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Best components for upgrading HTPC?

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deshg

New Member
Joined
Sep 4, 2011
Hey everyone,

I am about to upgrade my HTPC which i've had for 4 or 5 years so it's not exactly super speedy (although pretty good) but mostly the cpu fan is incredibly loud. It's in an Antec NSK2480 case which I quite like so was thinking about just upgrading the motherboard/cpu/ram. Currently I have an abit fatality F-190HD with a Intel Core 2 Duo 6320 @ 1.86ghz processor (with standard fan). I'm currently running Media Center on Vista with an extender which I like and was going to upgrade to Win 7 MCE which looks much better.

I was thinking about a Asus P8Z68-M Pro Intel Z68 (http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/specpage.html?ASU-Z68MP) or an Asus P8P67-M PRO Intel P67 (http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/specpage.html?ASU-P67MPB) with an i3 processor. These motherboards have hdmi on board so one question is will this be okay for HD output for blueray or downloaded HD content with an i3 or do I really need a separate graphics card? Additionally one of the main things I want is a quiet HTPC so was looking at the following coolers, i think the Scythe may be best as i'm worried the others won't fit in my case:

Zalman CNPS10X QUIET CPU Cooler (http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/prods/components/cooling/cpucoolers/zalman/cnps10xquiet.html)
Zalman CNPS5X Quiet Compact Tower CPU Cooler (http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/prods/components/cooling/cpucoolers/zalman/8809213762109.html)
Coolermaster Hyper 212 Plus CPU Cooler (http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/...g/cpucoolers/coolermaster/rr-b10-212p-gp.html)
Scythe Shuriken Rev.B Quiet Low Profile CPU Cooler (http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/prods/components/cooling/cpucoolers/scythe/scsk-1100.html)

I was then thinking of getting 2 x 3TB of the WD Green SCSI drives (http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=HD-376-WD&tool=3) and use the RAID controller on the motherboard to mirror them so if either fail then i can just switch to the other and get a replacement. Sorry for the ridiculously long post but my questions are:

1) Does the mobo/cpu combo sound like a sensible choice and will the onboard HDMI suffice?
2) What do you think of the coolers i mentioned or are there any others i should consider given noise is the main factor?
3) Are there any better 3TB (or possibly 2TB) drives in terms of reliability, noise and cost (as this is all more expensive than i can really afford anyway!)
4) Are there any particularly good 3 or 4 bay NAS enclosures that i could use instead, as i quite like the idea of a NAS but if it's going to be much more expensive i might as well just have 2 big drives in my pc.
5) Are there any other general suggestions in terms of setup that you have?
6) I have a NOVA-T500 pcie dual tuner card i'm using now which i intend to move into my new system. I'd ideally like 4 tuners for freeview so was going to get another dual card/usb (would prefer internal if possible). Ideally i'd also like to pick up Freeview HD. Do you have any recommendations as to a good additional tuner card to get?

Thanks so much for your help guys, sorry for the crazily long post!!

Dave
 

Knufire

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 17, 2010
Location
Manassas, VA
It doesn't look like Novatech has the i3-2105, which has the Intel HD 3000 graphics over the HD2000 (all SB's other then the 2500K, 2600K, and the 2015 have 2000). In that case, I think you're better off going with this:

A8-3850 APU: http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/...rs/amda6/a8seriesfm1socket/AD3850WNGXBOX.html
FM1 Motherboard: http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/...mdfm1allchipsetmotherboards/asus/f1a75-m.html

This chip is AMD's new APU, where it's a GPU and a CPU combined on one chip.

I doubt you'll fit a tower cooler in that case. You need a top-down cooler like this: http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/prods/components/cooling/cpucoolers/scythe/scbsk-1000.html
 
OP
D

deshg

New Member
Joined
Sep 4, 2011
It doesn't look like Novatech has the i3-2105, which has the Intel HD 3000 graphics over the HD2000 (all SB's other then the 2500K, 2600K, and the 2015 have 2000). In that case, I think you're better off going with this:

A8-3850 APU: http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/...rs/amda6/a8seriesfm1socket/AD3850WNGXBOX.html
FM1 Motherboard: http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/...mdfm1allchipsetmotherboards/asus/f1a75-m.html

This chip is AMD's new APU, where it's a GPU and a CPU combined on one chip.

