HTPC

Home Theatre Personal Computer

The parts list at the bottom of the page is the result of hours of online research. I knew how I wanted to use the HTPC; the goal was to find the parts that would best suit my requirements and not cost a fortune. At the time of purchase, I paid around $900 for the items listed below, extended warranties on a few of the items and shipping.

I am exceptionally happy with the completed computer.


Tour of the Case
HTPC

I specifically looked for a case of this design.It's simple and has all the features that you could possibly want. There are other models with "doors" that hide the DVD drive, but in reading the reviews I found that there were issues with alignment & functionality more often than not.

The power and reset buttons are slightly recessed, so there is no worry about them getting accidentally pushed or damaged. There are two USB ports, one audio and one microphone.


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The case top secures at the back with 3 screws and easily slides forward to be removed. It takes a full size ATX power supply and can handle 4 expansion cards up to 11" in length. Note the black "cage" above the various ports; drilled at the corners for fan screws, it provides the option of installing up to two additional fans, or can be used as simple ventilation.

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The case comes with 3 120mm case fans. I never used them, opting for Scythe Gentle Typhoon fans instead. The placement is perfect - these two fans are in alignment with the CPU and memory. As you can see, they cover most of the case. I have these two blowing in for cooling.

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This is another Scythe Gentle Typhoon fan. This one is being used to exhaust.

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They really did a great job of laying out this case. In addition to the 120mm fans and the possibility for additional optional fans at the rear, they have thoughtfully placed venting, such as in the top cover above the expansion card slots.

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I've never built anything other than a fullsize desktop and have never needed to be all that concerned about cable management beyond making sure there was good air flow. With this smaller case, I was looking at air flow and component installation & accessability.

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Laying out the cables, trying to figure out what is going where...

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I'm happy with my choice of power supply, but didn't correctly understand how they work. I'm assuming that this HTPC will be running most of the time, so power consumption is a consideration. I chose a 550 watt power supply (PSU) thinking that it would be a reasonable compromise. That should be more than enough to power everything and not cost a fortune in electricity bills.

That's true, but here's the thing: they don't don't run at their rating all the time, as I thought. In this case, (and I hope that I'm not wording this badly), the PSU can provide up to 550 watts of power if needed, but may only be putting out 200 or 300 if the system isn't especially busy recording TV, watching movies, etc.

The smallest modular PSU that I could find with good ratings was 750 watts. If I knew how they worked before I purchased, I would definitely have bought the modular. I figured it out in the end, but there was a lot of cabling that I had to organize and clean up that I'll never use in this system...

I just wrapped them up and zip-tied them down to the tie-down loops provided all over the case floor.


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The optical drive (DVD) will go in this over the CPU. Note how the two fans blow right across the CPU and memory. (The memory is the two sticks with the red heatsinks in the black banks near the CPU.)

I've got the cabling in this area bundled up and organized as best I can. The fan wires are running under the fans, then are bundled in their power source from the PSU and tie-wrapped down the loops on the case floor.


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This is showing the optical drive installed, with it's data and power cables connected.

I'm not great with the camera, as you're already seen: the huge bundle of unnecessary PSU cables at the lower left corner in front of the fan are actually nicely bundled and tied down the loops in the case floor, along with the wiring from the various front panel connectors, (USB, power & reset, LED, etc.)


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I used some spiral wrap stuff for cable management that I had laying around. Each of the PSU cables has a bunch of different connectors, so I had to deal with the extras that I didn't need.

The case top slides along and sits on the middle support bar that runs front-to-back of the case. There are rubber nubs to help prevent metal on metal noise, and they stand up just far enough that I could use small tie-wraps and not interfere with the case going on or off.

The two PSU cables that you see here are going to provide power to the optical drive, and the other along the back of the case and down to the motherboard for the CPU power.


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Using the spiral wrap and tie-wraps to the center support bars allowed me to get these cables our of the way, and more importantly, up above the fans so that they won't disrupt the air flow.

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This is the case with almost everything assembled and the top ready to go on.

There is one 750GB harddrive installed now, on which I've installed Windows 7 Ultimate. That drive will be for the OS, TV recordings and my music & pictures. I have a 1TB drive now for movies that's currently in use in another system. I'm thinking about a 2TB Western Digital "green" drive to use instead, but time will tell on that.

Note the yellow "washers" on the left bay. 4 on top at the rear, and there are 4 on the sides where the harddrive is now installed. These are for sound damping and seem to be doing the job nicely.


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I didn't use the Zalman cooler that I bought. I noticed in the booklet that came with the AMD CPU that they wrote in 3 or 4 different places that you were on your own if the CPU failed while you were using another cooler. I looked at this stock one and it seems to be more than adaquate for the job and decided to go ahead and use this, at least until the warranty has expired. Then - if it actually FITS - I may swap it out for the Zalman.

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This is what my MSI 890GXM-G65 motherboard provides for ports. As you would expect, the opening in the back of any case is of a standard size. The motherboard comes with the backplate for whatever ports the motherboard is built to provide.

This one really has all that you could want for an HTPC, including HDMI and eSATA.

