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CPU and Graphics card for HTPC Build???

autolesbona Avatar
7y, 3m agoPosted 7 years, 3 months ago
I am in the process of speccing out my first HTPC build as was wondering if anyone could give some advice on a suitable graphics card and CPU/Motherboard combo. The HTPCs main use would be streaming media from my NAS drive although I would want it for some moderate gaming playing stuff like Gears of War, UT3, Crysis (although not bothered about it running maxed out!!!) and some RTS's.

I have been reading some reviews on the ATI HD 5750 which has recently been released and to me this seems like a good HTPC card. From the benchmarks I have seen it looks like a beast and is supposedly quite energy efficient and more importantly for me..... quiet. I have already got a case (Thermaltake Bach) which accepts ATX motherboards and seems big enough to accept a non low-profile graphics card.

Could any more experienced builders (I have built several PCs before but not in the last 2 years so my knowledge is very out of date) give me some suggestions please.

This PC would also hopefully be used as a replacement for my Sky HD box as I'd like to be able to record straight to a HDD rather than the Sky box
autolesbona Avatar
7y, 3m agoPosted 7 years, 3 months ago
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1 Like #1
What resolution will you be using?

5750 looks very good except I'd be tempted to wait for a passively cooled version (should be available before too long if availability of the chips is good). Failing that a cheaper 4670/4650 passively cooled card, although they have less than a quarter of the raw power of a 5750... NB Most passive cards extend a little higher than the standard full height so you would need a little headroom above the card in the case...

CPU - I'd opt for a decent dual-core over a tri/quad and one with as low a TDP as possible so it runs cool (and in turn quiet). Your choices are obviously dependant on budget, what you currently have (do you want to use DDR3 or do you already have some DDR2 etc) but look at the Athlon IIs (and Phenom IIs), Core 2 Duos and i5s. Motherboards again depend on CPU choice but look for decent passive cooling solutions...
#2
I knew I forgot something! At the moment I have a Hannspree 37" So the resolution isn't amazing. Its 720p / 1080i I think But I would be looking at upgrading to a better TV soon depending on how discounted the sales are before/after Xmas.

The main thing for me is it being quiet but still having some oomph. I don't mind a little hum but nothing too distracting. I do have some DDR2 RAM kicking about but RAM isn't expensive so I don't mind having to shell out on some DDR3 and I could then just stick my DDR2 on here or ebay.

I'd like to not spend too much on this, but I don't want the barest most minimum spec. As I have now sourced a case and I have plenty of spare HDD I only really need a CPU, Motherboard, Graphics card and a DVD/Blu-Ray/HD-DVD drive.

I have read that a passive card isn't a great idea for a HTPC as it causes more heat to build up in the case than a fan assisted one. This doesn't sound quite right to me as I assume that the case fans would be sufficient to draw this out.
1 Like #3
Keep an eye out for a deal on a 4770. Definatly go for one of the ATI 4XXX or 5XXX cards, then you can do audio over HDMI, which is ideal for a media centre.:thumbsup:

Make sure you spend a little extra cash on your power supply, as the system will be on a lot its important to get a 80+ PSU. Aside from the reduced temps and noise, It will also save you money in the long term !

http://www.80plus.org/images/b_calculate_f2.jpg
#4
djfluff
Keep an eye out for a deal on a 4770. Definatly go for one of the ATI 4XXX or 5XXX cards, then you can dou audio over HDMI, which is ideal for a media centre.:thumbsup:


I intend on getting a surround sound system (speakers, amp etc) in the xmas sales. How would this integrate with the HTPC. I assume a seperate sound card would be needed for this
1 Like #5
Prices are a bit wacky at the moment, but s1156 looks like a cracking socket. AMD is by far the most price competitive at the moment (AM3) but I think this will change before the end of the year. I believe those are probably your best two options at the moment as building around s775 would be a dead end street. If you could get s775 parts at knocked down prices (used/clearance) then that may be something worth considering.
#6
autolesbona;6573732
I knew I forgot something! At the moment I have a Hannspree 37" So the resolution isn't amazing. Its 720p / 1080i I think But I would be looking at upgrading to a better TV soon depending on how discounted the sales are before/after Xmas.

The main thing for me is it being quiet but still having some oomph. I don't mind a little hum but nothing too distracting. I do have some DDR2 RAM kicking about but RAM isn't expensive so I don't mind having to shell out on some DDR3 and I could then just stick my DDR2 on here or ebay.

