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> BASIC HTPC BUILD ADVICE
MSIINOZ
Posted: Jan 25 2012, 05:19 AM
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Hi All
This is my first post, I will start a thread in the HTPC Projects section to show my personal HTPC's

A friend of a friend showed me (the basics, Assembly) how to build my firt PC and now I have been building PC's for going on 6-7 (I think...) years and have only built about 7 PC's in that time, In the recent years (approx 3) I have got into HTPC's
I dont have very much knowledge in regards to the finer workings of a computer, Thats why Im here asking for advice/opinions, Im actually a Welder/Automotive exhasut fitter & restore & build custom motorbikes but it maybe time for a career change?

Im looking for advice in regards to building a basic HTPC on a budget, Considering the HTPC is used for watching HD/BLU-RAY movies etc and not performing 10 different tasks at once or doing really high load tasks

I would like to know what parts need to be high performers and what can be sacrificed to save some money?
Basically should a HTPC have an all out super dooper Graphics card or focus on a high end CPU with lots of cores like the X6 and newer bulldozer X8's etc? Is huge RAM capacity really needed for a HTPC?

I have started to put together a few HTPC's for friends & family and want to know what exactly I need to focus on to obtain good performance from a HTPC
Is it a balancing act? Do all the parts need to be of the same level for the whole system to perform well, Having high end parts and some low end parts I imagine would bring the whole system performance down creating whats known as a bottleneck

Here is a system I built recently using all brand new parts (As an example)>

Mobo ASROCK 880GMH-LE USB3

CPU AMD ATHLON X2 260 3.2Ghz

RAM CORSAIR 4gb XMS3

VGA MSI N430GT DDR3 1GB

HARDDRIVE SEAGATE BARRA 500GB

LG CD BURNER

LOGITECH MK260 10M RANGE WIRELESS KEYBOARD & MOUSE

PSU AEROCOOLER 550W

CASE AEROCOOLER VS9

(The system above is currently running WIN 7 64-BIT)
This setup cost me about $450 (Australian dollars) to complete

Any advice or opinions on what parts on the above system could have been upgraded or even sacrificed in favor of other parts?
This is not a system build question but more of a general advice question for myself and others looking to build a HTPC

Please checkout my HTPC's in the project section
Thanks In Advance


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MSI 990FXA-GD80 BIOS V11.8 : MSI N550GTX-Ti-M2D1GD5/OC : AMD FX-6100 RUNNING @ 18x 3600MHz: CORSAIR H60 COOLER : CORSAIR GT 60GB SSD : CORSAIR VENGEANCE 2x4GB :LOGITECH MK550 : LOGITECH C210 CAM : LOGITECH DRIVING FORCE GT STEERING WHEEL connected to a Pioneer VSX-521-K via SPDIF (Awesome Surround sound) and 42" LED TV

MSI K9N DIAMOND BIOS 1.9 : MSI N260GTX-T2D896-OC/V4: AMD X2 6000+ WINDSOR 89W :WINDOWS 7 64BIT : CREATIVE SOUNDBLASTER X-FI EXTREME AUDIO PCI-E : 4X2GB DUAL CHANNEL CORSAIR GAMING RAM CGM2X2G800 (ALL PURCHASED SEPARATELY) : 1.5TB SEAGATE SATAII + 2TB EXTERNAL : CORSAIR TX750W PSU : ACHILLES DRAGON CASE

MSI K8N SLI PLATINUM : MSI NX8600GT 512MB : AMD 3000+ VENICE : WIN 7 64BIT : CREATIVE OB AUDIO : 2x1GB CORSAIR RAM : 250GB MAXTOR
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SsZERO
Posted: Jan 27 2012, 06:22 PM
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The distinguishing qualities of an HTPC in my opinion:

- Quiet to Silent operation, even under load.

- Diminutive design that does not stick out among other a/v components

- Reliable integrated components to allow for it to be small.

