Staredit Network > Forums > Technology & Computers > Topic: Cheap home entertainment PC?
Cheap home entertainment PC?
Sep 24 2011, 10:00 pm
By: Aristocrat  

Sep 24 2011, 10:00 pm Aristocrat Post #1



My parents want to convert the living room into a media center, so they asked me to find them a decent computer that they can use to browse the web and watch HD movies with. I threw together the build below in a few minutes, but reasoned that for such a simple function I can most likely cut down the cost by at least another $150, since it is possible to get by with a last-generation CPU on a board with integrated graphics and a smaller hard drive. Because I have no idea where corners can be cut safely, I wish to ask SEN for assistance yet once more. (Thanks in advance to Excalibur, rockz, and xAngelScrewedMeandLoTu)SOverinInferno'sMafiaSpiritx. :P)



Criticisms of this current build are probably abundant, so feel free to throw them out. The goal here is to produce an economy PC.

Requirements:
- Wireless card of some sort. Quality of the one I listed above is dubious, so any alternatives would be nice.
- HDMI output
- Graphics capable of 1080p video playback
- Blu-ray drive, OS, and TV are already owned, so it is not necessary to include in the build.
- Suggestions for an inexpensive but reliable wireless mouse/keyboard set would be welcome.

EDIT> Alternatives like http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16856107076 or http://www.zotacusa.com/zbox-amd-e-350-apu-all-in-one-zbox-ad02-plus-u.html seem to be cheaper and handle video just fine, but the specs make me cringe. Will my parents notice the difference? Maybe, maybe not. They are both slow as hell but fulfill the "play 1080p" requirement.

Post has been edited 1 time(s), last time on Sep 24 2011, 10:18 pm by Aristocrat.



None.

Sep 24 2011, 10:08 pm NudeRaider Post #2

We can't explain the universe, just describe it; and we don't know whether our theories are true, we just know they're not wrong. >Harald Lesch

Seems solid. Quality yet relatively inexpensive pieces.

The only thing I'd consider downgrading is the CPU. I have an Intel G840 which is Ex-sanctioned for my low budget gaming computer so I'd figure it's capable of handling pretty much any media job too.




Sep 24 2011, 11:32 pm Centreri Post #3

Relatively ancient and inactive

Get a Lenovo nettop. You don't need anything powerful as a media center, and the nettop comes with a nice remote-thing. My dad has one, uses it for everything from Netflix to YouTube, etc with no problems. Cheaper than your solution, and smaller.



None.

Sep 25 2011, 4:30 am Excalibur Post #4

The sword and the faith

This machine is over powered for what you need and that case although awesome is not what you use for a build of this kind. I just did a build of this sort for a friend that I am going to be building for him personally. I can modify it to fit your needs if you so choose.




SEN Global Moderator and Resident Zealot
-------------------------
The sword and the faith.

:ex:
Sector 12
My stream, live PC building and tech discussion.

Sep 25 2011, 4:59 am xAngelSpiritx Post #5

eternal lurker

For a home entertainment center you may also want a sound card. Otherwise, I don't have much to add; everything you have seems solid.

Quote
xAngelScrewedMeandLoTu)SOverinInferno'sMafiaSpiritx
:awesome:

Edit:
A quick search around some sites, and I found this:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004W2T2TM/?tag=pcpapi-20
Which will save you $10 while the deal lasts.

Post has been edited 1 time(s), last time on Sep 25 2011, 5:20 am by xAngelSpiritx.



None.

Sep 25 2011, 5:26 am Aristocrat Post #6



Quote from Excalibur
This machine is over powered for what you need and that case although awesome is not what you use for a build of this kind. I just did a build of this sort for a friend that I am going to be building for him personally. I can modify it to fit your needs if you so choose.
That would be great! About the case, I couldn't find cheaper ones that didn't have an abundance of reviews complaining about the quality being shitty, although I admit that not a lot of time was spent researching this so I just grabbed the one that I remembered.