I doubt you'll fit a tower cooler in that case. You need a top-down cooler like this: http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/prods/components/cooling/cpucoolers/scythe/scbsk-1000.html

Wow thanks very much for all your help, that does sound like a great idea :) Would you say the i3-2105 is better than the A8-3850 if i can get my hands on one one as i'm using this exclusively as an htpc so presumably 4 cores isn't going to help me a lot (or does windows 7 mce or the graphics processing support quad cores)? Or would you say they're similar? That cooler looks ideal as well :) I was intending to get 8GB RAM, i was thinking of this G Skill (http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/...10666/1333mhz/G.Skill/F3-10666CL9D-8GBRL.html) or corsair (http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/.../ddr3-pc3-12800/1600mhz/CML8GX3M2A1600C9.html), or would you advise an alternative?

Thank you so much for your help, it really is massively appreciated!

Dave
 

Knufire

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 17, 2010
Location
Manassas, VA
The A8 is probably better in every regard, might be a little overkill. But for the same price as the 2105, why not?

Why do you need 8GB of RAM in a HTPC?
 
OP
D

deshg

New Member
Joined
Sep 4, 2011
The A8 is probably better in every regard, might be a little overkill. But for the same price as the 2105, why not?

Why do you need 8GB of RAM in a HTPC?

That makes sense, if it's better than the i3 then definitely why not as you say! To be fair I don't need 8gb of ram but it's not that much more than 4gb these days and given what else i'm getting i thought i may as well as RAM always seem to make things noticeably faster, or do you not think there's any need? While we're at it what's your thoughts on a SSD for the OS or do you think that's overkill (i was just going to have 2 x 3tb drives with one os partition and the rest a media partion and use mirroring via the onboard RAID 1 to back it up, but SSD is the other option and just use the SATAs for media). Do you think this will make much difference?

Thank you so, so much for your advice, this is really is extremely helpful.

Dave
 

Cigarsmoker

Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2011
Location
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
I built a HTPC for a buddy a couple of months ago. It was based on SB 2100 (HD 2000 graphics). It ran 1080p (mkv) and Blu-Ray just fine. This was before Llano was released. If I was building the same system now I'd go with what Knufire suggested. Not only is the graphics better but the bundled (APU+MB) package is cheaper than a 2100 package.

Personally I'd go with an SSD + HDD combo. The SSD would be loaded with the OS and all programs while all data and media contents would be on the HDD. Data is backed up via a home server. I got 4 PCs in the house. A home server is much more practical to back up all the PCs.

4 GB is more than enough but, since memory is so cheap these days, 8 GB won't hurt.

Since this is a HTPC, it doesn't require a lot of computing power. Therefore you don't really need to OC. If that's the case then the stock cooler is adequate.

For my buddy's system, because he requested a quiet PC, I installed a Scythe Mugen 2 without any fan. Can't OC a 2100 anyways and he was happy with a mid tower case as the Mugen 2 is a beast of a cooler. A good PSU is also important.
 
OP
D

deshg

New Member
Joined
Sep 4, 2011
I built a HTPC for a buddy a couple of months ago. It was based on SB 2100 (HD 2000 graphics). It ran 1080p (mkv) and Blu-Ray just fine. This was before Llano was released. If I was building the same system now I'd go with what Knufire suggested. Not only is the graphics better but the bundled (APU+MB) package is cheaper than a 2100 package.

Personally I'd go with an SSD + HDD combo. The SSD would be loaded with the OS and all programs while all data and media contents would be on the HDD. Data is backed up via a home server. I got 4 PCs in the house. A home server is much more practical to back up all the PCs.

4 GB is more than enough but, since memory is so cheap these days, 8 GB won't hurt.

Since this is a HTPC, it doesn't require a lot of computing power. Therefore you don't really need to OC. If that's the case then the stock cooler is adequate.

For my buddy's system, because he requested a quiet PC, I installed a Scythe Mugen 2 without any fan. Can't OC a 2100 anyways and he was happy with a mid tower case as the Mugen 2 is a beast of a cooler. A good PSU is also important.

