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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello All,


After reading through some reviewer site builds on HTPCs, I thought I would put together my own thoughts on a budget HTPC build.


I blogged it here..

http://links.amd.com/build1


Would love some feedback/comments on the blog.
 

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Quote:
Optical Disk Drive (ODD)

Selecting an optical drive can be a little challenging because it is often hard to tell the advantages of one over another. I have used a variety of drives over the years — some more reliable than others and some quieter than others. However, for me when it comes to the HTPC discussion, it boils down to DVD vs. Blu-ray. With the HD DVD / Blu-ray format war over, it does make the decision a little easier, but you still really need to look at what you are planning to do and how much you want to budget for the ODD. Upscaled DVD content can look very good on an HDTV. In my opinion, the clarity of Blu-ray really starts to show up at screen sizes larger than 50 inches. At 50 inches and below, upscaled DVD can look very nice and can save the consumer some money. Therefore, to keep costs within an entry level price point, I opted for a standard DVD.


ODD: Lite-On DVD ROM $17.99 USD
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16827106274

You lost me here. You have a system that is more than apt to play bluray and you kill it by going with a cheap $18 DVD drive? You could get a BD rom for $54-$67.


I could see holding off before, but now that BD playback is finally primed for mainstream use with PDVD and WinDVD on their second gen players, I don't see why you wouldn't add BD support.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16827106326


This comes with the software and would be a better choice IMO. You are getting OEM PDVD 8 and a BD & DVD drive for $67 shipped.


Furthermore, why would you suggest Vista Home Premium when the stable Windows 7 RTM is shipped and the public release is 63 days away?


And no TV tuner. Once again, why a 4200 chipset and nice dual core without a TV Tuner.


By your set up, it would seem that its only intended use is DVD playback, pictures, music and online media. None of this demands the hardware you are listing. If that is all you are going to do, I would recommend an OEM HP media PC. They excel at what you are proposing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
True, but I was trying to keep the entire cost to as close to 400 for h/w as possible.


I wanted to add Blue ray as well as a TV tuner but those would sneak the cost up. In addition to that, as soon as you add a BD drive, you need playback s/w. sure some drives ship with it, but I think we all know that free BD playback s/w is not the most reliable/robust stuff out there. This means more money spent on s/w.


As for Vista, it is because it is what the average end user can get today. If you see, I do actually suggest waiting for Win 7 because it is better. But today, RTM is for those that know how to get it, which may not be the average DIY builder. However, if they can get it, absolutely, go for it.


Therefore, I will be adding those to the mainstream/mid level system.
 

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I also have a comment on the optical drive. Why get a read-only DVD-ROM when you can get a dual layer DVD burner from Newegg for only about $5-10 more with free shipping? They have the Sony/NEC/Optiarc burners on sale all the time in that price range and they're great drives.


One thing about a budget HTPC is that you also get budget performance. If all you want is DVD playback then you can get that with a cheap $50 standalone DVD player. For what you're spending you can probably do a lot better getting separate A/V components. If you really want to use the best features of an HTPC and configure it as a multi-tasking device, you'll need to rethink the whole budget issue. Your setup is definitely inexpensive but there's very little you can actually do with it, except maybe play back some music and watch a DVD.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by captain_video /forum/post/17031768


I also have a comment on the optical drive. Why get a read-only DVD-ROM when you can get a dual layer DVD burner from Newegg for only about $5-10 more with free shipping? They have the Sony/NEC/Optiarc burners on sale all the time in that price range and they're great drives.


One thing about a budget HTPC is that you also get budget performance. If all you want is DVD playback then you can get that with a cheap $50 standalone DVD player. For what you're spending you can probably do a lot better getting separate A/V components. If you really want to use the best features of an HTPC and configure it as a multi-tasking device, you'll need to rethink the whole budget issue. Your setup is definitely inexpensive but there's very little you can actually do with it, except maybe play back some music and watch a DVD.

Again, the goal here was to provide a foundation from which to build on. keep the initial cost low, but still give it enough performance to handle typical HD HTPC duties.


Think of the spec as a modular approach. You start with a base build near $400 and then as budget allows, you upgrade those components that are more important to you.


Now, I personally feel a burner is unneccesary for a budget HTPC build. In fact, I really don't see the value add of a burner in an HTPC. Now, I do feel that a desktop PC should have a burner. If I am going to be burning discs, I would rather do it at my desktop than my HTPC.


