Home Theater/Gaming PC Build

I just did just that. :)

Here’s my build, designed as a compromise between performance and low power usage:

[li]Core i3-2100 Processor ($110, 3.1GHz, amazingly fast for the price but low power usage and sips power at idle, cool so the fan’s quiet)[/li][li]Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 motherboard ($169 latest Intel chipset, supports swapping between onboard and PCI-E video)[/li][li]GeForce 560 Ti ($229, plenty of oomph for 1080P, low idle power usage, quiet)[/li][li]8GB DDR3 RAM ($84.99)[/li][li]2 Samsung Spingpoint 2TB drives ($79 each; Samsung’s the only drive brand I’ve had consistently good luck with in recent years)[/li][li]Media Center Remote ($17; mainly using this for the IR receiver as I have a Harmony)[/li][/ul]
Plus a quiet case (Antec P180; just stuck it behind the TV stand), 550W 80-plus power supply (OCZ, but they’re out of the power supply business), and my old SSD drive to speed bootup. I’m using a sadly now-discontinued MS Bluetooth media keyboard and mouse.

If you don’t want to do a full ATX board, go for an Asus or Gigabyte micro-ATX board based on the Z68 chipset.

Oh, and for the TV Tuner, the [http://t.co/KkcYRxX"]HDHomeRun](http://[URL) is awesome. Any computer in your house with a fast network connection can also access it to watch live TV.

With this setup, the Xbox 360 in the bedroom can watch live TV and recorded shows from the HTPC, and Netflix/Zune/Hulu+. Even buying 5 or 6 cable show subscriptions on Zune, it’s still waaaaay cheaper than a $100/month cable/satellite bill.

Thanks Denny - this will run ROS?

You mean RoF? :) With the i3 and the 560 Ti, it should run any currently available game at 1080p with the details cranked up to Pretty. Rise of Flight will run smoothly on it.

FYI, my recently purchased 560Ti is absolutely NOT quiet, unless I’m entirely mistaken about which fan is spinning up in there. Perhaps other models are better; mine is from Gigabyte and is overclocked, which presumably increases the noise level.

It does run everything I’ve thrown at it like a dream, though.

Damien, the one i’m using (and linked) uses the stock Nvidia cooler, and it’s super-quiet. At idle, you can’t hear it at all. It gets a little louder when gaming, but generally not so much that you hear it over the game. :)

A 560 Ti seems like overkill to pair with a dual core CPU. If you want this to be a a game machine with any legs, don’t bother with less than 4 cores.

This $110 dual-core CPU is faster than the last-generation Core 2 Quads. Hyperthreading, Sandy Bridge core, 3.1GHz…

Anyway, this is a Media Center PC. Part of the goal is to have a CPU that sips power at idle. You can easily take this same build and drop in a Core i5-2500K or i7-2600K, but frankly that’s overkill for current games at 1080P, so why spend the money and deal with the hotter processor? Most PC games are still GPU-bound. Put a quad core in later when they’re even cheaper, if you find you need it.

I would replace the GPU cooler by an aftermarket solution. A Zalman or Arctic Cooling monster cooler should make the graphics card nearly impossible to hear even under heavy load for several hours.

If you want true quad core in an HTPC, Intel makes the Core i5 2400s. 2.5GHz, 65W.

If you’re going to be doing a lot of video transcoding, the true quad-core might make a difference. (Are there really many games where it makes a real difference vs. a fast hyperthreading dual-core?)

Here’s a good in-depth article comparing the 2100, 2100T, 2500, and 2500S in performance and power usage. Makes me glad Amazon was out of 2100Ts when I bought the 2100 – the faster 3.1GHz clock speed means high-intensity operations still use less power on the 2100 because they finish faster.

I’m a performance nut on my main rig; it has an overclocked 2500K and a GTX 580. But for the HTPC, I’m really seeing the 2100 and 560 Ti are more than enough.

Gorath, I can’t even hear the fan on my 560 Ti with stock cooler unless I’m actively gaming. In which case I still can’t hear it over the game. :)

Okay, either I have a crazy noisy card or that’s my CPU fan sounding like a lawnmower. I’ll have to pull the cover off and figure that out at some point.