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Evaluating a proposed HTPC build - thoughts, comments, guidance most welcome


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#1 of 3 OFFLINE   jlondon75

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Posted January 04 2012 - 08:28 AM

Hi there, I'm new to the forum, new to thinking about HTPC, and have limited though varied knowledge of the technology involved. I am almost totally useless when it comes to computer-builds (trust me, I have tried on far easier projects), so I have been talking to a professional custom-PC builder about my HTPC needs/desires. Presuming that I am not putting a foot wrong right out of the gate in posting this, what follows is a probably overlong rundown of what I think I need/want in an HTPC, with my limitations and existing set-up included, followed by what the professional suggested to me as a solution. All constructive thoughts, comments or guidance in helping me evaluate this are most welcome. Hopefully this post will be useful to those more technically competent than I who are actively thinking about their own HTPC build plans. I have been daydreaming about ditching my cable-provided digital top-boxes/dvr for an HTPC for a little while now, but have finally decided to actively explore this option due to a change in my home needs/set-up. I am installing a 3-season "room" [roof with bug-screen walls - in my backyard patio; fully code compliant] with electric outlets, and a ceiling light/fan. My original plan was to wire it for digital cable so that I can watch television out there. Because of the position of the room and the masonry and build of my house, however, it'll be a little bit of a pain to get cable to the room. I get a strong, stable WiFi signal in the room no problem. Running Ethernet cable is theoretically possible via a Powerline adapter, but as long as the wifi holds - I plan to stick with that. My thinking here, and what prompted the HTPC exploration, is that if I upgrade my setup with the right HTPC configuration I should theoretically be able to wirelessly feed cable programming (recorded and live) to any wired and wireless computer in my network (including in my new 3-season outdoor "room"), and will finally be able to also make the most of my existing (600 GB, so far) digital media library of movies, music and pictures (as well as my many hundreds of DVDs). I am NOT even remotely into gaming at all, and so do not need any of this sort of functionality. My current set-up: in my primary TV room (my den) I have a VIZIO VU42LF 42" Class LCD HDTV connected to my Onkyo HT-SR800 7.1 channel home theater system (the Onkyo receiver is the HT-R550), which is basically just a pass through (with 1080p throughput) so that all of my peripheral machines are run to the Onkyo with a single HDMI cable from that receiver to the VIZIO TV. My other peripherals include: a Comcast digital cable/DVR box, a region free DVD player (Pioneer DV-400V-K Multi-Format 1080p HDMI Upscaling DVD Player; the region free thing is key for us), an old VHS player (no longer really ever used, but it does work and once in a blue moon is used), and a Apple Component AV Cable with dock to watch movies or listen to music off of my Apple Ipod. The other TVs in my home are pretty old, except for our bedroom TV which is a VIZIO M261VP 26-Inch 1080p LED LCD HDTV (with built-in WiFi 802.11n). Right now we only really use the wireless connection to watch Netflix vids. All of my TVs are connected to Comcast Digital Transport Adapters (model DC50XU) to the get most out of my digital cable package. Once an HTPC is set-up, I intend to make it multi-room via Windows Media Extender Devices -- most likely 4GB XBOX 360 consoles, unless anyone has a better idea. My wireless network is old (a Linksys WRTU54G-TM router placed upstairs in my computer room, with a Linksys Wireless-G Range Expander WRE54G downstairs on my ground floor), but seems fine for the limited use it gets to date (enables internet browsing, email, and Netflix video streaming). My home computer is wired, but has wireless capability and like two of my laptops is actually geared for Wireless-N. I never upgraded because my router came with my VOIP service through T-Mobile (which they no longer offer but still support); when I eventually upgrade to an Wireless-N network I'll simply cascade the old router to keep the phone service (assuming I haven't switched away from that by then). I will also make it a dual band router so as to reserve