Mini PC processor minimums for HTPC

arcman

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Scrapping my huge HTPC and want to start fresh with a Mini PC (one of those 6" square jobs).

Looking for a recommendation as to a minimum processor with onboard graphics that will play 4K video with no problems. My only program requirements are Win 7 or 10, with a file manager, browser, Media Player Classic and Winamp. My integrated amp has a DAC so nothing fancy needed there.

Also, any recommendation for a Mini Pc under $400 that will fill the bill?

Thanks in advance.
 

Todd Erwin

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You may be better off trying to build your own, but I would stick with Intel processors (at least latest gen i5) and chipsets. Intel UHD integrated graphics, provided you have lots of fast RAM, is actually pretty good. Also, Windows 10 Pro for your OS, maybe PLEX for your media player/server? And definitely an SSD for the OS and software to run on, with HDD's in a RAID config.

Newegg would be a good place to start shopping, as they have lots of BYO bundles you can start with.
 

John Dirk

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I can't imagine a build like that coming in at anywhere near $400.00 but I agree with the specs, aside from Windows 10 Pro, which is not needed in a HTPC environment and costs extra. If your budget is capped at $400.00 you may need to consider some off-lease options, which can be excellent deals. Depending on where you live, Micro Center is a great starting point.
 

Todd Erwin

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If you are trashing your old HTPC, and it was running Windows 7, and you still have the license key, you should still be able to install Windows 10 on your new machine for free. And if you have the Home version, I believe you xan still upgrade to Pro for $70.
 

arcman

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I have both Windows programs on other computers I can transfer. I'd prefer to go Win 7 to copy as much as I can from the current HTPC but it the new Mini needs 10, then I'll go with that. This is not a concern. Processor speed to get 4K video is.

I'm headed to Micro Center now. Thanks. I did some looking at the Dell Optiplex 3070. Might be a consideration.
 

jcroy

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A possible issue might be with a graphics card which handles 4K video easily without dropping any frames.

If one is using windows7, does a more recent graphics card have a win7 driver for it, either provided by microsoft or the original company (ie. nvidia, intel, etc ....) ?
 

Todd Erwin

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No more updates are being issued for Win7 which is why Win10 was recommended.

Be careful with Dell, especially a small form factor. My wife has gone through several employer-supplied Dell laptops (and these were "business grade") due to overheating.
 

Todd Erwin

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A possible issue might be with a graphics card which handles 4K video easily without dropping any frames.

If one is using windows7, does a more recent graphics card have a win7 driver for it, either provided by microsoft or the original company (ie. nvidia, intel, etc ....) ?
Arcman is looking to build a mini-PC, so a graphics card is not going to fit. I built myself a new power desktop last Christmas (i7, SSD, etc.) and as I began to go over budget, I put off purchasing a dedicated graphics card for now and upped my memory instead. What I'm finding is that the embedded Intel UHD graphics is working surprisingly well.
 
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jcroy

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My desktops over the past 20 years or so, typically had the built-in intel graphic chips soldered onto the motherboard by manufacturer.

During their time periods, the generic intel graphics was good enough for generic playback without dropping frames. (480p / 720p or slightly higher in the 2000s, 1080p during the early-mid 2010s, etc ...). Basically without using any "enchancements" eating up additional processing cycles in the gpu.
 

Todd Erwin

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And I agree with @John Dirk that a budget of $400 is unlikely, at least double that with the idea of upgrading later down the road.

I tried to build a micro PC with the specs John and I suggested on Newegg, and the lowest I could get was under just under $750, and that was an i5-10400 6-core CPU (2.9GHz), with 32Gb of RAM, 500w power supply, 512Gb SSD, 2x 2TB HDD's, and a low-profile CPU cooler, plus a micro-ATX case and ASUS motherboard. I did not include Windows 10, as you indicated you have a spare Win7 license from a retired PC.
 
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arcman

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All I want is the bare minimum to play 4K videos. That's it. There's dozens of these 6" jobs on Amazon for under $400. Are you saying none of these will play 4K video?
 

John Dirk

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All I want is the bare minimum to play 4K videos. That's it. There's dozens of these 6" jobs on Amazon for under $400. Are you saying none of these will play 4K video?
Amazon is great for a lot of things but [personally] I would not consider a PC purchase from them. PC's can look great on paper only to turn out to be severely limited in upgradeability down the line. The value of a place like Micro Center is that you can put your hands on the various offerings and ask questions as opposed to just reading potentially dubious specs. The employees are often enthusiasts to some degree and usually don't mind letting you pop a case open to see what's inside. As previously suggested, they also often have off-lease options that might allow you to stay within budget and still get a suitably equipped system.
 

John Dirk

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I give up.
Give up on what? You said you visited Micro Center. Anything worth considering there? As far as Amazon, I was only stating my personal feelings. You're always free to do what you want but you did ask for advice.
 

Cameron Yee

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This Wirecutter article might be helpful for a frame of reference: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-mini-desktop-pcs/

Even with the use case of "web browsing, basic photo and video editing, and working in documents or large spreadsheets," the writers recommend mini PCs in the $700 to $800 range. So a $400 budget is going to be hard to meet without sacrificing performance or reliability.

If arcman just wants to get up and running with something and not get mired in overwhelming choices, I'd say start with the Wirecutter's recommendations of either the HP or the Intel NUC.
 

Todd Erwin

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I give up.
Another option would be to go as barebones as you can and then canibalize your current system with the thought of upgrading more down the road.

Sorry, but $400 is just not doable for 4k video, especially if you are looking at staying within the Windows OS.
 

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