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can you build a quite htpc, good for gaming, for $1k

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
I've been lurking around here the last few weeks learning about htpc. I'm going to start my own build soon and I'd also like to be able to play games on the PC with the same (or better) quality of a PS4/xbox one.

Compared to building just an htpc with integrated graphics that is used exclusively for tv/bluray rips etc, the cost seems to almost double when you want to spec it up for gaming. (GPU, cooling, ram, etc)

Some stuff i've read for a mid range gaming PCputs the cost around $1500 which is a bit more than i'd like to spend. Can i get a good gaming/htpc build for closer to 1k? How about a recommendation for a GPU? The cost range on these are crazy and i don't know how much horsepower i really need. The htpc will feed my sony hw30aes projector so i'm only concerned about 1080p output. Also, If you are going with a GPU, is it possible to still keep the noise levels low? I definitely don't want a loud htpc. My asus laptop allows me to switch between integrated graphics and the nvidia gpu. I'm guessing you can't do this with a custom build since the motherboard has one hdmi out and the gpu would have the other but maybe i'm wrong.

some things i know i want are below.

Win 8 (i like the idea of the big tile with my 119" screen. I'm also not planning on using WMC. I will use XBMC for front end and plex to serve media to other devices)
256g ssd
4tb hd (to start anyways)
case with 6 or more bays that will look nice in my equipment rack(i have about 350 blu ray to rip)
GPU that can get good frame rate at 1080p and be comparable or better than PS4/xbox one.

So is $1k realistic for a quite htpc that can also handle gaming? Any recommendations on a video card would be appreciated.

Thanks for your help.
post #2 of 20
I'm coming out with more like $1,200 with a GTX 770 GPU with a nice cooler on it like the ACX version from EVGA. This is with an AMD 760k processor and mATX motherboard, and your requirements above in a Silverstone HTPC case w/ 6 hdd bays.

The GPU's noise levels on this cooler are excellent, and you won't even hear it idling when you're watching movies or TV. It will ramp up a bit for gaming but honestly it's about the quietest cooler I've heard outside of a full water loop. You'll also want to replace the stock cooler of the AMD processor with an all in one liquid cooler like a Corsair H55, and replace the fan w/ a quieter one from Noiseblocker or Noctua.
post #3 of 20
The quietest GPUs on the market right now are MSI's GeForce cards using the Twin Frozr 4 coolers. EVGA's cards are about 6dB louder. (that's a lot)
If you want silence, definitely use Noctua hardware for all your case fans and buy an NH-D14 as your CPU cooler.
For your 4TB drive, I would recommend either a Hitachi Deskstar, or a WD SE. After a number of drive failures in the last year or so, I decided that I'll only be buying enterprise-class drives from now on. (the WD SE drives)
Corsair's RM Series Power Supplies are engineered for silence.

I don't know about the pricing of these components though, but if silence is your goal, that's what I would recommend.
You probably should use at least a GTX 770 - and I see that MSI do a 4GB version which might be worthwhile for gaming. (the consoles have ~5GB GDDR5 - though not all of it will be used as VRAM)
madVR is adding a number of higher quality scaling/processing options which will need a lot of GPU power.
I wouldn't buy an AMD CPU. They're quite far behind Intel as far as performance and efficiency are concerned.
post #4 of 20
I'm in the same boat as you... building a htpc/gaming pc. The only part I've bought so far was an i5-3570k when Microcenter had a sale. I priced the rest of my remaining parts out at pcpartpicker and I have about $1100 more to go. However, my build is going to have a GTX 780 in it.
post #5 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the recommendations. Do all of you run a battery backup as well? Do hard drives get corrupted easy if you are writing to them and the power goes out? This doesn't happen to often but with the pc doing server duty 24 hrs a day I'm sure it will eventually.
post #6 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronoptimist View Post

The quietest GPUs on the market right now are MSI's GeForce cards using the Twin Frozr 4 coolers. EVGA's cards are about 6dB louder. (that's a lot)
If you want silence, definitely use Noctua hardware for all your case fans and buy an NH-D14 as your CPU cooler.
For your 4TB drive, I would recommend either a Hitachi Deskstar, or a WD SE. After a number of drive failures in the last year or so, I decided that I'll only be buying enterprise-class drives from now on. (the WD SE drives)
Corsair's RM Series Power Supplies are engineered for silence.

