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Discussion Starter #1
Hi All,

I have been heavily researching a new build since I have convinced my wife to cut the cable and use the savings to build a Media Server/HTPC… I feel confident about the hardware choices, really just waiting for the best deal, but really need some guidance on the best OS and supporting software. My initial though was just a headless media server with WHS 2011, but realized it would be crazy not use it as a HTPC. Below are the details:


Hardware:

- Antec NSK2480 case with Earthwatts 380w power supply

- G620 CPU w/ Asrock H61M or i3-2105 CPU w/ H67M (or better) May just end up to whatever is best deal/value over next few weeks

- G.Skill Sniper Low Voltage DDR3 1600 (or faster) memory - 8GB (2X4GB)

- 90 GB OCZ SSD drive for OS

- 2X 500 GB SATA drives

- 1X 1 TB SATA drive

- Maybe a TV tuner?

- 2 or 3 TRENDnet TEG-S5g 10/100/1000Mbps Gigabit GREENnet Switch (currently $15 at Newegg)

- All wired connections throughout house


Software:

- Windows 7 Ultimate or WHS 2011 – Have both

- Dependent on OS: WMC with MediaBrowser or JRiver or SageTV or ????

- Playon

- Usual Suspects – Pandora, Netflicks, Hulu, etc…

- Will be subscribing to Assassin’s guide – Thanks!


Use:

- Media Server for MP3s and videos, back up of pictures, personal files, etc from 2 PCs

- Would like remote access as I travel a decent amount with work and would like ability to trouble shoot any issues for wife when away

- Will connect directly to 52’ Samsung LED TV but would like to assume headless

- Interface with PS3 in bonus room, WD TV Live Plus in bedroom, and OTA TV in all 3 locations.

- No 3D

- uTorrent


So my big questions are:

- Which OS to use??? I see benefits of both but would like opinions/guidance…

- Once is decided, what is the best media software?

- Would a TV card be a good addition?

- Any other hardware recommendations?

- What am I missing/not considering?


Thanks in advance for the help!
 

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Discussion Starter #2
OK, I am drinking the Assassin cool-aide....
Thanks for the great info, unbelievable detail. Does that help get a response?
 

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Win7 or WHS11 should be ok. WHS11 have higher security but tougher time connecting clients if overall network is not well managed.


XBMC is good


If you don't use antenna, then no need for TV card


I would suggest a "T" version CPU since the box will be on all the time.


WHS11 need 180GB to install so 90GB SSD will not work.


Make sure the PSU has as high efficiency rating as you can get and the power rating as close to actual usage as you can. Probably around 200W for your setup is all you need.


For pictures, I would consider RAID1. So you will need a RAID card or MB do support RAID.


1TB HDD is smallish for video storage.


Get at least 8 port switches. 5 port switch only gives you 4 ports if 1 port is used for uplink.
 

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Discussion Starter #4

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Quote:
Originally Posted by kbower090  /t/1418418/please-help-finalize-media-server-htpc#post_22187710


OK, I am drinking the Assassin cool-aide....
Thanks for the great info, unbelievable detail. Does that help get a response?

Sorry, I missed your thread somehow.
Quote:
So my big questions are:

- Which OS to use??? I see benefits of both but would like opinions/guidance…

- Once is decided, what is the best media software?

- Would a TV card be a good addition?

- Any other hardware recommendations?

- What am I missing/not considering?

This is what I recommend...


1. I would use Windows 7 x64 as your OS as this allows you to use WMC + Mediabrowser, XBMC, etc with no issues. I am not sure if JRiver and some of the others can be installed on WHS2011. Since you want to be able to remote in consider Windows Pro as the Home version does not allow this (although there are tricks or software to get around this).

2. XBMC, WMC+Media Browser, JRiver, Plex are all popular choices. Try them all to see. Or since I cover them all look at all the pics I provide and see which one you like the best. Plex Server for playing your media on the road.

3. Sure, if you want to record media or watch TV from your TV card.

4. I have used that case and its good, quiet and easy to build in but VERY big for housing only 2 hard drives. Depending on your needs and setup this is neither good nor bad but something to consider.


