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Help me build a gaming HTPC rig

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
I did some research, didn't find exactly what I want, but gave me questions to ask. Most of the builds I saw were back in 2007.
I am wanting to build a HTPC that can handle anything I throw at it. Any type of decoding, burning, blue rays, PVR, fairly current games. Anything you can think of a HTPC should do plus a fair amount of gaming. All on a 42'' 1080p LCD. Should also have HDMI to a Devon receiver.
My budget is ~$1000, but I can go over without being upset.
The case will most likely be a Fusion Remote Max. I would like it to be quiet, but it is not too important. It will be several feet away.
I was looking at a Core 2 duo for the CPU. Don't need quad. Something like the E7300 or 7400 should be good. What would be a decent after market heatsink/fan to keep it quiet?
Do I need a sound card? The sound will be going to a receiver and then to a 5.1 system. I want great sound.
What mobo should I go for? I will not do SLI but will need output for stuff like HDMI and all that. Also will have several hard drives.
Video card? I read the 8500GTS is great, but I can't really find it. I guess that was back in 2007. What would be good now?
I want 4 gig of ram.
Power supply and PVR card?

I think that should be it. Mobo, CPU, video card, sound card, memory, powersupply, PVR card, blue ray player. And any aftermarket fans / heatsinks.
Can a gaming PC do just about everything a HTPC can do? Or is there something special in the build of a HTPC that makes it a HTPC? other than the case.
Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
post #2 of 35
1: For best sound use onboard spdif or HDMI and let the Denon do the decoding, no need to buy a sound card.

2: Buy the graphics card for gaming. Onboard video from a newer Motherboard is good for HTPC use.

3: I use a Hauppauge 2250 for the PVR card, works great.
post #3 of 35
I’m going to comment on a few things while assuming that you will want to play newer games with high-to-very high graphics settings.

A reasonably priced, but powerful graphics card to consider would be something like a GeForce GTX 260 (which may not fit in your case) or ATI HD 4870.

With regard to the CPU, one thing to consider is that more and more games are being developed to effectively utilize all four cores in a quad core processor. This will likely give your CPU more longetivity in keeping up with future games. As for an aftermarket CPU cooler, I swear by the Noctua NH-U9B. It has a small profile, but provides very good cooling with low noise when using the included black cabled fan speed reducer. You can do a fairly good overclock with it as well.

For the power supply, you can’t go wrong with the CORSAIR CMPSU-520HX if you plan on installing a powerful graphics card.

There are so many options for sound cards/chips and motherboard chipsets, so I’ll leave that for others to comment on. I went with an Intel X38 based motherboard and plan on buying an Auzentech HomeTheater HD, but these are sure to go over budget.
post #4 of 35
A sound card, like something that can handle EAX 5.0 will take the load off of your CPU. It is my understanding that for gaming a sep sound card can get you better performance. However, I would spend the $1000 to get the system up and running with onboard sound and maybe upgrade later if needed.
post #5 of 35
Thread Starter 
Would I actually get that much more from the quad core? They are a lot more expensive.
Also, I am fairly sure the fusion remote max has a hard drive bay in the power supply compartment that comes out to fit larger video cards.
Do you have any motherboards to recommend? Something with good onboard sound and HDMI?
post #6 of 35
The only reason I could think that you would want a mb with hdmi is if you gpot one with crossfire x or something to mate up to a good video card.

If it were me I would get a dual core with lots of cache and use the money saved on a better vieo card.
post #7 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Max-Powers View Post

Would I actually get that much more from the quad core? They are a lot more expensive.

GTA IV notwithstanding, a good dual core chip will perform excellently and often better than most quad core chips with today’s games. My comment was more on how things are looking for the future. I suppose a good move would be to buy an inexpensive dual core chip today and then see how things play out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Max-Powers View Post

Also, I am fairly sure the fusion remote max has a hard drive bay in the power supply compartment that comes out to fit larger video cards.

The GTX 200 series Nvidia cards with reference coolers are 10.5” long, so I would get the case ahead of time to measure before considering these cards as an option. If you do go with a GTX 260, make sure you get the core 216 version built on the 55nm process. EVGA and BFG Tech are my two favorite manufacturers of Nvidia graphics cards; both companies have excellent customer support.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Max-Powers View Post

Do you have any motherboards to recommend? Something with good onboard sound and HDMI?

