HTPC Budget $1000

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by SeeMeRock, Feb 3, 2010.

  1. SeeMeRock macrumors newbie

    Jan 30, 2008
    I have a pretty large tax refund coming around the corner and have budgeted $1000 to build myself a HTPC (it will also serve as my main PC for work, surfing, etc.)

    I was wondering if any had any good suggestions on how to go about it. I would like for it to have the following:

    - Video Output to 42in Panasonic Viera
    - Blu-Ray Drive
    - (x2) 1TB Harddrive (one for backup)

    But I'm mainly looking for input/suggestions on the following:

    - Black Case (noise to minimum) with Remote
    - Motherboard
    - Processor
    - HD TV Tuner Card
    - Version of Windows 7
    - Video Card (if Motherboard doesn't have one). I don't play games, so I just need one with good quality 1080p output for movies on my TV.
    - Any else I might not have thought of.

    If I could do all this with a Mac I would, but don't think I have a budget for a :apple:

    Thanks to everyone is advanced.
  2. VoR macrumors 6502a

    Sep 8, 2008
    I'd build a nas, with any old components, freenas/yourchoice, and as many hard disks as you need/will want.
    I'd buy any nvidia ion based machines for the front end/s, something like the asrock ion330.
    I'm not sure what you want with hd tuners/pvr. The options are different in the US than in the UK. Maybe network attached tuners like the hdhomerun would suit you, if not there's lots of other alternatives.
    I'd run xbmc, I'd chose live/linux install over windows/osx. Linux and nvidia seems to be the 'best' way to consume high bitrate media.
  3. metrisoft macrumors newbie

    Feb 4, 2010
    Why build one yourself when you can get exactly what you want (i.e. high performance, < $1,000) with a pre-built HTPC? Check out NinX Media PCs.
  4. BillHarrison macrumors 6502

    Jul 25, 2003
    Some important factors to consider:

    TV - How do you intend to get tv in. Cable? Over the Air? Satellite? All of these have different options and some are better than others.

    Video output - Does your tv have an hdmi port? If so video out from any modern video card with hdmi port should be a breeze, and HD decoding is in even the most basic new video cards.

    Blue Ray - I have not touched on this much myself, as most of my content is ripped / downloaded

    Storage arrangement, backups, etc can get pretty hefty with HTPC's especially if your ripping dvd/ hd-dvd/bluray discs, single movies can occupy 10-20gb.

    Extenders? I love mine, great alternative to having a full blown pc next to your tv, plus allows you to use the main pc elsewhere and have extenders at every tv in the house to enjoy your media seamlessly from room to room.

    Online services? Netflix, Hulu, etc? Do you want to watch these on the htpc? On an extender? Etc?

    I have several years experience with Media Center and extenders, so feel free to answer the most important question (TV tuner type) and I will give you my best recommendations.


  5. SeeMeRock thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 30, 2008
    Thanks for all the replies.

    To answer your questions. For the TV Tuner, I plan to use my cable connection. I currently only get basic cable channels (Digital, HD, etc.). So I want to use it as a DVR.

    TV supports HDMI output, so go to know that modern video cards will work. I just wanted to make sure I didn't lose out on any quality.

    For Blu-Ray I mostly plan to rip (anyhd dvd) and convert (handbrake), but for the movies I want to watch right away, I want to be able to put in the drive and watch.

    And definitely plan to watch hulu and netflix. BTW is it possible to steam netflix HD yet without one of their dedicated players?

    Caveman - Hackintosh? Any guidelines out there on how to put one together?
  6. BillHarrison macrumors 6502

    Jul 25, 2003
    Cable is tough, only fully supported method today is to buy an already made pc with Cablecard tuner. Some options are on their way, nothing solid yet. You can easily tune NON hd cable using some cards, or via a cablebox routed to svideo. But the quality is not hd.

    XBOX supports Netflix HD, but you need an xbox and a gold live membership (50 bucks a year) and will playback everything with one box under the tv (except blue ray).

    Here is my setup:

    Tune OTA (Fox,abc,cbs,etc) with tuner card. Supports HD and surround if show has it. Have 4 1gb usb drives for media storage. Rip all dvds / hddvds / blurays / to these drives. Have netflix subscription (Lowest level, supports unlimited streaming / I never actually have DVD's sent). Utilize bittorrent for cable programming I enjoy that is not available on netflix.

    All upstairs in the office on my main windows 7 Ultimate unit.

    Downstairs 60" HDMI 1080p DLP connected to xbox 360. Extender allows live tv, dvr funcionality, "Movies" (With thumbnails and synopsis with xml files setup), and "Shows" (I keep my tv shows episodes here). Also streams music and live radio with my tuner card.

    XBOX 360 supports Netflix streaming + hd when available.

    This requires NO hacking / etc, and just works. I used to do alot of hacks and work arounds, but you quickly find tinkering with your "Entertainment" is NOT entertaining, you just want it to work.

    Total cost Monthly 8.99 (Netflix sub, thousands of shows and movies instantly) + 54.99 (Roadrunner High Speed although I cant put all of it here, I would need internet regardless), + 4.16 a month for Xbox LIVE gold.

    Basically MORE movies and media than I have time to enjoy, for way less than a digital cable sub, plus its all on demand.

