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post #15631 of 19229 Old 11-27-2010, 10:26 AM - Thread Starter
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Buyer's Guide to Building a Home Theater PC - October/November 2011

Announcement (updated on October 1, 2011)

Here is the basic plan for "Buyer's Guide to Building a Home Theater PC" (formerly "Recommended HTPC Systems"):
1. Issues and Editions. The guide will be issued every month, on around the 20th day of the month, in the PDF format (a PDF reader is required to read it, such as Adobe Reader [free download] or Adobe Acrobat).

2. Asking a Donation! I am asking a donation for the latest issue (why). There are two choices:
  • Single issue ($4 USD or more): You can download the current latest issue.

  • 4 issues ($10 USD or more): You are eligible to download 4 consecutive issues. For example if you send a donation on April 1st, you can download March (during 4/1-4/20), April (during 4/20-5/20), May (during 5/20-6/20) and June (during 6/20-7/13) issues. How this works: Each donator will be provided with a download link to the issue file, which is valid for 2500 hours = 104 days = 3 months and 2 weeks (for example, April 1 to July 13 if you donate on April 1). I will update the file in the server on around the 20th day of each month and will announce it in this thread. Then you can download the new issue at the link provided. You will use the link repeatedly during the subscription period. So please keep the download link.
At this time only a donation by PayPal is accepted. Click the button
then select either one described above, click the PayPal icon and follow the instruction in the loaded page to send a donation. If you don't have a PayPal account, don't worry, click the link "Continue" following "Don't have a PayPal account?" in the page to create an account (it's free) and send money using your credit card or bank account. You will receive a download link instantly. Note that
  • The price field is editable; please change it and donate as much as you can.

  • Please add your User Name at AVS Forum in "Add special instructions to merchant" if you want to get my support via PM or posts in the thread. Otherwise I can't identify you with an AVS Forum member unless your user name is the same as your PayPal account holder name.

3. Older Issues will be released free. Older issues will be released for free, either in this thread like the previous "Recommended Systems" or in PDF for download or both. I am planning on releasing a couple of months old issue every couple of months.

4. Have a Question? If you have a question (how to build, how to configure or whatever), please either post it in the thread (yes, please post any question in the thread, hoping that invoke interest in the latest guide ), PM me or email me. I will try to answer it; if I can't, somebody else may be able to help you. Why do I ask a donation? Maintaining the guide consists of
  • Research latest hardware components;
  • Acquire key hardware components and do lots of experiments;
  • Write the information obtained in a readable form, that requires lots of time, meditation and inspiration (not kidding).
Among them the most difficult part is the second part because it involves lots of money ($1000 or more per month, not kidding, I consider $1000 is the minimum amount to maintain and keep the guide up to date) and currently it relies heavily on the donations. So please consider making a donation, as much as you can afford, if you think the guide is helpful and want to see it updated for some time to come.

BTW the amount of donations in 2010 is
  • October 16 2010 - November 15 2010: $60
  • September 16 2010 - October 15 2010: $85
  • August 16 2010 - September 15 2010: $145
This is good enough to buy a motherboard per month, but nothing more. This guide is going to die sooner or later if this continues.

Release Notes
  • October/November 2011 Issue: Released on December 11, 2011.

    - Sandy Bridge-E LGA 2011 systems took the place of 3-year-old Bloomfield LGA 1366 systems.
    - All systems were reexamined and nearly half of the systems were updated or completely changed because of new hardware components and price change of many components.

    Sample (21 pages):
  • August/September 2011 Issue: Released on October 1, 2011.

    - The low-end and mid-range systems are restructured.
    - Nearly half of the systems were updated or completely changed because of new hardware components and price change of many components.

  • June/July 2011 Issue: Released on July 14, 2011. The June issue has been delayed because of the delay of the May issue. So I decided to combine the June and July issues.

    - AMD A-Series APU (Llano) systems took place of all the Socket AM3 systems in the low-end and mid-range AMD systems.
    - Nearly half of the systems were updated because of new hardware components (new AMD 990FX/990X/SB950 chipset motherboards, new X58/ICH10R chipset motherboards etc.) and price change of many components.

  • May 2011 Issue: Released on June 3, 2011.

    - All LGA 775 systems were replaced by LGA 1155 systems finally.
    - Intel Z68 chipset motherboards are used in place of P67 in many systems.
    - Standard Mini-ITX and Budget/Low-End microATX/ATX systems were completely re-organized reflecting the recent release of Pentium Sandy Bridge processor.
    - 15-bay server systems are now using an Intel processor and Intel-brand motherboard (one reason for that is Intel Gb LAN).
    - 20-24 bay server systems have more processor/motherboard options.

  • April 2011 Issue (free download): Released on April 23, 2011.

    - All Radeon HD 5xxx cards were replaced by the latest Radeon HD 6xxx.
    - Several older motherboards and SSDs were replaced by new ones.
    - A Xeon LGA 1155 workstation was added.
    - Server systems were streamlined and divided into two categories: Server I (12 and 15-drive systems) and Server II (20 and 24-drive systems).

  • March 2011 Issue (free download): Released on March 21, 2011.

    - Every Intel LGA 1156 (Clarkdale and Lynnfield) system was replaced by a LGA 1155 (Sandy Bridge) system.
    - "Intel for 3D" (Clarkdale + a discrete graphics) systems were removed because Sandy Bridge supports 3D.
    - A LGA 1366 workstation was added.
    - Rocket 620 SATA controller card in a couple of server systems was replaced by Rosewill RC-211 because Rocket 620 BIOS disables other controller's BIOS.

  • February 2011 Issue (free download): The initial version released on February 23, 2011, the final version released on March 4, 2011.

    - An AMD E-350 APU system was added in the mini-ITX system ("Budge Mini-ITX System").
    - Intel High-End/Premium/Ultimate Systems and Workstation were all updated (i.e. Lynnfield systems were revived) because Intel recalled Intel 6 Series chipsets.
    - Minor changes in the server systems (new motherboards, a new SATA 6.0Gbps controller card) for better cost/performance.
    - Every single system was reviewed and components were replaced if necessary.

  • January 2011 Issue (free download): Issued on January 20, 2011. As Intel Sandy Bridge quad-core processors were released on January 9, mainly Intel High-End/Premium/Ultimate Systems were updated.

  • December 2010 Issue (free download): Issued on January 5, 2011. This is the first PDF version of the Buyer's Guide. 80 pages in US letter. Almost every section of the June 2010 issue was updated. This issue is also posted here.

Buyer's Guide to Building a Home Theater PC - December 2010

A PDF version is also available for free download.

Table of Contents
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post #15632 of 19229 Old 11-27-2010, 10:26 AM - Thread Starter
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Introduction

Organization of the Contents

Here is a brief summary of the contents.


  • Introduction: This section includes a brief summary of HTPC systems and hardware components.
  • Peripheral Components and OS: I collected common hardware components used in each system here. OS (Windows only) is also mentioned.
  • 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.

Classification of HTPC Systems

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″)

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 system. MicroATX supports up to 4 expansion slots, while ATX supports up to 7 expansion slots. Usually a Mini-ITX/microATX motherboard supports an integrated graphics so that you may not need 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.

Here is a physical comparison of actual Mini-ITX motherboard/case, microATX motherboard/case and ATX motherboard/case, along with an AV receiver.

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.

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 and radio (terrestrial, satellite, cable, Internet).
    • 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 decoding 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 improves 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 very 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 (or more) 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, AMD APP).

In general better performance means more cost.

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. Intel (integrated GPU only), AMD and NVIDIA are the top three GPU manufacturers.

CPU/chipset/GPU manufacturers is the third category of the list.

Component Selection

The components selected here are based on my hand-on experience and/or my extensive research. Here are general considerations in choosing components.

CPU

  • Below $60: Intel Celeron E3400 (dual-core) is a nice, cheap processor.
  • $60 to $150: Intel Core i3 540 (dual-core, quad-thread) is an excellent processor with integrated graphics and low power consumption. AMD Athlon II X3 (triple-core)/X4 (quad-core) is more powerful in some applications (e.g. video encoding).
  • Over $150: Intel Core i5 and i7 (Lynnfield and Bloomfield; quad-core, octo-thread in i7) are excellent general purpose processors. Phenom II X6 (hexa-core) is good for heavily threaded applications.

Chipset and Motherboard

Intel produces chipsets for its own chips and AMD for its own chips. ASUS, ASRock, GIGABYTE and MSI are the top four motherboard manufacturers and their motherboards are in general very reliable. The performance of a motherboard is mostly determined by the chipset and there is little difference between the manufacturers. So the main selection factor is the features of the motherboard, e.g. the number of PCI Express slots, USB 3.0, IEEE 1394.

Memory

DDR2 vs. DDR3

DDR3 SDRAM is the mainstream memory standard and you should choose it unless you already have DDR2 memory modules.

Capacity, frequency, timings, voltage

A pair of 2GB memory modules, 4GB in total, is standard right now. Currently both Intel and AMD desktop processors support up to DDR3-1333. Considering slight overclocking capability, DDR3-1600 is a good choice. CAS latency (CL) and timings are important for memory-intensive applications, in particular games. However these have little effect on the majority of HTPC-related tasks. So just ignore them. Even in games, memory affects the performance the least among CPU, memory and GPU. You'd better spend money on better CPU/GPU instead of spending money on expensive "performance" memory modules. The standard operating voltage of DDR3 SDRAM is 1.5V. Some memory modules require higher voltage than that for better stability. Adjust the memory voltage in BIOS according to the specifications of your memory modules.

Brand

Basically the brand does not matter in performance as the standards are established by JEDEC rigorously. It's not like Intel vs. AMD in CPU. Reliability and overclockability may vary from brand to brand, however.

Graphics and Sound Devices

With the advent of Blu-ray Disc (and HD DVD), HDMI became the standard specifications for transmitting video and audio signals from a player/PC to an AV receiver/display. Right now there are basically three HDMI solutions in PC:


  • AMD Radeon HD 5xxx graphics cards; to be replaced by HD 6xxx Series in Q3 2010 and Q1 2011.
  • Intel Core i3/i5 Clarkdale processors (that integrate GPU); to be replaced by the Sandy Bridge processors in Q1 2011.
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 430, GTS 450, GTX 4xx, GTX 5xx.

AMD and Intel support HD video playback and HD audio bitstreaming. Clarkdale lacks proper 23.976Hz playback, however. Higher-end NVIDIA's solutions (GTX 465 and higher, GTX 570 and higher) do not support HD audio bitstreaming.

Here is a summary of audio formats supported by various PC video/audio solutions.

  • Dolby Digital and DTS bitstreams, and stereo LPCM
    • Every motherboard's onboard audio codec (via optical or coaxial S/PDIF connector)
    • Every AMD 760G/780G/785G/790GX/880G/890GX chipset motherboard (via onboard HDMI)
    • All the solutions mentioned below
  • Multichannel LPCM over HDMI
    • Every ION/GeForce 8200/8300/GeForce 9300/9400 chipset motherboard (via onboard HDMI)
    • Every GeForce 210/GT 220/GT 240/GT 430/GTS 450/GTX 4xx/GTX 5xx graphics card
    • Every Radeon HD 4xxx/5xxx/6xxx graphics card
    • Every Intel G41/G43/G45 chipset motherboard (via onboard HDMI)
    • Every Intel Core i5/i3 (Clarkdale) processor (via an H55/H57 chipset motherboard with onboard HDMI)
  • Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD High Resolution Audio/Master Audio bitstreams
    • Every Radeon HD 5xxx/6xxx graphics card
    • Every GeForce GT 430/GTX 450/GTX 460 graphics card
    • Every Intel Core i5/i3 (Clarkdale) processor (via an H55/H57 chipset motherboard with onboard HDMI)

My Pick of HTPC

In case you have no idea what to choose (and no time to dig), here are my pick. The system provides the best video/audio playback performance, as well as reasonably good performance/low power consumption in various CPU intensive tasks. If you have (or will have) a HDMI 1.4a 3D HDTV or projector and are interested in 3D videos, choose GeForce GT 430.

MicroATX Mid-Range Intel System


  • CPU: Core i3-540 3.06GHz 73W LGA1156, $114.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-H57M-USB3 LGA1156 Intel H57 chipset microATX, $121. If you want a PCI Express x1 slot, you can choose ASRock H55M Pro LGA1156 Intel H55 chipset microATX, $95, but this lacks USB 3.0.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $60.
  • Graphics Card (AMD): Sapphire 100287VGAL (VGA) or 100287L (DisplayPort) HD 5670 GDDR5 512MB , $80.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): EVGA 01G-P3-1430-LR GeForce GT 430 DDR3 1GB low-profile, $70.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $59.
  • PSU: Seasonic S12II-430 Bronze, $60. An alternative is Corsair VX450W CMPSU-450VX 450W, $60.
  • Case: Antec Fusion Remote Black microATX, with a LCD/IR receiver/remote, $140.
  • Total Cost: $634 for AMD, $629 for NVIDIA

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Peripheral Components and OS

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.

