My HTPC is an Athlon II X 4 with an inexpensive HD6450 fanless discrete low wattage video card ,Win 7x64 hp with WMC frt end and ofc addt'l external storage.
It does handbrake,DVD decrypter ,DVD shrink,dvd9 fab etc. just fine. No tuner or recording here . I have Dish TV DVR that I use for that.
Case fan rarely ever come on or at least where you can hear it you can only hear fan only occasionally if transcoding,etc they will spin up and then only briefly .
ofc AMD 4 core APU is close to i3 price wise so maybe i3 would be the choice now between those two at least for sure with a nix build?
AMD (at least the 2 core and lower end 4 core Apu Maybe not as fast as i3 (AMD APU has better integrated video though )ofc i3 /i5 is a great solution also *if you are doing much transcoding/recording and especially while doing simultaneous playback etc and not just *playback only.
OTOH ofc with just playback and occasional DVD copy 2 core AMD APU or Pentium will work not sure about 3DTV though? but maybe 6450HD would handle that, it also provides optical PCM audio pass through with budget 2 core CPU ecosmartpc seems to a good handle on that .
Then ofc there are the low power cpu nix , and android builds and the expensive (but small efficient) Intel NUC builds also.
Alternatively if someone wants a * mostly * ready made basic windows solution an inexpensive Dell or Gateway SB/IB/HW Pentium slimline desktop will work fine for playback and light transcoding . (not sure about 3DTV though? just add extra storage and you are good to go for a basic set up .
They also include ODD . Those slim lines can be had for right at $300.00 usually. Not an ultimate solution to be sure but it will work!
you probably can not build much for windows better for same money. even with the HD 6450 and a $99.00 2 TB external HDD
you are still way in the ball park with the build in the article considering win 7 or 8 is included.
For another ~25-$30.00 you can put the low profile fan less HD 6450 1GB low profile card in there to free up system ram ,provide HDWE accel ,and take some load off of the CPU. HD 6450 runs entirely from PCIe power no molex conn. needed they only use maybe 19-25 watts so stock PSU will run them just fine as long as you don't have too many external USB devices ,
IR/Bluetooth receiver for remote ,USB WI FI ,and USB HDD should be fine though . HD 6450 also has multi channel audio bitstream pass through (optical ) and multi monitor support,in case you want an additional smaller touch screen
OR if you want to rock 2 Big screens
Personally I would recommend an HD 6450 for *almost any HTPC other
than a gaming rig .Edited by tubetwister - 9/19/13 at 9:58pm