I think there is a lot you can do with it. It will upscale standard DVD's pretty well. I has a decent amount of storage for movies, music, photos, etc. It has reasonable CPU performance for both SD and HD playback. It can support full 1080p resolutions. It can do most of the things you would want to do with a budget HTPC.


This is not meant to be a cross between an HTPC and a desktop PC. It is meant to be an inexpensive intro into the HTPC world. It is also a good foundation from which to grow into a more robust platform. Adding TV tuners, Blu ray, more storage, etc. can be done over time as users have more money.
 

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"Budget" and "HTPC" shouldn't go hand in hand. A HTPC isn't a simple machine that a layman can easily set up. It is a heavily hobbyist activity, and as such, shouldn't be controlled by a crap budget. Personally, I feel your build is actually more of a waste of money than the extra expenses for the additional hardware. I feel this becuase of its incredible limitations as an HTPC.


Your argument against W7 doesn't make sense. Don't you think someone who will be building a PC from scratch would be the perfect candidate to use Windows 7 RC1/RTM?


Add in a TV Tuner and a Bluray player, and we've got something to work with.


This whole "growth" and "introduction" nonsense is bunk. People shouldn't be starting their building basics on a HTPC.
 

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A DVD burner vs. a DVD-ROM only costs you a few extra bucks, so why not get one? Buying "budget" components to start with may seem like a sensible idea, that is until you realize you'll end up spending a lot more in the long run to upgrade it to something more useful. If money's the real issue then I recommend you hold off on any purchases until you can afford a worthwhile system. What you're putting together is a budget PC and not an HTPC. Check out the recommended components list in the sticky thread at the top of this section that addresses building a HD HTPC.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by therealbiglou /forum/post/17033096


"Budget" and "HTPC" shouldn't go hand in hand. A HTPC isn't a simple machine that a layman can easily set up. It is a heavily hobbyist activity, and as such, shouldn't be controlled by a crap budget. Personally, I feel your build is actually more of a waste of money than the extra expenses for the additional hardware. I feel this becuase of its incredible limitations as an HTPC.


Your argument against W7 doesn't make sense. Don't you think someone who will be building a PC from scratch would be the perfect candidate to use Windows 7 RC1/RTM?


Add in a TV Tuner and a Bluray player, and we've got something to work with.


This whole "growth" and "introduction" nonsense is bunk. People shouldn't be starting their building basics on a HTPC.

Building an HTPC is not all that different than building a desktop PC. The assembly process is very similar. The s/w install process is very similar. I think getting a fully functional HTPC is quite a bit easier than most people make it out to be.


I think where the perfectly funcitonal and acceptable box leaves off and the hobbyist platform takes off is when you start tweaking codecs, filters, drivers, etc. to get the upmost perfection from the h/w. That is where things get challenging.


I think the HTPC can be easily assembled and operated in such a way that the average DIY PC user could get involved. You don't have to be an uber builder/tweaker to put together your own HTPC.


Again, I AM NOT ARGUING AGAINST WIN 7. If you read what I wrote, I even suggest that builders might want to wait for Win 7 as I think it is a better solution.


However, YOU CAN'T BUY WIN 7 on Newegg right now and have it ship out in the next day or so. Therefore, I recommend if you are purchasing today and don't want to wait for Win 7, buy Vista Home Premium.


As for growth being bunk, it is a common practice by DIY builders for years. It certainly can apply to the HTPC builder as well. Not everyone has 1K to drop on all their h/w at once. Getting a base foundation is completely acceptable. I am not sure why you have an issue with that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by captain_video /forum/post/17033351


A DVD burner vs. a DVD-ROM only costs you a few extra bucks, so why not get one? Buying "budget" components to start with may seem like a sensible idea, that is until you realize you'll end up spending a lot more in the long run to upgrade it to something more useful. If money's the real issue then I recommend you hold off on any purchases until you can afford a worthwhile system. What you're putting together is a budget PC and not an HTPC. Check out the recommended components list in the sticky thread at the top of this section that addresses building a HD HTPC.

I don't necessarily disagree with you. If you have the budget for it and you think you will use it, by all means, get one. I don't personally feel it is necessary, but clearly some people would find value in it.