Thanks for your extensive reply cigarsmoker, that is all great to know. With regard to home server this is actually the only PC i have in the house, we also have 2 laptops and an ipad and i was going to setup networked backups from the laptops onto this computer (using the onboard RAID to mirror this backup). This was why i was originally considering a NAS but i can't really see a massive benefit using a NAS or a separate server given the additional costs involved (as opposed to 2 x 3TB SATA HDs on RAID 1), or would you disagree?

With regard to the cooling i agree overclocking is unnecessary but one of the key requirements for this upgrade is that the computer be as quiet as possible (we watch tv/media directly off this pc in the living room and have a linksys extender in the bedroom) which is why i was looking at other coolers. As you say heat shouldn't be an issue so i basically want the quietest, smallest possible, cheapest (!) heatsync/fan that i can get to keep the noise down (as i assume the Scythes/Zalmans etc will be quieter than the standard one that comes with the CPU?) This being the case do you have any suggestions for very quiet and small coolers?

Thank you so much for your help, I really appreciate all your comments!

Dave
 

Cigarsmoker

Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2011
Location
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
NAS/Home server may not be practical in your circumstance. I'm just relating what I do. What you propose for your system sounds reasonable. Having said that, my home server is just an unused AMD socket 939 4200+ that I had laying around. It is a lot cheaper (free) than any NAS. You're current CPU is much more capable than my old socket 939.

As for cooler, yes aftermarket cooler will be more efficient and should be quieter than stock. A lot will depend on your case. My preference on your list would be the two Zalmans, Hyper 212+ and lastly the Scythe. If your case dictates that you must get a low profile cooler then the Scythe might be your only and best option. I like Scythe coolers and fans, they make good stuff. Good airflow and proper fans is critical with cooling and noise.
 

hyperasus

Member
Joined
Nov 6, 2004
Location
USA
It doesn't look like Novatech has the i3-2105, which has the Intel HD 3000 graphics over the HD2000 (all SB's other then the 2500K, 2600K, and the 2015 have 2000). In that case, I think you're better off going with this:

A8-3850 APU: http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/...rs/amda6/a8seriesfm1socket/AD3850WNGXBOX.html
FM1 Motherboard: http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/...mdfm1allchipsetmotherboards/asus/f1a75-m.html

This chip is AMD's new APU, where it's a GPU and a CPU combined on one chip.

I doubt you'll fit a tower cooler in that case. You need a top-down cooler like this: http://www.novatech.co.uk/novatech/prods/components/cooling/cpucoolers/scythe/scbsk-1000.html

I am also building a new HTPC and having trouble deciding which CPU to go with. I am leaning towards the i3-2105 from newegg which does have the HD3000 graphics.

My question is, will the i3 really handle HD BluRay playback, or would I be better off going with the AMD Llano chip you have mentioned?

Another option would be to go with the SandyBridge Celeron G530 for the dirt cheap price of $56 on newegg. The Celeron uses HD2000 graphics and I'm just not sure how much difference it is going to make for BluRay playback. Is the intel HD3000 really much of an improvement over the HD2000 for video playback?
 

PanteraGSTK

Member
Joined
Jul 16, 2001
I am also building a new HTPC and having trouble deciding which CPU to go with. I am leaning towards the i3-2105 from newegg which does have the HD3000 graphics.

My question is, will the i3 really handle HD BluRay playback, or would I be better off going with the AMD Llano chip you have mentioned?

Another option would be to go with the SandyBridge Celeron G530 for the dirt cheap price of $56 on newegg. The Celeron uses HD2000 graphics and I'm just not sure how much difference it is going to make for BluRay playback. Is the intel HD3000 really much of an improvement over the HD2000 for video playback?

AMD graphics have quite a bit more features for HTPC use than intel hd graphics. Intels work just fine. I have the older i3 and love it, but amd/ati just has better compatibility with dxva in the decoder software. Intel can, but it all depends on what player you use.

Also, amd supports 24p playback a little better than intel as well. Deinterlacing quality on the amd will be better too.

Here are two fantastic articles about HTPC graphics.

http://www.anandtech.com/show/4479/amd-a83850-an-htpc-perspective

http://www.anandtech.com/show/4380/discrete-htpc-gpus-shootout