a SLI MCP ATX, $149.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3-1600 2 x 2GB Kit, $96.
  • Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 275 DDR3 896MB, $255; two of this card for SLI, $510. An alternative is GeForce GTX 285, $320 or GeForce GTX 295, $525.
  • HDD: Intel X25-M SSDSA2MH080G2 80GB SATA 3.0Gbps SSD, $223.
  • PSU: Seasonic M12D 850W, $156.
  • Case: Thermaltake DH104 VH4001BNS ATX, with 7 touch screen/IR receiver/remote, $451. If you don't need or don't like a touch screen, choose Thermaltake DH103 VH3001BNS ATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $270 or SilverStone Crown CW02 SST-CW02S-MXR ATX, with LCD/IR receiver/remote, $360.
  • Total Cost: $1575 for non-SLI, $1830 for SLI.

Remarks
  • nForce 980a SLI (rebadged nForce 780a SLI) is nForce 750a SLI + nForce 200 (a PCI Express switch for SLI x16).
  • The graphics card supports S/PDIF pass-through from the onboard audio codec through HDMI. If you want multichannel LPCM audio, you have to connect your AVR to the HDMI port of the motherboard and your display to the graphics card. Please read Any GeForce graphics card + GeForce 8200 HDMI audio work together perfectly!.

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post #11057 of 19319 Old 11-23-2009, 06:32 PM - Thread Starter
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DAS (Direct Attached Storage)
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If you need more storage space than the one provided by the motherboard and the case, the quickest solution is attach an external HDD enclosure. Possible interfaces are USB 2.0 (60MB/s), IEEE 1394a (50MB/s), PCI (133MB/s), PCI Express x1 (250MB/s), all of which are good enough for home use. If you need lots of drives, you may want to consider a dedicated file server (see "Media Storage Server"). If you need higher I/O throughput, e.g. for video editing, there are many SATA RAID controller cards with PCI Express x4 (1.0GB/s) or x8 (2.0GB/s) interface. Here are a couple of examples.

5-Drive SATA Enclosure
  • AMS DS-2350S VENUS T5 5-Drive SATA SteelVine Storage Processor Enclosure , $205. (The picture below.)
  • SilverStone DS351 5-Drive SATA SteelVine Storage Processor Enclosure, $480.

Each of them has Silicon Image SiI4726 SATA to 5-Port SATA Device SteelVine Storage Processor and is bundled with a 2-port SATA PCIe x1 host bus adapter based on Silicon Image SiI3132. You can attach up to two enclosures (10 drives) to one card by FIS-based Port Multiplier. Supports RAID 0, 1, 10, 5 and JBOD.

8-Drive SATA Enclosure
  • Rosewill RSV-S8 8-Drive SATA Port Multiplier Enclosure, $300.

The case has two SiI3726 port multipliers and is bundled with a 2-port SATA PCIe x1 host bus adapter based on Silicon Image SiI3132 supporting port multiplier. The difference between SiI3726 and SiI4726 is that SiI4726 can be connected to a non-PM aware SATA port, while SiI3726 needs to be connected to a PM aware SATA port.

High-Performance 8-Drive SATA Enclosure
  • 8-Drive SATA to InfiniBand Enclosure, $399.
  • HighPoint RocketRAID 2322 8-port SATA RAID Controller PCI Express x8 Card, $250.
  • 1m SFF-8088 to SFF-8470 Cable (e.g. HighPoint Ext-MS-1MIB), $30.
  • Total Cost: $679.

RocketRAID 2322 uses the same SATA (PCI-X) controller as Supermicro AOC-SAT2-MV8 mentioned in "Media Storage Server" (Marvell 88SX6081). However it lacks a hardware RAID processor. For better performance you should choose a RAID controller card with a hardware RAID processor engine such as
  • HighPoint RocketRAID 3522 8-port SATA RAID Controller PCI Express x8 Card with with IOP341 Processor, $498.
  • Areca ARC-1221x 8-port SATA RAID Controller PCI Express x8 Card with with IOP341 Processor, $595.
  • Adaptec RAID 3085 8-port SATA RAID Controller PCI Express x8 Card, $595.
  • Adaptec RAID 5085 8-port SATA RAID Controller PCI Express x8 Card, $760.
  • LSI SAS3801E 8-port SATA RAID Controller PCI Express x8 Card, $300.
15 to 20-Drive SATA 4U Rack Mount Storage Chassis

Addonics is manufacturing a highly customizable 4U rack mount chassis supporting up to 20 HDDs:

You can use the chassis in various ways. For example,

20 HDD Enclosure (via Port Multiplier)
  • Addonics SRDA460S Storage Rack DA base unit with 460W ATX power supply, $335.
  • Addonics AE5RCS35NSA Disk Array 5SA, $129.
  • Addonics AE5RCS35NSA Disk Array 5SA, $129.
  • Addonics AE5RCS35NSA Disk Array 5SA, $129.
  • Addonics AE5RCS35NSA Disk Array 5SA, $129.
  • Addonics AD5SAPM Internal SATA Port Multiplier, $69.
  • Addonics AD5SAPM Internal SATA Port Multiplier, $69.
  • Addonics AD5SAPM Internal SATA Port Multiplier, $69.
  • Addonics AD5SAPM Internal SATA Port Multiplier, $69.
  • 18 inch SATA Cable x 24, $24.
  • 1m eSATA Cable x 4, $24.
  • Addonics ADSA3GPX8-4E 4 Port eSATA RAID5/JBOD PCIe 8x Controller , $180.
  • Total Cost: $1384.
However, considering the total cost and noise/heat emitted from the enclosure, you may want to build a dedicated media storage server instead and place it at a distant location.

Other DAS Solutions

Please check:

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Workstation
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Workstation here is a PC intended for various HTPC-related tasks other than video/audio playback. The CPU and the motherboard chosen here are good enough for the most demanding tasks and future upgrades (4 cores/8 threads, supporting PCI Express 2.0 x16, x16 / x16, x8, x8 / x8, x8, x8, x8 links). The selection of other components depends on the tasks you are going to do. The system below is a consumer-grade high-performance video editing machine.

System
  • CPU: Core i7 860 2.80GHz LGA1156, $284.
  • CPU Cooler: Xigmatek Dark Knight-S1283V, $45, with Xigmatek Crossbow ACK-I5361, $11 (necessary to attach the cooler to the LGA1156 socket).
  • Motherboard: ASUS P7P55 WS SuperComputer LGA1156 Intel P55 and nForce 200 chipsets ATX, $230.
  • Memory: A-DATA HY63I1B16K DDR3-1333 2 x 2GB Kit, $88.
  • Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 275 DDR3 896MB, $210.
  • HBA: Adaptec RAID 51645 20-port SAS/SATA RAID Controller PCI Express x8 Card, $1,040.
  • HDD: Intel X25-M SSDSA2MH080G2 80GB SATA 3.0Gbps SSD, $223.
  • PSU: Seasonic M12D 850W, $156.
  • Case: Chenbro SR109 EATX/ATX, $250.
  • HDD Cage (optional): Chenbro 84H210910-010 5-in-3 Hotswap HDD Cage, $99. The case supports up to 15 HDDs (besides the OS drive) with three cages.
  • Total Cost: $2582 (optional HDD cages and drives for data storage are not included)

Remarks
  • You can even use:
    • CPU: Core i7 920 2.66GHz LGA1366, $284.
    • Motherboard: ASUS P6T6 WS Revolution LGA1366 Intel X58 and nForce 200 chipsets ATX, $335 (supporting PCI Express 2.0 x16, x16, x16 / x16, x16, x8, x8 / x16, x8, x8, x8, x8 links), or ASUS P6T7 WS SuperComputer LGA1366 Intel X58 and dual nForce 200 chipsets ATX, $400 (supporting PCI Express 2.0 x16, x16, x16, x16 / x16, x16, x16, x8, x8 / x16, x16, x8, x8, x8, x8 / x16, x8, x8, x8, x8, x8, x8 links).
    • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9T-6GBNQ DDR3-1600 3 x 2GB Kit, $135.
    if your applications can utilize that expandability.

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Media Storage Server
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General Consideration
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Purpose of a Media Storage Server

The main purposes of the media storage server described here are:
  • Storing/archiving media files (ripped/downloaded/recorded SD & HD video contents/music, photographs etc.) in one centralized place.
  • Streaming media to HTPCs.
  • Possibly serving as a DVR with TV tuners added.
Here are some considerations in building such a system.

Component Selection
  • OS: The intended OS is one of
    1. Windows Vista or 7, x86 or x64, with or without FlexRAID and/or FlexRAID-View
    2. Windows Home Server (WHS), with or without FlexRAID (in place of Folder Duplication)
    3. unRAID (a Linux variant with RAID 4 capability)
    You can also use Linux with software RAID, OpenFiler etc. as long as your hardware components are supported.
  • Case: Currently NORCO RPC-4020 and NORCO RPC-4220 are the best cases for a media storage server. Both support 20 HDDs in hot-swap bays at a relatively cheap price. The latter has a backplane with five SFF-8087 connectors instead of twenty SATA connectors in the former. If you need more storage space, build another server of the same type and store them in a rack such as iStarUSA WO22AB 22U WO Open Frame Rack, ~$300:

  • PSU: Each hard disk drive consumes as low as 5W at idle, but as much as 30W at start-up (depending on each model). So we will need a powerful PSU to start up all the drives at a time. A typical power consumption of a server consisting of twenty HDDs is
    • ~600W at start up
    • ~200W at seek
    • ~150W at idle
  • CPU: We chose a cheap dual-core processor because archiving/streaming/recording is not CPU-intensive.
  • Memory: 2GB is enough for a similar reason.
  • Motherboard: Basic requirements are
    1. Onboard graphics
    2. 2 PCI slots or 2 PCI Express x4 slots for storage controllers for 16 storage HDDs
    3. 6 onboard SATA ports for additional storage HDDs and the OS HDD.
    4. Gb LAN (that provides enough bandwidth for streaming HD contents to several HTPC simultaneously)
    5. Proper support for power management, in particular WOL (Wake-On-LAN)
    If you are going to use the server as a DVR, you may want more expansion slots. The motherboard chosen here has enough expansion slots and is reasonably cheap. You can even use a RAID controller PCIe x8 card.
  • HBA (host bus adapter): As the number of onboard SATA ports is not enough, we use SATA controller cards. I chose cheap non-RAID SATA controller PCI-X (compatible with PCI) or PCI Express x4 cards, that are enough for our purpose.
  • OS drive: You can use any drive for OS (a USB flash memory for unRAID).
  • Storage drives: There are several good cheap 1TB/1.5TB HDDs.
    • WD Caviar Green WD10EADS 1TB 5400 rpm SATA 3.0Gbps, $85.
    • Samsung HD103SI 1TB 5400 rpm SATA 3.0Gbps, $80.
    • WD Caviar Green WD15EADS 1.5TB 5400 rpm SATA 3.0Gbps, $120.
    • Samsung HD154UI 1.5TB 5400 rpm SATA 3.0Gbps, $120.
Backup

You will need to back up important, irreplaceable data (e.g. personal documents and family photos), perhaps off-site. Building a dedicated backup system is one method (you can use similar hardware components here). A caution to those who consider RAID5: RAID 5 is not a backup strategy, it's about uptime - if a drive fails, you can swap it for a new one to rebuild with no service interruption. You may lose the entire date in the array instantly however if multiple drives fail or if a hardware issue kills the array. FlexRAID and unRAID are better in this point: you can still get data from each non-failed drive.

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System
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20 HDD Rack Mount System I

The first system uses NORCO RPC-4020 case (20 SATA connectors in the backplane) and two 8-port SATA controller PCI-X cards.

System
  • Case: NORCO RPC-4020 4U EATX/ATX (20 x SATA/SAS drive bay), $265.
  • PSU: Corsair TX750W CMPSU-750TX 750W, $110.
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 240 ADX240OCGQBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $60.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock Cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-MA785G-UD3H AM2+ AMD 785G chipset ATX, $83.
  • Memory: A-DATA ADQVE1A16K DDR2-800 2 x 1GB Kit, $50.
  • Graphics: Radeon HD 4200 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HBA: Supermicro AOC-SAT2-MV8 8-port SATA Controller PCI-X Card, $95.
  • HBA: Supermicro AOC-SAT2-MV8 8-port SATA Controller PCI-X Card, $95.
  • OS HDD: Western Digital WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • Total Cost: $818 (storage drives are not included)

Remarks
  • Supermicro AOC-SAT2-MV8 is a PCI-X card. However it works fine with a PCI slot and the performance is good enough for WHS or unRAID (this is natural considering the bandwidth of PCI is 133MB/s, higher than most single disks).
  • You may need two Right (Left?)-Angle SATA cables so that one of the Supermicro cards does not interfere with the onboard SATA ports, such as:

20 HDD Rack Mount System II

The second system uses NORCO RPC-4220 case (five SFF-8087 connectors in the backplane) and two 8-port SATA controller PCI Express x4 cards.

System
  • Case: NORCO RPC-4220 4U EATX/ATX (20 x SATA/SAS drive bay), $300.
  • PSU: Corsair TX750W CMPSU-750TX 750W, $112.
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 240 ADX240OCGQBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $60.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock Cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-MA785G-UD3H AM2+ AMD 785G chipset ATX, $83.
  • Memory: A-DATA ADQVE1A16K DDR2-800 2 x 1GB Kit, $50.
  • Graphics: Radeon HD 4200 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HBA: Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 8-port SATA Controller PCI Express x4 Card, $102.
  • HBA: Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 8-port SATA Controller PCI Express x4 Card, $102.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087OCR-05M or Norco C-SFF8087-4S), $11.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to SFF-8087 Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087-05M or Norco C-SFF8087-D), $11.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to SFF-8087 Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087-05M or Norco C-SFF8087-D), $11.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to SFF-8087 Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087-05M or Norco C-SFF8087-D), $11.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to SFF-8087 Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087-05M or Norco C-SFF8087-D), $11.
  • OS HDD: WD Scorpio Black WD3200BEKT 320GB SATA 3.0Gbps mobile 7200 RPM, $69.
  • Total Cost: $931 (storage drives are not included)

