Budget 41-50k HTPC Upgrade


esanthosh

Well-Known Member
Veteran
My HTPC used an old motherboard from my worn out PC of 5 years. It ran fine for another 4 years before the old motherboard decided to take it's life one terrible afternoon. Currently using a Asus O Play Mini v2. But, would like to build a HTPC as soon as I can.

I briefly considered Intel NUC with NAS / External HDD. But, I very much prefer the 'everything inside the box' appeal of the HTPC.

Questions
  1. What is your budget?

    • 50K. Can stretch if required.

  2. What is your existing hardware configuration (component name - component brand and model)

    • Case - Silverstone Sugo SG02B (with USB 2.0 Front ports)
    • CPU - Intel C2D E6600
    • CPU Cooler - Scythe Kozuti 40mm
    • Motherboard - Intel DQ965GF (Failed)
    • GPU - Zotac GT440 1GB DDR3
    • RAM - Transcend 2 x 2GB DDR2
    • HDD - Seagate 7200.9 80GB for Boot
    • - WD Green 2 TB, Seagate Green 2 TB for Data
    • Monitor - Connected to Marantz SR6006 AVR via GT440's HDMI out
    • PSU - Seasonic S12II 430W

  3. Which hardware will you be keeping (component name - component brand and model)

    • Zotac GT440 (unless upgrade is suggested)
    • Silverstone Sugo SG02 Case (unless a replacement is suggested)
    • Noctua 80mm Case fans x 3
    • The existing 2 x 2 TB will move to my Music PC.
    • Rest of the left over components (PSU, CPU Cooler) will be used to build a HTPC for a friend who has mobo, processor + ram. The 80GB boot HDD and 1 TB HDD x 2 from my Music PC will move over to that config. If GPU and case change is suggested, they will move there too!

  4. Which hardware component are you looking to buy (component name). If you have already decided on a configuration then please mention the (component brand and model) as well, this will help us in fine tuning your requirement.

    • CPU and Motherboard - Intel Combo
    • RAM - 4GB should do fine (Low profile like Corsair Vengeance would be nice)
    • CPU Cooler - Low profile CPU cooler like Noctua NH-L9i.
    • PSU - Modular PSU like Seasonic M12 II 520W
    • GPU - Anything that gets the job done (GPU preferred to onboard)
    • SSD for boot
    • HDD - 2 x 3TB (How reliable is WD Red?)
    • HTPC Case - Black color. The space available in my custom made shelf is only 28 cm (width) * 25 cm (height) * 50+ cm (depth). Something closer to or smaller than Sugo SG02's dimension (27 * 21.2 * 39.3) with support for 2 x HDD + 1 x SSD is the only choice. In case nothing fits, will retain the case, though I will be missing front USB 3.0 ports.
    • ON/Off using Harmony Remote - I manually switch the PC on/off. Kodi and the rest of the setup is controlled by Harmony 700 remote. If anything can be added (a case with IR receiver?) to make this possible, it would be nicer to make me a full couch potato (Some of the options are found here, though shipping makes most of the options costly)
    • Case Fans - Silent fans depending on the case. None if the same case is retained.

  5. Is this going to be your final configuration or you would be adding/upgrading a component in near future. If yes then please mention when and which component
    • Yes. Don't want to upgrade until and unless UHD / 4K / 8K content becomes freely available and I upgrade the entire chain (AVR, TV / Projector and Screen).

  6. Where will you buy this hardware? (Online/City/TE Dealer)
    • Open to online purchase

  7. Would you consider buying a second hand hardware from the TE market
    • No

  8. What is your intended use for this PC/hardware
    • HD Movies, 3D BR ISO

  9. Do you have any brand preference or dislike? Please name them and the reason for your preference/dislike.
    • As long as after sale service is not pathetic, any brand should be OK.

