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HTPC HTPC + Games build - pointers?

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by TSDAdam, 4 Jun 2013.

  1. TSDAdam

    TSDAdam Beard!

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    I've been pretty-much idle since my last PC build and the arrival of my son, but the need to tinker is overwhelming, and I want to build a HTPC. With the guide as reference:

    Budget: Unknown
    Main uses of intended build: HTPC + Games
    Parts required: all
    Previous build information (list details of parts): n/a
    Monitor resolution: 1080p (HDTV)
    Storage requirements:
    Will you be overclocking: no (delete as required)
    Any motherboard requirements (no. of USB, Xfire/SLI, fan headers): n/a
    Extra information about desired system: quiet please

    I've been out of the loop for a while, so I don't really know what I want or need yet, I'm open to suggestion.

    My PS3 and Xbox are both on the way out, and with the new gen of consoles on the way I'm re-evaluating what I need in the living room. I'm tempted to replace the lot with a half-decent HTPC so I can do blu-ray, streaming and the likes of Netflix, but also to play games on.

    I'm happy with a case the size of an AV receiver, I think it'll look quite nice on top of my AV receiver. I want something as quiet as I can get it, and capable of playing games at good levels of detail @ 1080p. I appreciate quiet and powerful don't always go together without spending a lot of money, so a happy medium would be good (or something I haven't considered? profiles that spin any GPU fans up only for games?)

    I know it's a bit vague, and I'll be doing my own research too, but if anyone else has done just this recently, I'd really appreciate the advice. Something south of £700 would be great, the lower the better.

    Cheers,

    Adam
     
  2. atc95

    atc95 I have the upgrade bug!

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    In terms of silence then there are a couple of things you can get:

    - A fanless power supply (I believe there is a 460w one on the marketplace now)
    - Aftermarket graphics cooler (this isn't necessary but a 120mm fan is a lot cooler than the 80mm fans that most gpus have)

    Also you will want a small ssd for boot up so that it is quick and you can store a few games on there as well and then a larger hdd for media (possibly 2 so that you can record to one as well).

    For case, the fractal design node 605 is a similar sort of shape to av receivers and can fit a lot of htpc and gaming components in it.

    Something like an i3 ivy bridge or haswell if you are prepared to wait until the lower end processors are announced would be ideal on a b75 m-atx motherboard or atx motherboard (or whatever the haswell equivalent is). Pair that with 8gb of ram and a gtx 660 or radeon 7870 and I'm sure someone can reccomend software that has fan profiles for the gpu.

    Hope that helps!
     
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  3. TSDAdam

    TSDAdam Beard!

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    It certainly does. I'd been looking at the GTX 660 as it happens, would that be man enough to throw impressive graphics @ 1080? I'd probably go for nvidia given the choice, as I may well use it dual boot with a linux install, and nvidia always plays much happier.

    I'll not be using the PC for recording at the outset, purely for playback, so maybe an SSD plus a larger storage HDD is the way to go.
     
  4. YEHBABY

    YEHBABY RIP Tel

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    I've just built a HTPC / gaming rig. See sig.

    I decided to go for the silverstone GD08 as it can fit a full sized video card in and because its a large case it keeps my components cool. I use the motherboard to control all the case fans so its nice and quiet.

    Here's a review:

    http://www.custompcreview.com/reviews/silverstone-grandia-gd08-htpc-case-review/10625/

    And a couple videos showing a system getting installed.

    http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=TYEqd3UiIbk&feature=relmfu

    I'm currently using on board graphics, but I'm looking to use my gtx580 from my other case.

    The only problem I seem to have run into is finding cheap software to run the blu ray movie discs. Seems very expensive and limited time before have to pay for an upgrade. At the moment I just rip the disks to my server and stream them.

    Even though the case can fit lots of hard drives I would recommend that you only use an SSD in the case and put all your media into a nas box in the other room. It will give you a near silent experience.
     
