Building a HTPC

Discussion in 'Technology' started by ali_f, Oct 5, 2014.

  1. Need your help here in building one. - Can anyone guide me (piece by piece starting from the case). My preference is more to do with size as I would like a small one to fit in the living room. But at the same time, it's got to be nice and powerful.

    Will be using it mostly for XBMC and TV playback services (Netflix, iPlayer, ITV Player, 5oD and so forth).

    Any recommendations?
  2. What's your budget?

    The AMD APUs are pretty much perfect for HTPCs. You could also go with an Intel NUC.
  3. I was thinking spending up to $500. For this sort of project, I'm not really bothered which CPU to go for (AMD or Intel), just need one that will be reliable.

    Would be nice to find a quiet build too (not too much noise from the fan).

    Lenovo remote:

    Wifi card (if you need it)

    Store everything on your desktop and just use the NUC as a front end. A Haswell i3 will be plenty powerful for HD playback. The Lenovo remote gives you a keyboard, trackball, and multimedia controls. The NUC is only about the size of a small book, and will run cool and quiet.

    My HTPC uses an AMD APU with a MicroATX motherboard and a Silverstone Grandia case. But that was mostly because it allowed me to reuse some parts I had on hand (SSD, PSU, Ram). If I were starting from scratch with a $500 budget, I'd definitely go with an Intel NUC.
  5. I feel like $500 is too much for a XBMC PC that is going to sit under a tv... you are paying a 100% premium to get into that small case. A $200-250 Tigerdirect AMD kit would work for fine for XBMC/Streaming.
  6. Whoa, thanks for the information. I have been watching videos of the Intel NUC and it even rivals the Apple Mini with its nice finished design.

    According to the reviews, fan is very silent and i know the mrs won't complain as the unit would suit our living room.

    The main reason going for a $500 budget is mostly for future proofing.....The next Windows is coming out soon and in time I might just upgrade all of my PC's onto it (I've completely missed out on windows 8 )
  7. As supersonic said, if you want to spend less, there are always AMD combo deals that pop up on NewEgg or TigerDirect for $200-300 that would work fine for XBMC.

    This for example:
  8. What software do you guys recommend for a HTPC?

    Previously, I had just been going to hulu/amazon/netflix desktop sites to stream. I only launched XBMC to check out free stuff I had no intention of paying for, or wasn't out yet.

    Anybody have experience with PLEX?
  9. My understanding is you run the Free Plex server on a PC and then use a Plex device like Roku 3 as TV interface into your PC library. That seems easier to me than running a dedicated HTPC and it's only $99. You can also run the apps on your phones and tablets. The Xbox One and 360 just added Plex service last month so you can also use them as well.
  10. Ah, so it's not the HTPC but a PC loaded up with hard drives and downloaded content. Unfortunately, I haven't done that in a while....

    Am I directly connecting to my 'content PC' with their apps/software, or are their servers involved somehow? One thing I don't like about the new Slingbox is connecting through their servers and not directly to my Slingbox. The old versions supported this...

    I don't like my stuff being held hostage by companies burning through venture capital...
  11. How can "free stuff" that you had no intention of paying for be held hostage by anyone?
  12. It seems pretty obvious to me. My network storage PC with my pictures, music, and video. Plus anything else I store on it.... I don't want any middleman in between the client app and the PC app.
  13. Right. But if the content is already on your PC, how can it be held hostage?
  14. I was looking at the Slingbox and it has some draw backs but there are no monthly fees and no restrictions. You can stream all the HBO and NFL you want. As far as I know it doesn't stream stored data so you can't use it for your private video library. The Apps also cost $15 to $30 per device. It also ties up a TV so while you streaming Playboy to your hotel room the family members at home are also forced to watch Playboy. You're also limited to 1 stream per box which is lame.

    Tivo on the other hand does have a monthly subscription and can limit what you are able to record and watch. Tivo has a bro-mance with Comcast and they will restrict what ever they feel like. So certain shows will be off limits for streaming. As far as I know you can't use Tivo to stream from your home PC.

    I think your best bet is to run a Plex server on your PC and stream from that. It depends on what you want to do. I bought an HDHomerun Prime and that lets me stream live TV to anywhere in the house and I can also use my PC as a DVR. It does have it's draw backs though. You can't stream off network unless you get really creative with remote PC access. It also tends to need a reboot every so often and the Apps are kind of crappy.
  15. I don't know why people bother with all the open-source-but-not-really-open-source media software that's always in a perpetual beta state due to the inability to stay current with all the various OS updates. They don't offer much in the way of unique features anymore either, or else they want you to pay extra for them.
  16. Are you talking about Plex? Is there something better? I don't need a media library on demand so I don't know much about it. I just know that a lot of people like it.

    Plex on the Xbox One looks pretty slick.

  17. @bfun

    Interestingly, I have my sling-box hooked up to a Tivo, connected to an old TV in my parents basement... Because of copyright crap, the setup doesn't work unless a TV is connected. Some channels, movies, shows also don't work over HDMI, so I had to connect my Slingbox to the Tivo using the 5 cable setup.

    Typically, it's a fantastic setup other than a few anomalies. Connecting to the Slingbox automatically turns the TV on, disconnecting still leaves the TV on. The IR is painfully slow sometimes, to the point of locking. I rectified that for $30 by setting up a internet controlled power switch to reboot the TV, Tivo, & Slingbox.

    The 2 real issues have to do with reduced features. Before you connected directly to your Slingbox through an app, or even direct IP connection (lots of router settings). In order to simplify this with no need for router settings, you seem to authenticate through Slingbox servers to complete the connection. Meaning they need to stay in business for your device to work. The 2nd is the 1 connection limit, I don't think that's any sort of technical limitation anymore... my dad streams that Slingbox to his phone which means I can't watch TV. But since they for the cable, tivo, TV, + electricity, not much I can do about it :'(

    I'll have to research HDHomerun Prime. My problem is I don't really know what I want or need, as they change so rapidly nowadays. If my HDD hadn't died I could've lived in ignorance!
  18. Yeah, iTunes + Apple TV is better. There's nothing that Plex does for free that's better (or even different), and it's basically like continuously using beta software for your media library. It can break just because of an OS update on one of the platforms it supports.
  19. ITunes is a bloated mess though.
  20. Well Apple is a closed ecosystem and Plex has a growing number of devices that support it. There are Android and Apple devices, Amazon Fire TV, Roku boxes, Roku TVs, Samsung and LG TVs, Chromecast, Linux , and now Xbox consoles. I'm sure a year from now the Plex list will be even longer and Apples list will still be the same.

    Back when I was searching for my first TV streaming device I was looking at the Apple TV because I wanted the best device I could get for the money. Surprisingly I found that Apple TV was usually ranked last when compared to Roku, Amazon, and Chromcast. When I bought my Roku 3 at Walmart I saw every gen of Roku and the Fire TV but no Apple TV. My Best Buy also had the Fire TV and Roku displayed together on a very prominent table. The website says they also have Apple TV but I've never seen it in the store. Now that Roku is selling their own cheap-ass TVs I expect they'll dominate the market pretty hard this Christmas. If Apple doesn't come out with a better TV streaming device soon it will probably be forgotten all together.