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For the specs and what your getting for the price.. that looks about right, for what I was last looking at.
Was pricing out a HTPC/Gaming (basic steam games) dual use rig for a friend.. and subtracting video card, etc is within the right range.

Did a rough pricing from Canada computers, around $600ish (give or take on specifics on hardware)(no OS)
 

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Discussion Starter #83
I'm game for a DIY solution (and this time of year is ideal for that type of project). I just would have some TBDs to sort out before I actaully start buying stuff next week. Red ones are clearly the critical ones

My draft shopping list is :

HARDWARE
mATX CASE: TBD no issue - many options leaning to SILVERSTONE and to in-room wide orientation.
mATX M/B WITH USB3/HDMI: TBD - many options but I need to learn/appreciate distinctions. MSI? ASUS? GIGABYTE?
INTEGRATED GPU: Per motherboard decision
CPU (Intel i3-4340 or AMD FM2): TBD I need to learn/appreciate distinctions/variations
MEMORY(16GB DDR3): no issue - many options re Kingston, Cruical etc.
SSD BOOT DRIVE: Samsung 840 EVO 120 GB SSD
HDD DATA DRIVE: NONE. Add as needed.
ODD BR/DVD BURNER: TBD but no issue - many options
POWER SUPPLY/FANS: TBD many options

SOFTWARE:
OS: Windows 8.1
MEDIA SERVER: XBMC for Windows or MediaPortal

PERIPHERALS
ROUTER: ikely ASUS AC-1900
USB3 DAS: TBD but likely Mediasonic 4 BAY
WIRELESS K/B: TBD but no issue - many options
WIRELESS MOUSE: TBD but no issue - many options
NETWORK TV TUNER: TBD but no issue Likely HD HOMERUN
 

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Haven't done AMD lately, don't know. It could probably save you ~$100 (mobo and CPU).
Onboard video will suffice unless you want to do some non-light gaming..

Software is personal. Other parts look OK...
 

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Not a bad start. But I wouldn't follow those builds exactly.

The Silverstone GD06B Micro ATX case is too much case for HTPC. Silverstone cases (and other full height, steel HTPC cases) tend to be too big and heavy, especially for AV cabinet use. Silverstone cases are also expensive. If that much money is being spent, a half height all aluminum case is much more practical.

The budget build will save over $200 and will work well for HTPC. It will run Win7 or Win8 with no problem. I have a build very similar to this using an mATX motherboard. I put it in a low profile, component sized, all aluminum case.

On drives: There is no reason these days not to use multimedia drives. These are generally designed to provide better performance and be more reliable than standard 'green' drives. I've seen a few drives fail in NAS and multimedia (24hr/day) applications and no longer recommend them for HTPC or NAS use.

I've built close to a dozen HTPCs in the past 10 years and have made many of the mistakes that can be made. Here are the worst mistake that I made:
  • 1. Using large, full height, steel cases.
  • 2. Using a CPU that is too powerful and/or dissipates too much heat.
  • 3. Using a video card. Integrated CPU/GPU solutions are much more efficient and will outperform most low end video cards.
  • 4. Using too big a power supply. Right sized power supplies are more efficient and more economical. The power supply should be sized between 2 and 4 times the maximum TDP of the system. In the builds linked to above, that's between 150w and 300w. Make sure it is 80+ certified as well.
  • 5. Using cases that have proprietary power supplies and/or other components. If they need replacing, there is no source for better quality components. When buying a small case that uses a smaller power supply (such as SFX) make sure that it's dimensions are not outside the industry norm. That goes for OEM built systems as well. Companies like Dell are notorious for using non-standard parts.
  • 6. Not using low noise components. That includes the power supply, CPU cooler, case fans (avoid fans wherever possible), high speed disk drives (avoid 7200 RPM or faster hard drives) and optical drives. Small, high speed fans included on some components are especially obnoxious.
  • 7. Not using low energy and energy efficient components. Energy dissipation creates heat, which requires fans for cooling, which creates noise.
  • 8. Cramming too many hard drives into an HTPC. These create heat and noise.
 