Remarks
  • Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 is a PCI Express x4 card so that there should be enough bandwidth even if you go with software RAID. However currently the supported OS' are limited to:
    • Windows Home Server, 2003, 2008 and Vista
    • RedHat Enterprise Linux
    • Fedora Linux 9
    • SuSE Linux Enterprise
    So you can't use it with, for example, unRAID or OpenFiler.
15 HDD Tower System

In case you prefer or have to use a tower case, here is a 15 HDD tower system.

System
  • Case: Cooler Master Centurion 590 RC-590-KKN1-GP ATX (9 x 5.25” bay), $60.
  • HDD Cage: Athena Power BP-SATA3051B 5-in-3 backplane, $110.
  • HDD Cage: Athena Power BP-SATA3051B 5-in-3 backplane, $110.
  • HDD Cage: Athena Power BP-SATA3051B 5-in-3 backplane, $110.
  • PSU: Corsair TX650W CMPSU-650TX 650W, $85.
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 240 ADX240OCGQBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $60.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock Cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-MA785G-UD3H AM2+ AMD 785G chipset ATX, $83.
  • Memory: A-DATA ADQVE1A16K DDR2-800 2 x 1GB Kit, $50.
  • Graphics: Radeon HD 4200 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HBA: MonoPrice 2530 2-port SATA RAID Controller PCI Express x1 Card, $14.
  • HBA: MonoPrice 2530 2-port SATA RAID Controller PCI Express x1 Card, $14.
  • HBA: MonoPrice 2530 2-port SATA RAID Controller PCI Express x1 Card, $14.
  • HBA: MonoPrice 2530 2-port SATA RAID Controller PCI Express x1 Card, $14.
  • HBA: MonoPrice 2530 2-port SATA RAID Controller PCI Express x1 Card, $14.
  • Cable: 18 inch SATA Cable x 16, $16.
  • OS HDD: WD Caviar Blue WD6400AAKS 640GB SATA 3.0Gbps, $60.
  • Total Cost: $813 (storage drives are not included)

A couple of other tower cases suitable for a server are:
  • 15 HDDs in Hot Swap Bays, $551
    • Chenbro SR109 EATX/ATX, $245.
    • Chenbro 84H210910-010 5-in-3 Hotswap HDD Cage, $102.
    • Chenbro 84H210910-010 5-in-3 Hotswap HDD Cage, $102.
    • Chenbro 84H210910-010 5-in-3 Hotswap HDD Cage, $102.
  • 15 HDDs in Hot Swap Bays, $380
    • Cooler Master Centurion 590 RC-590-KKN1-GP ATX (9 x 5.25” bay), $50.
    • Athena Power BP-SATA3051B 5-in-3 backplane, $110.
    • Athena Power BP-SATA3051B 5-in-3 backplane, $110.
    • Athena Power BP-SATA3051B 5-in-3 backplane, $110.
  • 18 HDDs in Non-Hot Swap Bays, $284
    • Antec Twelve Hundred ATX (12 x 5.25” bay), $146.
    • Lian Li EX-23NB Internal HDD Kit, $23.
    • Lian Li EX-23NB Internal HDD Kit, $23.
    • Lian Li EX-23NB Internal HDD Kit, $23.
    • Lian Li EX-23NB Internal HDD Kit, $23.
    • Lian Li EX-23NB Internal HDD Kit, $23.
    • Lian Li EX-23NB Internal HDD Kit, $23.
  • 20 HDDs in Hot Swap Bays, $586
    • Antec Twelve Hundred ATX (12 x 5.25” bay), $146.
    • Athena Power BP-SATA3051B 5-in-3 backplane, $110.
    • Athena Power BP-SATA3051B 5-in-3 backplane, $110.
    • Athena Power BP-SATA3051B 5-in-3 backplane, $110.
    • Athena Power BP-SATA3051B 5-in-3 backplane, $110.

You can use any combination of the following HBAs:
  • Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 8-port SATA Controller PCI Express x4 Card, $102.
  • Supermicro AOC-SAT2-MV8 8-port SATA Controller PCI-X Card, $95.
  • PROMISE SATA300 TX4 4-port SATA Controller PCI Card, $58.
  • MonoPrice 2530 2-port SATA RAID Controller PCI Express x1 Card, $14.

LL
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LL
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