I don't know about the pricing of these components though, but if silence is your goal, that's what I would recommend.
You probably should use at least a GTX 770 - and I see that MSI do a 4GB version which might be worthwhile for gaming. (the consoles have ~5GB GDDR5 - though not all of it will be used as VRAM)
madVR is adding a number of higher quality scaling/processing options which will need a lot of GPU power.
I wouldn't buy an AMD CPU. They're quite far behind Intel as far as performance and efficiency are concerned.

All great recommendations but you're going to break that $1k budget fairly quickly. Didn't realize how quiet the new MSI cooler was, wow!
post #7 of 20
I can build quite an HTPC for a $1.

If you want a quiet one, then you have to spend real money.

biggrin.gif
post #8 of 20
Don't forget software either. Beyond the OS, depending on what you want to do, you may need or want other applications to improve the experience, reliability or just make the HTPC useable. The good news is that there are many freeware/donate options available to get you started.
post #9 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrstop View Post

Don't forget software either. Beyond the OS, depending on what you want to do, you may need or want other applications to improve the experience, reliability or just make the HTPC useable. The good news is that there are many freeware/donate options available to get you started.

Fair point, other than the OS , I'm going to must likely experiment with a few different front ends. I like the customibility of xbmc and it's free so I'll mostly likely use that to get started. I have a dvdfab key for ripping already. I'll install steam. Other than that, I'm not sure what else I'll need. Any recommendations for must have htpc software?
post #10 of 20
Do you have a microcenter available ? 4670k and the Asrock extreme 4 combo is $315

Add 8GB of cas10 2400mhz ram ($89)

Rosewill capstone 550watt psu ($59)

Silverstone GD08 case ($119)

Radeon R9 270X GPU ($220)

The OCZ Vertex 450 256GB SSD is $149 (link in the good deals forum at top)
Otherwise,

Samsung 840PRO for $199

That's just about $1000 and what I would get.

Keep in mind if you are a serious gamer the hardware usually lasts through a second GPU card upgrade, so in time that's your upgrade path with most bang for your buck.
post #11 of 20
The big one for me was a lifetime AnyDVD license for ripping movies/removing encryption for watching movies from disc. Since you have DVDFab you should be good on that front. I also purchased DBpoweramp for ripping archive quality rips (FLAC) of CD's. I'm also currently playing with Flexraid for disc protection and drive pooling which will be extra cost. You may or may not also need software to play Bluray depending on what you have and your process. Other than that, my general install consists of basic utilities and software I have need specific for my config. The good news is that most of it is free or inexpensive.
post #12 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronoptimist View Post

You probably should use at least a GTX 770 - and I see that MSI do a 4GB version which might be worthwhile for gaming. (the consoles have ~5GB GDDR5 - though not all of it will be used as VRAM)
4GB of VRAM is overkill as at 1080P the usage shouldn't get near 2GB. 4GB starts to become beneficial at higher resolutions such as 1440P or for multi-monitor setups which is not what the OP is doing. Also a GTX770 would be beneficial if the OP was running higher than 1080P or a 120HZ monitor, but at 1080P with the 60Hz refresh rate on the TV the GPU would not be used to its full capacity. A lowered performance card such as a GTX650Ti would be more appropriate for the budget and could handle the majority of games more than adequately.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mfusick View Post

Do you have a microcenter available ? 4670k and the Asrock extreme 4 combo is $315

Samsung 840PRO for $199

If the OP isn't overclocking the CPU then he could go for a 4670 rather than 4670K and a H87 chipset motherboard rather than a Z87. This may save some money depending on deals available.