There are so many different factors to consider when it comes to HDMI sound, so much so that I would consider Morphyne’s advice and just use any onboard sound for now while saving up for a separate HDMI card. For instance, almost every option down-samples and doesn’t bit-stream audio for Blu-ray playback. You would have to go with an ASUS HDAV with TMT player, or the upcoming Auzentech HomeTheater HD with PowerDVD to bypass this issue.

With a separate HDMI audio card, like an ASUS HDAV or upcoming Auzentech HomeTheater HD, all you have to do is connect the digital video output of your graphics card to the HDMI input on the sound card. The audio is then coupled with the video and sent through the sound card’s HDMI output. For gaming, it looks like the optimal solution would be the Auzentech since it looks to be the only HDMI solution with support for EAX 5.0. I’m not sure how well the ASUS cards handle gaming from a performance perspective, but they have limited EAX capabilities. However, EAX support may not be that important to you anyway.

Taking all of that into consideration, I would go for a motherboard with proven reliability. Something based on the Intel P45 chipset would be good. However, be mindful of how each motherboard’s PCI-Express x1 slots are configured since you may want to fit a long sound card in one of them in the future. Some motherboards have all of their PCI-Express x1 slots rendered useless for longer cards.
post #8 of 35
I recently built a "silent" htpc setup and then upgraded it to gaming capability later. My goals were to be able to get good performance but also maintain relative quiet.

My setup is:
e8400 @ 3.75ghz
evga geforce gtx275
gigabyte ga-e7aum
4x seagate 1.5tb drives in raid5
8gb ram
some random 80g drive for system install
lite-on bluray + dvd burner
antec sonata 3
haupaugge hvr1250

All-in the system cost around 1400. Storage was a big part of the price so if you dont need it you can easily get a similar setup for around 1000.

The 275 is good but gaming at 1920x1080 is pretty taxing. If I drop down to 1280x720 with fsaa I can get great performance in any game, even crysis.

hope that helps
post #9 of 35
Thread Starter 
I'm not to big on playing games on super high settings. I have never played Crysis. I would probably only play like CoD4, TF2, Fallout and some older games. Maybe Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3. I'm not a big gamer, not too important for me. I will have a PS3 or Xbox for high quality gaming. I just want to option to play something decent like Fallout 3 at good levels. But I don't want to break the bank to do it.
I thought it was easy to get basic 5.1 sound for games? I only need high quality sound for movies and music. Can onboard sound do this? What am I looking for in a motherboard to get proper sound and video output?
What is the standard memory used now days?
There must be something that fits a long video card.
post #10 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Max-Powers View Post

I'm not to big on playing games on super high settings. I have never played Crysis. I would probably only play like CoD4, TF2, Fallout and some older games. Maybe Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3. I'm not a big gamer, not too important for me. I will have a PS3 or Xbox for high quality gaming. I just want to option to play something decent like Fallout 3 at good levels. But I don't want to break the bank to do it.
I thought it was easy to get basic 5.1 sound for games? I only need high quality sound for movies and music. Can onboard sound do this? What am I looking for in a motherboard to get proper sound and video output?
What is the standard memory used now days?
There must be something that fits a long video card.

The gigabyte motherboard I got has onboard hdmi via a geforce9400 as well as onboard spdif in case you dont want to use sound via hdmi. Its a great motherboard, I highly recommend it.

As far as pc gaming goes, I have been pretty underwhelmed by running games in 1080p with my setup. If I had the chance to go back, I would have just stuck w/ the onboard 9400 and tried to play my xbox360 more often.
post #11 of 35
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 10k View Post

The gigabyte motherboard I got has onboard hdmi via a geforce9400 as well as onboard spdif in case you dont want to use sound via hdmi. Its a great motherboard, I highly recommend it.

As far as pc gaming goes, I have been pretty underwhelmed by running games in 1080p with my setup. If I had the chance to go back, I would have just stuck w/ the onboard 9400 and tried to play my xbox360 more often.


You know, I think I will probably do that, and upgrade later. But I want to make sure I get a large enough case. I don't play PC games to much. And Fallout 3 and TF2 will play great on a 9400 at 1080p, wont it?
Does a motherboard with that kind of video card in it cost that much more than a motherboard without a video card?
Help me understand this. I have been under a rock for several years. The HDMI from the graphics card goes to the receiver, then the receiver connects to the TV through HDMI to deliver video. Is it the spdif that delivers the sound to the receiver?
Also, what is the difference between doing sound with HDMI and spdif?
post #12 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Max-Powers View Post

I'm not to big on playing games on super high settings. I have never played Crysis. I would probably only play like CoD4, TF2, Fallout and some older games. Maybe Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3. I'm not a big gamer, not too important for me. I will have a PS3 or Xbox for high quality gaming. I just want to option to play something decent like Fallout 3 at good levels. But I don't want to break the bank to do it.