  10. Are you looking to overclock? No

  11. Which operating system do you intend to use with this configuration?
    • Windows 7 64 bit with Kodi
 

vivek.krishnan

If you cant see the green dot, I'm offline :P
Veteran
I feel you should setup a small HTPC or go with DLNA streaming, and push everything to the backend with a solution on the lines of FreeNAS. However, as you want something else, so be it.

Me thinks the buttons on the harmony should be mappable to get it to shutdown the PC. Else, you could always get a small RF remote and connect it to the power button in parallel.

I think for the board, you should go with H81, unless you need something thats missing in that. An i3 should be enough.

@sunny27 has done a cheapo HTPC setup - I would doing (and possibly reviewing) the same as a cheapo pfSense/Zentyal rig.
 

superczar

Well-Known Member
Veteran
Just wondering, if the only usage is HD playback, why not just get a Rpi2 for 3K and be done with it?
 

skoka123

Well-Known Member
Adept
I was a serious HTPC buff since 1998 when I used to live in US. Almost all the latest and greatest HTPC gadgets were at my place no sooner than they appeared on Best Buy or CompUSA. I still have two HTPCs one in the living room and another in the HT. I use MediaPortal as the server and client for recording off Tata Sky. Ever since the DVRs have come in in India my interest and uses of the HTPC has done a lot. Now a days I really find my using RPi1 a lot as it is simpler and less power hungry in the living room. On the rare ocassions of HT usage I do use my HTPC though.

I think you should really consider RPi2 with Kodi. It is definitely worth a shot before rebuilding a full blown HTPC.
 

vivek.krishnan

If you cant see the green dot, I'm offline :P
Veteran
Just FYI, got the following

i3 4150 + Gigabyte H81 + 4GB Kingston + 1TB WD Green + Circle Lil Mini cabinet for 17300 per piece.
 

esanthosh

Well-Known Member
Veteran
Thanks for all the replies so far.
  • I should clarify that I am not an enthusiast or someone who follows technology regularly. The current HTPC was my first assembled PC and I learned that the whole process wasn't difficult even for a noob like me. Besides, it gave a tiny satisfaction that something I use regularly was put together by myself. So, I wanted to do it again.
  • I have never used a SSD or a modular PSU. I am certainly not going to build any PCs for the time being, so this was more of an overenthusiastic "let me try out these new things and see how they work!" enthusiasm.
  • I am very much used to 'everything inside a box' solution. I switch my HTPC on, all movies and TV series reside in it - no need for an external HDD / switch on another device. I am also a bit compartmentalized. I don't watch movies or TV shows except on my HTPC-HT (never on iPad / Laptop / PC, except Youtube videos).
  • There is also the problem of familiarity with Windows as a OS. While I don't think setting up OpenElec / OSMC on RPi2 is going to be any difficult (and Windows 10 IoT would be on RPi2), I am asking myself "But, what if I want to run madVR and MPC?", which may be a stupid thing because I may never, ever need to do that in my life. But then, mind is silly like that!
  • My idea is to retain this HTPC for at least 5 years. If say, 4K content becomes common, can I just upgrade the graphics card at that time? (Rest of the HT needs to be upgraded anyways)
  • I have not built / bought a NAS because I wasn't sure if I required it. I understand that a centralized storage may be beneficial in several ways, but I am still unsure. I don't need to run them 24 x 7 and don't need huge storage for my critical data. Mostly, they would be storing and serving music and media files. My Music PC has an attached external HDD, which is always kept sync-ed. My main PC is the 'backup' for the data in my HTPC (though I hardly ever watch movies twice these days). So, what additional benefits am I likely to get by going for NAS besides (likely) power savings?
  • Is WD Red reliable for storage? What about the failure rates?
I may be wrong in my beliefs, assumptions and habits and holes in my thinking. Feel free to correct.

@bssunil ,

Is I5 necessary? Wouldn't I3 do?