Hope that helps. Thanks for using the guides --- they should help you whatever you decide to do.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by dksc318  /t/1418418/please-help-finalize-media-server-htpc#post_22187783


Win7 or WHS11 should be ok. WHS11 have higher security but tougher time connecting clients if overall network is not well managed.

XBMC is good

If you don't use antenna, then no need for TV card

I would suggest a "T" version CPU since the box will be on all the time.

WHS11 need 180GB to install so 90GB SSD will not work.

Make sure the PSU has as high efficiency rating as you can get and the power rating as close to actual usage as you can. Probably around 200W for your setup is all you need.

For pictures, I would consider RAID1. So you will need a RAID card or MB do support RAID.

1TB HDD is smallish for video storage.

Get at least 8 port switches. 5 port switch only gives you 4 ports if 1 port is used for uplink.

"T" CPUs actually use no less power and produce no less heat than "non-T" CPUs. The real reason to get a "T" CPU is if you need the low profile cooler.


There are ways around the minimum size for WHS2011.


High efficiency has little to do with HTPC where you are going to be using less than 20% off the rated wattage. Just choose a 80+ PSU made by a good manufacturer and don't pay more for a higher rated efficiency as it won't matter and even if it did you would likely need to use the PSU 10+ years to recoup the cost.

I don't like hardware RAID for HTPC. You can't use Green drives which I think are essential for HTPC storage (especially if local like you are doing). RAID is not backup --- I recommend CrashPlan for things that are irreplaceable like your family photos.

2-3TB is the sweet spot for storage right now. Again I prefer and will only use Green drives in my HTPCs.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by assassin  /t/1418418/please-help-finalize-media-server-htpc#post_22188526


"T" CPUs actually use no less power and produce no less heat than "non-T" CPUs. The real reason to get a "T" CPU is if you need the low profile cooler.

There are ways around the minimum size for WHS2011.

High efficiency has little to do with HTPC where you are going to be using less than 20% off the rated wattage. Just choose a 80+ PSU made by a good manufacturer and don't pay more for a higher rated efficiency as it won't matter and even if it did you would likely need to use the PSU 10+ years to recoup the cost.

I don't like hardware RAID for HTPC. You can't use Green drives which I think are essential for HTPC storage (especially if local like you are doing). RAID is not backup --- I recommend CrashPlan for things that are irreplaceable like your family photos.

2-3TB is the sweet spot for storage right now. Again I prefer and will only use Green drives in my HTPCs.

"T" versions are set at lower clock rate than non "T". So they do use lower power. For instance G860T is 2.,6Ghz and G860 is 3Ghz.


"T" just means that at max power, TDP won't exceed 35W. In our content server systems, they won't get close to max TDP. May be a better comparison is between the G860T at 2.6Ghz and G622 also at 2.6Ghz. Rate them in the same system and see whether they consume the same wattage. In this case G622 should be cheaper than a G860T. Although all three have technical differences in memory bandwidth and graphic frequencies etc.


Efficiency do matter. If my system is pulling 100W on my 80% efficiency PSU, the system is actually consuming 80W, 20W is waste heat out the PSU. A non-rated PSU typically at 70% efficient will pull 115W. That 15W extra means 131kWhr per year if the system is on 24/7. In California it could mean $42/year. I always hit that 3 tier $0.32/kWhr at my house. An 80+ PSU don't cost $42 extra. My 80+ rated FSP300-60GHS PSU only cost $35 S/H included.


That's why I moved my video content off an i7 box to a G530T based box. That i7 box with a nVidia GTX 560 Ti GPU takes close to 300W.


I have two RAID systems, a RAID1 NAS and a RAID0 with spare in the main server. Video content are on JBOD. Pix are on that RAID1.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by dksc318  /t/1418418/please-help-finalize-media-server-htpc#post_22188710


"T" versions are set at lower clock rate than non "T". So they do use lower power. For instance G860T is 2.,6Ghz and G860 is 3Ghz.