If you look at the specs again, I did not just suggest the cheapest products nor the most expensive. I try to strike a balance between cost, performance, thermals, noise, etc. and keep it at a reasonable cost point. It is not intended to be the perfect solution nor be the right solution for everyone. It is simply a build for about $400 that provides reasonable performance, reasonable features and room to grow as needed.


As to the sticky, I have read it many times and I think it is a great tool. However, as I wrote, there are a lot of different ways to approach any PC or HTPC build. The specs provided I think provide a good starting point.
 

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I have to agree with Captain Video. You seem to be building a budget PC and not a budget HTPC.


Also, you don't need to spend close to $1k to build a decent HTPC. Spend a little bit more and you can have a fully capable HTPC with Bluray and a dual-tuner digital TV tuner. This stuff doesn't cost much and you can get a whole lot more "home theater" funtionality. I built mine a year ago with Bluray and a dual tuner capture card for ~$600. You simply cannot do all the basic HTPC functions on the machine you built.


As for 7, of course it's not being sold yet. But you can still grab the RC or RTM for download (after today via torrents). And even after today you can still get unique product keys to activate it. 7's Media Center is far more functional and polished than Vista's.


Also, I think you underestimate the amount of work and maintenance it takes to get a fully fledged HTPC system up and running as smooth and user friendly as possible.
 

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has anyone seen this cabinet. I am thinking about using it for a HTPC.

http://www.bdiusa.com/theater/novia_8426.shtml


It has a recessed area for a subwoofer, but I dont see any reason I couldnt put my PC in there.


Any thoughts?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by michanecash /forum/post/17034622


has anyone seen this cabinet. I am thinking about using it for a HTPC.

http://www.bdiusa.com/theater/novia_8426.shtml


It has a recessed area for a subwoofer, but I dont see any reason I couldnt put my PC in there.


Any thoughts?

Looks like a nice one to me... though this doesn't seem to fit in this topic.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by therealbiglou /forum/post/17034496


I have to agree with Captain Video. You seem to be building a budget PC and not a budget HTPC.


Also, you don't need to spend close to $1k to build a decent HTPC. Spend a little bit more and you can have a fully capable HTPC with Bluray and a dual-tuner digital TV tuner. This stuff doesn't cost much and you can get a whole lot more "home theater" funtionality. I built mine a year ago with Bluray and a dual tuner capture card for ~$600. You simply cannot do all the basic HTPC functions on the machine you built.


As for 7, of course it's not being sold yet. But you can still grab the RC or RTM for download (after today via torrents). And even after today you can still get unique product keys to activate it. 7's Media Center is far more functional and polished than Vista's.


Also, I think you underestimate the amount of work and maintenance it takes to get a fully fledged HTPC system up and running as smooth and user friendly as possible.

I don't think you need to spend 1K to get a decent HTPC experience either...that was the point of the blog. Yes, the more you spend, the greater the functionality you can have and those will be address in an upcoming blog. I think for about $700 or so you can have a very robust experience including Blu ray, TV Tuner, etc.


Part of this depends on what you define as the basic HTPC experience. With the specs listed at just over $400, you can do everything but DVR/TV Tuner and Blu ray.


Upscaled DVD playback-done

DVD ripping/storage - done (with the right s/w)

Photo playback/sharing-done

Music library - done

online/Hulu - done

transcoding - done

Chassis layout - not the most beautiful, but it works.

DD/DTS audio - done



So, what else is needed for the basic HTPC experience?



I don't think Blu ray is a MUST HAVE for the HTPC user. Yes it looks better, but I know plenty of people that are happy with upscaled DVD.


As for setting up and maintaining an HTPC, I don't think I am underestimating it at all. I am an long time HTPC user myself. I rarely ever need to do maintenance work on mine because I get it working and leave it alone.


As for Win 7, I wanted to provide links to everything that was publicly for sale and provide a price to it. That could not be done with Win 7 as of today. Hence I provided the link to Vista, but brought up the idea of waiting for Win 7.
 

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IMHO tuners are dead.


it's $130 of dead weight that nobody really wants.

Who uses OTA TV expect for us lunatic fringe on these forums.

People want cable and satallite and the HD channels they grown accustom to on delivery formats. You can't get that on a DIY HTPC.


The HTPC is DVD/Blu-ray/Music/Pictures/Internet/Video

If you want real TV on your media center it's cable card or why bother.