@superczar, @skoka123

I am not averse to trying RPi2 as it would cut down costs and space requirements very much. But, I have a few doubts.
  • Does RPi2 match a stand-alone HTPC in terms of PQ and SQ?
  • What are it's limitations? I read that it is not equipped to pass through Dolby True HD / DTS HD MA. I may have few movies like that. If I want to play such files, I won't have a backup (OPlay will be given away once I have a HTPC / RPi2).
  • I have to anyway upgrade to 2 x 3 TB as I am short of space on the current 2 x 2 TB. I would ideally like them both within a single enclosure for connecting to RPi2. What is the best way to do that? I checked out 2 bay enclosures, which cost somewhere around 7K.
@vivek.krishnan ,
  1. My bad! I should have written "Switching On the PC manually". Shutdown is done from within Kodi itself. However, switching on from S5 state is not.
  2. H81 has only 2 SATA3 ports, whereas I would have a SSD + 2 x HDDs. I can probably connect SSD to SATA3 and both HDDs to SATA2. Would this result in any meaningful difference when accessing disks / copying files? Since I am going to retain this config for the next 4-5 years, would it make sense to go for something better even if it means spending a tad more?
 

vivek.krishnan

If you cant see the green dot, I'm offline :P
Veteran
Thanks for all the replies so far.
  • I should clarify that I am not an enthusiast or someone who follows technology regularly. The current HTPC was my first assembled PC and I learned that the whole process wasn't difficult even for a noob like me. Besides, it gave a tiny satisfaction that something I use regularly was put together by myself. So, I wanted to do it again.
  • I have never used a SSD or a modular PSU. I am certainly not going to build any PCs for the time being, so this was more of an overenthusiastic "let me try out these new things and see how they work!" enthusiasm.
  • I am very much used to 'everything inside a box' solution. I switch my HTPC on, all movies and TV series reside in it - no need for an external HDD / switch on another device. I am also a bit compartmentalized. I don't watch movies or TV shows except on my HTPC-HT (never on iPad / Laptop / PC, except Youtube videos).
  • There is also the problem of familiarity with Windows as a OS. While I don't think setting up OpenElec / OSMC on RPi2 is going to be any difficult (and Windows 10 IoT would be on RPi2), I am asking myself "But, what if I want to run madVR and MPC?", which may be a stupid thing because I may never, ever need to do that in my life. But then, mind is silly like that!
  • My idea is to retain this HTPC for at least 5 years. If say, 4K content becomes common, can I just upgrade the graphics card at that time? (Rest of the HT needs to be upgraded anyways)
  • I have not built / bought a NAS because I wasn't sure if I required it. I understand that a centralized storage may be beneficial in several ways, but I am still unsure. I don't need to run them 24 x 7 and don't need huge storage for my critical data. Mostly, they would be storing and serving music and media files. My Music PC has an attached external HDD, which is always kept sync-ed. My main PC is the 'backup' for the data in my HTPC (though I hardly ever watch movies twice these days). So, what additional benefits am I likely to get by going for NAS besides (likely) power savings?
  • Is WD Red reliable for storage? What about the failure rates?
I may be wrong in my beliefs, assumptions and habits and holes in my thinking. Feel free to correct.

Everyone starts out somewhere. Enthusiast or noob. Building your own PC is what drives some, and much more.
SSDs are nice. Modular PSUs are super awesome if you are a neat freak.
The circle cabby is not going to cut it out. Its got space for one HDD and one ODD.
RPi2 is not going to run complete W10, but a stripped down version with command line that makes you go back to MS DOS. Or PowerShell. OR whatever.
5 years? Thats a lotta time.
NAS - Keeps the data centralised, and accessible to all devices. Its like this - once you start using it, you aint gonna go back. Unless you really are....
WD Red was built for 24x7 NAS. Ask sorccy for more info.

@bssunil ,

Is I5 necessary? Wouldn't I3 do?

If you want to run this for 5 years, I would tell you to go with an i5 as well. That said, i3 aint bad either.