I'd like to not spend too much on this, but I don't want the barest most minimum spec. As I have now sourced a case and I have plenty of spare HDD I only really need a CPU, Motherboard, Graphics card and a DVD/Blu-Ray/HD-DVD drive.

I have read that a passive card isn't a great idea for a HTPC as it causes more heat to build up in the case than a fan assisted one. This doesn't sound quite right to me as I assume that the case fans would be sufficient to draw this out.


There is some truth behind that last bit - but at the same time silence in one of the most important points to an HTPC (might not be the biggest deal during an intense gaming session but a noisy GPU fan/CPU fan when you're watching TV is a pain). This is where compromise needs to be made. The 5750 is a very powerful card and will be overkill at 720p resolutions (in some ways it would be nice to wait a few months as presumably AMD will offer a 40nm-chip card with about half the power of the 5770 (5670?) which would be ideal for your needs...

DDR3 is still quite a bit more than DDR2, and when you factor in the slightly more expensive motherboard and CPU too its quite a pricey 'upgrade' which probably isn't going to give you much performance boost. You're probably going to want not less than 4GB ram... By the sounds of it you don't need any fancy features on the motherboard (such as multiple PCI-E x16 slots) so if I were you I write down some CPU/RAM/mobo combo's in a list to see what the pricebreaks are for your particular circumstances and budget. Don't forget an afternarket CPU cooler might
be a lot quieter than the stock cooler (although if you get a low-TDP CPU it shouldn't be that loud anyway!)
#7
autolesbona
I intend on getting a surround sound system (speakers, amp etc) in the xmas sales. How would this integrate with the HTPC. I assume a seperate sound card would be needed for this


It depends... I have optical out from my TV, so I put everything in via HDMI (PC, PS3, SKY HD) and have an optical out connection to my amp, so whatever is on the TV, comes out my surround system.

If this is not the way you intend to go, most modern motherborads come with 5.1 + on board, so you could conect this directly to your amp..
#8
Thanks for the comments guys, have some rep :-) I'll research some combi's and post them here for you guys to comment.

I would like this machine to last forever without the need for me to ever upgrade it again. In the real world this means about 2 years before I'd be thinking of an upgrade or selling it and building a new one.
#9
djfluff
It depends... I have optical out from my TV, so I put everything in via HDMI (PC, PS3, SKY HD) and have an optical out connection to my amp, so whatever is on the TV, comes out my surround system.

If this is not the way you intend to go, most modern motherborads come with 5.1 + on board, so you could conect this directly to your amp..


I'm not sure my current TV has this, but if it does this is probably how I'd do it. So sweet :)
#10
autolesbona;6574133
I'm not sure my current TV has this, but if it does this is probably how I'd do it. So sweet :)


Depending on the AV amp you get, many have multiple HDMI inputs and output (so take an HDMI in from the HTPC with video+audio and forward the video on to the telly)...
#11
jah128
Depending on the AV amp you get, many have multiple HDMI inputs and output (so take an HDMI in from the HTPC with video+audio and forward the video on to the telly)...


Thanks Jah. You know you're stuff alright. Have you (or anyone) got any thoughts on the Athlon II X4 620? I have been very sad and made a table comparing the passmark results for each processor with their scan prices to give me a Passmark/£ figure. Out of the CPUs I looked at, this one had by far the highest PM/£ value. At £75 on scan this seems a deal and easily powerful enough. Whilst I'd love an i5/i7 system, I cannot justify spending that amount of money on a PC which will most of the time be used to watch films and rips.
#12
From what I can see the X4 620 looks ideal. I have seen a review on hexus of it paired with a 785G board with integrated Radeon HD 4200 graphics. Gaming wise it isn't great. Is there a AM3 board with better integrated graphics?

http://www.hexus.net/content/item.php?item=20230
#13
Athlon II X4 is a very good value chip and excels in areas where the L3 cache of the Phenom isn't really utilised, but I'm not certain I'd go down the quad-core route myself (as efficient as they are its still a good 130W of heat when its running flat out, which means noise). Whilst certainly in 2 years most things (games and apps) will be very geared towards quad-core systems, at the moment a (faster clocked) dual-core is cheaper and probably as good or better at most applications. If you intend to do a lot of video-encoding the quad-core may help (although most dual-cores should still be able to do it in a decent timeframe). Its a tricky decisions as there are many pro's and con's both ways, but for me quiet operation really is a key point to HTPCs so power-efficient dual-core CPUs, high-efficiency (80+) PSUs and passive graphics cards are what I think of...

