Help a noob plan their first HTPC!

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magpieswarble Offline
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Tongue  Help a noob plan their first HTPC!
Post: #1
Hey guys -- new to the Forums here and I've been collecting as much information as I can before finally breaking down and posting. I made a post in one of the sticky threads but, reading through it, I got the gist that newbies were encouraged to just create their own threads.

Anywho, I feel like my head's going to explode from all the options for my first HTPC. One minute I've decided on getting a pre-built and the next I'm considering building my own. Ideally, I'd like to find a pre-built HTPC that is pretty much good to go (willing, of course to buy RAM/Hard Drive separately if it's barebones.) However, if building my own HTPC is easy (I've built a few custom desktop computers several years ago) and a great way to save money, I'd consider that too.

Let me paint you a picture of what I want from my ideal media center and you guys could perhaps let me know what would work best for me or if I'm not even making sense. By the way, I've checked the 'What group am I?' thread and I'm Group 5, I would say. Also trying to keep the budget around the $300 range if possible. Here are things I'd like to do with my HTPC setup:
  • Connect to my TV via HDMI (duh)
  • Load XBMC on it (Live? or Windows 7? I'm undecided.)
  • Hook up my 1 TB External Hard Drive via eSATA (since I already own it.) This would store my downloaded TV shows and Movies
  • Stream Netflix HD with no stuttering at all
  • Stream Hulu (highest quality) with no stuttering
  • Install sabnzbd, Sickbeard, and Couchpotato on it so I can manage all my usenet downloading/sorting right off the HTPC
  • Be able to put NES/SNES/n64 emulators on there and play with perfect performance
  • Blu-ray drive just for watching blu-ray movies occasionally? Low priority but would be a nice bonus.

Let me put this out there too: I'm not a pack rat when it comes to downloading and storing TV shows and Movies. Typically, I'll download a recent TV show episode/season, watch it, and then delete it. Also, I'll download a movie I want to watch and then delete it when I'm done. That's not to say I don't want a good chunk of storage just in case. But, I'm not wanting to build a NAS with like 4 Terabyte drives in it. Trying to keep things on a smaller budget here.

Also not worried about doing Wi-Fi. Definitely going to hook the device up directly to my router via ethernet.

So, is it realistic to find an HTPC that does all of that for a reasonable price? I'm looking forward to hearing everyone's thoughts and feedback. Go easy on me, I'm new to this whole thing!
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eskro Offline
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Post: #2
well if you have read the HTPC guide in the forum stickies,
you should know what to buy...
prices are even listed....
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bluray Offline
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Post: #3
@magpieswarble-

This should work.....

1. MI-008 Tower Black P4 Chassis with 250W
2. ASRock Socket FM1/AMD A75M-ITX
3. AMD A6-3650 APU with AMD Radeon 6530 HD
4. Patriot Memory Torqx 2 Series 32 GB
5. Kingston ValueRAM 4GB 1066MHz DDR3
6. ilenX EFX-12-15 Effizio Silent 120mm Case Fan

>Alienware X51- do it all HTPC
>Simplify XBMC configurations
>HOW-TO Bitstreaming using XBMC
I refused to watch movie without bitstreaming HD audio!
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Kirky99 Offline
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Post: #4
Netflix = Windows 7 so make sure you add that into your budget. Nothing else special in those requirements that needs anything special, the above suggests are a great start.
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magpieswarble Offline
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Post: #5
Thanks for the replies so far, guys. Really helpful!

I have a question about running XBMC on Windows 7 instead of booting into XBMC Live. I've heard that Netflix HD only works, or only works well, when doing XBMC in Windows 7 rather than XBMC Live. Why is that?

Secondly, I've heard that XBMC Live is extremely quick and boots up in a snap. That quickness is attractive to me as I don't want navigating XBMC to be sluggish and I've heard that's sometimes the case when running XBMC in Windows 7. However, with the right build, I suppose the power of your HTPC can run XBMC in Windows 7 just fine? Any thoughts on that?

Also, considering my not-tech-savvy wife, I'd kind of like something that's very pick up and easy to use with short boot times. Hmm, but I suppose boot times won't matter since I'll be leaving the HTPC on 24/7 so it can download shows off of Usenet and categorize using SickBeard/Sabnzbd as they become available. Which leads me to my next question..

Say I'm watching a 1080p movie stored on my eSata connected external hard drive and SickBeard starts downloading a show in the background as soon as it becomes available, can anyone speak to whether or not the movie I'm watching will start stuttering? I guess I just want to make sure whatever HTPC option I go with, I can download movies/shows while watching movies/shows as they become available. Is that realistic to expect?

bluray, I like the look of that build you posted. Comparing that build to this HTPC that I keep coming back to (Zotac Zbox ID41-U)
, do you think this pre-built HTPC would hold up and do all the things I'd like it do (as listed in my original post?) I'd probably throw in the internal SATA drive and Ram you listed in your build.

Anyway, thanks for entertaining my long-winded posts. I'm learning a lot from you guys. I really appreciate it.
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bluray Offline
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Post: #6
(2012-03-24 20:21)magpieswarble Wrote:  Thanks for the replies so far, guys. Really helpful!

I have a question about running XBMC on Windows 7 instead of booting into XBMC Live. I've heard that Netflix HD only works, or only works well, when doing XBMC in Windows 7 rather than XBMC Live. Why is that?
You'll enjoy Netflix HD on W7 than anything else...it have a lot to do with this- Get Silverlight 5.

