My new HTPC Build

Hardware Parts List :
(prices include tax and shipping where applicable)
$25 coolmaster cm690 case; microcenter
$216 Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 Kentsfield 2.4GHz 2 x 4MB L2 Cache LGA 775 Processor - Retai; microcenter
$132 GIGABYTE GA-EP35-DS3R LGA 775 Intel P35 ATX Dynamic Energy Saver Ultra Durable II Intel Motherboard - Retail should see 3.5gb of ram in 32bit os
$90 G.SKILL 4GB(2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory - Retail
$114 WD 500GB 7,200RPM SATA-300 Hard Drive (WD5000KSRTL) ; microcenter
$27 NEC Black 1.44MB 3.5" External USB Floppy Drive Model UF0002S-102 - OEM Just need one to have around just in case.
$13 SUPER TALENT INT-AIN1-C All-in-one USB 2.0 Card Reader - Retail SDHC support
$30 SAMSUNG Black 20X DVD+R 8X DVD+RW 16X DVD+R DL 20X DVD-R 6X DVD-RW 12X DVD-RAM 16X DVD-ROM 48X CD-R 32X CD-RW 48X CD-ROM 2MB Cache SATA 20X DVD±R DVD Burner with LightScribe - OEM
$35 Antec earthwatts EA500 ATX12V v2.0 500W Power Supply 100 - 240 V UL, CUL, FCC, TUV, CE, CB, C-tick, CCC - Retail
$0 XFX 8600GTS XXX already had this sitting in the closet
$52 ZALMAN 9500A 92mm 2 Ball CPU Cooler - Retail
$36 Enermax Marathon 120mm Fan - Magnetic Bearing X 4 @ about $9 each
$770 TOTAL

Though I’m using it as my HTPC it wouldn’t be a bad gaming pc if I just put in a better video card. I already had my old 8600gts just sitting in the closet so I just used that.

The last Intel system I built was a p3-1ghz (been on AMD since then). It was a pretty pleasant experience (the building, vista…not so much. ok ok it’s a bit less horrible than I expected :-).

I was planning on waiting for the cheap 45nm quad cores but the q6600 at $200 was just too good to pass up.

Anyways, I hope some of you find the information helpful if you are thinking of building something similar.

  • Case isn’t desktop form factor. That makes no sense for a HTPC. Get a NSK2480; it includes a great PSU too.
  • Why would you waste a Q6600 on a HTPC? 2Ghz C2D can play 1080p in windows with coreavc and 2.4Ghz can handle 1080p in linux.
  • Motherboard is expensive and doesn’t have HDMI out. I guess you’re using a separate videocard so it doesn’t matter, but still more mobo than you need.
  • 4GB RAM on a HTPC? Why?

I built my HTPC for roughly half the price, it’s totally silent and plays 1080p video just fine. Those are the only benchmarks that matter, unless you plan on playing games on the thing. Well, would be nice if it were smaller.

  • case is big but doesn’t matter. it sits behind a couch and you can’t really see it (yeah I know this is very specific to my situation). It replaced an antec sonata.
    here is an old shot showing the old htpc and where it sits:
  • q6600 at $200…why not? because I can! I go for value not always the cheapest part that will do.
  • I like gigabyte and I wanted the 8 sata ports too. Just personal preference. I don’t consider $130ish for a mb to be expensive but that’s just me. Yeah I already had the video card.
  • 4gb ram for $90…again why not. It’s so cheap these days.

Ok yeah it’s over spec’d and I do plan to do some gaming (got steam and guild wars installed right now) just not a lot. I also expect this thing to last a minimum of 7 yrs.

I’m a .net windows developer not a linux one. I run my own pvr software so I needed a windows platform. I’m weird like that. I often see deficiencies or get frustrated with what is out there so I just pull out the compiler and write my own dammit!

If you’re doing HDMI I hear the new HD3000 series of ATI cards does audio passthrough over HDMI, they are supposed to have pretty decent performance to boot.

why not? because I can! I go for value not always the cheapest part that will do.

Because electricity costs money and you’ve just jumped the budget up about 30 watts * 24 hours * 7 days per week? Also, heat = noise.

I agree with you on the memory, but excessive CPU is just dumb on a HTPC. It’s actually even dumb for a gaming box, since 95% of performance is the video card.

Well this machine not only plays back but it’s also a recorder that also does comskip in the background. I’ve got some files here that are pretty nearly maxing out one of the cores (20-35 mbps x.264 1080p, ffdshow is multi threaded but it seems most of the decoding is done in one of the threads). Maybe something is going screwy here with vista and my setup. But it shows this with VLC too which uses it’s own internal filters.
EDIT: I uninstalled ffdshow tryouts beta 4 and installed the latest clsid nightly build and it made a HUGE difference. Load is much more evenly spread among the four cores using around 22-40%.

As for gaming and cpu scaling yeah that’s why when I oc my opteron 170 from 2ghz to 2.7ghz my crysis framerate almost doubled (yeah I know this is heavily dependent on the game but multi threaded game engines are the future! I just got in the latest maximum pc issue and guess what cpu they chose for their $1500 build…q6600! yeah I know they weren’t building an htpc though, heh). Hmmm come to think of it Crysis would be sweet on this machine on the 52" hdtv. I might invest in a faster video card for this box in the future.

Actually a 3.0ghz e8400 wolfdale might have worked better.

So yeah I don’t think I over did it on the cpu. You guys just aren’t pushing your machines hard enough with the right content :-) Sure it’s used as an HTPC first and foremost but I like having the idea that I can do pretty much anything else on it too including gaming.

If I wanted to really make a dent in my electric bill I would have just got a Tivo or something. I think those things draw maybe a quarter of the power of a typical PC. But then you can’t do all the other cool things a full blown PC can. I have a killawatt. My old athlon xp would idle at around 121 watts. This new machine is 156 watts idle (speedstep kicks in and drops the multiplier down to 6X) and under typical load (watching a recorded HD mpeg2 TS file) it’s about 185 watts.

At around 10 cents per kw hr it would cost about $9-10 per month in electricity to run my old pc. I don’t think the extra $3-4/month are going to break the bank.

Oh and this new machine is actually more quiet than my old one. Those enermax 120mm fans really are quiet! Also, the motherboard is completely passively cooled so no additional noise there.

Isn’t that the best part about building your own pc. You get to pick and choose the exact parts that you want that match your own peculiar likes/dislikes/priorities. It’s all good man.