Lounge HTPC build advice spec needed please

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accipiter
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Lounge HTPC build advice spec needed please

Post by accipiter » Sat Nov 27, 2010 3:47 pm

Please could I have some feedback on my proposed HTPC build:

Planned use:
1) Watch & record 2 digital signals (1+1).
2) Browse the web.
3) View my photo archive.
4) Store ripped DVDs
5) NO gaming
6) On all the time, need to be as efficient as possible.
7) Currently have standard Def TV, but would like to keep the option for HD

• Lounge-based htpc, so needs to be very quiet.
• Doesn't look like a 'traditional' PC.
• Would have a dual free to air digital TV tuner
• I don’t have a dedicated media server, so it would have to fulfil this function.

..did I say it needs to be quiet ? ?

I suspect I may have gone a bit OTT on this spec, but here we go:

RAM: 4GB DDR3 PC3 12800(1600) 9-9-9-24
OS: Win 7 Prof 64bit (intend to run htpc under windows media centre)
Case: Silverstone Grandia GD04B MATX (room to grow)
CPU: i3-540 3.0Ghz 73W (integrated GPU, so no need for dedicated GPU?)
HD: 2TB WD Caviar Green 5400
MB: ASUS P7H55-M / USB3 Intel H55 S1156
PSU: Seasonic Fanless 400W

Aside from the TV tuner, this comes to a few quid over £600

I have a couple of fractal 12 inch fans that I would replace the ones supplied with the Grandia case.
I was considering opting for a small SSD as a primary HD, with media recorded/ripped to separate mechanical HD..

My main questions are:
1) I think this should be fairly quiet, but does anyone have experience of the stock cooling on this CPU?
2) Is the primary HD as SSD totally overkill ?
3) Could I get away with a less powerful PC and achieve the same ends?
4) Could anyone suggest a smaller case without cooling problems ?
5) 2 vs 4GB RAM?
6) Where to make savings if I had to ?

Thanks in advance,

Dave

RoGuE
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Re: Lounge HTPC build advice spec needed please

Post by RoGuE » Sat Nov 27, 2010 8:20 pm

To answer some of your questions:
1) yes, due to the low power output of that CPU, the stock cooler is probably not bad at all. That said, for 30 dollars you can make it completely inaudible. I'm a big fan of aftermarket CPU cooling if your goal is silence (no pun intended). The one I have was under 30 dollars, and has soft mounting on the fan..I can't hear it.
2) if you're going to leave it on all the time, an SDD is unnecessary in my opinion. The only time an SDD really makes up for the insane cost, is if you're going to be booting/shutting down often, media editing, or loading huge games into memory. Since you'll be doing none of those things, there's almost no point to having one.
3) Yes, you can. What you're asking this thing to do is extremely minimal. In my opinion, your CPU is a little overkill. That said, if it's within your budget, I recommend going a little more overkill than minimalist, because what you want this computer to do now could easily change over the course of a couple years.
4) I could, but I'm too lazy at the moment. SPCR is a great place to start though..
5) Believe it or not, I would recommend 2gb of ram. I say this because I installed the same OS on my computer, and with the internet browser up, and media playing, i still didn't go over 75% of memory consumption (1.5gb). Plus, if you ever feel like you're wanting more, or your needs change, its a piece of cake to pop in additional RAM.
6) If budget is very important to you, I would recommend an AMD platform. I don't think there's anyone here that would argue against the fact that AMD offers the most bang for buck. For what you're asking this thing to do, there's no reason a budget-friendlier AMD rig couldn't handle it all with it's hands tied behind it's back.

ilovejedd
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Re: Lounge HTPC build advice spec needed please

Post by ilovejedd » Sun Nov 28, 2010 9:17 am

RoGuE wrote:2) if you're going to leave it on all the time, an SDD is unnecessary in my opinion. The only time an SDD really makes up for the insane cost, is if you're going to be booting/shutting down often, media editing, or loading huge games into memory. Since you'll be doing none of those things, there's almost no point to having one.

5) Believe it or not, I would recommend 2gb of ram. I say this because I installed the same OS on my computer, and with the internet browser up, and media playing, i still didn't go over 75% of memory consumption (1.5gb). Plus, if you ever feel like you're wanting more, or your needs change, its a piece of cake to pop in additional RAM.
I beg to differ on these two points. I use Windows Media Center with Media Browser as front end and the SSD makes loading metadata (posters, etc) much quicker. Going with 4GB RAM also makes for a smoother experience when browsing movies and with 4GB kits at $50, it doesn't make much sense to go with 2GB just to shave off an additional $10~$20.

