first HTPC build CPU choice struggles

brettk30

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Nov 6, 2013
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What do you guys think I should use for an HTPC that will only VERY VERY RARELY try to run any games at all, nothing intensive, possibly counter strike source. but most likely never run games.

I like the looks of i5 cpus but they cost 200+ for the sexy versions (the T series is interesting looking)

I like the looks of i3 also but it bothers me that they are only dual core, and so are the pentiums that are half price, are they actually that much better?

the a10 6800k richland apu also caught my eye but I have no idea exactly what is overkill for my needs and what isnt.

should I even consider a cheap discrete gfx card for an HTPC? it will hold like 6 hard drives totalling like 4.5tb.

This will be my first media storage/HTPC build and want to make sure it can output high quality video and audio through hdmi to my reciever that feeds to my 55" 1080p lcd led tv and surround speakers. I am on a tight budget so cant go crazy overkill, what ram speeds would I need for this setup 1600? 2133? any input would be greatly appreciated, I am a noob at this HTPC idea and not sure how much watts my PSU would even need, my gaming rig I am currently on uses a 750w thermaltake 80plusbronze and i7 3770k, 680gtx 4gb, 2400 gskill ddr3 ram and I worry that its PSU is to large for its needs.
 

ssddx

Glorious
Moderator
if you gave up gaming completely?

a mATX mobo with hdmi out, i3 or i5 cpu, 6gb (8gb if you want the option of gaming with a gpu upgrade) 1600 ram, 350w (450 if you want the option to upgrade to a gpu) psu would likely work fine. or you could go with an amd a series cpu since they have better onboard graphics. if you want something cheaper (but they draw more power so in the end its going to cost you more on the bill every month).

not sure if a pentium can handle it. most likely it would but it also eliminates your possibility of upgrading the system with a video card for some gaming in case you wanted to do it. i would go with an i3 (if not gaming or if leaving the option open) or i5 (gaming or leaving the option open.) or an a10 (if not gaming). your choice though.

since its just a htpc i would go with 1600 speed but use a value ram without heat spreaders (you can see all the chips on it) since they are cheaper.

basically you just need to make a choice between 3 things:

-i want to never play games (cheapest option)
-i want to not play games now but want to leave the option open (cheap up front, slight expense down the line)
-i want to play games now. (most expensive option)

ultimately if you want to crunch numbers... you can likely build the system with a pentium, 4gb 1333 ram, cheap mobo with hdmi however depending on what you run on it you may get a little slowdown here or there. if budget is paramount then go for it but personally i'd suggest an upgrade. again, your choice.
 

ssddx

Glorious
Moderator
do you need a graphics card?
for watching hd movies, playing flash games and web browsing then the answer is no. for playing games the answer can be a resounding yes. while entirely possible to play some older games on current integrated video you would need to lower your settings to even make them playable. integrated just isnt all that powerful although amd does have the upper hand compared with intel at the moment. going with a cheap video card would be a better option.

what cpu to go with?
you are correct, intel chips are expensive. they are however better at power consumption. basically you need to pick from spending a bit now and saving on your power bill or spending less now but spending more on your power bill. if you wanted to try and run without a graphics card you could try the amd a10 apu (you might need to run the game on low settings though). if you wanted to run with a gpu on a budget i would run an amd fx series with a gpu. if you wanted power savings too i would run an intel i3 or i5.

i would suggest reading the posts by jaguarsks here..
http://www.tomshardware.com/answers/id-1744914/intel-amd-htpc-silent-cool-power.html

what motherboard do i need?
for a htpc you dont require very much. a mini atx would work although you could always run with a micro atx as well. you really only require a pci-e slot, 2x ram slots and support for your particular cpu socket.

what ram is better?
i would suggest going with the standard 1600mhz. if you read the link jaguar suggested 2133 paired up with the amd apu if you went without a video card but i dont think that is really the route to take. i would suggest 8gb (same as a desktop) though you can probably get away with 6.

psu?
probably looking at a 350-400w (which i would up to a 450) as long as you dont go too crazy with the gpu..