"T" just means that at max power, TDP won't exceed 35W. In our content server systems, they won't get close to max TDP. May be a better comparison is between the G860T at 2.6Ghz and G622 also at 2.6Ghz. Rate them in the same system and see whether they consume the same wattage. In this case G622 should be cheaper than a G860T. Although all three have technical differences in memory bandwidth and graphic frequencies etc.
While that all sounds good actual testing by renethx shows that there is almost no difference in wattage from the 620T to the 620 or the i3 2100T to the i3 2100.
Quote:
Originally Posted by dksc318  /t/1418418/please-help-finalize-media-server-htpc#post_22188710


Efficiency do matter. If my system is pulling 100W on my 80% efficiency PSU, the system is actually consuming 80W, 20W is waste heat out the PSU. A non-rated PSU typically at 70% efficient will pull 115W. That 15W extra means 131kWhr per year if the system is on 24/7. In California it could mean $42/year. I always hit that 3 tier $0.32/kWhr at my house. An 80+ PSU don't cost $42 extra. My 80+ rated FSP300-60GHS PSU only cost $35 S/H included.

That's why I moved my video content off an i7 box to a G530T based box. That i7 box with a nVidia GTX 560 Ti GPU takes close to 300W.

I have two RAID systems, a RAID1 NAS and a RAID0 with spare in the main server. Video content are on JBOD. Pix are on that RAID1.

In order to be 80% efficient (or more if you pay for a platinum, gold, etc) you have to use at least 20% of the PSU. For instance a 600w 80+ platinum rated PSU is rated at 90% efficiency. However, to reach that 90% efficiency you have to be using at least 20% of the PSU as that is what is tested to achieve their ratings. So for a 600w PSU you would need to be using at least 120w consistently (and realistically should aim for 300w) to be able to quote those figures.


Since most people use much less than 120w (my HTPCs all use less than 35w) you can't just throw the statement out there that you are using a 80%, 82%, 85% or 87% rated PSU because in all likelihood you have no idea what efficiency your PSU is running at since it is much less than 20% of its rating.


That's why you should just get a 80%+ PSU that is well made. If you want to get something with a higher efficiency then by all means go for it but I wouldn't ever recommend to choose this preferentially because you won't notice a difference.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by assassin  /t/1418418/please-help-finalize-media-server-htpc#post_22188754


...In order to be 80% efficient (or more if you pay for a platinum, gold, etc) you have to use at least 20% of the PSU. For instance a 600w 80+ platinum rated PSU is rated at 90% efficiency. However, to reach that 90% efficiency you have to be using at least 20% of the PSU as that is what is tested to achieve their ratings. So for a 600w PSU you would need to be using at least 120w consistently (and realistically should aim for 300w) to be able to quote those figures.

Since most people use much less than 120w (my HTPCs all use less than 35w) you can't just throw the statement out there that you are using a 80%, 82%, 85% or 87% rated PSU because in all likelihood you have no idea what efficiency your PSU is running at since it is much less than 20% of its rating.

That's why you should just get a 80%+ PSU that is well made. If you want to get something with a higher efficiency then by all means go for it but I wouldn't ever recommend to choose this preferentially because you won't notice a difference.

My server has 7 HDD and 1 SSD. That 100W number is from a Kill-a-watt. Sure, like you said, in order to be as close to the rated power as possible and close to the claimed efficiency figure, I am using a 350W Seasonic 80+ PSU (SS-350ET). Just about the lowest power PSU I could find with good efficiency rating, and happens to be relatively cheap also. So it should be close to 25% of the rated power.


The closest setup we have is that i7 box running at close to 300W with a Seasonic 330W 80+ PSU (SS-330GB). If we use 80% efficiency, then the computer is running at 240W on a 330W PSU. The GTX 560 Ti GPU puts out quite a bit of heat. 240W should be pretty close.


As for my HTPC, 1 uses an old 72W Thinkpad brink and 1 uses a 300W FSP PSU that is 80+ rated (FSP300-60GHS). When a movie is running, they are closer to 60-70W. Since they are not running 24/7. Efficiency is not a great issue. In the lower range of power, there are no PSU that is gold rated. They are mostly 80% or Bronze.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by dksc318  /t/1418418/please-help-finalize-media-server-htpc#post_22188982


My server has 7 HDD and 1 SSD. That 100W number is from a Kill-a-watt. Sure, like you said, in order to be as close to the rated power as possible and close to the claimed efficiency figure, I am using a 350W Seasonic 80+ PSU (SS-350ET). Just about the lowest power PSU I could find with good efficiency rating, and happens to be relatively cheap also. So it should be close to 25% of the rated power.