Samsung 840PRO is a great drive, but there are others such as Sandisk or Crucial which may be cheaper and won't really be noticeably different in performance.
post #13 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by kesawi View Post

4GB of VRAM is overkill as at 1080P the usage shouldn't get near 2GB. 4GB starts to become beneficial at higher resolutions such as 1440P or for multi-monitor setups which is not what the OP is doing. Also a GTX770 would be beneficial if the OP was running higher than 1080P or a 120HZ monitor, but at 1080P with the 60Hz refresh rate on the TV the GPU would not be used to its full capacity. A lowered performance card such as a GTX650Ti would be more appropriate for the budget and could handle the majority of games more than adequately.
2GB VRAM is not enough. The PS4 has access to ~5GB GDDR5 for games. This won't all be used as VRAM, but it's certainly possible that more than 2GB will be - and console games run at lower resolutions, framerates, and image quality than PC games do, so the PC will require more VRAM than the console.

If you want to use a lot of anti-aliasing, supersampling, or downsampling, more VRAM always helps.
People are going well above 2GB VRAM using with Skyrim mods alone, and that's a last-generation title.

One of the first things that has always caused me to consider upgrading to a new graphics card, has been a lack of VRAM.
4GB is not an expensive upgrade over 2GB on the GTX 770, and well worth it, in my opinion.


As for performance, I suppose it depends what you consider to be acceptable. A GTX 650 is nowhere near suitable for gaming purposes if you intend on matching or exceeding the capabilities of the consoles.
Just look at how much Assasin's Creed IV is pushing systems, and that's one of the first ports of a next-gen game. An overclocked 780 Ti is just barely managing to stay above 60fps.

VNlvv1g.gif
post #14 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronoptimist View Post

2GB VRAM is not enough. The PS4 has access to ~5GB GDDR5 for games. This won't all be used as VRAM, but it's certainly possible that more than 2GB will be - and console games run at lower resolutions, framerates, and image quality than PC games do, so the PC will require more VRAM than the console.

If you want to use a lot of anti-aliasing, supersampling, or downsampling, more VRAM always helps.
People are going well above 2GB VRAM using with Skyrim mods alone, and that's a last-generation title.

One of the first things that has always caused me to consider upgrading to a new graphics card, has been a lack of VRAM.
4GB is not an expensive upgrade over 2GB on the GTX 770, and well worth it, in my opinion.
It's a build to meet a specific budget, therefore it's about what gets the biggest appreciable gains for the money spent. At 1080p the difference in performance between 2GB and 4GB of VRAM is negligible (http://alienbabeltech.com/main/gtx-770-4gb-vs-2gb-tested/3/). For an extra $50-$70 (depending on the specific card) it gains 0-2fps.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronoptimist View Post

As for performance, I suppose it depends what you consider to be acceptable. A GTX 650 is nowhere near suitable for gaming purposes if you intend on matching or exceeding the capabilities of the consoles.
Just look at how much Assasin's Creed IV is pushing systems, and that's one of the first ports of a next-gen game. An overclocked 780 Ti is just barely managing to stay above 60fps.
The new consoles do AC4 at 1080p but with considerably less eye candy than the PC. The PC version adds Godrays, PCSS shadows, TXAA and HBAO+, but these are acknowledged as bringing with them an enormous performance hit. Turning a lot of the eye candy off that isn't really noticeable still leaves a game that looks and performs better than the console version.

AC4 is an extreme example which is known to tax systems and many of the other games in the same review you linked to have benchmarks over 120fps for all cards in the test. The GTX650Ti performs well in nearly most of these at 1080p. Turn down the eye candy a bit and it will perform well enough with acceptable quality.

If the OP makes some changes elsewhere and can squeeze a more powerful card into the $1K budget then that would obvisouly be prefered.
Edited by kesawi - 1/28/14 at 6:27pm
post #15 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by sharp360 View Post

Thanks for the recommendations. Do all of you run a battery backup as well? Do hard drives get corrupted easy if you are writing to them and the power goes out? This doesn't happen to often but with the pc doing server duty 24 hrs a day I'm sure it will eventually.