Input Device

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.
  • GP-IR01BK Windows Vista MCE Remote Control External IR Receiver and Remote, $24, or GP-IR02BK Windows Vista MCE 2 Channel Remote Control External IR Receiver and Remote, $24.
  • Antec Multimedia Station Basic Internal IR Receiver and Remote, $19.
  • Antec Multimedia Station Elite Internal IR Receiver with a VFD and Remote, $54.

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, $160.
  • Logitech Harmony 700 (A stripped version of Harmony One: up to six devices, non-touch screen), $100.
  • Logitech Harmony 900 (Harmony One + RF capabilities), $278.
  • Logitech Harmony 1100 (3.5″ touch screen; RF capabilities), $270.

You may be able to find an older model (refurbished):
  • Logitech Harmony 880 Advanced Universal Remote, $88.
  • Logitech Harmony 890 Advanced Universal Remote (Harmony 880 + RF capabilities), $145.

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, $52, or Gyration Air Music Remote with Compact Keyboard GYR4101CKUS, $112.

Keyboard and Mouse
  • Adesso 2.4 GHz RF Wireless Multimedia/MCE Keyboard with Optical Trackball WKB-3200UB, $52.
  • Logitech diNovo Edge, $147.
  • Logitech diNovo Mini, $120.

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.

Optical Disc Drive

BD Writer/Reader / DVD Writer/Reader
  • LG WH10LS30 BD Writer / DVD Writer with LightScribe (BD-ROM DL: 8x), $95.
  • LG UH10LS20 Blue BD Reader / DVD Writer with LightScribe (BD-ROM DL: 8x), $70.
  • LITE-ON iHES108 BD Reader / DVD Writer (BD-ROM DL: 4x), $48.
  • LITE-ON iHOS104 BD Reader / DVD Reader (BD-ROM DL: 4x), $48.

BD Writer/Reader / DVD Writer - Slim Type
  • Sony Optiarc BD-5730S Slim Type BD Writer / DVD Writer (BD-ROM DL: 4x), $174.
  • LG CT21N Slim Type BD Reader / DVD Writer (BD-ROM DL: 6x), $132.

DVD Writer
  • LITE-ON iHAS424 DVD Writer with LightScribe, $26.
  • LITE-ON iHAS324 DVD Writer, $22.

DVD Writer - Slim Type
  • Sony Optiarc AD-7700S Slim Type DVD Writer, $32.

TV Tuner Card for ATSC/Cable

Digital+Analog
  • AVerMedia AVerTV Combo G2 PCIe x1 Card, low-profile (White Box or Media Center Upgrade Kit), $75. A dual tuner, one for analog cable, one for ATSC/clear digital cable).
  • Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 PCIe x1 Card, low-profile (White Box or MC Kit), $103. A dual hybrid tuner. Each tuner individually acts as analog cable or ATSC/clear digital cable.

Digital Only
  • AVerMedia AVerTVHD Duet PCIe x1 Card, low-profile (White Box), $58. A dual digital tuner.
  • Silicondust HDHomeRun Networked Device, $131. A dual digital tuner.

Digital Cable Tuner Card
  • Ceton InfiniTV 4 Digital Cable Quad-Tuner PCIe x1 Card, low-profile, $399. A quad digital tuner.
  • Silicondust HDHomeRun PRIME Networked Device, $249. A triple digital tuner. Available soon.
  • Hauppauge WinTV USB Device

These cards enable any PC running Windows 7 Media Center on your local network to watch or record up to four (Ceton; the max number of CableCARD tuners Windows 7 allows)/three (HDHomeRun) live cable channels at once, including premium channels. You just need:
  • Digital cable subscription from a US cable provider
  • Multi-Stream CableCARD (M-Card) available from your cable provider

A limitation on recordings is:
  • A content marked as Copy Freely has no DRM in your recording. It is basically the same as clear QAM contents once decrypted by the M-Card.
  • A content marked as Copy Once can be watched only on the PC where it was recorded and Media Center Extenders like the Xbox 360.

It is up to each cable provider which content is marked as Copy Freely/Copy Once.

References

HD Video Capturing
  • Hauppauge HD PVR model 01212 USB Device, $176.

This device captures HD video contents, encrypted or unencrypted, via component video (i.e. analog) from a cable or satellite TV set top box in H.264 video with DD or AAC audio. Recordings are naturally DRM-free. You can watch/record one channel at a time with a HD PVR unit and a STB. You will need multiple HD PVR units and multiple STBs to watch/record multiple channels simultaneously.

Sound Card

If you are going to use an AV receiver, you are unlikely to use a discrete sound card because necessary hardware for HD digital audio is provided by either the motherboard's onboard audio codec or the HDMI on a graphics card (read Introduction: Component Selection: Graphics and Sound Devices). Here are some exceptions.

Analog

Some people prefer an analog sound card to (the DAC and preamplifier processor part of) an AV receiver for several reasons. If you fall into this category, here is a list of a couple of good sound cards:
  • ASUS Xonar Essence ST PCI Card, $184, with ASUS Xonar H6 Multi-Channel Extension Board, $46. The best analog sounds in this class.
  • HT$|$OMEGA CLARO plus+ PCI Sound Card, $175.
  • Auzentech Auzen X-Fi Bravura PCIe x1 Card, $130.

Note that if you use a commercial BD software player, HD audio will be downsampled with these cards. Ripping BD movies into another format such as MKV and playing them with appropriate audio decoders is a way around. For example, please read this post.

S/PDIF

If you want to use S/PDIF out and your motherboard has only an internal S/PDIF connector, then you can build your own coaxial S/PDIF bracket for external connection. Buy

from FRONTX and attach it to an empty PCI bracket by drilling a hole.

If you want to use S/PDIF out, but your motherboard does not have an internal/external SPDIF connector, here are cheap S/PDIF solutions:
  • Turtle Beach Audio Advantage Micro II USB Sound Card (S/PDIF and stereo analog), $23.
  • PPA International PPA 1431V PCI Sound Card 6 Channel, $10.
  • DIAMOND XtremeSound XS71 7.1/24 bit PCI Card, $29.

Unlike analog sound cards, any cheap S/PDIF sound card is enough for this purpose. Its only role is transmit the Dolby Digital/DTS compressed audio format over S/PDIF.

OS

Microsoft Windows is the dominating OS in HTPC for good reasons. The latest Windows is recommended.
  • Windows 7, Home Premium or higher, 32-bit or 64-bit, Retail or OEM or TechNet/MSDN Subscription.

Remarks
  • Windows 7 Editions: Home Premium is enough for normal HTPC tasks. 7 Home Premium supports full-system backup and restore unlike Vista Home Premium. You can find comparison of Windows 7 editions in this Microsoft web page and Wikipedia.
  • 32 bit vs. 64 bit: Advantages of Windows 64 bit are:
    • It supports more than 4GB memory; however this is not important because normal HTPC tasks won't get benefit from more than 4GB memory.
    • If you are going to boot from a HDD over 2.199TB capacity, you will need a motherboard with UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) and Windows 7/Vista 64-bit. (The 32-bit OS supports a data storage HDD over 2.199TB just fine.)
    Disadvantages of Windows 64 bit are:
    • Windows Media Center of Windows 64-bit is a 64-bit application and hence you can't use a couple of useful 32-bit DirectShow filters with its internal video player (e.g. madFlac Decoder, ReClock, ArcSoft Audio Decoder, ArcSoft Video Decoder, CyberLink Video Decoder). This is not a fatal disadvantage however even if you use Windows Media Center as a front end; you can always use an external media player such as Media Player Classic HomeCinema.
    So which one to choose? Personally I recommend Windows 32-bit. All the video playback applications (except for Windows Media Center in Windows 7 64-bit) are still 32-bit and there is no point of using the 64-bit OS. The 64-bit version simply creates complications in configuring the system for 32-bit players with zero performance benefit. By the time media players and video/audio codecs, in particular commercial Blu-ray players, are developed in 64-bit, Windows 7 will have been outdated anyway.
  • TechNet Subscription: You may want to subscribe TechNet Standard, $199 per year, or TechNet Professional, $349 per year, if you want to install Windows (including Windows Home Server), Microsoft Office, and/or other Microsoft applications on several (non-productive) machines. The license is valid indefinitely. You can activate a product with the supplied product key even after your subscription expires, up to 10 times per product key. You can obtain 2 retail keys for each product in Standard and 5 retail keys for each product in Professional, so that 2 x 10 = 20 times or 5 x 10 = 50 times activation is allowed in several machines for each product. Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate are counted as different products, but the 32-bit version and the 64-bit version of each edition are counted as the same product. You can't download products or obtain product keys after the expiration of your subscription, of course.
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Mini-ITX System

General Consideration

Mini-ITX form factor has become popular because of its small footprint. However there are a couple of limitations. It supports at most one expansion slot. So if you decide to add a discrete graphics card, for example, you can't use an internal TV tuner card. A Mini-ITX case is usually very small, hence there is often a space limitation for the CPU cooler, storage drives and PSU. In many cases you can use only a slim-type optical drive and/or a 2.5″ HDD, that are often expensive. If you agree with these limitations, a Mini-ITX system can be not only a good HTPC but also a gaming machine or a video encoding machine by placing a powerful discrete graphics card and/or CPU.

Price Range

I will give a standard system, a standard 3D system, a mid-range gaming system and a high-end gaming system, for each of Intel chip-Intel chipset and AMD chip-AMD chipset.

Feature Comparison

Legend
  • In general
    • ◯: Supported.
    • △: Partially supported.
    • ✕: Not supported.
  • Video (GPU)
    • MPEG-2: Full hardware acceleration of MPEG-2 decoding.
    • VC-1: Full hardware acceleration of VC-1 decoding.
    • H.264: Full hardware acceleration of H.264/MPEG-4 AVC decoding.
    • 23.976Hz: Support for the 23.976Hz refresh rate.
    • VA Deinterlacing: Vector Adaptive Deinterlacing or an equivalent for HD and SD interlaced video contents.
  • 3D Video (CPU/GPU)
    • MVC (GPU): Full hardware acceleration of MPEG-4 MVC (the Blu-ray 3D video codec) decoding.
    • MVC (CPU): MPEG-4 MVC decoding by CPU when MVC decoding by GPU is not supported. △ means that BR 3D is playable, but the CPU usage is very high (66% to 99%).
    • 2D➝3D (CPU): Conversion of 2D video to 3D by CPU. Converting 2D SD video is easy, but converting 2D HD video is CPU intensive.
    • HDMI 1.4a 3D: Support for the mandatory 3D video format structures by HDMI 1.4a.
  • HDMI Audio (GPU): This indicates supported audio formats over HDMI from the GPU.
    • Stereo LPCM: Support for stereo LPCM.
    • DD/DTS: Support for bitstreaming Dolby Digital and DTS.
    • Multi LPCM: Support for multichannel (5.1 and 7.1) LPCM.
    • TrueHD/DTS-HD: Support for bitstreaming Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio/High Resolution Audio.
  • S/PDIF Audio (MB)
    • Optical or Coax: This indicates the existence of an S/PDIF connector (optical or coaxial) on the rear panel of the motherboard.
    • DDL or DTSI: DDL is Dolby Digital Live, DTSI is DTS Interactive. These technologies encode multichannel LPCM sent to the audio codec of the motherboard into Dolby Digital or DTS in real time. A convenient tool to get surround sounds from games over S/PDIF.
  • Analog Audio (MB)
    • Channel Count: The supported number of channels of analog audio from the audio codec of the motherboard.
    • PAP: Support for Protected Audio Path. If this exists, you may be able to get full quality lossless analog audio from Blu-ray Disc movies when you use a (not necessarily every) commercial Blu-ray Disc software player.
  • Other Features (MB)
    • SATA 2.0: The number of SATA 2.0 (3Gbps) internal connectors.
    • eSATA 2.0: The number of eSATA 3Gbps connectors on the real panel.
    • USB 3.0: The number of USB 3.0 connectors on the rear panel if exists.
    • IEEE 1394: Support for IEEE 1394 (aka FireWire).
  • Video Encoding (CPU)
    • Frame per Sec.: x264 HD Benchmark 3.0 Render Speed (Pass 2).
    • Power per Frame: The AC power draw of the total system to encode a frame in the above benchmark. The value depends on PSU's efficiency, which depends on various factors. So take it as a rough estimate.
  • Power Consumption (DC): The DC power draw of the total system excluding PSU. The AC power draw from the wall is (DC power draw)/(Efficiency of the PSU).
    • Idle: At idle.
    • BD Playback: At BD movie (an ISO stored in the internal HDD) playback by PowerDVD 10 Ultra.
    • CPU Load: At Prime95 (Small FFTs).
    • GPU Load: At FurMark (Stress Test).
    • CPU+GPU Load: At Prime95 (Small FFTs) and FurMark (Stress Test) simultaneously.