The closest setup we have is that i7 box running at close to 300W with a Seasonic 330W 80+ PSU (SS-330GB). If we use 80% efficiency, then the computer is running at 240W on a 330W PSU. The GTX 560 Ti GPU puts out quite a bit of heat. 240W should be pretty close.

As for my HTPC, 1 uses an old 72W Thinkpad brink and 1 uses a 300W FSP PSU that is 80+ rated (FSP300-60GHS). When a movie is running, they are closer to 60-70W. Since they are not running 24/7. Efficiency is not a great issue. In the lower range of power, there are no PSU that is gold rated. They are mostly 80% or Bronze.

I don't really see what some of your builds have to do with the OP's.


Again, my point was that you are putting way to much emphasis on the efficiency rating of a PSU when its not really relevant to his build which will be under 50-80w. The Earthwatts he picked is a great choice.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
while i appreciate the insite of the power usage of a htpc, i am not too terribly concerned about the pwer supply and whether or not i get a "T" cpu. i understand that there is benefits in having an efficient system, i do no think the usage will warrant the additional cost for the most efficient system. if i am wrong please just forgive my ignorance and play along. my bigger concerns are the best operating system and or the benefits of whs 2011 vs windows ultimate, which i already have.... Also given the usage, at what price point would the i3 -2105 be worth the over the G 630... to be honest the difference in dollars isnt the issue, it is just the principle... i am a proud member of fat wallet and the best deal around. thanks again for the help. on a side note how dom i get arrow keys on my on screen keyboard on my hp touchpad with amdroid ics installed... it is a pita to correct all of my typos .
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by assassin  /t/1418418/please-help-finalize-media-server-htpc#post_22189005


I don't really see what some of your builds have to do with the OP's.

Again, my point was that you are putting way to much emphasis on the efficiency rating of a PSU when its not really relevant to his build which will be under 50-80w. The Earthwatts he picked is a great choice.

Sure, in area of the country it's $0.11/kWhr then it's a non-issue. Some of us live in $0.32/kWhr.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by dksc318  /t/1418418/please-help-finalize-media-server-htpc#post_22189071


Sure, in area of the country it's $0.11/kWhr then it's a non-issue. Some of us live in $0.32/kWhr.

Yet again, with a 50w HTPC a 450w 80+ Platinum PSU isn't necessarily going to be that much more efficient than a 80+ 400w PSU.


So its likely a waste of money. Even at 0.32/kWhr. So telling someone to buy a $100+ PSU just for a label on it that makes no difference isn't good advice.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by kbower090  /t/1418418/please-help-finalize-media-server-htpc#post_22187710


OK, I am drinking the Assassin cool-aide....
Thanks for the great info, unbelievable detail. Does that help get a response?

No problem, just responding to your asking.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by assassin  /t/1418418/please-help-finalize-media-server-htpc#post_22189084


Yet again, with a 50w HTPC a 450w 80+ Platinum PSU isn't necessarily going to be that much more efficient than a 80+ 400w PSU.

So its likely a waste of money. Even at 0.32/kWhr. So telling someone to buy a $100+ PSU just for a label on it that makes no difference isn't good advice.

Sure, totally agree. You can see that I'm using mostly 300W/330W/350W 80+ rated PSU. I wouldn't spend the money on a high wattage platinum PSU in the first place and not in my original list of suggestions.


"Make sure the PSU has as high efficiency rating as you can get and the power rating as close to actual usage as you can. Probably around 200W for your setup is all you need."
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thank you for your response. I appreciate the info. Any further insight on WHS vs Windows 7 ultimate? My understanding is that WHS has better remote access but would be limited on the front end...
 

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Here more information on the PSU subject...

http://www.hardocp.com/article/2011/09/15/80_plus_irrelevant_to_you_when_buying_psu/2


Why 80 PLUS® is Irrelevant to You When Buying a PSU

A HardOCP editorial about the 80 Plus® program and how it is changing the computer power supplies you are buying. Is this good, bad, or ugly, and should you care? Did you know that you paid for that 80Plus rating on your shiny new PSU? Certainly PSU efficiency is a great thing, but what about the rating system?