    Last edited: 5 Jun 2013
  5. boiled_elephant

    boiled_elephant Merom Celeron 4 lyfe

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    See my sig build also; it's not as HTPC as you're after, but take it as a recommendation for the i3-3220, an absolutely brilliant little gaming chip that runs very cool even with low airflow in a tight case.

    Haswell might be about to trump it with something or other, but frankly these 3 achitectures (Sandy, Ivy and Haswell) have been so similar and incremental that I wouldn't worry too much about that.

    From my experience, though, I will warn you to choose your graphics card wisely (by which I mean, something with biiig fans, watercooling, or a very low clock and low tdp). Regular gaming card + htpc airflow = jet engine noise. I don't mind mine, because...headphones, but it would be awful in the living room under the TV.
     
  6. rollo

    rollo Well-Known Member

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    Depends totally on how your cooling it to what you can build.

    Its technically possible to run a 4770k + 780 card on a 460 watt psu if your watercooling the lot it will also fit in most htpc style cases that are on the market.

    If your relying on air cooling your looking at a lower tdp Gpu and CPU and that's still on assumption that you have it in a place with some airflow.

    If its going to get tucked inside a tv style cabinet the best Gpu you would manage would be pretty low powered stuff if your not water cooling.

    Struggles with this sort of build are heat and noise from CPU / Gpu under air, complicated water cooling setup most of it will be outside of the case.

    Difficultys sourcing a power supply that is cost effective. The best power supply for these builds is made by seasonic but it costs just below £112 there 460 watt fanless.

    You need to work out if silence is key for you if it is prepare to pay for it. If you can live without silence then its alot cheaper build to go htpc gaming.

    Minimum Gpu would be 660 or 7870 for 1080p for 2-3 years at medium. I would probably look at a fan that puts its airflow outside of the case if sticking for air.

    Min CPU would be one of the i3s personally I'd be after an i5 quad much better long term investment, I'm expecting more quad core games as this generation moves on.
     
  7. davefelcher

    davefelcher New Member

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    I wouldn't spend a fortune on a fanless PSU. You'd be hard pressed to hear the PSU from TV viewing distances.
    The Antec Fusion case is nice and looks a bit like an amp. I have an old one and just use the Antec PSU that came with it. I think the fan is my TV is louder.
     
  8. atc95

    atc95 I have the upgrade bug!

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    I believe many of the corsair PSUs only have the fan spinning when it is at more than 50% load so for watching films etc it would be silent and then gaming it would be louder!
     
  9. TSDAdam

    TSDAdam Beard!

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    I won't be going with watercooling, that's pretty much certain.

    The games performance is obviously the most difficult part of the build, and I'm looking at it as more of a challenge than anything. I'd love to be able to create a proper console replacement, that is to say, something capable of showing good HD graphics, and not sounding like a 747 taking off.

    I'm really surprised at the costs involved with getting blu-ray playback working properly though, I had no idea it was still an issue. The best software by the sounds of it is looking like about $100, plus ~£50 for a BR/DVDRW, and you're well over the cost of a standalone player, and already eating into the cost of a new console which comes with one.

    By the sounds of it, ripping to NAS is par for the course now then to get around the issue?
     
  10. jinq-sea

    jinq-sea 'write that down in your copy book' Super Moderator

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    Well - yes, Blu-ray playback is costly, but ripping titles to a NAS in non-ISO format generally a) causes a loss of quality and b) often includes transcoding of the audio track.

    You could (like me) rip your Blu-rays to 1:1 ISOs on a NAS, which would remove the need for the optical drive (although you'll need an optical drive in something to allow the ripping). However - having a 'jukebox' of all your discs on an HTPC is basically amazing. Free software like MyMovies will integrate with windows MCE to provide a great (and wife/kid friendly) way of playing movies. To get proper audio output (DTS-MA or DD TrueHD) you'll need an AMD graphics card to allow bitstreaming to your AV Amp (HDMI standards etc).

    Perhaps building a decent media centre and then adding a decent graphics card later would be the way to do it?
     
  11. atc95

    atc95 I have the upgrade bug!