I do agree that you can go cheaper with AMD. An 880G motherboard + Athlon II X2 should be enough for current HTPC tasks. That said, I'd rather have the processor headroom on the i3 instead of saving $50 or so for an AMD-based solution. You never know when you might need the additional processing power. Besides, at stock settings, the i3 tends to use less idle power than the Athlon II. My Core i3 build w/WD10EADS uses just 30W from the wall (Kill-A-Watt) idle. You'd probably need to undervolt the Athlon II to reach those levels.

HFat
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Re: Lounge HTPC build advice spec needed please

Post by HFat » Sun Nov 28, 2010 4:37 pm

accipiter wrote:1) Watch & record 2 digital signals (1+1).
If you're planning to rely on the CPU to compress a high-definition stream in real time, you might need a powerful one. It depends on the details which you didn't provide.
accipter wrote: 2) Browse the web.
3) View my photo archive.
4) Store ripped DVDs
A puny CPU would be sufficient for that.
You might get better photo-viewing performance with a SSD depending on the details. Other than that, an SSD would be pretty much useless unless you're using Windows and can't load the the OS and applications into RAM. There are cheap low-capacity SSDs which would work if you want to load your software, indexes and thumbnails faster as well as to allow your data drive to idle. A large, high-performance SSD would be a waste.

4G of RAM is most likely overkill for that usage.
Other than that, going with a low-performance CPU would be cheaper. Buying used gear instead of new would save you money of course. And you could also use free software instead of Windows.

ilovejedd
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Re: Lounge HTPC build advice spec needed please

Post by ilovejedd » Sun Nov 28, 2010 4:59 pm

HFat wrote:
accipiter wrote:1) Watch & record 2 digital signals (1+1).
If you're planning to rely on the CPU to compress a high-definition stream in real time, you might need a powerful one. It depends on the details which you didn't provide.
He mentioned digital signals so I assume they're already compressed. No need for real-time compression. Even an Atom or single-core Sempron would be plenty for that part.

I do agree with the recommendation for a low-capacity OS+Apps SSD. A 40~60GB SSD (currently ~$100) should be good for this.

HFat
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Re: Lounge HTPC build advice spec needed please

Post by HFat » Mon Nov 29, 2010 5:52 am

Good SSDs are not so cheap here and I was thinking about bottom of the barrel stuff like the 8G Kingston actually.

I have zero experience with digital TV. I guess it makes sense for the signal to be compressed to being with.

quest_for_silence
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Re: Lounge HTPC build advice spec needed please

Post by quest_for_silence » Mon Nov 29, 2010 6:06 am

HFat wrote:Good SSDs are not so cheap here

Switzerland borders with France, Italy, Germany and Austria, don't it? Or euros is too much strong with reference to swiss francs?
Regards,
Luca

Support SPCR, use these links when you buy: NCIX, Amazon and Newegg

HFat
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Re: Lounge HTPC build advice spec needed please

Post by HFat » Mon Nov 29, 2010 6:26 am

Prices are often better in the US. And lots of stuff is simply not available here.
A 60G Crucial costs 160$ here and an 80G Intel 175$. Prices have dropped a bit and the 40G Intel can now be had at little more than $100 now. That's good news but that drive is quite slow in some respect so I'd still say there's no good SSD under 160$.

quest_for_silence
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Re: Lounge HTPC build advice spec needed please

Post by quest_for_silence » Mon Nov 29, 2010 7:34 am

HFat wrote:Prices are often better in the US. And lots of stuff is simply not available here.
A 60G Crucial costs 160$ here and an 80G Intel 175$.

Well, if these are your prices, I mean they aren't too much bad: certainly they're not the lowest, but if we take into account that Newegg quotes them respectively 150 and 170 USD, they do not seem terribly costlier, and they are even (far) lower than usual EU ones (just an example, Crucial, like EVGA, uses the same amount for list prices, regardless they are dollars or euros, so Crucial EU prices are ~30% higher than USA ones: however there are also some smart shops which sell at some discount, ~155USD).
Maybe the things could be better, near in the future.
Regards,
Luca

Support SPCR, use these links when you buy: NCIX, Amazon and Newegg

accipiter
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Re: Lounge HTPC build advice spec needed please

Post by accipiter » Tue Nov 30, 2010 12:05 am

In terms if processing needs I had considered getting a dual digital tuner (in the uk we no longer have an analogue signal)
as I ubderstand it, the tv capture card does most of the work when t comes to recording tv and converting it into some sort of storable format, rather than the host PC's CPU.
Am I right in thinking that the most intensive task (set up on this basis) would be in ripping DVDs?