Mini-ITX Cases

There are several nice Mini-ITX cases. For example, (LP = low profile, FH = full height)
  • Antec ISK 300-150 Mini-ITX, 1 x 5.25″ slim/2 x 2.5″/1 x LP slot, W222 x H96 x D328 mm, 150W, $71.
  • Antec ISK 310-150 Mini-ITX, 1 x 5.25″ slim/2 x 2.5″/1 x LP slot, W222 x H96 x D328 mm, 150W, $71.
  • Apex MI-008 Mini-ITX, 1 x 5.25″/2 x 3.5″/1 x FH slot, W220 x H129 x D300 mm, 250W, $40.
  • Apex MI-100BK Mini-ITX, 1 x 5.25″/2 x 3.5″/1 x FH slot, W220 x H129 x D300 mm, 250W, $50.
  • Mini-Box.com M350 Mini-ITX, no 5.25″/2 x 2.5″/no slot, W192 x H62 x D210 mm, $40, with Mini-Box.com picoPSU-120 + 102W Adapter Power Kit, $55.
  • SilverStone Sugo SG05-450 SST-SG05BB-450 Mini-ITX/Mini-DTX, 1 x 5.25″ slim/1 x 3.5″/1 x 2.5″/2 x FH slot, W222 x H176 x D276 mm, 450W, $120.
  • SilverStone Sugo SG07 SST-SG07B Mini-ITX/Mini-DTX, 1 x 5.25″ slim/1 x 3.5″/2 x 2.5″/2 x FH slot, W222 x H190 x D350 mm, 600W, $200.

from top left to bottom right in the figure.

I will use Antec ISK 310-150 in the standard systems, SilverStone Sugo SG05-450 in the mid-range gaming systems, and SilverStone Sugo SG07″ the high-end gaming systems.
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post #15635 of 19229 Old 11-27-2010, 10:26 AM - Thread Starter
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Standard System

Intel (iGPU)

Summary The current Intel processor/GPU are packed in a mini-ITX case.

System
  • CPU: Core i3-540 3.06GHz 73W LGA1156, $114.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-H55N-USB3 LGA1156 Intel H55 chipset Mini-ITX, $110. An alternative is ECS H55H-I LGA1156 Intel H55 chipset Mini-ITX, $80, or Intel DH57JG LGA1156 Intel H57 chipset Mini-ATX, $120.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $59.
  • Graphics Card: Intel HD Graphics (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HDD: Seagate Momentus 7200.4 ST9500420AS 500GB SATA 3.0Gbps mobile 7200 RPM, $60.
  • PSU: Antec FP-150-8 FlexATX 150W PSU (included in the case), $0.
  • Case: Antec ISK 310-150 Mini-ITX, $71.
  • Total Cost: $414

Reference

AMD (iGPU)

Summary The current AMD processor/iGPU are packed in a mini-ITX case.

System
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 255 ADX255OCGQBOX/ADX255OCGMBOX 3.1GHz 65W AM3, $63.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: ASUS M4A88T-I Deluxe AM3 AMD 880G/SB710 chipsets Mini-ITX, $136.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-10666CL9D-4GBSQ DDR3-1333 CL9 SO-DIMM 2 x 2GB Kit, $50.
  • Graphics Card: Radeon HD 4250 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HDD: Seagate Momentus 7200.4 ST9500420AS 500GB SATA 3.0Gbps mobile 7200 RPM, $60.
  • PSU: Antec FP-150-8 FlexATX 150W PSU (included in the case), $0.
  • Case: Antec ISK 310-150 Mini-ITX, $71.
  • Total Cost: $380

AMD

Summary Instead of a pricier AMD chipset, this system uses a 4-year-old NVIDIA chipset, with a better discrete graphics card. Video playback performance is better than the above system and HD audio bitstreaming is supported.

System
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 255 ADX255OCGQBOX/ADX255OCGMBOX 3.1GHz 65W AM3, $63.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: J&W MINIX 6150SE-UC3 AM3 GeForce 6150SE/nForce 430 chipset Mini-ITX, $85.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $59.
  • Graphics Card: PowerColor AX5450 512MK3-SH Radeon HD 5450 GDDR3 512MB, $40.
  • HDD: Seagate Momentus 7200.4 ST9500420AS 500GB SATA 3.0Gbps mobile 7200 RPM, $60.
  • PSU: Antec FP-150-8 FlexATX 150W PSU (included in the case), $0.
  • Case: Antec ISK 310-150 Mini-ITX, $71.
  • Total Cost: $378

Intel for 3D

Summary

This system is specifically intended for 3D videos in a HDMI 1.4a HDTV/projector. The graphics card can decode Blu-ray 3D codec and output in the Frame Packing format. CPU is powerful enough for 2D to 3D conversion.

System
  • CPU: Core i3-540 3.06GHz 73W LGA1156, $114.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: ECS H55H-I LGA1156 Intel H55 chipset Mini-ITX, $80.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $59.
  • Graphics Card: EVGA 01G-P3-1430-LR GeForce GT 430 DDR3 1GB low-profile, $70, with EVGA Low Profile Bracket M020-00-000134, $5.
  • HDD: Seagate Momentus 7200.4 ST9500420AS 500GB SATA 3.0Gbps mobile 7200 RPM, $60.
  • PSU: Antec FP-150-8 FlexATX 150W PSU (included in the case), $0.
  • Case: Antec ISK 310-150 Mini-ITX, $71.
  • Total Cost: $459

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Mid-Range Gaming System

The systems here are based on SilverStone SG05-450 Mini-DTX/Mini-ITX case. The case supports a 2-slot graphics card of up to 9″ length and has a 450W PSU.

Intel

System
  • CPU: Core i3-540 3.06GHz 73W LGA1156, $114.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-H55N-USB3 LGA1156 Intel H55 chipset Mini-ITX, $110. An alternative is ECS H55H-I LGA1156 Intel H55 chipset Mini-ITX, $80.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $60.
  • Graphics Card (AMD): Sapphire 100315L HD 6850 GDDR5 1GB, $187.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): GIGABYTE GV-N460OC-1GI GeForce GTX 460 1GB, $190.
  • HDD: Crucial RealSSD C300 64GB CTFDDAC064MAG 64GB SATA 6.0Gbps SSD, $134.
  • PSU: SFX12V 450W 80 PLUS Bronze PSU (included in the case), $0.
  • Case: SilverStone Sugo SG05-450 SST-SG05BB-450 Mini-ITX/Mini-DTX, $120.
  • Total Cost: $725 for AMD, $728 for NVIDIA

AMD

System
  • CPU: Athlon II X4 640 ADX640WFGMBOX 3.0GHz 95W AM3, $100.
  • CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Vortex Plus RR-VTPS-28PK-R1, $27. The fan should be oriented reversely.
  • Motherboard: ASUS M4A88T-I Deluxe AM3 AMD 880G/SB710 chipsets Mini-ITX, $136.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-10666CL9D-4GBSQ DDR3-1333 CL9 SO-DIMM 2 x 2GB Kit, $50.
  • Graphics Card (AMD): Sapphire 100315L HD 6850 GDDR5 1GB, $187.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): GIGABYTE GV-N460OC-1GI GeForce GTX 460 1GB, $190.
  • HDD: Crucial RealSSD C300 64GB CTFDDAC064MAG 64GB SATA 6.0Gbps SSD, $134.
  • PSU: SFX12V 450W 80 PLUS Bronze PSU (included in the case), $0.
  • Case: SilverStone Sugo SG05-450 SST-SG05BB-450 Mini-ITX/Mini-DTX, $120.
  • Total Cost: $754 for AMD, $757 for NVIDIA

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High-End Gaming System

The systems here are based on SilverStone SG07 Mini-DTX/Mini-ITX case. The case supports a 2-slot graphics card of up to 12.2 in length and has a 600W PSU.

Intel

System
  • CPU: Core i5-760 2.80GHz 95W LGA1156, $195.
  • CPU Cooler: Prolimatech Samuel 17, $35, with GELID Solutions Silent 12 PWM FN-PX12-15 120mm fan with PWM control, $9. An alternative is Thermalright AXP-140 RT, $63 (hard to find right now) or Cooler Master Vortex Plus RR-VTPS-28PK-R1, $27.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-H55N-USB3 LGA1156 Intel H55 chipset Mini-ITX, $110.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $59.
  • Graphics Card (AMD): Sapphire 100311SR HD 6970 GDDR5 2GB, $380.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): EVGA 012-P3-1570-AR GeForce GTX 570 1280MB, $360. A better (and more expensive) alternative is EVGA 015-P3-1580-AR GeForce GTX 580 1536MB, $520.
  • HDD: Crucial RealSSD C300 128GB CTFDDAC128MAG 128GB SATA 6.0Gbps SSD, $255.
  • PSU: Custom 600W 80 PLUS Bronze PSU (included in the case), $0.
  • Case: SilverStone Sugo SG07 SST-SG07B Mini-ITX/Mini-DTX, $200.
  • Total Cost: $1239 for AMD, $1219 for NVIDIA

Remark
  • Cooler Master Vortex Plus, Prolimatech Samuel 17 and Thermalright AXP-140 RT are those of the few CPU coolers that fits GA-H55N-USB3.

AMD

System
  • CPU: Phenom II X6 1055T HDT55TWFGRBOX 2.8GHz 95W AM3 (not available in US), $190. An alternative is Phenom II X4 945 HDX945WFGIBOX/HDX945WFGMBOX 3.0GHz 95W AM3, $135. (The motherboard does not support a 125W processor.)
  • CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Geminii S RR-CCH-PBJ1-GP / RR-CCH-PBU1-GP, $33.
  • Motherboard: ASUS M4A88T-I Deluxe AM3 AMD 880G/SB710 chipsets Mini-ITX, $136.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-10666CL9D-4GBSQ DDR3-1333 CL9 SO-DIMM 2 x 2GB Kit, $50.
  • Graphics Card (AMD): Sapphire 100311SR HD 6970 GDDR5 2GB, $380.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): EVGA 012-P3-1570-AR GeForce GTX 570 1280MB, $360. A better (and more expensive) alternative is EVGA 015-P3-1580-AR GeForce GTX 580 1536MB, $520.
  • HDD: Crucial RealSSD C300 128GB CTFDDAC128MAG 128GB SATA 6.0Gbps SSD, $255.
  • PSU: Custom 600W 80 PLUS Bronze PSU (included in the case), $0.
  • Case: SilverStone Sugo SG07 SST-SG07B Mini-ITX/Mini-DTX, $200.
  • Total Cost: $1244 for AMD, $1224 for NVIDIA

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MicroATX System

General Consideration

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 number of expansion slots of 4.

Price Range

I will give a pure budget system, 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:
  • Budget System: provides reasonably good video playback performance at as low cost as possible.
  • 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.

