Advice on building a new HTPC

  elsmandino 21:07 19 Sep 2009


I am building an HTPC, which has got to be quiet and efficient. It will not be used for gaming, but has to be capable of producing full 1080p picture quality/playing blu-ray.

The computer is going to be plugged into my tv in the lounge and I eventually intend to wire cat6 all over my house, via a gigabyte router - so I can stream live or recorded tv to two other televisions via media extenders.

I also have a sat dish with twin lnb and an external aerial, so the computer has got to be capable (in the unlikely event) of recording two channels, whilst allowing live tv to be watched in the living room as well as streaming a recording to one of the media extenders all at the same time - this will not happen very often, but probably will happen eventually.

The computer is going to be used as a replacement for my DVR, so it needs to come out of sleep mode properly and come on automatically to record and return to S3 afterwards.

I have come up with the following spec machine and would be really grateful for you comments and any changes you would suggest - or any incompatibilities I may have missed.

Hard drive - F3 1TB Samsung (I looked at 5400 rpm hard drives, but although they are quieter, decided that I would need a 7,200 rpm hard drive for simultaneous recording and streaming)

PSU - Corsari 550VX

Mobo - Asus MSN78-EM (this has 2 x pci slots, 1x pci 1 and 1 x pci 16 and NVIDIA GeForce 8300 chipset)

TV Tuner cards (three of them) - 2 PCI Hauppage WinTV Nova HD S2 Tuner cards (for two freesat channels) and 1 Hauppauge HVR 2200 MCE Dual Hybrid PCI Express card (for two digital channels)

Case - Antec Fusion Remote Max

CPU - Athlon II x2 240

OS - Windows 7, using media centre as the front end

Optical Drive - LG Blu-Ray

RAM - 2 x 2GB 800Mhz DDR2 RAM (I know that 2GB would be enough, but RAM is pretty cheap so thought I would go the whole hog)

Your comments would be greatly appreciated before I take the plunge


  iscanut 09:44 20 Sep 2009

Am impressed with the project for an absolute beginner !!!

  ashdav 12:35 20 Sep 2009

A few suggestions:
Get another smaller hdd to use as the C drive and install all the software on that.If you can afford it a 80GB Velociraptor would be good.
Also prevents hdd "thrashing".
Keep all your files and folders on the larger drive you mentioned.
This has the advantage that if you have to reinstall the operating system you won't lose any of your recordings.
With all the pci cards you are planning to use the power supply could do with being bigger.
750W would be better.
The case is going to be a bit crowded so ventilation is likely to be compromised.
Make sure there are plenty of fans. A server case (as opposed to a pc case) would be better as they are bigger.
Good luck if you go ahead.I wish I could afford to build one myself. Just built an Intel i7 box phew!

  elsmandino 00:07 25 Sep 2009

Thanks for that am gradually getting there.

Had a rethink and done lots of further research and my specs are now as follows:

Mobo: ?? - Nvidia board with onboard graphics and e-sata (decided against a 785G board, due to current problems with ATI graphics drivers
and BBC HD)
CPU: Athlon II X2 240
Modular PSU: Corsair 450 HX
HDD: F3 1TB Spinpoint (Paritioned) - or possibly 1TB Eco Green, but possibly 5,400 rpm too slow for mutliple streams?
Operating System: Windows 7 32-bit, using MCE as the front end
Case: Antec Fusion Remote Max
Optical Drive: LG Blu-Ray
RAM: 2x2GB of RAM (brand and speed undecided)
TV Tuner card: Black Gold BGT3595 (apparently coming out next month)

I would be very grateful for your recommendations on a decent Nvidia board that will be fit my purposes and your general comments on the build.

  ashdav 00:21 25 Sep 2009

Partioning the HDD is not such a good idea as the read/write head will still have to access both partitions.
Use a separate HDD for the C drive as I said above.
If you're not playing games on the pc then the graphics card is a bit academic.
Running 2D pictures on a monitor or tv is not stressfull and can be done by a fairly low spec card.
I'd suggest you use the onboard graphics first to see if there are any problems then upgrade if you feel you need to.
The powwer supply is still too small. Get a 750W.

  OTT_Buzzard 14:02 25 Sep 2009

"The powwer supply is still too small. Get a 750W."

Eh? 450W is more than sufficient, unless ashdav wants to offer a more detailed explanation?

  OTT_Buzzard 14:57 25 Sep 2009

Do you have a budget in mind for the motherboard?

For your hard drive, I don't see any major issues with partitioning it, although i'd question the purpose of doing so. I can't see how a velociraptor drive would help (per ashdav's suggestion).

If your unlikely event of recording two channels happens then the Spinpoint F3 (for example) has a write speed of better than 80MB/s. That's plenty enough.

Streaming TV shouldn't use the hard drive beyond normal pagefiling and a small buffer so don't worry about that.

The only thing I would suggest is that once you have your full build list, look again at all your components and get power consumption figures for them. The problem with media centers is that they tend to be switched on for protracted periods, consuming energy all the time. If it's drawing 200W on idle for 16 hours a day, that's £120 a year on the electricity bill.

  elsmandino 19:15 25 Sep 2009

OTT_Buzzard - Good call. I hadn't thought about energy usage. Wwhen you say idling, does that mean the computer is actually on with the hard drive, fans all spinning etc but not actually processing anything?

The reason I ask is that I was hoping to have the HTPC resume to S3 sleep mode and only come on to record set programmes and turn off again afterwards - so the computer would only be on during weekday evenings and the weekend. What wattage do you think the average computer would be using during sleep mode S3?

  OTT_Buzzard 22:11 25 Sep 2009

"What wattage do you think the average computer would be using during sleep mode S3?"

Impossible to tell for sure, but around 5W would be my guess in sleep / hibernate mode.

Sat switched on will all but draw full power.

Any indication on mobo budget? You could spend from £50 - £150 (est!).

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