Poofyhairguy's HTPC Recommendation Thread

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poofyhairguy Offline
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Post: #1
[HTPC's]

Many people are looking for recommendation of what to buy in a HTPC- no one wants to waste money. For that look here:

[url=http://forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?tid=94199
http://forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?tid...?tid=94199
[/url]

Everything on that thread has been worked over by eskro and myself and we (mostly him) have done our best to present good options for our fellow XBMCers.

The following is advice about deeper issues with HTPCs: why or not to get a SSD, and how to have storage capacity for your new HTPC.


[SSD's]

First of all I often advise people to use SSDs as their OS drive because they cut boot times, heat, and they make the interface snappier in some cases due to faster access to fanart and the database if you host them on the client. Any SSD 8GB and larger will work for XBMC Live and any 30GB model will work for Windows 7. Intel is the best brand overall.

[BASIC HDD ADVICE]

As far as hard drives go, I think any hard drive less than 2TB is a waste. When you figure out the slot costs and compare that to the small price difference between 1, 1.5 and 2TB drives it is obvious that 2TB drives the only value worth pursuing. High Def data takes up a LOT of space, even single 2TB drives are nothing.

Never buy more than one of the same HD from a vendor at one time!!! If you do you might be buying part of the same batch and if its a faulty batch no RAID in the world can help you. Mix and match drives vendors when building an array to pull from many separate batches.


[ON HTPCS + NASES]

In the issue of local storage vs a NAS, I ALWAYS think a NAS-type device is better. HTPCs + NAS combo machines are a cheaper option at first, but the combined heat of 1080p playing GPUs and the working HDs means that either the box will be loud with fans, or you will be killing hard drives (unless they are all WD Greens). Benefits of pure NASes include being able to use NAS specific OSes with special features (more on that later), the ability to easily have multiple clients, and the ability for your NAS to do other things for you in some cases.

If you must put storage space inside your HTPC, the only drives I recommend are WD Green drives. They are the only drives on the market that stay cool enough that I feel safe recommending them in HTPCs. WD Green drives (and all 2TB Green drives on the market) are fast enough to host full 3D Blu Ray 1080p rips, so save your power by going green. Try to limit it to about three or so though.

[NAS's]

Which brings me to NASes. There are two paths on this: build or buy. Buying gives you an easier path with more support and possible power savings, building gives you more customization and lower per slot costs. If you are gonna buy, here are my recommendations:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.as...6822107034
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.as...-_-Product

As far as building a NAS goes there are many different methods. Many people use older hardware they have laying around, some build from scratch. The four most common custom NAS OS options are Linux software RAID 5/6 (Ubuntu), FreeNAS (ZFS), Windows Home Server, and Unraid. The latter two are pay for software, the first two are free. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. If you want to learn more about these different options in detail read this thread.

[unRAID]

My favorite option, and the only one I use, is Unraid. You have to pay money for this software, but I think its very much worth it because its the only NAS software on the market which is pretty much designed for mediaservers. I don't have any affiliation with Limetech, but their software Unraid is strongly supported by some in the XBMC community because it has high compatibility with all OSes and all types of media.

Advantages of Unraid
-Allows you to mix and match drives of different sizes and makes into a single "User Share" of pooled storage (one big folder across drives)
-Allows you to pull the drives of the array out and read the data on them on another computer
-Allows drives to spin down if they are not being accessed, saving power and possible prolonging their life
-Unraid allows for the growing of the array in size by replacing one drive at a time with full use of that drive after addition and no data loss
-Unraid is easy to install, runs off a pen drive to save sata ports for data, and is configured by and easy to use web interface

Downsides:
-Unraid costs money for real versions
-Unraid's write speeds are pretty low without a cache drive
-Unraid's read speeds are slightly lower than the drives by themselves, but still more than fast enough for media
-Unraid is a dedicated NAS OS, meaning that it can't easily do other server stuff for you

In the end Unraid gives you a media server that is grown periodically as storage is needed, one cheapest disk available at a time, yet it can easily stream mutliple HD movies to multiple (I have tested up to 5) clients on your network. Here is a recommended Unraid build:

http://forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?tid...ght=unraid

As far as what hard drives to buy, I have tried almost all consumer 2TB drives and here is my order of preference. All can handle full 1080p files:

1. Hitachi 5950RPM HDs - Excellent drives. Cheap. Buy them.
2. Seagate 7200RPM HDs - super fast but expensive, I have this as a parity drive. Also would be a good cache drive.
3. Hitachi 7200RPM HDs - cheaper than Seagate but nearly as fast, they run hotter than green drives though so use them for something other than media storage.
4. Western Digital Green HDs - NOT for RAID or ZFS, but great for Unraid as they are fast enough and they are the coolest drives. Best for media storage.
5. Seagate 5900 RPM drives- if you are willing to make sure the one you buy has new firmware they are great

Not recommended drives:

1. Samsung drives (especially F4s) - they have data loss issues and updates that you can't confirm

[EXTERNAL HDD's]

Please note that USB2 lacks the speeds needed
for playing Full unCompressed 1080P movies!!