A $1000 system with a mid-range graphics card (like a GTX 260 or HD 4870) can pretty much run laps around games like Fallout 3 and Call of Duty 4 with the highest visual settings and anisotropic filtering engaged at 1920x1080.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Max-Powers View Post

What is the standard memory used now days?

All you need is DDR2 800 memory if you go with a motherboard chipset like the Intel P45. I'm partial towards OCZ, and you can get 4GB of it for less than $50.
post #13 of 35
Thread Starter 
What chipset is that gigabyte motherboard with onboard video? How well can a 9400 play games on 1080p? I would probably actually rather buy something decent now, then figure out it can't play games on 1080p later. I just have to get around the issue with the video card not fitting in a case. Once I figure out what mobo and video card (if any) I need, I should prity much be done. =)
post #14 of 35
The Gigabyte uses Nvidia's GeForce 9400 platform. I would use DDR2 800 memory for that board as well. I can't comment on how well it handles games.

Looking at the Antec Fusion Max case, it appears that it should fit the 10.5" graphics cards just fine. I recently got a Lian Li PC-C33, which appears to have similar depth dimensions, and it can accommodate the large cards.

EDIT: Your planned case does accommodate the large graphics cards. Check this out.
post #15 of 35
Thread Starter 
I read some posts that the built in IR receiver does not work with some remotes like the Harmony. Is this true? Would I have to buy a separate IR receiver? I like the look of the fusion remote max with the volume knob and all that. Is the LCD useful?
I don't know anything about chipsets and all that. What is the difference between a 9400 chipset and like the P45? Which is faster? Do the HDMI outputs usually go with the motherboard or the video card? What do the spdif go with?
I am looking for the motherboard and video card to come to no more than $350
post #16 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Max-Powers View Post

I don't know anything about chipsets and all that. What is the difference between a 9400 chipset and like the P45? Which is faster? Do the HDMI outputs usually go with the motherboard or the video card? What do the spdif go with?

You'll certainly do well with the Gigabyte 9400 board for non-gaming, but every other part being the same, using a separate graphics card with it should provide similar gaming performance to when using the card with an Intel P45 board. The onboard solution will perfectly handle the hardware accelerated video portion of HD video content, and will send out multichannel PCM (albeit down-sampled).

If you are using a dedicated 200 series Nvidia graphics card, then you can connect S/PDIF audio from the motherboard's S/PDIF connector on the board itself to the card. You then use a DVI-to-HDMI adapter (yup, DVI can deliver audio!) on the card for a summed audio/video output through a single HDMI cable. Some cards have a direct HDMI output with no adapter needed. Remember, though, that you are constrained to the signal transmission limitations of S/PDIF (meaning no multichannel PCM audio) using this method. I'm completely ignorant of what the ATI cards can do with audio.
post #17 of 35
You don't want on board video for playing games. Trust me. Your spending a wad of cash either way. You might as well get a decent graphics card.

At the top of my list would be Nvidia GTX260. If that is too expensive then go for the new ATI 4770.

CPU- cheapest Intel quad core.(Q6600?)
Power Supply- Don't skimp here! The most important part in every PC.(Corsair for sure!) There is no rival in price VS performance. TX-520 is plenty.
Mobo- based on personal preference. Look for feature sets and price range and pick a few that you wish to investigate further. Read reviews and make your final decision.
Ram- stick with a reputable supplier and you will be fine.
Case- Get one that the parts you selected will fit in! Forget trying to fit parts to a case. That is backwards and almost always ends with regret.
post #18 of 35
Thread Starter 
So if I am going with a dedicated video card all I need to do is choose a motherboard with some features I want, such as several SATA ports, firewire.. that sort of thing. I also want spdif right?
And then for the video card, any recently new video card will support HDMI through DVI? Do I need to get one that comes with a HDMI adapter and spdif cable to make sure it supports it?

What are the difference between the chipsets for motherboards? G45? P45? 955? What chipset would be best for my needs? (not the best, just decent)
Also, if I get a motherboard that has onboard video and HDMI output, and I add a video card, can I still use the HDMI output on the mobo? Would it be any different using HDMI output on a mobo than it would be on a video card? I am guessing video cards do the DVI to HDMI adapters to just save space?
whats better spdif. Coaxial or optical?
post #19 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Max-Powers View Post

Also, if I get a motherboard that has onboard video and HDMI output, and I add a video card, can I still use the HDMI output on the mobo?