I set the following criteria for expansion slots:
  • Budget and Low-End:
    • 1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 for a 2-slot graphics card
    • 1 x PCIe x1 for a sound card or a TV tuner
  • Mid-Range and High-End:
    • 1 x PCIe 2.0 x8 (or higher) for a 2-slot graphics card
    • 1 x PCIe x4 (or higher) for HBA
    • 1 x PCIe x1 for a sound card or a TV tuner
  • Premium:
    • 2 x PCIe 2.0 x8 (or higher) for dual 2-slot graphics (CrossFireX and/or SLI)

Feature Comparison


Legend
  • In general
    • ◯: Supported.
    • △: Partially supported.
    • ✕: Not supported.
  • Video (GPU)
    • MPEG-2: Full hardware acceleration of MPEG-2 decoding.
    • VC-1: Full hardware acceleration of VC-1 decoding.
    • H.264: Full hardware acceleration of H.264/MPEG-4 AVC decoding.
    • 23.976Hz: Support for the 23.976Hz refresh rate.
    • VA Deinterlacing: Vector Adaptive Deinterlacing or an equivalent for HD and SD interlaced video contents.
  • 3D Video (CPU/GPU)
    • MVC (GPU): Full hardware acceleration of MPEG-4 MVC (the Blu-ray 3D video codec) decoding.
    • MVC (CPU): MPEG-4 MVC decoding by CPU when MVC decoding by GPU is not supported. △ means that BR 3D is playable, but the CPU usage is very high (66% to 99%).
    • 2D➝3D (CPU): Conversion of 2D video to 3D by CPU. Converting 2D SD video is easy, but converting 2D HD video is CPU intensive.
    • HDMI 1.4a 3D: Support for the mandatory 3D video format structures by HDMI 1.4a.
  • HDMI Audio (GPU): This indicates supported audio formats over HDMI from the GPU.
    • Stereo LPCM: Support for stereo LPCM.
    • DD/DTS: Support for bitstreaming Dolby Digital and DTS.
    • Multi LPCM: Support for multichannel (5.1 and 7.1) LPCM.
    • TrueHD/DTS-HD: Support for bitstreaming Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio/High Resolution Audio.
  • S/PDIF Audio (MB)
    • Optical or Coax: This indicates the existence of an S/PDIF connector (optical or coaxial) on the rear panel of the motherboard.
    • DDL or DTSI: DDL is Dolby Digital Live, DTSI is DTS Interactive. These technologies encode multichannel LPCM sent to the audio codec of the motherboard into Dolby Digital or DTS in real time. A convenient tool to get surround sounds from games over S/PDIF.
  • Analog Audio (MB)
    • Channel Count: The supported number of channels of analog audio from the audio codec of the motherboard.
    • PAP: Support for Protected Audio Path. If this exists, you may be able to get full quality lossless analog audio from Blu-ray Disc movies when you use a (not necessarily every) commercial Blu-ray Disc software player.
  • Other Features (MB)
    • SATA 2.0: The number of SATA 2.0 (3Gbps) internal connectors.
    • eSATA 2.0: The number of eSATA 3Gbps connectors on the real panel.
    • USB 3.0: The number of USB 3.0 connectors on the rear panel if exists.
    • IEEE 1394: Support for IEEE 1394 (aka FireWire).
  • Video Encoding (CPU)
    • Frame per Sec.: x264 HD Benchmark 3.0 Render Speed (Pass 2).
    • Power per Frame: The AC power draw of the total system to encode a frame in the above benchmark. The value depends on PSU's efficiency, which depends on various factors. So take it as a rough estimate.
  • Power Consumption (DC): The DC power draw of the total system excluding PSU. The AC power draw from the wall is (DC power draw)/(Efficiency of the PSU).
    • Idle: At idle.
    • BD Playback: At BD movie (an ISO stored in the internal HDD) playback by PowerDVD 10 Ultra.
    • CPU Load: At Prime95 (Small FFTs).
    • GPU Load: At FurMark (Stress Test).
    • CPU+GPU Load: At Prime95 (Small FFTs) and FurMark (Stress Test) simultaneously.

MicroATX Cases

There are many good microATX cases. For example,

Low-Profile Cases
  • APEX DM-387 microATX, low-profile, $40. Includes a 270W PSU.
  • hec 7KJ9BBA30FNRX microATX, low-profile, $50. Includes a 300W PSU.
  • hec 7K09BBA30FNRX microATX, low-profile, $60. Includes a 300W PSU.
  • nMEDIAPC HTPC 1080P microATX, low-profile, $70.
  • SilverStone Milo ML03 SST-ML03B microATX, low-profile, $70, perhaps with an SFX PSU such as SilverStone ST45SF SST-ST45SF 450W SFX PSU, $70, instead of an ATX PSU (to avoid conflict with a larger optical drive).
  • Antec MicroFusion Remote 350 microATX, low-profile, with a LCD/IR receiver/remote, $170. Includes a 350W PSU.
  • Lian Li PC-C37B MUSE microATX, low-profile, $128.
  • Moneual MonCaso312 microATX, low-profile, with an IR receiver/remote, $240.

from top left to bottom right in the figure.

Full-Height Cases
  • nMEDIAPC HTPC 1000B microATX, with a card reader, $70.
  • nMEDIAPC HTPC 5000B microATX, with a card reader, $65.
  • Antec Fusion Remote Black microATX, with a LCD/IR receiver/remote, $140.
  • Lian Li PC-C50 microATX, $179. Supports a 250mm (9.8 in) long graphics card and a 120mm tall CPU cooler.
  • LUXA2 LM200 microATX, with a VFD/IR receiver/remote, $320.
  • LUXA2 LM200 Touch microATX, with a 7″ touch screen/IR receiver/remote, $510.

from top left to bottom right in the figure.

I will use APEX DM-387″ the budget systems, nMEDIAPC HTPC 5000B in the low-end systems, Antec Fusion Remote Black in the mid-range systems, Lian Li PC-C50 in the high-end systems and LUXA2 LM200 Touch in the premium systems.
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Budget System

Here are systems at as low cost as possible, but with good performance of HD and SD video playback. You can always add a better discrete graphics card later such as PowerColor AX5450 512MK3-SH Radeon HD 5450 GDDR3 512MB, $40.

Intel (iGPU)

Summary

The system uses the older chipset G41/ICH7 with integrated graphics. The integrated graphics GMA X4500 does not support hardware decode acceleration for HD video codecs, hence you may see high CPU usage, 60%--70%. Otherwise it is the same as GMA X4500 HD (the GPU integrated in G45) in video and audio performance. In particular video post-processing is very good and HDMI audio supports multichannel LPCM.

System
  • CPU: Celeron E3400 2.60GHz 1MB L2 65W LGA775, $50.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: ASUS P5G41C-M LGA775 Intel G41/ICH7 chipsets microATX, $62.
  • Memory: Kingston ValueRAM KVR1333D3N9K2/2G DDR3-1333 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $30.
  • Graphics Card: Intel GMA X4500 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $45.
  • PSU: FlexATX 275W PSU (included in the case), $0.
  • Case: APEX DM-387 microATX, low-profile, $40.
  • Total Cost: $227

AMD (iGPU)

Summary

A system as cheap as possible with the current AMD iGPU HD 4250 is here. Hardware video decode acceleration is supported. But HDMI audio is limited to stereo LPCM, Dolby Digital and DTS.

System
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 255 ADX255OCGQBOX/ADX255OCGMBOX 3.1GHz 65W AM3, $63.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: Foxconn A88GMV AM3 AMD 880G/SB710 chipsets ATX, $70.
  • Memory: Kingston ValueRAM KVR1333D3N9K2/2G DDR3-1333 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $30.
  • Graphics Card: Radeon HD 4250 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD502HJ 500GB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $45.
  • PSU: FlexATX 275W PSU (included in the case), $0.
  • Case: APEX DM-387 microATX, low-profile, $40.
  • Total Cost: $248

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Low-End System

Intel (iGPU)

Summary

The Intel Core i3 system in the previous mid-range system section is now in the low-end system section. The integrated GPU is overall very good with a few issues such as non-support for 23.976Hz refresh rate and not so good support by free and open-source video codecs.

System
  • CPU: Core i3-540 3.06GHz 73W LGA1156, $114.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: ASRock H55M/USB3 R2.0 LGA1156 Intel H55 chipset microATX, $87. An alternative is GIGABYTE GA-H55M-USB3 LGA1156 Intel H55 chipset microATX, $110 (supporting one more USB 3.0 and IEEE 1394).
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $53.
  • Graphics Card: Intel HD Graphics (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $59.
  • PSU: Seasonic S12II-380 Bronze, $53.
  • Case: nMEDIAPC HTPC 5000B microATX, with a card reader, $65.
  • Total Cost: $431

Intel

Summary Instead of a pricey Core i3 processor and a H55 motherboard, you can use a much cheaper Intel Celeron processor and a motherboard with older chipsets, but add a better discrete graphics card for overall better video playback performance at a lower cost.

System
  • CPU: Celeron E3400 2.60GHz 1MB L2 65W LGA775, $50.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: ASUS P5G41C-M LGA775 Intel G41/ICH7 chipsets microATX, $62.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $53.
  • Graphics Card: PowerColor AX5450 512MK3-SH Radeon HD 5450 GDDR3 512MB, $40.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $59.
  • PSU: Seasonic S12II-380 Bronze, $53.
  • Case: nMEDIAPC HTPC 5000B microATX, with a card reader, $65.
  • Total Cost: $382

AMD (iGPU)

Summary If you want the current AMD iGPU, here is such a system.

System
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 255 ADX255OCGQBOX/ADX255OCGMBOX 3.1GHz 65W AM3, $63.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: ASRock 880GMH/USB3 AM3 AMD 880G/SB710 chipsets microATX, $82. An alternative is GIGABYTE GA-880GMA-UD2H AM3 AMD 880G/SB850 chipsets microATX, $90 (supporting SATA 6Gb/s and IEEE 1394).
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $53.
  • Graphics Card: Radeon HD 4250 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $59.
  • PSU: Seasonic S12II-380 Bronze, $53.
  • Case: nMEDIAPC HTPC 5000B microATX, with a card reader, $65.
  • Total Cost: $375

AMD

Summary AMD iGPU is somewhat limited in today's standard. If you want to add a discrete graphics card, then you could choose a cheaper motherboard whose onboard video is inferior but you won't use anyway.

System
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 255 ADX255OCGQBOX/ADX255OCGMBOX 3.1GHz 65W AM3, $63.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: ASUS M4A78LT-M AM3 AMD 760G/SB710 chipsets microATX, $68.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $53.
  • Graphics Card: PowerColor AX5450 512MK3-SH Radeon HD 5450 GDDR3 512MB, $40.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $59.
  • PSU: Seasonic S12II-380 Bronze, $53.
  • Case: nMEDIAPC HTPC 5000B microATX, with a card reader, $65.
  • Total Cost: $401

Intel for 3D

Summary If you are interested in 3D video, you will have to select the graphics card as well as CPU carefully.

System
  • CPU: Core i3-540 3.06GHz 73W LGA1156, $114.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: ASRock H55M/USB3 R2.0 LGA1156 Intel H55 chipset microATX, $87. An alternative is GIGABYTE GA-H55M-USB3 LGA1156 Intel H55 chipset microATX, $110 (supporting one more USB 3.0 and IEEE 1394).
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $53.
  • Graphics Card: EVGA 01G-P3-1430-LR GeForce GT 430 DDR3 1GB low-profile, $70.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $59.
  • PSU: Seasonic S12II-380 Bronze, $53.
  • Case: nMEDIAPC HTPC 5000B microATX, with a card reader, $65.
  • Total Cost: $501

AMD for 3D

Summary The AMD equivalent of the above system.

System
  • CPU: Athlon II X3 450 ADX450WFGMBOX 3.2GHz 95W AM3, $80.
  • CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Vortex Plus RR-VTPS-28PK-R1, $27.
  • Motherboard: ASUS M4A78LT-M AM3 AMD 760G/SB710 chipsets microATX, $68.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $53.
  • Graphics Card: EVGA 01G-P3-1430-LR GeForce GT 430 DDR3 1GB low-profile, $70.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $59.
  • PSU: Seasonic S12II-380 Bronze, $53.
  • Case: nMEDIAPC HTPC 5000B microATX, with a card reader, $65.
  • Total Cost: $475

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Mid-Range System

Intel

System
  • CPU: Core i3-540 3.06GHz 73W LGA1156, $114.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-H57M-USB3 LGA1156 Intel H57 chipset microATX, $121. If you want a PCI Express x1 slot, you can choose ASRock H55M Pro LGA1156 Intel H55 chipset microATX, $95, but this lacks USB 3.0.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $60.
  • Graphics Card (AMD): Sapphire 100287VGAL (VGA) or 100287L (DisplayPort) HD 5670 GDDR5 512MB , $80.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): EVGA 01G-P3-1430-LR GeForce GT 430 DDR3 1GB low-profile, $70.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $59.
  • PSU: Seasonic S12II-430 Bronze, $60. An alternative is Corsair VX450W CMPSU-450VX 450W, $60.
  • Case: Antec Fusion Remote Black microATX, with a LCD/IR receiver/remote, $140.
  • Total Cost: $634 for AMD, $624 for NVIDIA

AMD

System
  • CPU: Athlon II X4 640 ADX640WFGMBOX 3.0GHz 95W AM3, $100.
  • CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Vortex Plus RR-VTPS-28PK-R1, $27.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-880GMA-UD2H AM3 AMD 880G/SB850 chipsets microATX, $90.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $60.
  • Graphics Card (AMD): Sapphire 100287VGAL (VGA) or 100287L (DisplayPort) HD 5670 GDDR5 512MB , $80.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): EVGA 01G-P3-1430-LR GeForce GT 430 DDR3 1GB low-profile, $70.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $59.
  • PSU: Seasonic S12II-430 Bronze, $60. An alternative is Corsair VX450W CMPSU-450VX 450W, $55.
  • Case: Antec Fusion Remote Black microATX, with a LCD/IR receiver/remote, $140.
  • Total Cost: $616 for AMD, $606 for NVIDIA