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3. Using a video card. Integrated CPU/GPU solutions are much more efficient and will outperform most low end video cards.
If playing Blu-ray rips is planned, onboard video does the job (sometimes) barely.
You will hear the fans revving up. For example, HD2500 on Sandy Bridge...
 

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HD2500 on Sandy Bridge is obsolete for HTPC and I never recommended Sandy Bridge for HTPC. The problems with them are well documented. Any AMD FM2 chip will outperform that series, especially for playing HD video. Newer Intel and AMD chips are much better. Intel may have a better CPU processor but AMD has the has the better GPU processor when it comes to video. I've been playing Blu-ray on ATI (AMD) integrated motherboard chips for years. Any FM2 APU blows those away in graphics/video performance. Intel is only now catching up with their graphics GPUs.
 

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Discussion Starter #88
...The budget build will save over $200 and will work well for HTPC. It will run Win7 or Win8 with no problem. I have a build very similar to this using an mATX motherboard. I put it in a low profile, component sized, all aluminum case....]

Those 'worst mistake' tips to avoid are priceless. Thanks for that !

On that budget system http://mymediaexperience.com/htpc-builds/budget-htpc/, they recommend:

Case Antec Mini-ITX Case ISK 300-150
Motherboard MSI Socket FM2 AMD A75 Mini ITX
CPU :AMD A6-5400K with Radeon HD 7540D

...and you mentioned you would use a different mATX motherboard and mATX case. Is there any specific motherboard make/model you'd suggest/like ?
Eg: same MSI model in mATX size, here? or GIGABYTE model here or ASUS here? ? ? Same question re cases. Do some already come with power supply and coolers vs fans, etc., or do these all need to be selected individually?
 

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ExDilbert said:
Intel may have a better CPU processor but AMD has the has the better GPU processor when it comes to video. I've been playing Blu-ray on ATI (AMD) integrated motherboard chips for years. Any FM2 APU blows those away in graphics/video performance.
Can you point to any benchmarks which show this? My experience has been that my Intel-based systems do Blu-ray playback (which is primarily h.264 decoding) just as well as my AMD-based systems. That is, the output is indistinguishable between them, as it should be.

~8 years ago you used to see "HD video playback" benchmarks on tech review sites, but since all these chips can do it now, you primarily only see "power use" benchmarks if you see anything at all. And when it comes to performance-per-watt, the Intel chips win.
 

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My experience supports the AMD APU - my E-450 (with HD6320) plays Blu-ray rips without a hitch, consuming around 35 watts in the process. There's no need to over-power the system unless you get into the heavy gaming.
 

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My last few PCs have been AMD.
As long as not overloading them/running them too hard (which as an HTPC, it shouldn't be... more stuff like heavy gaming, etc), that's the only time I have found them heating up (which AMD can run a little hotter than intel sometimes).

But AMD motherboard/CPU.. you could shave 150+ off the price.

Just make sure you have proper ventilation. with the right fans/fan sizes, etc.. can have this and still be quiet.
 

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I've found that the AMD black box unlocked CPUs come with sub-standard fans. The AMDs are so cheap that cost isn't really a factor in getting a fast CPU. The A10-6700s are quite reasonable as are the black box 6800s.
Steve
 

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Discussion Starter #93
....
On drives: There is no reason these days not to use multimedia drives. These are generally designed to provide better performance and be more reliable than standard 'green' drives. I've seen a few drives fail in NAS and multimedia (24hr/day) applications and no longer recommend them for HTPC or NAS use.
....
On that note, googling multimedia drives, the 2TB WD LIVE HUB popped up. I gather this is now discontinued. Why did it not catch on? Seemed be an effective and simpler alternative to regular HTPC + storage + media centre software + media player + remote all in one box. This plus an HD Homerun network tuner would have been a nice setup.