You probably could but only if the onboard video chipset supports something like crossfire X, where the onboard chipset and the discrete video card work together. But honestly, I think you are better off spending less on a mb that has no onboard video and using that money towards the video card. FWIW I have an ATI 3870 and I can play Fallout 3 with very good results at 1280x720. It looks great.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Max-Powers View Post

I am guessing video cards do the DVI to HDMI adapters to just save space?

A lot of cards come with native HDMI (no dongle needed) which is good but really not that necessary unless space is really that tight.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Max-Powers View Post

whats better spdif. Coaxial or optical?

Doesn't matter. They perform equally well.
post #20 of 35
If you are not concerned about fan noise they why bother building an htpc?
Just build a PC to your cost limit in a htpc case and voila! Install the right software and youre done.


Anyways. I do game in my htpc. I got a MSI 4850 card. It comes with a really good heatsink, but the fan does not scale in speed, so its always 100%. Very noisy.
I used a fan speed controller I had and installed it on the card. Now its dead silent and just as cool as it was before, even at hard core gaming.
post #21 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Max-Powers View Post

I read some posts that the built in IR receiver does not work with some remotes like the Harmony. Is this true? Would I have to buy a separate IR receiver? I like the look of the fusion remote max with the volume knob and all that. Is the LCD useful?

The Antec cases use the iMon VFD/LCD with IR receiver from Soundgraph. This will work with a Harmony, but the entire solution is poorly implemented and their software sucks. You will spend way too much time trying to make it work the way it should and would be better off spending the money on either a USB MCE receiver or a USB-UIRT. The LCD is useless at HTPC seating distances. Same with the volume knob if you are using your receiver for audio. The LCD and volume knob would only be of use as a desktop case, but that isn't the point of the Fusion Max.

I have the regular Fusion (micro-ATX) and the Gigabyte 9400 motherboard which sends both audio and video through HDMI to my receiver. It will bitstream Dolby Digital and DTS and send multichannel LPCM. My goal was to keep the noise down so onboard passive cooled video and the Antec case's chambered design was my choice. I haven't yet gamed on it since I have a 360 and PS3.

The other thing to consider with gaming on a HTPC is how to control things. If you can't use a wired keyboard and mouse then you will find yourself with another problem. I sit about 10 feet from the PC and the wireless keyboard and mouse solutions leave a lot to be desired regarding speed and connectivity. I'll probably just get the MS 360 wireless gaming adapter and use one of my extra 360 controllers.

I'd also like to add that the building is the easy part. Getting the software side of things working well is the tough part. It seems that every time I try to increase the WAF I end up breaking something.
post #22 of 35
Thread Starter 
would something like this work?
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16814125258
A fanless HD4850. Looks like a powerfull and silent option.
Then I can go with a good X38 or P45 chipset mobo with spdif and whatever else I need. Then with a good aftermarket fan/ heatsink for the CPU, I should be relatively silent and powerful.
post #23 of 35
Thread Starter 
bump
any thoughts?
Maybe I can get the NVIDA hybrid SLI motherboard. Then I can upgrade to a video card later and still have the benifit of the onboard video? What do you think? Is the hybrid SLI a good deal?
The GA-E7AUM-DS2H can do hybrid SLI right? Is the hybrid SLI as good as it sounds on paper? It sounds like this idea will fit my needs. mostly HTPC, silent. Occasional gaming, needs decent performance, no noise requirments.
post #24 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Max-Powers View Post

bump
any thoughts?
Maybe I can get the NVIDA hybrid SLI motherboard. Then I can upgrade to a video card later and still have the benifit of the onboard video? What do you think? Is the hybrid SLI a good deal?
The GA-E7AUM-DS2H can do hybrid SLI right? Is the hybrid SLI as good as it sounds on paper? It sounds like this idea will fit my needs. mostly HTPC, silent. Occasional gaming, needs decent performance, no noise requirments.

Unfortunately hybrid SLI only works with a handful of crappy videocards which are really out of date (geforce 8600 comes to mind for some reason).

I can't recommend the e7aum enough. It probably isnt ideal for games like left for dead, but I was able to play Persona 4 using pcsx2 with acceptable performance all the way through with the onboard video. It also was able to just barely manage iracing in 1280x720 on low detail at 50-60fps during races.

I did upgrade to a gtx275 in hopes of making 1080p gaming a reality in a reasonably quiet htpc. It just isn't happening yet on high details however.