The system you listed is using old hardware and is skimping on RAM (should have at least 2GB, though 4GB would be ideal with Win7). There's not much in the way of cost savings for going that route since it is possible to build a system around AMD's APU for about the same price as you did using an AMD X2.

Here's a little more about APUs if you are interested:
http://www.htpcforums.com/index.php?showtopic=2391



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MSIINOZ
Posted: Jan 27 2012, 10:21 PM
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Thanks for the info SsZero
The youtube video on this page explains it well and shows how it works>
http://www.amd.com/us/products/technologie...ges/fusion.aspx

Here is a list of the A-Series Accelerated Processor's>
http://www.amd.com/us/products/desktop/pro...comparison.aspx

Would an FM1 APU based system running a dual core A4-3400 2.7Ghz be faster and basically more powerful than the system I mentioned above> AMD X2 260 3.0Ghz with an MSI 1GB DDR3 N430GT (Considering they had the exact same RAM)

((JUST A SIDE NOTE: You mentioned "skimping on ram"? The system I built shows that I used a Corsair XMS3 4GB stick of RAM?))

From having a quick look I have found what you said about the cost to be true in some ways, The Motherboards and APU's are a bit dearer in general but if the APU system is not as powerful than I cant see the point?

If I was to build one of these systems I would choose one of these boards>
http://www.msi.com/product/mb/#/?sk=Socket%20FM1
Not saying that they are better in anyway but I have used MSI Motherboards and Graphics cards in pretty much ALL my builds over the last 6-7 years except the last which used an Asrock MOBO (shown above)

The silence of my own personal HTPC is not a huge issue as long as I cant hear the fans whirring away over the audio of a movie im watching Im happy, I have a Pioneer surround sound 7.1 receiver and currently using 5 Pioneer surround speakers & a huge 15" subwoofer that puts out HUGE but nice & crisp bass so generally Im not going to hear my HTPC over my sound System, This is not the case for everyone though, Movie producers can spend somewhere around $50000+ developing the audio for a movie so I cant really see the point of listening to a movie through $5 TV speakers, The same goes for the video side of things, My new 42" LCD TV is way beyond even my older LCD TV

I dont really need my HTPC to be compact either as I have the space to fit a full ATX system in an NZXT DUET case in my TV unit and certainly dont need it to be portable or tucked away, Again this is not the case for all HTPC users

(IMG:http://i1117.photobucket.com/albums/k587/BAJAINOZ/HTPC/MSIK9NDIAMONDSLI.jpg)

I am very interested in building an FM1/APU sytem in the future just to try it out, Hopefully the price for the parts will drop soon?

I would like to do a price vs performance comparison firstly though?
Im about to upgrade my system to an MSI 990FXA-GD80 with an FX6100 using my MSI N550GTX-Ti-M2D1GD5/OC Bulldozer, How does this compare to an APU system performance wise?


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MSI 990FXA-GD80 BIOS V11.8 : MSI N550GTX-Ti-M2D1GD5/OC : AMD FX-6100 RUNNING @ 18x 3600MHz: CORSAIR H60 COOLER : CORSAIR GT 60GB SSD : CORSAIR VENGEANCE 2x4GB :LOGITECH MK550 : LOGITECH C210 CAM : LOGITECH DRIVING FORCE GT STEERING WHEEL connected to a Pioneer VSX-521-K via SPDIF (Awesome Surround sound) and 42" LED TV

MSI K9N DIAMOND BIOS 1.9 : MSI N260GTX-T2D896-OC/V4: AMD X2 6000+ WINDSOR 89W :WINDOWS 7 64BIT : CREATIVE SOUNDBLASTER X-FI EXTREME AUDIO PCI-E : 4X2GB DUAL CHANNEL CORSAIR GAMING RAM CGM2X2G800 (ALL PURCHASED SEPARATELY) : 1.5TB SEAGATE SATAII + 2TB EXTERNAL : CORSAIR TX750W PSU : ACHILLES DRAGON CASE

MSI K8N SLI PLATINUM : MSI NX8600GT 512MB : AMD 3000+ VENICE : WIN 7 64BIT : CREATIVE OB AUDIO : 2x1GB CORSAIR RAM : 250GB MAXTOR
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SsZERO
Posted: Jan 28 2012, 11:02 AM
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Sorry I misread your post. I was looking at your video card memory as the system memory... 4 gigs is plenty.