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High-End System

Intel

System
  • CPU: Core i5-760 2.80GHz 95W LGA1156, $195.
  • CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Geminii S RR-CCH-PBJ1-GP / RR-CCH-PBU1-GP, $33.
  • Motherboard: MSI H57M-ED65 LGA1156 Intel H57 chipset microATX, $126.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $60.
  • Graphics Card (AMD): MSI R5770 Hawk Radeon HD 5770 GDDR5 1GB, $165.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): EVGA 768-P3-1360-TR GeForce GTX 460 768MB, $170.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $59.
  • PSU: Seasonic S12II-520 Bronze, $65. An alternative is Corsair VX550W CMPSU-550VX 550W, $80.
  • Case: Lian Li PC-C50 microATX, $179.
  • Total Cost: $882 for AMD, $887 for NVIDIA

AMD

System
  • CPU: Phenom II X6 1075T HDT75TFBGRBOX 3.0GHz 125W AM3, $200.
  • CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Geminii S RR-CCH-PBJ1-GP / RR-CCH-PBU1-GP, $33.
  • Motherboard: MSI 890GXM-G65 AM3 AMD 890GX/SB850 chipsets microATX, $117.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $60.
  • Graphics Card (AMD): MSI R5770 Hawk Radeon HD 5770 GDDR5 1GB, $165.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): EVGA 768-P3-1360-TR GeForce GTX 460 768MB, $170.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $59.
  • PSU: Seasonic S12II-520 Bronze, $65. An alternative is Corsair VX550W CMPSU-550VX 550W, $80.
  • Case: Lian Li PC-C50 microATX, $179.
  • Total Cost: $878 for AMD, $883 for NVIDIA

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Premium System

Intel (LGA 1156)

System
  • CPU: Core i7-870 2.93GHz 95W LGA1156, $280.
  • CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-C12P SE14, $60.
  • Motherboard: ASUS Maximus III GENE LGA1156 Intel P55 chipset microATX, $147.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL7D-4GBRM Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL7 2 x 2GB Kit, $75.
  • Graphics Card (AMD): Sapphire 100315L HD 6850 GDDR5 1GB, $187.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): GIGABYTE GV-N460OC-1GI GeForce GTX 460 1GB, $190.
  • SSD: Intel X25-M SSDSA2MH120G2K5 120GB SATA 3.0Gbps SSD, $228.
  • PSU: Seasonic X-650 SS-650KM, $120.
  • Case: LUXA2 LM200 Touch microATX, with a 7″ touch screen/IR receiver/remote, $558. If you don't need or don't like a touch screen, choose LUXA2 LM200 microATX, with a VFD/IR receiver/remote, $350.
  • Total Cost: $1655 for AMD, $1658 for NVIDIA

Intel (LGA 1366)

System
  • Core i7-950 3.06GHz 130W LGA1366, $290.
  • Noctua NH-C12P SE14, $60.
  • Motherboard: ASUS Rampage III GENE LGA1366 Intel X58/ICH10R chipsets microATX, $235.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL8T-6GBRM Ripjaws DDR3-1600 3 x 2GB Kit, $115.
  • Graphics Card (AMD): Sapphire 100315L HD 6850 GDDR5 1GB, $187.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): GIGABYTE GV-N460OC-1GI GeForce GTX 460 1GB, $190.
  • SSD: Intel X25-M SSDSA2MH120G2K5 120GB SATA 3.0Gbps SSD, $228.
  • PSU: Seasonic X-650 SS-650KM, $120.
  • Case: LUXA2 LM200 Touch microATX, with a 7″ touch screen/IR receiver/remote, $558. If you don't need or don't like a touch screen, choose LUXA2 LM200 microATX, with a VFD/IR receiver/remote, $350.
  • Total Cost: $1793 for AMD, $1796 for NVIDIA

AMD

System
  • CPU: Phenom II X6 1100T 'Black Edition' HDE00ZFBGRBOX 3.3GHz 125W AM3, $265.
  • CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-C12P SE14, $60.
  • Motherboard: MSI 890GXM-G65 AM3 AMD 890GX/SB850 chipsets microATX, $117.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL7D-4GBRM Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL7 2 x 2GB Kit, $75.
  • Graphics Card (AMD): Sapphire 100315L HD 6850 GDDR5 1GB, $187.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): GIGABYTE GV-N460OC-1GI GeForce GTX 460 1GB, $190.
  • SSD: Intel X25-M SSDSA2MH120G2K5 120GB SATA 3.0Gbps SSD, $228.
  • PSU: Seasonic X-650 SS-650KM, $120.
  • Case: LUXA2 LM200 Touch microATX, with a 7″ touch screen/IR receiver/remote, $558. If you don't need or don't like a touch screen, choose LUXA2 LM200 microATX, with a VFD/IR receiver/remote, $350.
  • Total Cost: $1610 for AMD, $1613 for NVIDIA

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ATX System

General Consideration

The ATX form factor supports up to seven expansion slots (vs. four in microATX) and a larger ATX case can usually hold more storage drives. Moreover motherboard manufacturers tend to implement better CPU power circuitry and cooling solution for MOSFET/chipset in ATX motherboards than microATX motherboards.

Price Range

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, 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, system available today.
  • Ultimate System: is intended to be the best 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 and Ultimate:
    • 2 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (or x8) for dual 2-slot graphics (CrossFireX and/or SLI)
    • 1 x PCIe x1 for a sound card/TV tuner
    • 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 or more internal SATA ports is a norm.

Feature Comparison


Legend
  • In general
    • ◯: Supported.
    • △: Partially supported.
    • ✕: Not supported.
  • Video (GPU)
    • MPEG-2: Full hardware acceleration of MPEG-2 decoding.
    • VC-1: Full hardware acceleration of VC-1 decoding.
    • H.264: Full hardware acceleration of H.264/MPEG-4 AVC decoding.
    • 23.976Hz: Support for the 23.976Hz refresh rate.
    • VA Deinterlacing: Vector Adaptive Deinterlacing or an equivalent for HD and SD interlaced video contents.
  • 3D Video (CPU/GPU)
    • MVC (GPU): Full hardware acceleration of MPEG-4 MVC (the Blu-ray 3D video codec) decoding.
    • MVC (CPU): MPEG-4 MVC decoding by CPU when MVC decoding by GPU is not supported. △ means that BR 3D is playable, but the CPU usage is very high (66% to 99%).
    • 2D➝3D (CPU): Conversion of 2D video to 3D by CPU. Converting 2D SD video is easy, but converting 2D HD video is CPU intensive.
    • HDMI 1.4a 3D: Support for the mandatory 3D video format structures by HDMI 1.4a.
  • HDMI Audio (GPU): This indicates supported audio formats over HDMI from the GPU.
    • Stereo LPCM: Support for stereo LPCM.
    • DD/DTS: Support for bitstreaming Dolby Digital and DTS.
    • Multi LPCM: Support for multichannel (5.1 and 7.1) LPCM.
    • TrueHD/DTS-HD: Support for bitstreaming Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio/High Resolution Audio.
  • S/PDIF Audio (MB)
    • Optical or Coax: This indicates the existence of an S/PDIF connector (optical or coaxial) on the rear panel of the motherboard.
    • DDL or DTSI: DDL is Dolby Digital Live, DTSI is DTS Interactive. These technologies encode multichannel LPCM sent to the audio codec of the motherboard into Dolby Digital or DTS in real time. A convenient tool to get surround sounds from games over S/PDIF.
  • Analog Audio (MB)
    • Channel Count: The supported number of channels of analog audio from the audio codec of the motherboard.
    • PAP: Support for Protected Audio Path. If this exists, you may be able to get full quality lossless analog audio from Blu-ray Disc movies when you use a (not necessarily every) commercial Blu-ray Disc software player.
  • Other Features (MB)
    • SATA 2.0: The number of SATA 2.0 (3Gbps) internal connectors.
    • eSATA 2.0: The number of eSATA 3Gbps connectors on the real panel.
    • USB 3.0: The number of USB 3.0 connectors on the rear panel if exists.
    • IEEE 1394: Support for IEEE 1394 (aka FireWire).
  • Video Encoding (CPU)
    • Frame per Sec.: x264 HD Benchmark 3.0 Render Speed (Pass 2).
    • Power per Frame: The AC power draw of the total system to encode a frame in the above benchmark. The value depends on PSU's efficiency, which depends on various factors. So take it as a rough estimate.
  • Power Consumption (DC): The DC power draw of the total system excluding PSU. The AC power draw from the wall is (DC power draw)/(Efficiency of the PSU).
    • Idle: At idle.
    • BD Playback: At BD movie (an ISO stored in the internal HDD) playback by PowerDVD 10 Ultra.
    • CPU Load: At Prime95 (Small FFTs).
    • GPU Load: At FurMark (Stress Test).
    • CPU+GPU Load: At Prime95 (Small FFTs) and FurMark (Stress Test) simultaneously.

ATX Cases

There are many good ATX cases. Here is a list of well-built ATX cases. All SilverStone cases except for LC16M/LC20(M)/GD01(MX), Antec Fusion Remote Max, and Thermaltake DH103 and DH104 can hold a graphics card of any length, possibly by removing a HDD cage.

Without LCD/VFD/IR Receiver/Remote
  • nMEDIAPC HTPC 2000B ATX, with a card reader, $92.
  • nMEDIAPC HTPC 6000B ATX, with a card reader, $80.
  • SilverStone Lascala LC10-E SST-LC10B-E ATX, $109.
  • SilverStone Lascala LC13-E SST-LC13B-E ATX, $120.
  • SilverStone Lascala LC17 SST-LC17B ATX, $120.
  • SilverStone Lascala LC20 SST-LC20B ATX, $129.
  • SilverStone Lascala GD01 SST-GD01B-R ATX, with a card reader, $135.
  • Zalman HD501 ATX, with a LCD/IR receiver/remote, $145.

from top left to bottom right in the figure.

With LCD/VFD/IR Receiver/Remote
  • Antec Fusion Remote Max ATX, with a LCD/IR receiver/remote, $174.
  • SilverStone Lascala LC16M-R SST-LC16B-MR ATX, with a VFD/IR receiver/remote and card reader, $236.
  • SilverStone Lascala LC20M SST-LC20B-M ATX, with a VFD/IR receiver/remote, $179.
  • SilverStone Lascala GD01MX SST-GD01B-MXR ATX, with a LCD/IR receiver/remote and card reader, $236.
  • SilverStone Crown CW02 SST-CW02B-MXR ATX, with a LCD/IR receiver/remote and card reader, $359.
  • Thermaltake DH101 VF7001BNS ATX, with a LCD/IR receiver/remote, $198.
  • Thermaltake DH202 VJ80011N2Z ATX, with a LCD/IR receiver/remote and card reader, $240.
  • Zalman HD503 ATX, with a LCD/IR receiver/remote, $225.

from top left to bottom right in the figure.

Note that the cases used in the recommendation list are just examples. You should choose a case that suits your needs.
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Low-End System

Intel (iGPU)


Summary

The Intel Core i3 system in the previous mid-range system section is now in the low-end system section. The integrated GPU is overall very good with a few issues such as non-support for 23.976Hz refresh rate and not so good support by free and open-source video codecs.

System
  • CPU: Core i3-540 3.06GHz 73W LGA1156, $114.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: MSI H55-G43 LGA1156 Intel H55 chipset ATX, $90. An alternative is GIGABYTE GA-H55-USB3 LGA1156 Intel H55 chipset ATX, $110 (supporting USB 3.0 and IEEE 1394).
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $60.
  • Graphics Card: Intel HD Graphics (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $59.
  • PSU: Seasonic S12II-430 Bronze, $60. An alternative is Corsair VX450W CMPSU-450VX 450W, $55.
  • Case: nMEDIAPC HTPC 6000B ATX, with card reader, $80.
  • Total Cost: $463

Intel


Summary Instead of a pricey Core i3 processor and a H55 motherboard, you can use a much cheaper Intel Celeron processor and a motherboard with older chipsets, but add a better discrete graphics card for overall better video playback performance at a lower cost.

System
  • CPU: Celeron E3400 2.60GHz 1MB L2 65W LGA775, $50.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: ASRock P43 Pro/USB3 LGA775 Intel P43/ICH10 chipsets ATX, $75. An alternative is GIGABYTE GA-EP43T-USB3 LGA775 Intel P43/ICH10 chipsets ATX, $87 (supporting one more USB 3.0).
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $60.
  • Graphics Card: PowerColor AX5450 512MK3-SH Radeon HD 5450 GDDR3 512MB, $40.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $59.
  • PSU: Seasonic S12II-430 Bronze, $60. An alternative is Corsair VX450W CMPSU-450VX 450W, $55.
  • Case: nMEDIAPC HTPC 6000B ATX, with card reader, $80.
  • Total Cost: $424

AMD (iGPU)


Summary If you want the current AMD iGPU, here is such a system.