Got some more information about what my parents want:
- They will need it for light everyday tasks. I doubt they will feel significantly hampered by a somewhat weaker CPU like what Nude suggested.
- They want the option to be able to cannibalize it into a work PC at some point in the future, although their work mostly involves light load applications like Microsoft Publisher/Word and simple web browsing so this should not be an issue.
- They will do light video editing (mostly just cropping/erasing from camera recordings). Probably not an issue because they won't be looking for fast encoding speeds.
- They asked for a 1TB hard drive because they want to download and save movies rather than stream them, since streaming speeds to China from EC US is rather horrid.

Quote from xAngelSpiritx
For a home entertainment center you may also want a sound card.

Is integrated sound significantly worse than a discrete sound card? I personally can't hear much of a difference, but then again things will be different on a system that has a woofer plugged in.

Quote from xAngelSpiritx
Edit:
A quick search around some sites, and I found this:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004W2T2TM/?tag=pcpapi-20
Which will save you $10 while the deal lasts.

Post-rebate it's the same price off newegg.



None.

Sep 25 2011, 2:07 pm rockz Post #7

ᴄʜᴇᴇsᴇ ɪᴛ!

>Sata cable
What? Why?
>GAMMA
get a cheaper case, pref small form factor. MicroATX
>Spinpoint f3
Like I tell everyone, it's cheaper at superbiiz
>CX430
Decent enough, I've seen it on sale for $16 though...
>RAM
looks fine for $25
>Mobo
can't you combo this?
>i3
As nude said, the pentium is plenty, but I understand the want for a better graphics. But if that's the case, you should go AMD.



"Parliamentary inquiry, Mr. Chairman - do we have to call the Gentleman a gentleman if he's not one?"

Sep 25 2011, 3:09 pm Aristocrat Post #8



Quote from rockz
>Sata cable
What? Why?
Unrelated replacement part. Probably shouldn't have included it in the build pic, lol.

Quote from rockz
>Spinpoint f3
Like I tell everyone, it's cheaper at superbiiz

"Price: $59.99
Free Shipping (Restrictions Apply)

In Stock"

Am I looking in the wrong place?

Quote from rockz
>Mobo
can't you combo this?
>i3
As nude said, the pentium is plenty, but I understand the want for a better graphics. But if that's the case, you should go AMD.

No mobo-i3 CPU combos priced lower than $195 while still having an i3 with Intel HD Graphics 3000. Of course though, since it looks like that's where most of the cost can be cut from, should I be looking at things like this?



None.

Sep 25 2011, 4:04 pm Centreri Post #9

Relatively ancient and inactive

Yeah, that APU is a much better choice than a SB i3 for what you need. I'd go a little lower, if possible, but this is a big improvement anyway.



None.

Sep 25 2011, 5:18 pm Excalibur Post #10

The sword and the faith


http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129034
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822152185
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820146748
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827136232
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.734946




SEN Global Moderator and Resident Zealot
-------------------------
The sword and the faith.

:ex:
Sector 12
My stream, live PC building and tech discussion.

Sep 25 2011, 5:28 pm Aristocrat Post #11



Excalibur delivers!

Since I already own a blu-ray drive, your build cost will decrease by $60, bringing totals to $350 before tax and shipping.

The case/power supply you posted is quite a bit more expensive than what I have. What are some of the benefits of using that one instead of a normal tower?



None.

Sep 25 2011, 6:06 pm rockz Post #12

ᴄʜᴇᴇsᴇ ɪᴛ!

Quote from Aristocrat
Quote from rockz
>Spinpoint f3
Like I tell everyone, it's cheaper at superbiiz

"Price: $59.99
Free Shipping (Restrictions Apply)

In Stock"

Am I looking in the wrong place?
Yes. Superbiiz almost always has a global coupon which takes off $5-$15 off the total price, and often has hard drives and CPUs cheaper than newegg on top of that. This week the deal is "CHICKEN" for 10% off up to $10.
Also you can save extra on an optical drive combo there if you don't have one already.