So what was the down side. Too much in one I suppose, ie no flexibility?



 

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I gather this is now discontinued.
Still there
http://www.shopbot.ca/m/?m=wd+tv+live+hub
Why did it not catch on?
I believe it is a solution looking for a problem.
It is not flexible enough for the DIY crowd and too complicated for the iPod generation...

If gaming is in the list of potential interests in your household, it can affect your parts selection
http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2013/12/everything-you-need-to-know-to-install-steamos-on-your-very-own-computer/
Dual booting will allow this from the same box...
 

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On that note, googling multimedia drives, the 2TB WD LIVE HUB popped up. I gather this is now discontinued. Why did it not catch on? Seemed be an effective and simpler alternative to regular HTPC + storage + media centre software + media player + remote all in one box. This plus an HD Homerun network tuner would have been a nice setup.

So what was the down side. Too much in one I suppose, ie no flexibility?
Flexability, etc is part of it.
Comparatively.. a PC can do anything there is an app for right?
Those types of boxes (or even anything even like a Roku, etc).. you are limited to what the developers create for it. (so can be missing apps sometimes).
If people stop developing for that platform, you can be stuck. (EG: the boxee box).

That is the one thing that has kept me away from all in one boxes like those.. just seem like more built in obsolescence.. vs with PC you have a few more options.

(EG: I enjoy having my plex app on my TV, no need for an extra box on the TV (as it does Netflix as well).... BUT.. plex has released a lot more features recently in their media
player software... BUT, the TV app hasn't been updated for those new features yet :( )
 

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Discussion Starter #96
Any specific suggestions for mATX motherboards from MSI vs ASUS vs GIGABYTE? What CPU/GPU? Looking for USB3, HDMI, integrated graphics and HD audio, Gigabit ethernet.

Also looking for specific suggestions on mATX cases with suitably size power supply and silent fans.
 

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SPECIFIC boards might be hard to narrow down, without choosing what processor your going with on it.. as that narrows your range.
As for brand. PERSONALLY I prefer to use ASUS when I can.. have had great luck with them over the years. But I have used MSI before.. not used gigabyte personally.

Again, I usually get from Canada computers as they are local to me, so is usually my reference point.
http://www.canadacomputers.com/product_info.php?cPath=6_631&item_id=049445
A lot is style. I would get one with the largest size fan slot if possible. The larger fans, run at lower RPM, so are more quiet, but move larger volume of air.

Looks like a lot, at least there.. don't come with power supplies, so you can add your own specific one in. Which could be good. Getting a modular supply, ensures you are only putting in as many connectors as needed.
 

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Discussion Starter #99
SPECIFIC boards might be hard to narrow down, without choosing what processor your going with on it.. as that narrows your range...
Yes exactly what I am trying to do - narrow the range. but I dont yet know what the conventional wisdom is for one re Intel 3 vs AMD FM2+ vs FM2 vs AM3+ vs AM3 for a non-gaming USB3/HDMI/SSD HTMC application.

I was hoping between that, and some cautions/preferences re MSI, ASUS and GIGABYTE I could start to hone in on a short list of mATX form-factor boards. I would then start figuring out what case works best.

More research planned for tonight!
 

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Discussion Starter #100
My browsing to date for newer motherboards suitable for HTPC, has led me here:
http://www.asus.com/Microsite/2013/MB/home_entertainment/index.htm

This still gives me choices for Intel Z77, B75, and H61 chipsets, as well as AMD A85X and A55 chipsets..... so I'll be ruling these in or out next.

One surprise was that to date I thought micro ATX = mATX = uATX and these were typical 24 x 24 cm But looking at the ASUS descriptions in the reference they appear different, ie

Intel uATX 24.4 x 17.8
Intel mATX 22.6 x 18.0
AMD uATX 23.6 x 18.8

Other than size, are there other difference between uATX and mATX - why are both term in use?
 
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