As long as the 1080P movie is 15GB's or less, it should play fine from USB2. I like WDs the most because WD Greens are inside them often and those are great drives.
(This post was last modified: 2011-10-01 12:02 by poofyhairguy.)
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ion_man Offline
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Post: #2
Good summary, I agree with it. with regards to ION/ION2, the Linuxtech.net overview is very helpful to choose among the large choice of devices:
http://www.linuxtech.net/features/nvidia...rview.html
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bmcclure937 Offline
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Post: #3
Wooooo!! Big Grin

Poofy is back! Nod Glad to see you pal. To be honest, I was worried to not see you post for so long.

Don't scare us like that Shocked
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eskro Offline
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Post: #4
bmcclure937 Wrote:Glad to see you pal. To be honest, I was worried to not see you post for so long.

Poofy is back Shocked
Yay!! I was afraid too since his last post was on 2011-01-22!!
Glad to see you here Captain!
Rolleyes
(This post was last modified: 2011-02-15 17:52 by eskro.)
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Beer40oz Offline
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Big Grin   
Post: #5
I am so happy! I thought something happened to you. Glad you are back. Laugh
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poofyhairguy Offline
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Post: #6
Thanks for the kind words everyone. I plan to add to this thread, so if there is something missing please let me know.

Mini/Micro ITX Frontend (with SSD) + Mediaserver/NAS + Logitech Harmony + LCD/LED/Plasma TV + Nice AV Receiver + XBMC + USENET + sabnzbd + sickbeard +couchpotato

My Setup--HTPC Building Guide- Start Here--Advice on Hard Drives and SSDs--Mediaserver Guide--Harmony Guide
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eskro Offline
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Post: #7
poofyhairguy Wrote:if there is something missing please let me know.

(A). in GROUP 2, when u wrote,
Best Served By:
-ION1/ION2 (Linux/Windows 7)

does that includes Nettops such as ZOTACs /REVOs/ SHUTTLEs ??

(B). Also, what about the ATV1 & ATV2 ??

Smile
(This post was last modified: 2011-02-15 23:32 by eskro.)
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poofyhairguy Offline
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Post: #8
eskro Wrote:(A). in GROUP 2, when u wrote,
Best Served By:
-ION1/ION2 (Linux/Windows 7)

does that includes Nettops such as ZOTACs /REVOs/ SHUTTLEs ??

Yep. Every ION based Nettop can play 1080p, even single core models (in Linux).

Quote:(B). Also, what about the ATV1 & ATV2 ??

Smile

I plan to add them as a special case.

ATV1's only real use is for those who have component HD TVs. I can say from experience that the lack of robust decoding for Broadcoms combined with the low amount of RAM makes any ION system better than any ATV1.

ATV2's have interesting limitations (720p output) and the require network storage. Their addition to the XBMC community is a big deal, but they certainly go in a class below ION systems.

Mini/Micro ITX Frontend (with SSD) + Mediaserver/NAS + Logitech Harmony + LCD/LED/Plasma TV + Nice AV Receiver + XBMC + USENET + sabnzbd + sickbeard +couchpotato

My Setup--HTPC Building Guide- Start Here--Advice on Hard Drives and SSDs--Mediaserver Guide--Harmony Guide
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eskro Offline
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Post: #9
roger that!
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poofyhairguy Offline
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Post: #10
Added my Love and Hate List

Mini/Micro ITX Frontend (with SSD) + Mediaserver/NAS + Logitech Harmony + LCD/LED/Plasma TV + Nice AV Receiver + XBMC + USENET + sabnzbd + sickbeard +couchpotato

My Setup--HTPC Building Guide- Start Here--Advice on Hard Drives and SSDs--Mediaserver Guide--Harmony Guide
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Superorb Offline
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Post: #11
Subscribed, great info here Smile
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Knighthammer Offline
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Post: #12
Here is a motherboard that I'm eagerly waiting to see how well it will do - http://www.gigabyte.com/products/product...id=3681#ov One of the new AMD Fusion boards. I want to build a G2 type setup and I was thinking that this new board would be idea (if not a bit overkill). Thoughts?
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poofyhairguy Offline
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Post: #13
Another big update. Added tones of Newegg links, two sub-groups (with AppleTVs) and some refining. If anyone thinks I am off on anything (or I am missing a key point) please challenge me on it so this can be a good resource for people.

Mini/Micro ITX Frontend (with SSD) + Mediaserver/NAS + Logitech Harmony + LCD/LED/Plasma TV + Nice AV Receiver + XBMC + USENET + sabnzbd + sickbeard +couchpotato

My Setup--HTPC Building Guide- Start Here--Advice on Hard Drives and SSDs--Mediaserver Guide--Harmony Guide
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spartan711 Offline
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Post: #14
What about AMD Zacate platform? One board solution.
Asrock e350- 110+shipping
Cheap Mini-itx case w/psu - 50
2 GB RAM - 20

Nice front end that bitstreams hd audio for under 200 bucks. Assuming of course, you have windows.
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xecutionx Offline
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Post: #15
Great thread. One question though: what's wrong with Samsung HDDs?
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