Quote from Aristocrat
No mobo-i3 CPU combos priced lower than $195 while still having an i3 with Intel HD Graphics 3000. Of course though, since it looks like that's where most of the cost can be cut from, should I be looking at things like this?
While I know it's not exactly a "gaming computer", Intel is way behind in the graphics department. I also think that AMD usually has much better idle performance due to their cool and quiet technology, which drops the voltage down to 0.4 volts and clock speed down to 800 MHz. It's one of the few times I would actually recommend an AMD processor right now, and since the graphics inside it are the absolute best for an IGP. It will only be maybe half as fast as an i3, but then again, it's also half the price.

The a4 3400 has a number of combos on half decent motherboards. I'm a fan of UEFI, so I would recommend this one:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131768 at $160
but there's a gigabyte one which doesn't have UEFI and is $20 cheaper at $140
You can also get a better CPU, but I don't see the point really for an HTPC.

I think having a small case for an HTPC is an excellent idea, but unfortunately the case manufacturers don't see any reason to make cheap small cases, which is really too bad.

I can't recommend the power supply, but I do like the size and price of this case. However, Athena Power is not on the list of bad PSU brands and they have made some decent power supplies in the past. If you want to save a little bit of money, you should be able to use it, as with such a low power build you could get away with a 250 W PSU. There were a few reports of PSU failures in the reviews. To be safe though, you should probably get a micro tower with a standard PSU size and get a low power quality PSU. Something like this won't look trashy and will be at least be the cheapest you can find on newegg at $35 -$5 and free shipping.

Otherwise, this one is a damn beauty at $50:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811352009

Or you can wait around for a new email deal to get a decent price on a better case. Usually around $30 with shipping is the cheapest you'll find.

As far as the reasons for getting a small case go:
Small cases look better, fit in more places closer to the TV, are easily portable and moveable, can lay on their side or upright, and in general make better HTPCs for those who don't know much about computers.
Bigger cases are cheaper, but bulky, and often look worse. It's your choice on which to get.

By the way:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817371044
If you include the Mail in Rebate, you can swap out your old PSU if it's decent for this build and give yourself a $40 650W.
That's why it's hard to recommend something like this:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817371033
since they're the same price after rebate, but clearly the 380W will be better for this build.

Post has been edited 2 time(s), last time on Sep 25 2011, 6:18 pm by rockz.



"Parliamentary inquiry, Mr. Chairman - do we have to call the Gentleman a gentleman if he's not one?"

Sep 25 2011, 6:22 pm Excalibur Post #13

The sword and the faith

Quote from Aristocrat
The case/power supply you posted is quite a bit more expensive than what I have. What are some of the benefits of using that one instead of a normal tower?
Its a well cooled microATX slim case, it is made to be a media center. The Gamma is a budget gaming build mid tower. Aesthetically, one fits, one does not. Though the Gamma can perform both functions, it is not intended to do so.

Also with AMD this build is going to have such a low power draw at idle its going to be fucking silly. If I was going to make myself one of these boxes, I'd probably do the same since I'm now renting an apartment and paying part of the utility cost.


Edit: Oh you'll also need this for wireless: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833704045

Same adapter I have. Its cheap, has great range, and good speed.

Post has been edited 1 time(s), last time on Sep 25 2011, 6:35 pm by Excalibur.




SEN Global Moderator and Resident Zealot
-------------------------
The sword and the faith.

:ex:
Sector 12
My stream, live PC building and tech discussion.

Sep 26 2011, 1:59 pm BlueWolf Post #14



http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833118145
That one has up to 300 mbps, and only $18. I'm only posting here because I need a wireless adapter, and I was thinking of what you added, Ex, and I ended up finding this. Worth it?



None.