System
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 255 ADX255OCGQBOX/ADX255OCGMBOX 3.1GHz 65W AM3, $63.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-880GA-UD3H AM3 AMD 880G/SB850 chipsets ATX, $106. An alternative is ASRock 880G Extreme3 AM3 AMD 880G/SB850 chipsets ATX, $110 (supporting dual PCI Express 2.0 x8).
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $60.
  • Graphics Card: Radeon HD 4250 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $59.
  • PSU: Seasonic S12II-430 Bronze, $60. An alternative is Corsair VX450W CMPSU-450VX 450W, $55.
  • Case: nMEDIAPC HTPC 6000B ATX, with card reader, $80.
  • Total Cost: $428

AMD


Summary AMD iGPU is somewhat limited in today's standard. If you want to add a discrete graphics card, then you could choose a cheaper motherboard whose onboard video is inferior but you won't use anyway.

System
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 255 ADX255OCGQBOX/ADX255OCGMBOX 3.1GHz 65W AM3, $63.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: ASRock 770 Extreme3 AM3 AMD 770/SB710 chipsets ATX, $75 (supporting SATA 6Gb/s by a Marvell chip). An alternative is GIGABYTE GA-770T-USB3 AM3 AMD 770/SB710 chipsets ATX, $83 (supporting IEEE 1394, but not supporting SATA 6Gb/s).
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $60.
  • Graphics Card: PowerColor AX5450 512MK3-SH Radeon HD 5450 GDDR3 512MB, $40.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $59.
  • PSU: Seasonic S12II-430 Bronze, $60. An alternative is Corsair VX450W CMPSU-450VX 450W, $55.
  • Case: nMEDIAPC HTPC 6000B ATX, with card reader, $80.
  • Total Cost: $437

Intel for 3D


Summary If you are interested in 3D video, you will have to select the graphics card as well as CPU carefully.

System
  • CPU: Core i3-540 3.06GHz 73W LGA1156, $114.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: MSI H55-G43 LGA1156 Intel H55 chipset ATX, $90. An alternative is GIGABYTE GA-H55-USB3 LGA1156 Intel H55 chipset ATX, $110 (supporting USB 3.0 and IEEE 1394).
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $60.
  • Graphics Card: EVGA 01G-P3-1430-LR GeForce GT 430 DDR3 1GB low-profile, $70.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $59.
  • PSU: Seasonic S12II-430 Bronze, $60. An alternative is Corsair VX450W CMPSU-450VX 450W, $55.
  • Case: nMEDIAPC HTPC 6000B ATX, with card reader, $80.
  • Total Cost: $538

AMD for 3D


Summary The AMD equivalent of the above system.

System
  • CPU: Athlon II X3 450 ADX450WFGMBOX 3.2GHz 95W AM3, $80.
  • CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Vortex Plus RR-VTPS-28PK-R1, $27.
  • Motherboard: ASRock 770 Extreme3 AM3 AMD 770/SB710 chipsets ATX, $75 (supporting SATA 6Gb/s by a Marvell chip). An alternative is GIGABYTE GA-770T-USB3 AM3 AMD 770/SB710 chipsets ATX, $80 (supporting IEEE 1394, but not supporting SATA 6Gb/s).
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $60.
  • Graphics Card: EVGA 01G-P3-1430-LR GeForce GT 430 DDR3 1GB low-profile, $70.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $59.
  • PSU: Seasonic S12II-430 Bronze, $60. An alternative is Corsair VX450W CMPSU-450VX 450W, $55.
  • Case: nMEDIAPC HTPC 6000B ATX, with card reader, $80.
  • Total Cost: $522

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post #15646 of 19229 Old 11-27-2010, 10:29 AM - Thread Starter
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Mid-Range System

Intel

System
  • CPU: Core i3-540 3.06GHz 73W LGA1156, $114.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: ASRock P55 Extreme4 LGA1156 Intel P55 chipset ATX, $145.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $60.
  • Graphics Card (AMD): Sapphire 100287VGAL (VGA) or 100287L (DisplayPort) HD 5670 GDDR5 512MB , $80.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): EVGA 01G-P3-1430-LR GeForce GT 430 DDR3 1GB low-profile, $70.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $59.
  • PSU: Seasonic S12II-520 Bronze, $65. An alternative is Corsair VX550W CMPSU-550VX 550W, $80.
  • Case: SilverStone Lascala LC20 SST-LC20B ATX, $129.
  • Total Cost: $652 for AMD, $642 for NVIDIA

AMD

System
  • CPU: Athlon II X4 640 ADX640WFGMBOX 3.0GHz 95W AM3, $100.
  • CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Vortex Plus RR-VTPS-28PK-R1, $27.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-890GPA-UD3H AM3 AMD 890GX/SB850 chipsets ATX, $124. A cheaper alternative is ASRock 880G Extreme3 AM3 AMD 880G/SB850 chipsets ATX, $110 (supporting dual PCI Express 2.0 x8 despite AMD 880G chipset).
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $60.
  • Graphics Card (AMD): Sapphire 100287VGAL (VGA) or 100287L (DisplayPort) HD 5670 GDDR5 512MB , $80.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): EVGA 01G-P3-1430-LR GeForce GT 430 DDR3 1GB low-profile, $70.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $59.
  • PSU: Seasonic S12II-520 Bronze, $65. An alternative is Corsair VX550W CMPSU-550VX 550W, $80.
  • Case: SilverStone Lascala LC20 SST-LC20B ATX, $129.
  • Total Cost: $644 for AMD, $634 for NVIDIA.

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High-End System

Intel

System
  • CPU: Core i5-760 2.80GHz 95W LGA1156, $195.
  • CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Geminii S RR-CCH-PBJ1-GP / RR-CCH-PBU1-GP, $33.
  • Motherboard: ASUS P7P55D-E PRO LGA1156 Intel P55 chipset ATX, $180. An alternative is ASRock P55 Extreme4 LGA1156 Intel P55 chipset ATX, $145, GIGABYTE GA-P55A-UD4P LGA1156 Intel P55 chipset ATX, $160, or MSI P55A-GD65 LGA1156 Intel P55 chipset ATX, $170.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $60.
  • Graphics Card (AMD): MSI R5770 Hawk Radeon HD 5770 GDDR5 1GB, $165.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): EVGA 768-P3-1360-TR GeForce GTX 460 768MB, $170.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $59.
  • PSU: Seasonic S12II-620 Bronze, $75. An alternative is Corsair TX650W CMPSU-650TX 650W, $90.
  • Case: Antec Fusion Remote Max ATX, with a LCD/IR receiver/remote, $174.
  • Total Cost: $941 for AMD, $946 for NVIDIA

AMD

System
  • CPU: Phenom II X6 1075T HDT75TFBGRBOX 3.0GHz 125W AM3, $200.
  • CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Geminii S RR-CCH-PBJ1-GP / RR-CCH-PBU1-GP, $33.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-890GPA-UD3H AM3 AMD 890GX/SB850 chipsets ATX, $124. An alternative is ASUS M4A89GTD PRO/USB3 AM3 AMD 890GX/SB850 chipsets ATX, $145.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBRL Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $60.
  • Graphics Card (AMD): MSI R5770 Hawk Radeon HD 5770 GDDR5 1GB, $165.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): EVGA 768-P3-1360-TR GeForce GTX 460 768MB, $170.
  • HDD: Samsung Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB SATA 3.0Gbps 7200 RPM, $59.
  • PSU: Seasonic S12II-620 Bronze, $75. An alternative is Corsair TX650W CMPSU-650TX 650W, $90.
  • Case: Antec Fusion Remote Max ATX, with a LCD/IR receiver/remote, $174.
  • Total Cost: $890 for AMD, $895 for NVIDIA

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Premium System

Intel (LGA 1156)

System
  • CPU: Core i7-870 2.93GHz 95W LGA1156, $280.
  • CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-C12P SE14, $60.
  • Motherboard: ASUS P7P55D-E PRO LGA1156 Intel P55 chipset ATX, $180. An alternative is ASRock P55 Extreme4 LGA1156 Intel P55 chipset ATX, $145, GIGABYTE GA-P55A-UD4P LGA1156 Intel P55 chipset ATX, $160, or MSI P55A-GD65 LGA1156 Intel P55 chipset ATX, $170.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL7D-4GBRM Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL7 2 x 2GB Kit, $75.
  • Graphics Card (AMD): Sapphire 100315L HD 6850 GDDR5 1GB, $187.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): GIGABYTE GV-N460OC-1GI GeForce GTX 460 1GB, $190.
  • SSD: Intel X25-M SSDSA2MH120G2K5 120GB SATA 3.0Gbps SSD, $228.
  • PSU: Seasonic X-650 SS-650KM, $120.
  • Case: LUXA2 LM300 Touch Pro LVA30052N1Z ATX, with a 7″ touch screen/IR receiver/remote, $578. If you don't need or don't like a touch screen, choose LUXA2 LM300 Pro LVA30012N1Z ATX, with a LCD/IR receiver/remote, $400.
  • Total Cost: $1708 for AMD, $1711 for NVIDIA

Intel (LGA 1366)

System
  • CPU: Core i7-950 3.06GHz 130W LGA1366, $290.
  • CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-C12P SE14, $60.
  • Motherboard: ASRock X58 Extreme6 LGA1366 Intel X58/ICH10R chipsets ATX, $235. An alternative is GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD3R LGA1366 Intel X58 chipsets ATX, $207.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL8T-6GBRM Ripjaws DDR3-1600 3 x 2GB Kit, $115.
  • Graphics Card (AMD): Sapphire 100315L HD 6850 GDDR5 1GB, $187.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): GIGABYTE GV-N460OC-1GI GeForce GTX 460 1GB, $190.
  • SSD: Intel X25-M SSDSA2MH120G2K5 120GB SATA 3.0Gbps SSD, $228.
  • PSU: Seasonic X-650 SS-650KM, $120.
  • Case: LUXA2 LM300 Touch Pro LVA30052N1Z ATX, with a 7″ touch screen/IR receiver/remote, $578. If you don't need or don't like a touch screen, choose LUXA2 LM300 Pro LVA30012N1Z ATX, with a LCD/IR receiver/remote, $400.
  • Total Cost: $1813 for AMD, $1816 for NVIDIA

AMD

System
  • CPU: Phenom II X6 1100T 'Black Edition' HDE00ZFBGRBOX 3.3GHz 125W AM3, $265.
  • CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-C12P SE14, $60.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-890FXA-UD5 AM3 AMD 890FX/SB850 chipsets ATX, $185. An alternative is MSI 890FXA-GD70 AM3 AMD 890FX/SB850 chipsets ATX, $200.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL7D-4GBRM Ripjaws DDR3-1600 CL7 2 x 2GB Kit, $75.
  • Graphics Card (AMD): Sapphire 100315L HD 6850 GDDR5 1GB, $187.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): GIGABYTE GV-N460OC-1GI GeForce GTX 460 1GB, $190.
  • SSD: Intel X25-M SSDSA2MH120G2K5 120GB SATA 3.0Gbps SSD, $228.
  • PSU: Seasonic X-650 SS-650KM, $120.
  • Case: LUXA2 LM300 Touch Pro LVA30052N1Z ATX, with a 7″ touch screen/IR receiver/remote, $578. If you don't need or don't like a touch screen, choose LUXA2 LM300 Pro LVA30012N1Z ATX, with a LCD/IR receiver/remote, $400.
  • Total Cost: $1698 for AMD, $1701 for NVIDIA

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Ultimate System

Intel (LGA 1156)

System
  • CPU: Core i7-875K 2.93GHz 95W LGA1156, $320.
  • CPU Cooler: Xigmatek Dark Knight-S1283V, $45.
  • Motherboard: ECS P55H-AK LGA1156 nForce 200/Intel P55 chipsets ATX, $300. An alternative is ASUS Maximus III Extreme LGA1156 nForce 200/Intel P55 chipsets ATX, $345.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-17600CL7D-4GBPIS Pi DDR3-2200 CL7 2 x 2GB Kit, $160.
  • Graphics Card (AMD): Sapphire 100311SR HD 6970 GDDR5 2GB, $380; two of this card for CrossFireX, $760.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): EVGA 012-P3-1570-AR GeForce GTX 570 1280MB, $360; two of this card for SLI, $720. A better (and more expensive) alternative is EVGA 015-P3-1580-AR GeForce GTX 580 1536MB, $520.
  • SSD: Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB CTFDDAC064MAG 256GB SATA 6.0Gbps SSD, $500.
  • PSU: Corsair AX1200 CMPSU-1200AX 1200W, $280.
  • Case: Thermaltake DH104 VH4001BNS ATX, with a 7″ touch screen/IR receiver/remote, $500. If you don't need or don't like a touch screen, choose Thermaltake DH103 VH3001BNS ATX, with a LCD/IR receiver/remote, $257.
  • Total Cost: $2485 for non-CrossFireX, $2865 for CrossFireX; $2465 for non-SLI, $2825 for SLI