For example, using the crysis warhead benchmark tool in 1080p with enthusiast settings, I only get 19fps average on the first timedemo.
post #25 of 35
Thread Starter 
I will always be in 1080p. But I dont play Crysis. So would my other suggestion of a HD4850 with no fan work well you think?
post #26 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Max-Powers View Post

I will always be in 1080p. But I dont play Crysis. So would my other suggestion of a HD4850 with no fan work well you think?

Yes but you will need to be careful about airflow inside your case with a fanless videocard. There are a lot of benchmarks for the 4850 out there at the usual suspects (anandtech, tomshardware, techreport, etc), so you should check and see if the 4850 offers enough performance for you. 1080p requires a lot more horsepower than 720p.

On my e8400 + e7aum in the antec sonata 3 (1 120mm exhaust fan) my cpu fan was off 90% of the time according to speedfan, with inside case temperatures rarely exceeding more than 1 or 2C above ambient.

After adding the gtx275 my cpu fan runs a lot more often and case temperatures idle in the 40's and get well into the 50's under load.

A videocard without a fan still generates heat that must be expelled from the case.

The gtx275 is actually a pretty quiet card when idle or watching movies. Playing games under full load the fan can get noisy, but I also play my games with sound on, so I usually dont notice the videocard fan until after quitting the game.
post #27 of 35
This may be a bit out of your price range, but a Vapor-X Radeon 4870 by Sapphire will provide good gaming with low noise:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16814102825

Justin
post #28 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by 10k View Post

For example, using the crysis warhead benchmark tool in 1080p with enthusiast settings, I only get 19fps average on the first timedemo.

Yeah, you need at least a dual GPU setup to make those settings work well for that game at that resolution. I look forward to being able to do those settings justice years from now, but playing at 720p is indeed good.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 10k View Post

After adding the gtx275 my cpu fan runs a lot more often and case temperatures idle in the 40's and get well into the 50's under load.

With regard to noise, another thing to look out for with many of these powerful cards is the infamous squealing capacitor noise from their interaction with the power supply. The ability to RMA is very important, because this issue may very well exist and become irritating.
post #29 of 35
Thread Starter 
I think I found the mobo I want

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16813128359 The GA-EP45-UD3R
Or
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16813128358 The GA-EP45-UD3P

It looks like they are both the same, but the UD3P has crossfire and an extra LAN chipset. What would an extra LAN chipset be useful for? It is only $10 more. Think one of these are good for my needs? HTPC, Casual gaming. Will never do crossfire.
It looks like the UD3R does not support DDR2 800. Is this just a typo on newegg?

Mobo: $115
CPU: Either the E7400 or E7500 ($120)
memory: 4gig What should I look for here? (~$50)
Video card: Can the silent one I looked at earlier support everything I would be doing? (don't need overclocking) Or do you have any suggestions for a quiet, but decent card. I will be sitting 6 feet away. Only needs to be quiet when listening to music or movies. I can also install after market fan/heat sink. $200 budget for video card and aftermarket heatsink / fan
post #30 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Max-Powers View Post

I think I found the mobo I want

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16813128359 The GA-EP45-UD3R
Or
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16813128358 The GA-EP45-UD3P

It looks like the UD3R does not support DDR2 800. Is this just a typo on newegg?

Looking at the NewEgg reviews, both boards look solid and have proven to be reliable for many. Either board should handle your needs perfectly well, but make sure to read the highly negative reviews to see what went wrong for some. The UD3R supports DDR2 800 memory.

I should again advise you to be mindful of each board's layout. For instance, think about what PCI-Express expansion cards you may buy in the future and whether they would fit if they are of the longer variety.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Max-Powers View Post

memory: 4gig What should I look for here? (~$50)

To aid your search for system RAM, check Gigabyte's website for a list of memory that they've verified to work with the motherboards that interest you. This is the surest way to get a good match. Also, see what memory the users on NewEgg have listed for their application with the aforementioned motherboards.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Max-Powers View Post

Video card: Can the silent one I looked at earlier support everything I would be doing? (don't need overclocking) Or do you have any suggestions for a quiet, but decent card. I will be sitting 6 feet away. Only needs to be quiet when listening to music or movies. I can also install after market fan/heat sink. $200 budget for video card and aftermarket heatsink / fan

I would check the reviews for better insight into this. The card will certainly take care of your non-gaming needs (such as HD video content) with no problems. Read this review for some idea of how it performs with games when compared to other cards.
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