 

A UPS can be had for $50, saving state and shutting down in the event of an outage.  Abrupt shutdowns are never good; data lost potentially and worse, corrupted data/drive.  I run a small one on my HTPC and a larger one on my server, routers, etc.

post #16 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by kesawi View Post

It's a build to meet a specific budget, therefore it's about what gets the biggest appreciable gains for the money spent. At 1080p the difference in performance between 2GB and 4GB of VRAM is negligible (http://alienbabeltech.com/main/gtx-770-4gb-vs-2gb-tested/3/). For an extra $50-$70 (depending on the specific card) it gains 0-2fps.
With current games, the difference is negligible, because current game engines have been built for consoles which only had 256-512MB VRAM. The new consoles have 8GB RAM, around 5GB of which can be allocated to games. Once we see ports from next-gen games which take advantage of the hardware, it's very likely that you will be able to exceed 2GB VRAM. As I said in my previous post, you can already exceed 2GB VRAM very easily if you use Skyrim mods, or a lot of anti-aliasing/downsampling.
Quote:
Originally Posted by kesawi View Post

The new consoles do AC4 at 1080p but with considerably less eye candy than the PC. The PC version adds Godrays, PCSS shadows, TXAA and HBAO+, but these are acknowledged as bringing with them an enormous performance hit. Turning a lot of the eye candy off that isn't really noticeable still leaves a game that looks and performs better than the console version.
To keep the benchmark fair, anything which is Nvidia specific will have been disabled. (pretty much everything you mention)

If all you want is console quality, spend $400 on a console and put up with bad image quality and framerates instead of building a low-end PC.
Quote:
Originally Posted by kesawi View Post

AC4 is an extreme example which is known to tax systems
It's not an extreme example at all - it's one of the first proper next-gen ports. People have similar performance issues with other next-gen ports such as Call of Duty Ghosts.
Once other next-gen games start showing up on PC, it will be the same story. The games will all be a lot more taxing than games based around the old generation of console hardware.
Quote:
Originally Posted by kesawi View Post

many of the other games in the same review you linked to have benchmarks over 120fps for all cards in the test. The GTX650Ti performs well in nearly most of these at 1080p.
Yes - because these are all old games built for old hardware.


A 650 Ti will absolutely not give you performance equal to the new consoles.
post #17 of 20
A little off topic, but I always wondered, do you benefit from a better picture on a gaming pc vs lets say a new gen console both being played on a 1080p TV/monitor? I always assumed (never good to do that) that there will be little difference between the two on a 1080p but there is a world of difference if you play on a 1080p+ monitor.
post #18 of 20
Well yes the HTPC can and does have better PQ because you can use a specialized player and something like MADVR rendering for a superior PQ compared to standard playback.
post #19 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrted46 View Post

A little off topic, but I always wondered, do you benefit from a better picture on a gaming pc vs lets say a new gen console both being played on a 1080p TV/monitor? I always assumed (never good to do that) that there will be little difference between the two on a 1080p but there is a world of difference if you play on a 1080p+ monitor.
I assume you're talking about games rather than video.
Image quality can be significantly higher on PC where you can render everything with lots of anti-aliasing ("jagged edge" removal) anisotropic filtering (stops textures blurring 3ft in front of you) and just generally enable higher quality textures, effects, display more things on-screen at once etc. A lot of console games are rendering at less than 1080p and then scaling the image up to 1080p for output, which looks a lot worse than native 1080p as well.

You also have the option of "supersampling" or "downsampling" which means that the game is rendered at a much higher resolution than 1080p, and scaled down to fit the display. This results in extremely high image quality.
And you will typically be running games at 60fps on a gaming PC, rather than 30fps for the majority of console games.
post #20 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronoptimist View Post

I assume you're talking about games rather than video.
Image quality can be significantly higher on PC where you can render everything with lots of anti-aliasing ("jagged edge" removal) anisotropic filtering (stops textures blurring 3ft in front of you) and just generally enable higher quality textures, effects, display more things on-screen at once etc. A lot of console games are rendering at less than 1080p and then scaling the image up to 1080p for output, which looks a lot worse than native 1080p as well.

You also have the option of "supersampling" or "downsampling" which means that the game is rendered at a much higher resolution than 1080p, and scaled down to fit the display. This results in extremely high image quality.
And you will typically be running games at 60fps on a gaming PC, rather than 30fps for the majority of console games.

Interesting. This may be my next build, I never gamed on a PC before, I always went to consoles.

I can't get enough of building and tinkering
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