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    Not wanting to hijack the thread but if you wanted a nas and htpc/ gaming pc all in the one case with a minimum fan size of 120mm (for later wc plus small fans are noisy) what case would you go for, all I hear about for htpcs is streacom and origen.
     
  12. jinq-sea

    jinq-sea 'write that down in your copy book' Super Moderator

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    HFx used to be the daddies of do-it-yourself HTPC enclosures, but sadly their range has now dwindled somewhat. If you can find a used HFx Classic (one of these), you can completely passively cool an HTPC system and a high end GPU. This is what I have, but they're a bit like rocking-horse doo-doo now, sadly.

    Streacom do really nice passive cases now too, but you're looking at serious ££ for a case that'll fit in a decent GPU...
     
  13. holbob

    holbob Member

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    I recently moved my gaming pc from an antec p183 to a Silverstone gd07. It is quiet even when gaming has plenty of airflow. It is hard to recommend parts without a budget. I went for a be quiet gold psu and the biggest noctua cooler that would fit, but obviously these are not cheap. I also have a msi twin frozr gpu which is easy to keep cool.
     
  14. davefelcher

    davefelcher New Member

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    His budget is under £700.
    "Something south of £700 would be great, the lower the better."
     
  15. TSDAdam

    TSDAdam Beard!

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    To be fair, in my first post I did say "unknown" at the top with regards to budget, but yeah, I don't want to pay silly money for something that's effectively a games console replacement.

    It's funny, the first thing that really put it in mind at all was all the discussion that came off the back of the announcements of the Xbox One and PS4.

    "Why would you bother, just have a PC in the living room" or "Just get/build a SteamBox instead". The truth seems to be that if you want the convenience of what you get in a console package (media streaming, good graphics performance, blu-ray playback, quiet), you've got to spend a lot. Obviously a one-off is always going to cost more than something made by the million, but still...

    I've still got a lot of researching to do, I know, but it seems like a shame, I love the idea of something receiver-looking that does all of that :)
     
  16. jinq-sea

    jinq-sea 'write that down in your copy book' Super Moderator

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    For me, it's all about the tinkering aspect as much as the usability of it - as you say - it's lovely to get something built that's receiver-like.

    In fact - Antec did a Veris range of cases (which I think are still current) that accommodate full height gubbins and have the capacity for 120mm cooling fans, volume knobs on the front, VFD displays and all of that associated stuff. If you're not in a huge rush and don't mind buying some bits used, you can probably come in well under budget :)
     
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  17. boiled_elephant

    boiled_elephant Merom Celeron 4 lyfe

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    The difficulty is that when we try to compare gaming PCs to current generation consoles, we don't actually make that comparison at all.

    The 360 actually outputs 720p HD, not 1080p, and its graphical quality in most games is equivalent to the same games on PC with all of the in-game settings turned down to low and no antialiasing, anisotropic filtering, HBAO or other such luxuries.

    If you were to actually aim for the target of PS3 graphics, you'd just have to buy an HD 7750 and underclock it, then turn the graphical settings down in all your games. This would run fine without making much noise, but it would jump about between 30 and 50 fps and look substantially worse graphically, like the PS3 and 360 do.

    When it's a console, you don't notice it, because the simplicity and non-interactivity of having it just work means that you relax and don't scrutinize it as closely. But PCs have spoilt us, and we now expect full settings, full 1080p, 60fps and 4xAA/16xAF from anything we build ourselves. This has set an impossible standard when you downscale the form factor to HTPC. Nothing is going to do those whilst sounding as quiet as a PS3 or 360 or a full-ATX desktop: those machines manage it by having worse graphics or larger airflow accomodations, respectively.

    An HTPC is going to be 2007-era in gaming performance (L4D2 and the like will be great; BF3 and GTA4 will be complete dogs) or it's going to be very whiny and loud during gameplay. You can of course set up a custom fan profile in MSI Afterburner so that it's whisper-quiet when you're not playing games; that's the best you can do.
     
  18. holbob

    holbob Member

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    With the right cooling and case, you can have both. I have. But it costs.
     

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