Precious Metal Efficiency is Almost Irrelevant

Of all the things a computer power supply is supposed to do, being efficient is among the least important at this point in time for desktop users and an efficient power supply does not mean that you will necessarily be getting a quality power supply. Now that is certainly not the eco-friendly and politically correct thing to state, but it’s the truth. However, the more important aspects of a power supplies performance aren’t as easy for most people to wrap their minds around and none of these give an easy marketing hook like "efficiency ratings" with pretty colors all the way to platinum. So what does the cost savings look like when you buy an 80 PLUS® certified unit?


There are a few conditions to point out here before we move on. First off, we are greatly simplifying the following examples (including rounding) and using hypothetical power supplies as there are no real examples where the scaling and numbers are this neat. Second, for power used below, it is the AC power pulled at a given DC load instantaneously that is indicated not over time. Third, the cost to run a unit at a given load level and 80 PLUS® certification is calculated based on running the power supply for 24 hours a day at that same exact load and certification level with electricity costing $0.08 kw/h.


Unfortunately, the numbers aren’t great at making the electricity savings of these units into a real factor in deciding on what power supply to buy or upgrade too. Let’s start by looking at generalized cost savings cases exclusive of the cost of the power supply. As stated above, these examples represent drastically simplified situations as your actual load is not going to be static at some percentage determined by 80 PLUS®. You likely aren't running your PC 24 hours a day without a sleep mode enabled. [email protected] folks however may be, so this may be more realistic for you. (Go [H]orde, Team 33!) So you likely are not going be able to make this direct comparison among all 80 PLUS® certification levels. However, what we can see is a trend and a perspective as to the magnitude of what the different 80 PLUS® certification levels mean to you. Let's look at the 1000 watt power supplies first that hypothetically came in all 80 PLUS® certifications as these units will skew our results in favor of 80 PLUS®'s higher certification levels being relevant more so than the 500 watt examples.


With an 1000 watt 80 PLUS® Platinum power supply, you are looking at saving a grand total of ~$0.24 a day over a base 80 PLUS® power supply if your power supply was running at full load for 24 hours. While that does mean it will save you about ~$88 a year under that scenario to run a 80 PLUS® Platinum power supply instead of a base 80 PLUS® power supply (~$788 compared to ~$876) this advantage dwindles significantly the more you move up the 80 PLUS® scale with 80 PLUS® Bronze, Silver, and Gold units. Additionally, the gap between single levels (Bronze versus Silver for instance) is even smaller.


Now with a 500 watt 80 PLUS® Platinum power supply, you are looking at saving a grand total of ~$0.12 a day over a base 80 PLUS® power supply if your power supply was running at full load 24 hours. Now that does mean it will save you about ~$44 a year under that scenario to run a 80 PLUS® Platinum power supply instead of an 80 PLUS® power supply (~$394 compared to ~$438), however this advantage dwindles significantly again the more you move up the 80 PLUS® scale with 80 PLUS® Bronze, Silver, and Gold units. And again, the gap between single levels (Bronze versus Silver for instance) is even smaller.


To put this into some perspective let’s briefly look at an example of pricing with the closest thing we have to a 500 watt 80 PLUS® vs. 80 PLUS® Platinum scenario. Currently, the 80 PLUS® Platinum Kingwin LZP-550 (an excellent power supply by the way) is available for $159.99 while the 80 PLUS® Silverstone ST-50F 500W is available for $49.99 and Corsair CX500 is available for $39.99. Under the scenarios we constructed above, where your electricity cost savings would be the greatest among 500 watt units, it will take a very long time to make back the price difference when buying the LZP-550.


We are not going to assign solid numbers to the following explanations because so many variables can be introduced. While PSU pricing, usage scenarios, and the cost of electricity are not static, a trend we clearly see is that the higher the level of 80 PLUS® certification on a PSU the more expensive the unit is at its output level. Additionally, while the time to recoup the cost is going to vary, the general trend is that due to the higher pricing of the higher ranked 80 PLUS® units your time to recoup that premium is going to be significantly longer unless you are in a rather narrow niche of people who use their system 24/7 at significant load levels, which the majority of consumers and even enthusiasts are likely not. Lastly, if you are going to replace a functioning power supply it makes almost no sense to do so based on efficiency alone as the time period required to realize a savings under normal usage patterns is going to be even longer. That is assuming the power supply you just bought with that nice 80 PLUS® logo actually is as efficient as the badge "certifies."