You wont find any integrated graphics that are anywhere near close to 5750 performance, or even 4650 performance for that matter, so if you have any inclination to game go the dedicated route.
#14
jah128
Athlon II X4 is a very good value chip and excels in areas where the L3 cache of the Phenom isn't really utilised, but I'm not certain I'd go down the quad-core route myself (as efficient as they are its still a good 130W of heat when its running flat out, which means noise). Whilst certainly in 2 years most things (games and apps) will be very geared towards quad-core systems, at the moment a (faster clocked) dual-core is cheaper and probably as good or better at most applications. If you intend to do a lot of video-encoding the quad-core may help (although most dual-cores should still be able to do it in a decent timeframe). Its a tricky decisions as there are many pro's and con's both ways, but for me quiet operation really is a key point to HTPCs so power-efficient dual-core CPUs, high-efficiency (80+) PSUs and passive graphics cards are what I think of...

You wont find any integrated graphics that are anywhere near close to 5750 performance, or even 4650 performance for that matter, so if you have any inclination to game go the dedicated route.


Thanks for the response again Jah. At the moment it seems that AMD is the way to go for a cheap but competent system without really sacrificing too much compared to an Intel setup. Do you think that an AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition for £77.03 would be a better purchase or is this still OT for an HTPC?

http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/AMD-Phenom-II-X2-550-Black-Edition-Callisto-S-AM3-31GHz-7MB-Total-Cache-HT-4000MHz-85W-Retail

What would you suggest as a decent HTPC combo. Preferably AM3 because as you said, s775 is effectively dead now and i5 and beyond is too much money for me to spend on a secondary gaming machine. Hell, it would be far better than my current rig with that setup!!!!!
#15
Tricky again. The black edition gives you options to change the multiplier so you can overclock (or indeed underclock) if that takes your fancy, but value-for-money wise the quad seems better value; AMD certainly hold the value-for-money card over Intel on budget systems but Intel CPUs do perform a bit better and more efficiently... [I'd still choose AMD if you're working to a sub-£300 budget though]


TomsHardware had a review recent of their best CPU choices for a given budget - its worth a look. They also have an article comparing the Athlon II and Phenom II at like-for-like clock speeds to see where the lack of L3 cache is a problem... In some ways the cheap sub-£50 Athlon IIs with 65W TDP seem a good choice, and there is always the option to upgrade from one to a faster PhenomII Quad at some point in the future.
#16
You are not helping now Jah......... You are giving me too much to think about!!!!! :)
#17
:lol:
#18
ok, how about a 1GB passive Gigabyte GV-R485MC-1GI HD4850. This seems to be the most powerful passive graphics card I can find and it isn't too expensive either... about £110
#19
autolesbona;6576421
ok, how about a 1GB passive Gigabyte GV-R485MC-1GI HD4850. This seems to be the most powerful passive graphics card I can find and it isn't too expensive either... about £110


Its quite an engineering feat to make such a card run fanless. To be honest I'd be a bit worried about it in an small case - not sure what the airflow is like in your case but its probably safer to stick to something like a passive 4670 if you are using the 4xxx series cards - a lot less grunt but still playable in most current games on 720p resolutions. I believe there is a passively cooled 4770, which is almost as powerful as the 4850 but uses quite a bit less power, so better suited to passive cooling and probably the best balance between pixel-pushing ability and adequate cooling (at least until passive 5750s are available...)
#20
I'll be picking up a Thermaltake Bach this weekend which is a pretty large case so I was hoping that this would be suitable. Having had a further rummage round the net the Athlon II X2 250 looks like the best bang for buck and its low TDP is ideal. And as you say I can always upgrade to something with more grunt as I'm buying into the AM3 chipset at a later date.

Now to spend the rest of the evening scoping out a suitable passive graphics card
#21
A new development............... There will be 45W TDP Athlons being released very soon to coincide with windows 7 so I'll be getting that I think. Just thought I'd keep you peeps abreast of my thought processes. If you are lucky I may even post a build thread with photos on AVForums.

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