Intel (LGA 1366)

System
  • CPU: Core i7-980X 3.33GHz 130W LGA1366, $985.
  • CPU Cooler: Xigmatek Dark Knight-S1283V, $45.
  • Motherboard: ASUS Rampage III Extreme LGA1366 Intel X58/ICH10R chipsets ATX, $324. An alternative is MSI Big Bang-XPower LGA1366 Intel X58/ICH10R chipsets ATX, $295.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-16000CL9T-6GBRHD Ripjaws DDR3-2000 3 x 2GB Kit, $170.
  • Graphics Card (AMD): Sapphire 100311SR HD 6970 GDDR5 2GB, $380; two of this card for CrossFireX, $760.
  • Graphics Card (NVIDIA): EVGA 012-P3-1570-AR GeForce GTX 570 1280MB, $360; two of this card for SLI, $720. A better (and more expensive) alternative is EVGA 015-P3-1580-AR GeForce GTX 580 1536MB, $520.
  • SSD: Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB CTFDDAC064MAG 256GB SATA 6.0Gbps SSD, $500.
  • PSU: Corsair AX1200 CMPSU-1200AX 1200W, $280.
  • Case: Thermaltake DH104 VH4001BNS ATX, with a 7″ touch screen/IR receiver/remote, $500. If you don't need or don't like a touch screen, choose Thermaltake DH103 VH3001BNS ATX, with a LCD/IR receiver/remote, $257.
  • Total Cost: $3184 for non-CrossFireX, $3564 for CrossFireX; $3161 for non-SLI, $3524 for SLI

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DAS (Direct Attached Storage)

If you need more storage space than the ones provided by the motherboard and the case, a quick solution is attach an external HDD enclosure. 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. Here are a couple of examples.

4/5/8-Bay SATA to eSATA Port Multiplier Enclosure with a SATA 6Gb/s RAID Host Adapter

First a couple of port multiplier enclosures are given. The bundled port multiplier-aware RAID 5 host adapter uses a newer SATA 3.0 (6Gb/s) PCIe 2.0 x1 controller that supports broader bandwidth.
  • SANS DIGITAL TowerRAID Plus TR4M-BP 4 Bay eSATA RAID 0/1/10/5/JBOD Performance Tower with 6Gb/s PCIe 2.0 x1 Card, $150. The enclosure has a port multiplier and comes with the RocketRAID 622 SATA 6Gb/s RAID 5 PCIe 2.0 x1 host adapter.
  • SANS DIGITAL TowerRAID Plus TR5M-BP 5 Bay eSATA RAID 0/1/10/5/JBOD Performance Tower with 6Gb/s PCIe 2.0 x1 Card, $200. The enclosure has a port multiplier and comes with the RocketRAID 622 SATA 6Gb/s RAID 5 PCIe 2.0 x1 host adapter.
  • SANS DIGITAL TowerRAID Plus TR8M-BP 8 Bay eSATA RAID 0/1/10/5/JBOD Performance Tower with 6Gb/s PCIe 2.0 x1 Card, $330. The enclosure has two port multipliers and comes with the RocketRAID 622 SATA 6Gb/s RAID 5 PCIe 2.0 x1 host adapter.

4/5-Bay SATA to eSATA/USB 3.0 Hardware RAID Enclosure with or without a SATA 6Gb/s Host Adapter

The next class of enclosures uses JMicron JMB393/JMB394 5-port SATA 2.0 port multiplier with RAID function, along with a USB 3.0 to SATA 2.0 bridge. Some of them come with a (SATA 3.0 PCIe 2.0 x1) host adapter, but this is unnecessary if your motherboard has an eSATA 6Gb/s connector or a USB 3.0 connector.
  • SANS DIGITAL TowerRAID Plus TR4UTBPN 4 Bay USB 3.0 / eSATA Hardware RAID 5 Tower, $190. The enclosure has the JMB394 5-port SATA II RAID 5 controller chip and a SuperSpeed USB to SATA II bridge.
  • SANS DIGITAL TowerRAID Plus TR4UT-BP 4 Bay USB 3.0 / eSATA Hardware RAID 5 Tower with 6Gb/s PCIe 2.0 x1 HBA, $270. The enclosure has the JMB394 5-port SATA II RAID 5 controller chip and a SuperSpeed USB to SATA II bridge, and comes with the RocketRAID 622 SATA 6Gb/s PCIe 2.0 x1 host adapter.
  • SANS DIGITAL TowerRAID Plus TR5UT-BP 5 Bay USB 3.0 / eSATA Hardware RAID 5 Tower with 6Gb/s PCIe 2.0 x1 HBA, $330. The enclosure has the JMB394 5-port SATA II RAID 5 controller chip and a SuperSpeed USB to SATA II bridge, and comes with the RocketRAID 622 SATA 6Gb/s PCIe 2.0 x1 host adapter.
  • AMS VENUS T5C DS-2350C 5-Bay SATA RAID Enclosure, $230. The enclosure has the JMB393 5-port SATA II RAID 5 controller chip and a SuperSpeed USB to SATA II bridge.

JMicron JMB393/394 supports PM or non-PM aware host. Thus you can connect it to any eSATA port of your system in hardware-accelerated RAID mode. Sans Digital claims that when connected to a SATA 6Gb/s port, you can expect in RAID 5
  • 180MB/s in write
  • 200MB/s in read

8-Bay SATA/SAS to Mini-SAS Enclosure with a SAS 6Gb/s RAID Host Adapter

If you want some performance (e.g. for video editing), here is such an enclosure.
  • SANS DIGITAL TowerRAID Plus TR8X-BP 8 Bay 6Gb/s SAS / SATA RAID 5 Storage Enclosure with 6Gb/s PCIe 2.0 x8 Card, $640. The enclosure comes with the HighPoint RocketRAID 2722 8-port external 6Gb/s SAS/SATA RAID Controller PCI Express 2.0 x8 Card, connected with two SFF-8088 connectors.

Other DAS Solutions

Please check:
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Workstation

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 i7-870 2.93GHz 95W LGA1156, $280.
  • CPU Cooler: Xigmatek Dark Knight-S1283V, $45.
  • Motherboard: ASUS P7P55 WS SuperComputer LGA1156 nForce 200/Intel P55 chipsets ATX, $190.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $59.
  • Graphics Card: GIGABYTE GV-N460OC-1GI GeForce GTX 460 1GB, $190.
  • HBA: LSI MegaRAID SAS 9260-16i 16-port internal 6Gb/s SATA and SAS RAID Controller PCI Express 2.0 x8 Card, $770.
  • SSD: Intel X25-M SSDSA2MH120G2K5 120GB SATA 3.0Gbps SSD, $228.
  • PSU: Corsair AX850 CMPSU-850AX 850W, $182.
  • Case: Chenbro SR109 EATX/ATX, $250.
  • HDD Cage (optional): Chenbro 84H210910-010 5-in-3 Hotswap HDD Cage, $111. The case supports up to 15 HDDs (besides the OS drive) with three cages.
  • Total Cost: $2194 (optional HDD cages and drives for data storage are not included)

Remarks
  • You can even use:
    • CPU: Core i7-950 3.06GHz 130W LGA1366, $290.
    • Motherboard: ASUS P6T6 WS Revolution LGA1366 Intel X58/ICH10R/nForce 200 chipsets ATX, $320 (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/ICH10R/dual nForce 200 chipsets ATX, $404 (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, $95.
    if your applications can utilize that expandability.
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Media Storage Server

General Consideration

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 and 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 the following:
  • Windows Vista or 7, 32 bit or 64 bit, with or without FlexRAID and/or FlexRAID-View
  • Windows Home Server (WHS), with or without FlexRAID (in place of Folder Duplication)
  • 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

NORCO RPC-4220/RPC-4224 is the best case for a media storage server. It support 20/24 HDDs in hot-swap bays and has a backplane with five SFF-8087 mini-SAS connectors for better cabling at a relatively cheap price. 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 the model. So we may need a powerful PSU to start up all the drives at a time. A typical power consumption of a 20-HDD server is
  • ~500W at start up
  • ~200W at seek
  • ~150W at idle

CPU

A dual-core processor is enough because archiving/streaming/recording is not so CPU-intensive.

Memory

2GB is enough for a similar reason.

Motherboard

Basic requirements are
  • Onboard graphics
  • Six or more onboard SATA ports for additional storage HDDs and the HDD for OS
  • Two PCI Express 1.x x4 slots for storage controllers for 16 storage HDDs
  • A Gb LAN (that provides enough bandwidth for streaming HD contents to several HTPC simultaneously)
  • 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.

HBA (host bus adapter)

As the number of onboard SATA ports is not enough, we use SATA controller cards. I chose a cheap non-RAID SATA controller PCI Express x4 card, that is enough for our purpose.

OS drive

You can use any drive for OS (a USB flash memory for unRAID).

Storage drives

2TB HDD is the current standard drive for large data such as HD videos. Here are a couple of good 2TB SATA HDDs.
  • HGST Deskstar 7K2000 HDS722020ALA330 2TB 7200 rpm 32MB SATA 3.0Gbps, $120.
  • Samsung EcoGreen F4 HD204UI 2TB 5400 rpm 32MB SATA 3.0Gbps, $90. Not suitable for Windows Home Server. You may need to update the firmware.
  • WD Caviar Green WD20EARS 2TB 5400 rpm 64MB SATA 3.0Gbps, $100.

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.

Feature Comparison

I will give several tower and rackmount systems in the below. A brief feature comparison is here.

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Tower System I

12 HDD


System
  • Case: Antec Nine Hundred Two ATX (9 x 5.25″ bay), $110.
  • HDD Cage: Scythe Hard Disk Stabilizer x4 SCY-HDSX4, $9.
  • HDD Cage: Scythe Hard Disk Stabilizer x4 SCY-HDSX4, $9.
  • HDD Cage: Scythe Hard Disk Stabilizer x4 SCY-HDSX4, $9.
  • PSU: Corsair VX550W CMPSU-550VX 550W, $80.
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 240e AD240EHDGQBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $68.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock Cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: ASUS M4A78LT-M AM3 AMD 760G/SB710 chipsets microATX, $68. The LE version (ASUS M4A78LT-M LE) is reported to have LAN issues under unRAID. The non-LE version has a Realtek LAN chip, while the LE version has an Atheros LAN chip.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $59.
  • Graphics: Radeon HD 3000 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HBA: Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 8-port SATA 2.0 Controller PCI Express x4 Card, $105.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Forward Breakout Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087OCF-05M), $11.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Forward Breakout Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087OCF-05M), $11.
  • Mounter: SYBA SY-MRA25018 2.5″ SATA HDD Tray Less Mobile Rack for PCI Slot, $12 (attaching the 2.5″ HDD for OS to an empty expansion slot).
  • HDD for OS: Seagate Momentus 7200.4 250GB ST9250410AS SATA 3.0Gbps mobile 7200 RPM, $47.
  • Total Cost: $598 (storage drives are not included)

15 HDD


System
  • Case: Antec Nine Hundred Two ATX (9 x 5.25″ bay), $110.
  • HDD Cage: NORCO Hard Drive Cage for RPC-450, $15. You can buy it from iPCDIRECT.
  • HDD Cage: NORCO Hard Drive Cage for RPC-450, $15. You can buy it from iPCDIRECT.
  • HDD Cage: NORCO Hard Drive Cage for RPC-450, $15. You can buy it from iPCDIRECT.
  • HDD Rail: NORCO Hard drive Rails for RPC-CASE x 5, $10. A pair of rails are used to attach a HDD to the cage. 5 pairs for a cage. You can buy it from iPCDIRECT.
  • HDD Rail: NORCO Hard drive Rails for RPC-CASE x 5, $10. A pair of rails are used to attach a HDD to the cage. 5 pairs for a cage. You can buy it from iPCDIRECT.
  • HDD Rail: NORCO Hard drive Rails for RPC-CASE x 5, $10. A pair of rails are used to attach a HDD to the cage. 5 pairs for a cage. You can buy it from iPCDIRECT.
  • PSU: Corsair TX650W CMPSU-650TX 650W, $90.
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 240e AD240EHDGQBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $68.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock Cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-880GA-UD3H AM3 AMD 880G/SB850 chipsets ATX, $106.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $59.
  • Graphics: Radeon HD 4250 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HBA: Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 8-port SATA 2.0 Controller PCI Express x4 Card, $105.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Forward Breakout Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087OCF-05M), $11.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Forward Breakout Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087OCF-05M), $11.
  • Mounter: SYBA SY-MRA25018 2.5″ SATA HDD Tray Less Mobile Rack for PCI Slot, $12 (attaching the 2.5″ HDD for OS to an empty expansion slot).
  • HDD for OS: Seagate Momentus 7200.4 250GB ST9250410AS SATA 3.0Gbps mobile 7200 RPM, $47.
  • Total Cost: $694 (storage drives are not included)