80 PLUS® a Marketing Tool?

After discussing how manufacturers cheat 80 PLUS®, the question comes up of why would manufacturers really care enough to play and cheat the 80 PLUS® game so hot and heavy, as we have seen over the last few years? The way we see it is that 80 PLUS® is more about marketing than efficiency.


What [H] Thinks


The 80 PLUS® logo is a big seal of approval that vendors can stick on its product's packaging that slightly informed and even uninformed buyers can form some sort of instant relationship with because the concept of Platinum, Gold, and Bronze "levels" are ingrained in many consumers. Efficiency is also a concept that is much more ingrained in people than electrical principles that actually matter to the hardware being powered by a power supply. Not only that, but 80 PLUS® logos allow power supply manufacturers to ride the eco-friendly wave of late.


Now is 80 PLUS® and energy efficiency bad? No, of course not. One of the problems is the approach that ECOS has adopted leads to ridiculous competition to be the first to achieve something unique inside of this framework to keep this advertising copy fresh even if it is not true or relevant to users. The first 80 PLUS® Gold power supply! The first 80 PLUS® Gold power supply over 1000 watts! The first 80 PLUS® Platinum power supply! The first 80 PLUS® Platinum power supply that will walk the dog! You get it... Beyond the marketing issues, the 80 PLUS® program leads to some corporate behavior that we have to question. There are surely PSU retailers that are looking for ways to exploit 80 PLUS® so it can have a marketing and sales advantage. In the end, companies’ likely play and cheat the 80 PLUS® game because there is significant thinking that the 80 PLUS® badge will make more money than improving its products in other ways, if those even improve efficiency at all. And over the large consumer picture, this is likely the truth.


While, in all honesty, we don’t care that much on a professional level about PSU efficiency as much as other factors when it comes to reviewing or selecting power supplies, manufacturers have decided that for bragging rights it will target users with this approach because it is something the company can use in its marketing. Since most of these PSU companies have found it so important, we hate to find that ECOS seems to have a significant difficulty with policing its certifications. We recently added our own version of 80 PLUS® certification testing to our PSU reviews and will continue to run ECOS' 80 PLUS® certification loads in our reviews. We started doing this because of the intense corporate focus on 80 PLUS® certifications, not because we find these all that useful. If a power supply comes in that misses 80 PLUS® certification numbers by a wide margin we will fail that unit.


The Bottom Line

If you are shopping for a new power supply and you want to buy a more efficient power supply because you think it is an environmentally responsible idea, by all means do it. If you want to buy a more efficient power supply because it also means a higher quality unit, and that has been verified by someone other than ECOS, by all means do it. If you want to buy a more efficient PSU because you think 80 PLUS® means it is a better built PSU that will pay you your price premium back quickly, or that it might be a significantly more efficient PSU based on the ECOS 80 PLUS® certification, please just remember we think 80 PLUS® is irrelevant.

 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by dksc318  /t/1418418/please-help-finalize-media-server-htpc#post_22189097


Sure, totally agree. You can see that I'm using mostly 300W/330W/350W 80+ rated PSU. I wouldn't spend the money on a high wattage platinum PSU in the first place and not in my original list of suggestions.

"Make sure the PSU has as high efficiency rating as you can get and the power rating as close to actual usage as you can. Probably around 200W for your setup is all you need."

Right. But what I am saying is that the "as high efficiency rating as you can get" is irrelevant as long as you get at least 80+ and likely a waste of money that will take many many years to recoup the cost --- especially if you have your HTPC on and awake for 8 hours or less a day.


So I agree with half of your statement.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by kbower090  /t/1418418/please-help-finalize-media-server-htpc#post_22189098


Thank you for your response. I appreciate the info. Any further insight on WHS vs Windows 7 ultimate? My understanding is that WHS has better remote access but would be limited on the front end...

I remote in to my HTPCs running Win7 each and everyday from my laptop using my home wireless network. For outside my network there are many options that you can choose some of which are largely OS independent.
 
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