@superczar, @skoka123

I am not averse to trying RPi2 as it would cut down costs and space requirements very much. But, I have a few doubts.
  • Does RPi2 match a stand-alone HTPC in terms of PQ and SQ?
  • What are it's limitations? I read that it is not equipped to pass through Dolby True HD / DTS HD MA. I may have few movies like that. If I want to play such files, I won't have a backup (OPlay will be given away once I have a HTPC / RPi2).
  • I have to anyway upgrade to 2 x 3 TB as I am short of space on the current 2 x 2 TB. I would ideally like them both within a single enclosure for connecting to RPi2. What is the best way to do that? I checked out 2 bay enclosures, which cost somewhere around 7K.

Yes and no. Depends on what you are trying to achive and play, and what level of audiophile you currently stand at (read 48 bit audio or whatever, no YIFY rips, only AVC HD rips, etc)
Read 2nd part of line above.
You would need a NAS, ideally.

@vivek.krishnan ,
  1. My bad! I should have written "Switching On the PC manually". Shutdown is done from within Kodi itself. However, switching on from S5 state is not.
  2. H81 has only 2 SATA3 ports, whereas I would have a SSD + 2 x HDDs. I can probably connect SSD to SATA3 and both HDDs to SATA2. Would this result in any meaningful difference when accessing disks / copying files? Since I am going to retain this config for the next 4-5 years, would it make sense to go for something better even if it means spending a tad more?

I should have been more clear, this is a RF remote I am talking about. It will connect to the power switch of your cabby in parallel and do the same job as pressing the switch.
H81 has 4 ports. And you can go with something else as well - you are not required to be stuck with H81 or H91 for that matter. And I would suggest to connect each SATA HDD to its own port without adding fancy gizmos - you might as well opt for a NAS.
 

superczar

Well-Known Member
Veteran
I was a serious HTPC buff since 1998 when I used to live in US. Almost all the latest and greatest HTPC gadgets were at my place no sooner than they appeared on Best Buy or CompUSA. I still have two HTPCs one in the living room and another in the HT. I use MediaPortal as the server and client for recording off Tata Sky. Ever since the DVRs have come in in India my interest and uses of the HTPC has done a lot. Now a days I really find my using RPi1 a lot as it is simpler and less power hungry in the living room. On the rare ocassions of HT usage I do use my HTPC though.

I think you should really consider RPi2 with Kodi. It is definitely worth a shot before rebuilding a full blown HTPC.
Tell me about it man
I have 2 HTPCs and a bunch of WD/Seagate media player devices gathering dust in a closet
I am not averse to trying RPi2 as it would cut down costs and space requirements very much. But, I have a few doubts.
  • Does RPi2 match a stand-alone HTPC in terms of PQ and SQ?
  • What are it's limitations? I read that it is not equipped to pass through Dolby True HD / DTS HD MA. I may have few movies like that. If I want to play such files, I won't have a backup (OPlay will be given away once I have a HTPC / RPi2).
  • I have to anyway upgrade to 2 x 3 TB as I am short of space on the current 2 x 2 TB. I would ideally like them both within a single enclosure for connecting to RPi2. What is the best way to do that? I checked out 2 bay enclosures, which cost somewhere around 7K.
Does RPi2 match a stand-alone HTPC in terms of PQ and SQ?
PQ - a definite Yes (unless you believe in heavy post processing)
AQ- Yes, assuming you are going to connect it in HDMI pass through mode to a AV receiver
If you intend to use analog out, you will need a good USB DAC as the analog out on the Rpi is quite poor

On a more subjective note, I have developed quite a strong preference for the Rpi setup over the old windows based setup as it does not involve any tweaking/restarts/odd bug & hiccups - Just pick the remote and watch
At the same time, it does not have the limitations of a hard coded media player box

Cannot comment on Dolby True HD simply coz my own AV receiver is not equipped to process that so never tried

On a side note, I strongly agree with Viveks' point above on using a NAS
I personally discarded an old linux server box to switch to a separate Rpi based file server and have had no regrets since - Your existing USB HDDs would plug into it without a hiccup
 

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