15 HDD with Hot Swap


System
  • Case: Antec Nine Hundred Two ATX (9 x 5.25″ bay), $110.
  • HDD Cage: SuperMicro CSE-M35T-1B Mobile Rack, $95.
  • HDD Cage: SuperMicro CSE-M35T-1B Mobile Rack, $95.
  • HDD Cage: SuperMicro CSE-M35T-1B Mobile Rack, $95.
  • PSU: Corsair TX650W CMPSU-650TX 650W, $90.
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 240e AD240EHDGQBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $68.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock Cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-880GA-UD3H AM3 AMD 880G/SB850 chipsets ATX, $106.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $59.
  • Graphics: Radeon HD 4250 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HBA: Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 8-port SATA 2.0 Controller PCI Express x4 Card, $105.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Forward Breakout Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087OCF-05M), $11.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Forward Breakout Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087OCF-05M), $11.
  • Mounter: SYBA SY-MRA25018 2.5″ SATA HDD Tray Less Mobile Rack for PCI Slot, $12 (attaching the 2.5″ HDD for OS to an empty expansion slot).
  • HDD for OS: Seagate Momentus 7200.4 250GB ST9250410AS SATA 3.0Gbps mobile 7200 RPM, $47.
  • Total Cost: $904 (storage drives are not included)

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post #15654 of 19229 Old 11-27-2010, 10:30 AM - Thread Starter
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Tower System II

16 HDD


System
  • Case: Antec Twelve Hundred ATX (12 x 5.25″ bay), $160.
  • HDD Cage: Scythe Hard Disk Stabilizer x4 SCY-HDSX4, $9.
  • HDD Cage: Scythe Hard Disk Stabilizer x4 SCY-HDSX4, $9.
  • HDD Cage: Scythe Hard Disk Stabilizer x4 SCY-HDSX4, $9.
  • HDD Cage: Scythe Hard Disk Stabilizer x4 SCY-HDSX4, $9.
  • PSU: Corsair TX650W CMPSU-650TX 650W, $90.
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 240e AD240EHDGQBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $68.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock Cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-880GA-UD3H AM3 AMD 880G/SB850 chipsets ATX, $106.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $59.
  • Graphics: Radeon HD 4250 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HBA: Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 8-port SATA 2.0 Controller PCI Express x4 Card, $105.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Forward Breakout Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087OCF-05M), $11.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Forward Breakout Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087OCF-05M), $11.
  • Adapter: Koutech ASA120 IDE to SATA II Device Adapter, $20 (connecting the 2.5″ HDD for OS to the onboard IDE port).
  • Mounter: SYBA SY-MRA25018 2.5″ SATA HDD Tray Less Mobile Rack for PCI Slot, $12 (attaching the 2.5″ HDD for OS to an empty expansion slot).
  • HDD for OS: Seagate Momentus 7200.4 250GB ST9250410AS SATA 3.0Gbps mobile 7200 RPM, $47.
  • Total Cost: $725 (storage drives are not included)

20 HDD


System
  • Case: Antec Twelve Hundred ATX (12 x 5.25″ bay), $160.
  • HDD Cage: NORCO Hard Drive Cage for RPC-450, $15. You can buy it from iPCDIRECT.
  • HDD Cage: NORCO Hard Drive Cage for RPC-450, $15. You can buy it from iPCDIRECT.
  • HDD Cage: NORCO Hard Drive Cage for RPC-450, $15. You can buy it from iPCDIRECT.
  • HDD Cage: NORCO Hard Drive Cage for RPC-450, $15. You can buy it from iPCDIRECT.
  • HDD Rail: NORCO Hard drive Rails for RPC-CASE x 5, $10. A pair of rails are used to attach a HDD to the cage. 5 pairs for a cage. You can buy it from iPCDIRECT.
  • HDD Rail: NORCO Hard drive Rails for RPC-CASE x 5, $10. A pair of rails are used to attach a HDD to the cage. 5 pairs for a cage. You can buy it from iPCDIRECT.
  • HDD Rail: NORCO Hard drive Rails for RPC-CASE x 5, $10. A pair of rails are used to attach a HDD to the cage. 5 pairs for a cage. You can buy it from iPCDIRECT.
  • HDD Rail: NORCO Hard drive Rails for RPC-CASE x 5, $10. A pair of rails are used to attach a HDD to the cage. 5 pairs for a cage. You can buy it from iPCDIRECT.
  • PSU: Corsair TX750W CMPSU-750TX 750W, $106.
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 240e AD240EHDGQBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $68.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock Cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-880GA-UD3H AM3 AMD 880G/SB850 chipsets ATX, $106.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $59.
  • Graphics: Radeon HD 4250 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HBA: Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 8-port SATA 2.0 Controller PCI Express x4 Card, $105.
  • HBA: Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 8-port SATA 2.0 Controller PCI Express x4 Card, $105.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Forward Breakout Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087OCF-05M), $11.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Forward Breakout Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087OCF-05M), $11.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Forward Breakout Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087OCF-05M), $11.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Forward Breakout Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087OCF-05M), $11.
  • Mounter: SYBA SY-MRA25018 2.5″ SATA HDD Tray Less Mobile Rack for PCI Slot, $12 (attaching the 2.5″ HDD for OS to an empty expansion slot).
  • HDD for OS: Seagate Momentus 7200.4 250GB ST9250410AS SATA 3.0Gbps mobile 7200 RPM, $47.
  • Total Cost: $912 (storage drives are not included)

20 HDD with Hot Swap


System
  • Case: Antec Twelve Hundred ATX (12 x 5.25″ bay), $160.
  • HDD Cage: SuperMicro CSE-M35T-1B Mobile Rack, $95.
  • HDD Cage: SuperMicro CSE-M35T-1B Mobile Rack, $95.
  • HDD Cage: SuperMicro CSE-M35T-1B Mobile Rack, $95.
  • HDD Cage: SuperMicro CSE-M35T-1B Mobile Rack, $95.
  • PSU: Corsair TX750W CMPSU-750TX 750W, $106.
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 240e AD240EHDGQBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $68.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock Cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-880GA-UD3H AM3 AMD 880G/SB850 chipsets ATX, $106.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $59.
  • Graphics: Radeon HD 4250 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HBA: Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 8-port SATA 2.0 Controller PCI Express x4 Card, $105.
  • HBA: Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 8-port SATA 2.0 Controller PCI Express x4 Card, $105.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Forward Breakout Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087OCF-05M), $11.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Forward Breakout Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087OCF-05M), $11.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Forward Breakout Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087OCF-05M), $11.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Forward Breakout Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087OCF-05M), $11.
  • Mounter: SYBA SY-MRA25018 2.5″ SATA HDD Tray Less Mobile Rack for PCI Slot, $12 (attaching the 2.5″ HDD for OS to an empty expansion slot).
  • HDD for OS: Seagate Momentus 7200.4 250GB ST9250410AS SATA 3.0Gbps mobile 7200 RPM, $47.
  • Total Cost: $1192 (storage drives are not included)

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post #15655 of 19229 Old 11-27-2010, 10:30 AM - Thread Starter
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Rackmount System

15 HDD


System
  • Case: NORCO RPC-450B Black 4U Server Rackmount Chassis, $85.
  • HDD Cage: NORCO Hard Drive Cage for RPC-450, $15. The cage holds 5 HDDs. The case comes with 2 of them. So you need to buy only 1 from iPCDIRECT.
  • HDD Rail: NORCO Hard drive Rails for RPC-CASE x 5, $10. A pair of rails are used to attach a HDD to the cage. You will need 5 pairs as the case comes with 10 pairs. Buy them from iPCDIRECT.
  • PSU: Corsair TX650W CMPSU-650TX 650W, $90.
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 240e AD240EHDGQBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $68.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock Cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-880GA-UD3H AM3 AMD 880G/SB850 chipsets ATX, $106.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $59.
  • Graphics: Radeon HD 4250 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HBA: Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 8-port SATA 2.0 Controller PCI Express x4 Card, $105.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Forward Breakout Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087OCF-05M), $11.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Forward Breakout Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087OCF-05M), $11.
  • Mounter: SYBA SY-MRA25018 2.5″ SATA HDD Tray Less Mobile Rack for PCI Slot, $12 (attaching the 2.5″ HDD for OS to an empty expansion slot).
  • HDD for OS: Seagate Momentus 7200.4 250GB ST9250410AS SATA 3.0Gbps mobile 7200 RPM, $47.
  • Total Cost: $619 (storage drives are not included)

20 HDD with Hot Swap


System
  • Case: NORCO RPC-4220 4U Server Rackmount Chassis with 20 Hot Swappable SATA/SAS Drive Bays, $318.
  • PSU: Corsair TX750W CMPSU-750TX 750W, $110.
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 240e AD240EHDGQBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $68.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock Cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-880GA-UD3H AM3 AMD 880G/SB850 chipsets ATX, $106.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $59.
  • Graphics: Radeon HD 4250 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HBA: Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 8-port SATA Controller PCI Express x4 Card, $105.
  • HBA: Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 8-port SATA Controller PCI Express x4 Card, $105.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Reverse Breakout 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.
  • HDD for OS: Seagate Momentus 7200.4 250GB ST9250410AS SATA 3.0Gbps mobile 7200 RPM, $47.
  • Total Cost: $969 (storage drives are not included)

24 HDD with Hot Swap I


System
  • Case: NORCO RPC-4224 4U Server Rackmount Chassis with 24 Hot Swappable SATA/SAS Drive Bays, $380.
  • PSU: Corsair TX850W CMPSU-850TX 850W, $127.
  • CPU: Athlon II X2 240e AD240EHDGQBOX 2.8GHz AM3, $68.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock Cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-880GA-UD3H AM3 AMD 880G/SB850 chipsets ATX, $106.
  • Memory: G.SKILL F3-12800CL9D-4GBNQ DDR3-1600 CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $59.
  • Graphics: Radeon HD 4250 (integrated in the chipset), $0.
  • HBA: Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 8-port SATA Controller PCI Express x4 Card, $105.
  • HBA: Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 8-port SATA Controller PCI Express x4 Card, $105.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Reverse Breakout Cable (e.g. 3ware CBL-SFF8087OCR-05M or Norco C-SFF8087-4S), $11.
  • Cable: 0.5m SFF-8087 to Four SATA Reverse Breakout 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.
  • Adapter: Koutech ASA120 IDE to SATA II Device Adapter, $20 (connecting the 2.5″ HDD for OS to the onboard IDE port).
  • Mounter: SYBA SY-MRA25018 2.5″ SATA HDD Tray Less Mobile Rack for PCI Slot, $12.
  • HDD for OS: Seagate Momentus 7200.4 250GB ST9250410AS SATA 3.0Gbps mobile 7200 RPM, $47.
  • Total Cost: $1095 (storage drives are not included)

24 HDD with Hot Swap II


System
  • Case: NORCO RPC-4224 4U Server Rackmount Chassis with 24 Hot Swappable SATA/SAS Drive Bays, $380.
  • PSU: Corsair TX850W CMPSU-850TX 850W, $127.
  • CPU: Pentium G6950 2.80GHz LGA1156, $95.
  • CPU Cooler: Stock Cooler, $0.
  • Motherboard: Supermicro X8SIL LGA1156 Intel 3400 chipset microATX, $151. An alternative is Supermicro X8SIL-F LGA1156 Intel 3420 chipset microATX with IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) 2.0, $182, if you want IPMI 2.0.
  • Memory: Kingston ValueRAM KVR1333D3E9SK2/4G DDR3-1333 ECC CL9 2 x 2GB Kit, $57.
  • Graphics: Graphics Core in Nuvoton WPCM150 iBMC (Integrated Baseboard Management Controller) Chip, $0.
  • HBA: Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 8-port SATA Controller PCI Express x4 Card, $105.
  • HBA: Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 8-port SATA Controller PCI Express x4 Card, $105.
  • HBA: Supermicro AOC-SASLP-MV8 8-port SATA Controller PCI Express x4 Card, $105.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mounter: SYBA SY-MRA25018 2.5″ SATA HDD Tray Less Mobile Rack for PCI Slot, $12.
  • HDD for OS: Seagate Momentus 7200.4 250GB ST9250410AS SATA 3.0Gbps mobile 7200 RPM, $47.
  • Total Cost: $1250 (storage drives are not included)

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