The APU is basically an CPU/GPU on one chip. The CPU part is just as effective as a standalone CPU, however the integrated GPU is better than anything else currently available. For an HTPC that's the main thing since most of the video decoding is off-loaded to the GPU, so it will handle HD video playback nicely, even if you decide to enable some post-processing features. From a gaming perspective, the integrated GPU is in line with a mid-tier Radeon HD 6000 series card.

Being able to fit a big box doesn't mean you should. :) But that is entirely personal preference. I don't want my A/V center too cluttered and I've already got a ton of stuff there. My center channel speaker is right below the TV, and below that is my AV receiver. On either side I have a PS3 and XB360, with my HTPC sitting under the Xbox. I could probably stuff a full-size case in there if I really wanted to but I prefer the clean appearance.



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MSIINOZ
Posted: Jan 29 2012, 10:00 AM
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I have put together a rough price comparison of the essential components to build an APU & AM3 system, This is based on prices found here in Australia, I can show links, These prices are also based on my choice of components which of course would vary slightly by choosing different Mobo & VGA manufacturers

APU SYSTEM
MOBO : MSI A75MA-G55 = $130

CPU : AMD A4-3400 X2 = $85 2.7Gh/z 65W

VGA : Above = $0 Radeon 6410D 600Mh/z
TOTAL = $215


AM3 SYSTEM
MOBO : MSI AM3 = $85

CPU : AMD X2 260 = $70 3.2G/hz 65W

VGA : MSI MSI N520GT = $65 810MHz Core 1GB DDR3 00MHz/1200MHz
Total = $220 / $205-Read below

(Note: I paid $56.60 for the last AMD X2 260 3.2G/hz CPU Brand new in the box which makes my next system build and the total above little bit cheaper)


Now to the finer details I am unsure of that I would like to clear up
I understand that the APU system would be more compact and may be more efficient, Although both CPU & APU shown above are 65W, The PCIe VGA would use more power I guess

Considering power efficiency and space was not a huge factor, The numbers clearly show that the AM3 system would be more powerful overall for playing games & watching HD/Blu-Ray movies etc, The AM3 system would surely out do the APU system especially if it was also used for gaming also?
I understand that numbers dont always mean better performance though, Would the APU system shown really display high quality video any better?

Another thing I noticed with the FM1 Mobo's is that some are available with multiple graphics card (crossfire) options? If the APU is so good why would multiple graphics cards or even a single PCIe graphics card be used? And would this delete/shutdown the CPU/APU Radeon onboard graphics or just add to the overall VGA performance?

Another thing, How many GB would the onboard APU Radeon VGA equal?
What would be the pro's n con's between these 2 systems be performance wise?


--------------------
MSI 990FXA-GD80 BIOS V11.8 : MSI N550GTX-Ti-M2D1GD5/OC : AMD FX-6100 RUNNING @ 18x 3600MHz: CORSAIR H60 COOLER : CORSAIR GT 60GB SSD : CORSAIR VENGEANCE 2x4GB :LOGITECH MK550 : LOGITECH C210 CAM : LOGITECH DRIVING FORCE GT STEERING WHEEL connected to a Pioneer VSX-521-K via SPDIF (Awesome Surround sound) and 42" LED TV

MSI K9N DIAMOND BIOS 1.9 : MSI N260GTX-T2D896-OC/V4: AMD X2 6000+ WINDSOR 89W :WINDOWS 7 64BIT : CREATIVE SOUNDBLASTER X-FI EXTREME AUDIO PCI-E : 4X2GB DUAL CHANNEL CORSAIR GAMING RAM CGM2X2G800 (ALL PURCHASED SEPARATELY) : 1.5TB SEAGATE SATAII + 2TB EXTERNAL : CORSAIR TX750W PSU : ACHILLES DRAGON CASE