(2012-03-24 20:21)magpieswarble Wrote:  Secondly, I've heard that XBMC Live is extremely quick and boots up in a snap. That quickness is attractive to me as I don't want navigating XBMC to be sluggish and I've heard that's sometimes the case when running XBMC in Windows 7. However, with the right build, I suppose the power of your HTPC can run XBMC in Windows 7 just fine? Any thoughts on that?
With SSD and proper configuration for HTPC, XBMC+W7 is very quick during boot up and UI is pretty quick too....

(2012-03-24 20:21)magpieswarble Wrote:  Say I'm watching a 1080p movie stored on my eSata connected external hard drive and SickBeard starts downloading a show in the background as soon as it becomes available, can anyone speak to whether or not the movie I'm watching will start stuttering? I guess I just want to make sure whatever HTPC option I go with, I can download movies/shows while watching movies/shows as they become available. Is that realistic to expect?
I do multi-task (ripping BD while watching movie in full 1080P and bitstreaming DTS-HD/TrueHD) with lesser CPU than A6-3650, and it can handles fine...

(2012-03-24 20:21)magpieswarble Wrote:  bluray, I like the look of that build you posted. Comparing that build to this HTPC that I keep coming back to (Zotac Zbox ID41-U)
, do you think this pre-built HTPC would hold up and do all the things I'd like it do (as listed in my original post?) I'd probably throw in the internal SATA drive and Ram you listed in your build.
It's entirely different animal... The Zotac with Atom cannot be compared to a more powerful quad-core A6-3650 APU.....

>Alienware X51- do it all HTPC
>Simplify XBMC configurations
>HOW-TO Bitstreaming using XBMC
I refused to watch movie without bitstreaming HD audio!
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BLKMGK Offline
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Post: #7
The trip up here is the desire to use NetFlix (and possibly Hulu) which will require Win7 or perhaps Vista due to DRM. An option would be to run something like OnPlay on a desktop somewhere and stream Netflix via that to a Linux XBMC. The BluRay playback will also require Windows since the DRM will block you on Linux - it's a constant game of cat and mouse. In my case I simply rip whatever BD I want on a Windows machine, process it, then watch it but this is anything but quick.

Serious CPU power isn't needed simply to watch movies and play emulated games. the content you want to watch seems to be what's going to drive your purchase decisions. If you had another device that was NetFlix\Hulu capable then I'd go Linux for sure on something low powered...

Openelec Gotham, MCE remote(s), Intel i3 NUC, DVDs fed from unRAID cataloged by DVD Profiler. HD-DVD encoded with Handbrake to x.264. Yamaha receiver(s)
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magpieswarble Offline
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Post: #8
Awesome replies blu-ray and BLKMGK. That really helps me out.

In response to your comment, BLKMGK, I don't have another device (and would prefer not to spend money on another device) that can handle the Netflix & Hulu part of the equation separately from this HTPC solution. My ultimate goal is to have everything all in one place.

It looks like I'm going to go with blu-ray's build. Anyone have a nice guide for putting the HTPC together once all the parts arrive or is it pretty self explanatory if I've built a PC desktop before?
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magpieswarble Offline
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Post: #9
Sorry, another question with this motherboard you recommended blu-ray.

Does this have something built in for receiving IR/Bluetooth signal? I'm just wondering if I need a separate accessory to have a wireless mouse/keyboard or media center remote? Thanks!
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bluray Offline
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Post: #10
(2012-03-24 23:41)magpieswarble Wrote:  Sorry, another question with this motherboard you recommended blu-ray.

Does this have something built in for receiving IR/Bluetooth signal? I'm just wondering if I need a separate accessory to have a wireless mouse/keyboard or media center remote? Thanks!
Yes, you can.....

HP TouchPad Wireless Keyboard + Medialink USB Bluetooth Adapter

or this fancy MCE remote/Keyboard combo....Logitech diNovo Mini

>Alienware X51- do it all HTPC
>Simplify XBMC configurations
>HOW-TO Bitstreaming using XBMC
I refused to watch movie without bitstreaming HD audio!
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magpieswarble Offline
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Post: #11
Thanks bluray! I'll probably be buying all the parts sometime soon and I'll be sure to post some follow-up pics and impressions once everything's set up.

Thanks to everyone for their help. I really appreciate it.
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bluray Offline
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Post: #12
(2012-03-25 01:05)magpieswarble Wrote:  Thanks bluray! I'll probably be buying all the parts sometime soon and I'll be sure to post some follow-up pics and impressions once everything's set up.

Thanks to everyone for their help. I really appreciate it.
No problem, and good luck!

>Alienware X51- do it all HTPC
>Simplify XBMC configurations
>HOW-TO Bitstreaming using XBMC
I refused to watch movie without bitstreaming HD audio!
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magpieswarble Offline
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Post: #13
Quick question, is this the right Sata cable I need to hook up that 32GB internal sata drive when building my HTPC?

Here
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eskro Offline
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Post: #14
check ideas for keyboards and remotes in my HTPC guide.
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magpieswarble Offline
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Post: #15
Thanks Eskro. I'll definitely look into that.

Could you comment on the Sata cable I posted above? I'm not sure what extra cables I'll need while building this system.
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