---------------

your current psu on your gaming tower is too large... but that isnt going to affect it negatively. your psu will only draw what your components do. for example you could have a 1050w psu and it would draw as much from the wall as your 750w does. generally its suggested that you dont exceed 85% of a psu wattage for extended periods of time which means your psu is generally 50-100w more than what your needs are. eg if you need 450w for a gaming system we often recommend 550w psus.

---------------

what would i go with?

an intel cpu + nvidia or amd gpu, 6-8gb ram.

the exact gpu you get is going to be determined by what quality settings you want out of the game. if you are okay with low quality then lower end is okay. if you are fine with running at the lowest settings or reduced resolution then even an amd a10 would be fine likely. if you wanted maximum quality then you would need a better gpu. generally any integrated or slot solution can run video fine.

 

brettk30

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Nov 6, 2013
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i have noticed the pentium haswells only support 1333 ram, not 1600, should i bite the bullet and get an i3 or i5 and add a card later if feels necessary? is the added features of the i3 truly superior to pentium? im a noob :( but your reply has been rediculously informative so far lol, answered ALOTTTTTT for me <3
 

ssddx

Glorious
Moderator
i would not go with a pentium if you feel you may upgrade it to an i3 or i5 later. that would just be wasting money. yes, the i3 and i5 are superior to the pentium and if not for the gaming aspect of your thread i wouldnt really oppose the pentium chip.

if you want to run without a video card i would go with either the amd a10 or intel i5. the integrated video on the amd is going to be superior but if you intend to get a cheap video card the i5 may be the best in the future and will also be better on your power bill. the i5 + card combination will be a bit more expensive though.

honestly the whole thing holding you up is gaming. what quality settings are you looking for? if you just want the game to "run" but dont care about quality or even resolution then even integrated can run it (the a10 would run it a bit smoother) but if you want it to run "good" eg for playing multiplayer competitively once in awhile or if you would like to play some other games on it once in awhile then i would suggest a budget gpu instead which pushes more towards going with an intel i5 (or even i3 if you wanted really budget).

i need to know your expectations first...

also... if you wanted to save on startup time you could go with a very small ssd for os (which has better support with the newer boards and chips. instead of taking about 30 seconds to boot up it would take 9.

if you dont want to use a m+kb there are remotes available which control windows media center.

basically... it acts like a tivo or roku instead of like a pc but still gives you the pc functions if you wanted to pull out the keyboard and mouse..

again... need to know your preferences.
 

brettk30

Honorable
Nov 6, 2013
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I am ok with mouse and keyboard, I could even sacrifice the idea of gaming on it, but still worry if a pentium can handle top quality videos @ 1080p being send out of its hdmi with 5.1 sound to my reciever? the sound is raw i believe so it does not add additional processing?

and what ram speed would be best for this? since some speeds are the same price at low end for 2 x 4gb sticks totalling 8gb
 

ssddx

Glorious
Moderator
if you gave up gaming completely?

a mATX mobo with hdmi out, i3 or i5 cpu, 6gb (8gb if you want the option of gaming with a gpu upgrade) 1600 ram, 350w (450 if you want the option to upgrade to a gpu) psu would likely work fine. or you could go with an amd a series cpu since they have better onboard graphics. if you want something cheaper (but they draw more power so in the end its going to cost you more on the bill every month).

not sure if a pentium can handle it. most likely it would but it also eliminates your possibility of upgrading the system with a video card for some gaming in case you wanted to do it. i would go with an i3 (if not gaming or if leaving the option open) or i5 (gaming or leaving the option open.) or an a10 (if not gaming). your choice though.

since its just a htpc i would go with 1600 speed but use a value ram without heat spreaders (you can see all the chips on it) since they are cheaper.

basically you just need to make a choice between 3 things:

-i want to never play games (cheapest option)
-i want to not play games now but want to leave the option open (cheap up front, slight expense down the line)
-i want to play games now. (most expensive option)

ultimately if you want to crunch numbers... you can likely build the system with a pentium, 4gb 1333 ram, cheap mobo with hdmi however depending on what you run on it you may get a little slowdown here or there. if budget is paramount then go for it but personally i'd suggest an upgrade. again, your choice.
 
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