Sep 26 2011, 3:00 pm Excalibur Post #15

The sword and the faith

Quote from BlueWolf
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833118145
That one has up to 300 mbps, and only $18. I'm only posting here because I need a wireless adapter, and I was thinking of what you added, Ex, and I ended up finding this. Worth it?
I can't speak for it because I haven't used it, while the other one I've used several in different PCs. And 300Mbps is Wireless N, which is overrated because a wireless network only moves as fast as the slowest device connected to it. So if you have a B/G/N router and use even one G adapter, everything runs at G speed instead of N. Same if you use B. If you're lucky and only have N devices, it'll use the full 300Mbps. However I've yet to see any network transfers requiring such throughput. And good luck finding a 300mbps capable download. :P

Post has been edited 2 time(s), last time on Sep 26 2011, 3:09 pm by Excalibur.




SEN Global Moderator and Resident Zealot
-------------------------
The sword and the faith.

:ex:
Sector 12
My stream, live PC building and tech discussion.

Sep 26 2011, 7:57 pm Lanthanide Post #16



Quote from Excalibur
I can't speak for it because I haven't used it, while the other one I've used several in different PCs. And 300Mbps is Wireless N, which is overrated because a wireless network only moves as fast as the slowest device connected to it. So if you have a B/G/N router and use even one G adapter, everything runs at G speed instead of N. Same if you use B. If you're lucky and only have N devices, it'll use the full 300Mbps.
Not entirely correct. Wireless routers work as a shared L1 medium where only 1 device can transmit or receive data at a time. This means devices take turns in talking to the router. When a G device talks to the router, it will run at G speeds, and when the N device talks to the router, it will run at N speeds. Now if you're transmitting a 100mb file from each computer to some 3rd computer (say connected via wires for simplicity), then when the computers each transmit data they will prevent the other from transmitting. So when the slow G computer is transmitting, the N computer cannot be transmitting. Because G is much slower, it will take longer and hog more of the airtime than if it were N, thus in turn slowing the effective throughput of the N device down. However the N device will still transmit at its fully rated speed when it does transmit.

So if you've got lots of N and only a couple of G devices, you will get lower throughput than if it was just homogeneous N, but it'll still be faster than if everything was G. Now if you had lots of G and only a couple of N, then the N would be significantly congestion bound and may not get much faster than G. If you've only got 1 of each, or the G device is usually turned off or just sitting idle, then N will still get very good throughput.

Quote from Excalibur
However I've yet to see any network transfers requiring such throughput. And good luck finding a 300mbps capable download. :P
Well it depends on your ISP. I believe that some places in the US can get fibre at 100mbs down. Local wireless networks have nothing to do with internet download speeds anyway, that's why it's called "local area network". No one really minds having to leave their computer on for a few hours to download a movie from the Internet, but when copying from computer to computer they'd like it ASAP, especially if you're copying it to a friend's computer.



None.

Sep 26 2011, 8:15 pm Excalibur Post #17

The sword and the faith

All of this is elementary though, since most people have at least one older B device in their house anyway. :P




SEN Global Moderator and Resident Zealot
-------------------------
The sword and the faith.

:ex:
Sector 12
My stream, live PC building and tech discussion.

Sep 26 2011, 8:32 pm Lanthanide Post #18



B is no different from G in my description above. Replace G with B. The effects will be even worse because B is obviously slower than G, but the same principals still stand.

Also, I don't know that "most people" have at least one B in their house. I would think only older laptops would and they probably wouldn't be in high/regular use (and if they were, you'd wonder why the person had the money to buy an N access point if they didn't have the money to upgrade/replace an old laptop).



None.

Sep 26 2011, 10:07 pm ShadowFlare Post #19



I only have N here. :P I replaced the cards in the computers and have everything else wired (including my laptop, until I replace the card in it).