    I used to go the pc tied to the tv way, but it was not the best for my household, hard for the kids to use, etc. My 3 year old can operate my current setup. Its also waf friendly.

    The cable part is the toughest right now to deal with.

    For your 1000 dollars, here it goes - 400 for PC, should put you in a fast 3 core amd system with plenty of ram. 150 for 2 1gb external drives. 200 for an xbox 360. I would stay standalone with the bluray till internal drives drop further. Ripping them is BIG space, 2tb wont last long at 20gb a movie.

    Throw in a system builder copy of 7 ultimate, and you are well within your budget with cash to spare.
  7. SeeMeRock thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 30, 2008
    Thanks Bill for your input. Sounds like a good setup, I'll post what I ultimately come up with.

    BTW, since you have roadrunner cable, not sure if you know this but if you split the cable before it hits your modem, and run the other cable to your TV. You get free basic cable.
  8. BillHarrison macrumors 6502

    Jul 25, 2003
    Interesting... Basic cable? Digital basic? Would this include HD locals?

    Interesting fact might play with it after work.

  9. mags631 Guest

    Mar 6, 2007
    Don't be fooled: $400 will build a crappy machine

    I'm no expert, but I do have experience having done this several times, incl. a recent build of a Windows 7 HTPC which acts as a PVR and DVD player. is a good resource -- lots of components and reviews. You don't have to buy there, but it's a good place to use for planning your build.

    Things that you should worry about:
    - Aesthetics: low end cases look better on the web than in person. If you buy the cheapest thing you see, prepare to be disappointed.
    - Noise: cheap processor coolers and power supplies make a lot of noise; cheap cases rattle.
    - Quality: there are a lot of crappy components that don't work very well -- especially motherboards and TV tuners. Buy from somewhere with a liberal return policy.
    - Time: go slowly (don't break something); plan on spending a lot of time working out issues

    Rule of thumb: unless you are building a very high end machine, it is unlikely you will be able to build something cheaper than an equivalent machine from Dell, other OEM. Why? They buy in quantity and subsidize the price with agreements with software / add-on vendors. So you should approach this as a "fun" project as opposed to a cost-savings project.
  10. BillHarrison macrumors 6502

    Jul 25, 2003
    Well, I feel 400 Dollars would build a nice system:

    All Newegg Prices, as you said, great place never a problem:

    Coolermaster Case W/ Power Supply - I have had several of these, top quality, there are several great styles available for 70 w/ Free Shipping, 400 Watt Power Supply (70.00)

    Asus M4A78-EM - Asus makes Great boards, and this one is Hybrid Crossfire Ready - It has an onboard Radeon 3200 w/ HDMI, 8 HD audio, and if you ever feel the need for more graphics power, just plug in another AMD graphics card and it will use both in Crossfire (SLI) to boost your gaming, although you mentioned gaming as not important, the options there (85.00)

    AMD Athlon II X3 440 Rana 3.0GHz Retail w/ Heatsink - Plenty fast enough stock, 3 cores so no problems w/ multitasking and of course can support x4 processors and beyond on the board for some future upgrades - (89.00)

    GSkill 2x 1gb DDR2 1066 - 2gigs should be plenty for your purposes - (53.00)

    Generic DVD/RW DL Etc etc (25.00)

    Keyboard / Mouse (20.00) (I prefer microsoft black, work fine)

    Total: 342 dollars, for a 3ghz 3 core system. NO cheap components, although there were cheaper available that I feel would have been fine, for example I am starting to like foxconn boards (OEM for apple for a LONG time btw) and they have a great price.

    You could upgrade any of the items for a bit more, x4 processor would add about 20 bucks, there are a myraid of motherboards for slightly more, could have gone ddr3 for a bit more, etc. but all well within 400 dollars.

    And Coolermaster makes GREAT cases, solid, quiet, easy to assemble.

    I see nothing on Dells website anywhere near this for 399 dollars, they are all Sempron / Celeron at lower speeds, and 1/3 the cores.

  11. mags631 Guest

    Mar 6, 2007
    Your quote is missing:
    - HD TV tuner card (as listed in the OP's requirements)
    - OS (no reason to quote this separately -- it's necessary to the build)

    I would double the RAM, but the price difference is negligible.

    The above is easily another $200. So now you are at $550 for your parts plus the missing stuff that you need to boot.

    For $559, from Dell you would get:
    - Quad 2.5GHz processor
    - Windows 7 64-bit
    - 500GB hard drive
    - Hauppauge HVR1250 TV tuner + remote.
    - 1 year warranty :)

  12. SeeMeRock thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 30, 2008
    Yes, basic cable, digital, and HD. When I plug the cable directly to my TV and run the automatic channel programming. On my panasonic HD channels for example (ABC Channel 7) channel 7 is the non-HD, channel 7-1 is HD. After that I turn off the non-HD channel manually, when an HD channel is available.
  13. BillHarrison macrumors 6502

    Jul 25, 2003
    Wow, thanks worked perfectly. My tuner found about 80 channels, with most of the locals in hd w/ a non hd like you mentioned. Cant argue about that for free! Only problem is the NON hd channels are a bit fuzzy, but the hd stuff was crystal clear (Perhaps a bit less so than OTA, but more reliable as I have a few OTA channels that only work certain hours etc.)

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