the less crowded channel for the HTPC network. Other specs: I do not care at all about footprint size, but I DO care about noise and so obviously would want a system no more noisy than my other peripherals -- which are virtually noise-less. I also told the guy that while my current digital media library is only about 600 GB so far, I'd love to have many more times that capacity. With all of this (above) in hand, the professional PC builder suggested the following HTPC solution: Overview: -Antec HTPC Case -Quad Core AMD APU -8GB Memory -4TB Storage Capacity (2x 2TB Drives) -60GB Solid State Drive (for operating system and programs) -Ceton InfiniTV 4 (Quad Tuner) -Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit -DVD Burner (region free) Parts List: -SAMSUNG 22X DVD Burner Black SATA Model SH-222AL/BSBE LightScribe Support - OEM -2x Seagate Barracuda XT ST32000641AS 2TB 7200 RPM SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive -Bare Drive -2x4GB G.SKILL DDR3 1600MHz Memory Dual Channel Memory -GIGABYTE GA-A75M-D2H FM1 AMD A75 (Hudson D3) SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 HDMI Micro ATX AMD Motherboard -Ceton InfiniTV 4 Quad-tuner Card for Watching Digital Cable TV on the PC, PCI-Express x1 Interface -Rosewill Green Series RG430-S12 430W Continuous @40°C, 80 PLUS Certified, Single 12V Rail, Active PFC "Compatible with Core ... -AMD A6-3670K Unlocked Llano 2.7GHz Socket FM1 100W Quad-Core Desktop APU with DirectX 11 Graphic AMD Radeon HD 6530D AD3670WNGXBOX -Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit - OEM -OCZ Agility 3 AGT3-25SAT3-60G 2.5" 60GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD) -Antec Black Aluminum / Steel Fusion Remote Black Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case The guy capped this suggested solution with: "I know it is a lot of information to take in, so take as long as you want to review what was said. I'd be more than happy to answer any questions you may have and implement any changes to the design you'd like. Do not hesitate to ask about anything, I will take the time and explain fully. Let me know how close to the mark this current design is, and if its way off, don't be shy about letting me know. The goal is to fit your needs like a glove!" This proposed HTPC solution is NOT cheap, but then I accept that I'll pay a premium for having someone build it for me rather than building it myself. It seems like a solid, overkill-for-my-needs type system that should keep me happy for some time...but then, what do I know? This is why I thought I'd throw this out to the forum. Does this seem a solid HTPC set-up? Does this seem right for my expressed needs/desires/limitations? Is there anything off in the specs or equipment/parts? Anything missing? Anything short-sighted or silly in my needs or in the projected build? Again, any constructive thoughts, comments, or guidance would be most appreciated. Thank you. All best, Josh

#2 of 3 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted January 04 2012 - 11:26 AM

Your setup is fine.   Now, here's one thing:   Win7 X64 is not going to like your 60GB SSD.   It's going to tell you it's too small for the OS on install and balk.   80GB is kind of the floor there; and you really want at least that because even if you move your recorded storage to your 2TB (an option in MCE) then you're still going to have a lot of the temporary write back data (things like MediaBrowser cache, etc.) save to C: (appdata) and Netflix cache go there. 

Right now, SSD's aren't as expensive as they once were, so 120GB should be about what you really consider, though an 80GB is fine.


Other then that, the build looks good.   Keep in mind that your goal is really up to you, what you expect to get from it and how you want it to go together.   I assume with this that you're using the onboard HDMI, which is just fine for MKV/Rip base playback, since it supports DXVA, but you need to remember that if you want at some point later to do MKV3D or BD3D, you'll most likely want an extra graphics adapter..  to most people, that's not a big enough issue to force them to do it, so they pass.


Good luck!   This is a VERY laid back environment, but there are a lot of people who can give you help as you go, and we're eager to share our experiences as well...


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#3 of 3 OFFLINE   jlondon75

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Posted January 05 2012 - 12:48 PM

Thanks Matt! This is very helpful.