MSI K8N SLI PLATINUM : MSI NX8600GT 512MB : AMD 3000+ VENICE : WIN 7 64BIT : CREATIVE OB AUDIO : 2x1GB CORSAIR RAM : 250GB MAXTOR
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SsZERO
Posted: Jan 29 2012, 09:44 PM
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Never said the APU system would give you a gaming powerhouse - but as far as INTEGRATED video goes it is the best option out there. The only thing better is getting a dedicated video card, but the integrated GPU can play most games at respectable settings and decent framerates. Are you going to do a lot of gaming on the HTPC?

With an APU system it is possible to boost the gaming performance by adding a compatible video card, so the integrated GPU along with the dedicated GPU would work in crossfire mode. It ends up giving you performance similar to a system build around a more expensive card without having to shell out $350+ on the graphics card alone.

Tom's Hardware guide publishes a performance chart that lets you compare CPUs and GPUs based on the benchmarks they've done in the past. It's an easy way to get an idea where you would stand in terms of performance.

http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/

If you look at this chart for their 3DMark11 benchmarks:
http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/2011-en...ark11,2879.html

You'll see at the very bottom that the all of the AMD A8 APUs are roughly twice as fast as the NVIDIA 520 dedicated video card that you listed. If you built the AMD A8 system and later decided you wanted more performance, you could purchase a Radeon HD 6450 for about $45 and effectively double the performance level, with the 3Dmark11 rating going from 1,300 to around 2,800...at that point you'd be able to enjoy most DX11 games at medium settings without any frame rate issues.

The APU uses system memory as shared memory, but with 4GB you could allocate 1GB to the GPU and still have 3GB for the system, which would be enough. That's probably the only "con" of going the APU route.


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MSIINOZ
Posted: Feb 1 2012, 07:24 AM
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To sum it up, The APU/FM1 systems would not suit me personally as I would like a little bit more performance & the option to possibly play the odd game here and there especially considering I have up & coming gamers (kids) too

I would however like to build one just for the hell of it really and to test one out, Probably to sell

An APU system would be perfect for someone who wants to have a compact efficient HTPC with the option of even being portable, You could take it to a friend or family's place or away with you on holiday and simply plug it in to any LCD or LED TV (If you use a motherboard with HDMI output) wherever you may be

Thanks again SsZERO, You have introduced me to something new
Hope this helps others out there that are trying to decide exactly what sort of HTPC they want to build


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MSI 990FXA-GD80 BIOS V11.8 : MSI N550GTX-Ti-M2D1GD5/OC : AMD FX-6100 RUNNING @ 18x 3600MHz: CORSAIR H60 COOLER : CORSAIR GT 60GB SSD : CORSAIR VENGEANCE 2x4GB :LOGITECH MK550 : LOGITECH C210 CAM : LOGITECH DRIVING FORCE GT STEERING WHEEL connected to a Pioneer VSX-521-K via SPDIF (Awesome Surround sound) and 42" LED TV

MSI K9N DIAMOND BIOS 1.9 : MSI N260GTX-T2D896-OC/V4: AMD X2 6000+ WINDSOR 89W :WINDOWS 7 64BIT : CREATIVE SOUNDBLASTER X-FI EXTREME AUDIO PCI-E : 4X2GB DUAL CHANNEL CORSAIR GAMING RAM CGM2X2G800 (ALL PURCHASED SEPARATELY) : 1.5TB SEAGATE SATAII + 2TB EXTERNAL : CORSAIR TX750W PSU : ACHILLES DRAGON CASE

MSI K8N SLI PLATINUM : MSI NX8600GT 512MB : AMD 3000+ VENICE : WIN 7 64BIT : CREATIVE OB AUDIO : 2x1GB CORSAIR RAM : 250GB MAXTOR
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