I included the PVR card in this picture so that you could get an idea of the options. Note that the upper two coax connectors are for Analog and Digital TV. I don't have a set-top box for TV, so I use the Analog connection. This card also has the same connectors as the Hauppauge PVR-350, which I used in another computer to convert our old VHS tapes to digital. I don't need that functionality anymore, but it's nice to have the option. (As an option, I bought a cable from Cables-To-Go that had RCA on one end for the VCR and SVIDEO-Audio on the other for the PVR-350.)


Notes and Parts List

- OS: Windows 8.1 Pro 64 bit. I recently bought a laptop with Windows 7 and took advantage of the $14.99 upgrade offer to Windows 8, due to be released to the general public on October 24th. I may or may not install it, but for that price I thought that it would be worth at least having available if I ever DO want to check it out.

- CPU Cooler: I bought the Zalman cooler, (and thermal paste for it), but haven't used it due to CPU warranty concerns. Once the warranty expires, I may swap it in.

- Case Fans: The scythe case fans are fantastic, but since I never tried the included case fans, I wonder if they would have been any good or not. Maybe I could have saved around $50 and just used the stock fans.

- PSU: A modular power supply would have made my cable-management life easier. With a modular PSU, you only plug in the power cables that you actually need, instead of using only some of the ones on a regular PSU and having to deal with the extras.

- Cables: HDMI. Don't let Best Buy (or whoever) talk you into spending $50 on a 3-foot HDMI cable! See my link under Amazon; 10ft category 2 cables from a respected source for $11 each! (If you need shorter or longer, the price is just as reasonable.) NETWORK. Wireless has it's place, but nobody will ever convince me that it's suitable for home theatre (or VPN) use. I just don't think that wireless is fast enough or stable enough. I normally make my own cables from standard tan, but wanted all the home theatre equipment to use a distinctive color. I bought the blue CAT 5e cables to make identification easier. (Be careful of the difference; you don't want plain CAT 5 - look for the CAT 5e.)

- Overclocking: Although this motherboard and associated hardware is apparently able to be easily overclocked, I'm holding off on that. The system is scoring in the 7's on the Windows 7 User Experience rating with things at the defaults - and it feels really snappy. (More so than my 2 year old Alienware!) I don't see the point right now in messing with success.

Additional Systems

- Blu-Ray, Internal and Movie Playback: I installed a Plextor PX-LB950SA for the computer's internal drive, which will burn any disk type and can be handy for rips, including Blu-Ray. I also bought a PS3 primarily for Blu-Ray playback, but we've been having some fun lately with Gran Turismo 5 and a couple others.

- Audio: Yamaha YHT-693BL 5.1 Channel 525 Watt HTiB System. I thought about their 7.1 system, but my TV room isn't large and I think that it would be wasted.

- TV: Samsung LN46C650 LCD. 3D doesn't interest me at all, but next time I would probably choose LED, unless something better has come along by then.


- Newegg -

Case:
SILVERSTONE Black Aluminum / 0.8mm SECC GD05B micro-ATX / Mini-DTX / Mini-ITX MB, 1x5.25", 2x3.5"+1x2.5"HDD or 1x3.5"+2x2.5"HDD, 3x120mm golf bladed fan, 11" expansion card capable HTPC Case
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811163166

Case Fans (3) - (Upgrade of stock fans):
Scythe GentleTyphoon D1225C12B3AP-13 120mm Case Fan
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835185090&cm_re=120mm_Scythe-_-35-185-090-_-Product

Motherboard:
MSI 890GXM-G65 AM3 AMD 890GX HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813130269&cm_re=msi_890gxm-g65-_-13-130-269-_-Product

CPU:
AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition Deneb 3.2GHz 4 x 512KB L2 Cache 6MB L3 Cache Socket AM3 125W Quad-Core Processor
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819103674

CPU Cooler - (Bought, did not use.)
ZALMAN CNPS7000C-AlCu 2 Ball CPU Cooler
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835118048

Memory:
G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL9D-8GBXL
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231426

Power Supply (This one is not modular):
CORSAIR CMPSU-550VX 550W ATX12V V2.2 SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Compatible with Core i7 Power Supply
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139004

CD/DVD/BD Burner:
PLEXTOR Black 12X BD-R 2X BD-RE 16X DVD+R 12X DVD-RAM 8X BD-ROM 8MB Cache SATA 12X Blu-ray Writer PX-LB950SA LightScribe Support
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827249079&Tpk=Plextor%20PX-LB950SA

PVR:
Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 1850 (updated version of 1800) MCE Kit 1128 PCI-Express x1 Interface
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815116015&cm_re=WinTV-HVR-1850-_-15-116-015-_-Product

Thermal Grease - (Bought, did not need)
Scythe SCYTE-1000 "Thermal Elixer" Thermal Grease
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835185128&Tpk=scythe%20thermal

CAT5e 25ft Network Cable:
Blue: TRIPP LITE N002-025-BL 25 ft. Cat 5E Blue Cat5e 350MHz Blue Patch Cable
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16812120112&cm_re=cat5e_25ft-_-12-120-112-_-Product

- Amazon -

Category 2 HDMI Cables (4) – Amazon:
Mediabridge Ultra Series - 10ft High Speed HDMI Cable - Category 2 Certified - Supports 3D - Audio Return Channel-4Kx2K-1440p-1080p-Blu-Ray-PS3-XBox 360
http://www.amazon.com/Mediabridge-Ultra-Category-Certified-Supports/dp/B0019HL8Q8/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1276366956&sr=1-7