I will investigate the AMD CPU options, but would that mean having to get a dedicated GPU?
I was attracted to the i3 series principally due to low wattage and integrated GPU on the die? ?(? also means less heat & cooling noise?)
The cheapest SSDs in the UK are around £100 at the moment which is fairly hard to swallow. I had thought abou getting a small and very quiet HD and a separate larger one for storage?

cordis
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Re: Lounge HTPC build advice spec needed please

Post by cordis » Tue Nov 30, 2010 12:41 am

The cpu power you'll need depends a lot on your tuner card. If it has built in image processing, then you can get by with a weaker cpu, but if it doesn't then you'll need some horsepower. For the memory, definitely go with 4GB at least, Windows 7 is kind of a memory hog, even if you're mostly in Windows Media Center. In terms of a gpu, don't underestimate the needs of Windows itself, you may want to go with something above minimal. You may want to skip the SSD, go with an AMD cpu and add on a cheap gpu. That would give you a little more balanced system, and you could upgrade the different parts if you need to. I have two htpcs, one with an SSD and one without, and the speed difference between them is pretty minimal, if you're watching video you're limited by the speed of the big storage hard drive anyway. The one with the SSD boots faster, but that's about it.


fumino
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Re: Lounge HTPC build advice spec needed please

Post by fumino » Tue Nov 30, 2010 7:46 am

its too bad seagate hasnt made a 3.5", 2TB drive with the same tech as a momentus xt, that'd be awesome for fast metadata retrieval and still providing mass storage for htpcs...

anyways, with an amd 785G or 880G would work very well with an Athlon II X2 210e, or any Athlon II really... i might stick with a dual core or triple core cpu though, not sure if a quad is really necessary for you right now. with the 210e, it uses the propus cores, so theres always a chance that you end up with a low power quad or triple core as well; if not, you still have a very low power draw with a capable dual core.

if you can wait though, you might want to see what intel's sandy bridge platform looks like when it hits... though somehow i still want to support amd lol
my foamed mini p180 | corsair cx-400 w/ fan swap | scythe mugen-2 | thermalright hr-05 | unlocked sempron 140 | asrock 880g | 8gb mushkin |vertex 30gb boot | 7TBs storage |

djkest
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Re: Lounge HTPC build advice spec needed please

Post by djkest » Fri Dec 03, 2010 7:56 am

I didn't see an optical drive on your list, but a blu-ray player is pretty cheap now, might be worth having.

i3-530 would be plenty for you, save you a couple bucks maybe, and it's a very minimal difference in speed (3%)
4GB of RAM, since it is so cheap, should be pretty much a requirement- running in dual channel for speed or a single stick for power savings.

thetipster
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Re: Lounge HTPC build advice spec needed please

Post by thetipster » Mon Dec 20, 2010 10:47 pm

How about using the Grandia GD05? It's cheaper, smaller and more efficient. I've actually been planning a PC with the i3-540 and I chose the GD05. Now I will of course consider the i3-2120. Anyone think this case could cause any issues?

RoGuE
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Re: Lounge HTPC build advice spec needed please

Post by RoGuE » Tue Dec 21, 2010 5:12 am

thetipster wrote:How about using the Grandia GD05? It's cheaper, smaller and more efficient. I've actually been planning a PC with the i3-540 and I chose the GD05. Now I will of course consider the i3-2120. Anyone think this case could cause any issues?
Absolutely not..it's an editor's choice case here on SPCR. Check out the review if you haven't already.

When I have a few hundred bucks to burn, I'll be building an HTPC centered around this case. I think it's well designed, looks great, and not too* expensive. Sure, there are cheaper options...but for what you're getting it's worth it in almost every scenario.

speedkar9
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Re: Lounge HTPC build advice spec needed please

Post by speedkar9 » Tue Dec 21, 2010 10:37 am

7) Currently have standard Def TV, but would like to keep the option for HD
The onboard graphics doesn't have S-video or RCA outputs for your SDTV.
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