Kick the tuner out of big lou's setup and you have your $400 HTPC (+40 remote, +80 for BT mouse/keyboard, + 100 for windows oem).
 

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For those basic tasks, why build a dedicated box in the first place? The main reason people build a HTPC to connect to a TV is for the "TV experience" which means Live/recorded TV and DVR functionality. Not to mention if you are spending the money, why not go HD capable and get a cheap bluray player. If the things you listed are the only things you are going to do on a HTPC, then why spend the $400? Seems like a waste.


Want a price for 7? Free. That makes your build even cheaper.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by therealbiglou /forum/post/17034770


For those basic tasks, why build a dedicated box in the first place? The main reason people build a HTPC to connect to a TV is for the "TV experience" which means Live/recorded TV and DVR functionality. Not to mention if you are spending the money, why not go HD capable and get a cheap bluray player. If the things you listed are the only things you are going to do on a HTPC, then why spend the $400? Seems like a waste.


Want a price for 7? Free. That makes your build even cheaper.

I haven't had a tuner in my HTPC in 3 years.


Also probably the BIGGEST reason to even build an HTPC is...

Expandability.


convince the wife to build a HTPC, 6mo later, hey look BD drives are only $50, I can add that.

OMG they finially came out with a decent DIY tuner option, it's only $150 to add.


The why bother is to get started, becasue the box Jack recomends provides plenty of room to add what you may want later, or what hasn't even been built yet.


Also windows 7 is not free. You cannot legeally download any version (publicly) of it as of right now. RC is over. RTM is not yet released.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by therealbiglou /forum/post/17034584




Add the processor which is on back order for $60 (AMD 7800 Black Edition)... and you got yourself a fully functional HD capable HTPC for cheap.

So with your specs listed you are at almost $600.

Still need keyboard/mouse. Still need BD playback s/w. Still need IR receiver (unless that bundle comes with the IR, I honestly don't know).


I am not saying it is a bad config by any means. Just that is more like what I was planning for a mid/level mainstream HTPC build, not a budget build.


I fully agree that when you bump the budget up, you can add a lot more functionality but I still don't think those are absolute must haves just to get started with an HTPC.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
By the way, I think we are actually agreeing on what is a robust spec for an HTPC, I just suggesting that for those that don't have all the funds at once, they can start off smaller and then add later without a significant cost adder.


The mainstream HTPC which is what you are spec'ing is more like what I would likely build if I were doing it for myself. However, if someone asked how can I get started in this HTPC thing as cheap as possible but still have room to grow? I would list the budget build as I did here.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by sotti /forum/post/17034769


IMHO tuners are dead.


it's $130 of dead weight that nobody really wants.

Who uses OTA TV expect for us lunatic fringe on these forums.

People want cable and satallite and the HD channels they grown accustom to on delivery formats. You can't get that on a DIY HTPC.


The HTPC is DVD/Blu-ray/Music/Pictures/Internet/Video

If you want real TV on your media center it's cable card or why bother.

I dunno... since the government-coupon digital boxes came out, a big thing I read on various forums is how many people are dumping cable and sat and going with OTA.


I'd probably still have an HTPC if it didn't do OTA, but, imo, OTA HD is a big reason that HTPCs are worthwhile in the first place since few other things can record OTA HD without a monthly Tivo or similar subscription. Cable/sat isn't bad when the DVR is only $5 a month, but HD cable/sat itself costs a lot more than OTA. As far as I know, DVD recorders still can't record/play in HD, so those can't get the job done, either. Without OTA, people might be better off with just standalones and one of those WD media drives or something.


While some people like to overbuild their HTPCs, (any bottom-rung Core2Duo and now-wimpy video card and 800mhz memory will get the job done), I would never buy a DVD-rom instead of a burner. What does it save? $5? There may come a time when your other PC's burner dies, and you'll need a quick spare, and you won't have one. (been there, done that). Or you'll want to start using it as an external burner, and you can't. (been there, done that.)



Even better, if the cheap drive is expected to be replaced by a Blu-Ray at some point in the future, then a DVD-rom turns even more worthless since it will even more likely be put into a different PC to burn things but can't. Also, PVR software can usually burn from within the software itself. Maybe that option will be used and maybe it won't, but a DVD-rom takes away that choice completely.
 
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