Btw, if you want an internal adapter for wireless, I can't think of any reason you would want the one you chose over one of these 3 N wireless cards, simply because they are cheaper, support N wireless, and should work just as well with your existing wireless:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833166011 (single antenna on back, up to 150 Mbps mode)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833166060 (standing antenna, up to 150 Mbps mode)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833166033 (dual antenna on back, up to 300 Mbps mode)

I've used both of these cards without issues on Windows 7, 32-bit and 64-bit. (two of those are the same card, only with a different antenna included) Note that I did not install the drivers from the included disc, instead downloading the drivers directly from Ralink's web site. Drivers for these cards are the first link here: http://www.ralinktech.com/support.php

The dual antenna card doesn't have a low profile bracket pictured, but the two I have did come with them and the details say it is included.


Btw, I've heard that there is significant slowdown on an N wireless network if you have one non-N device even connected to the network, even if it is doing nothing. I haven't actually tested this myself, though.

Post has been edited 5 time(s), last time on Sep 26 2011, 10:33 pm by ShadowFlare.



None.

Oct 2 2011, 4:24 am Aristocrat Post #20



Alright, I decided to get the Llano A4 3400 combo'd with the motherboard rockz suggested. Also went with the Fractal designs case. Other components are as-is. Bought a TP-LINK card and getting 20MB/s transfer rates between computers. Not too bad considering it was $15. Thanks to everybody for the suggestions made!

In total the build cost was just under $310. Put it together today and the thing runs at 25 degrees celsius when idle, 34 degrees celsius under load. The only complaint I have about the case is the super bright blue LED that can light a whole room, but other than that it runs quite cool and the case fan is inaudible after moving a few feet away.

(There is this "TPU switch" I found on the motherboard. The manual has no documentation for it and the first few things I found by Googling it does not make clear as to what it actually does. Flipping the switch causes a red LED to immediately light up, so I left it in the original state. Does anyone here know what exactly this switch is for?)



None.

Options
  Back to forum
Please log in to reply to this topic or to report it.
Members in this topic: None.
[04:29 am]
m.0.n.3.y -- Can anyone help me get SCMDraft 2 running? Getting "Fatal Error: Failed loading primary MPQ (stardat.mpq)"
[06:25 pm]
Roy -- I think it used to say "I'm feeling lucky" and it would pull up a random file when clicked, but it broke at some point, so I changed the text and made it display a message instead.
[2024-3-03. : 7:37 pm]
NudeRaider -- oh funny, hadn't noticed that before :w00t:
[2024-3-03. : 7:28 pm]
UndeadStar -- NudeRaider
NudeRaider shouted: UndeadStar what are these? Never heard of both of them.
In "Starcraft I Files", there's a "I'm feeling lazy" link. And in Starcraft 2, when playing coop missions with Alarak, there's a jewel that can be turned on/off (eventually annoying Alarak).
[2024-3-03. : 6:29 pm]
NudeRaider -- UndeadStar
UndeadStar shouted: I just discovered the "I'm feeling lazy" button. Just as addicting as the Alarak interface thing in SC2.
what are these? Never heard of both of them.
[2024-3-03. : 4:22 pm]
UndeadStar -- I just discovered the "I'm feeling lazy" button. Just as addicting as the Alarak interface thing in SC2.
[2024-3-02. : 7:31 pm]
Dem0n -- Oh_Man
Oh_Man shouted: i wonder how they did grand moff tarkins voice in star wars
Got someone to do a decent impersonation and then used professional audio engineers to make it sound like the original actor
[2024-3-01. : 8:11 pm]
IlyaSnopchenko -- Sure doesn't sound perfect... nothing is. I know it's better than my own attempts at voiceacting (but I'll have to resort to that, too; I've just been putting that off for ages).
[2024-3-01. : 2:58 pm]
Oh_Man -- i wonder how they did grand moff tarkins voice in star wars
[2024-3-01. : 2:58 pm]
Oh_Man -- oh right, yeh if ur trying to do additional dialogue for dead or unavailable actors then its ur only option. it still doesnt sound perfect though
Please log in to shout.


Members Online: jun3hong, Roy