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Building a new HTPC, Suggestions, Thoughts?


Deval
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I'm looking to build a HTPC using an Intel NUC i5 (I know it's possibly overkill, but the i3 version is $70 cheaper and I rather get the i5 with HD5000 graphics).

 

The plan was to install an OS (Win 8.1, etc.) on a primary mSATA drive, and keep the content on an external HD which I would plug in when needed. I would use a wireless keyboard with touchpad to interface with the device, and the primary use would be for all PC-related stuff (sharing pictures on FB, watching local video/media content, etc.)

 

Anyone else have a HTPC/Plex/XBMC/etc. setup that they want to suggest? 

 

My core needs are:

 

- Playback of local media files stored on USB HD

- Full web browsing capabilities with able to play streaming websites (Youtube, etc.)

- Future streaming from a NAS (if I can find one that can reuse all the HDs that I have sitting around)

 

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Depends on your budget and how small you truly want to go. They get more expensive once you get down to dvr/cable box size.

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Depends on your budget and how small you truly want to go. They get more expensive once you get down to dvr/cable box size.

 

Ah, I didn't mention budget.

 

So far I'm looking at $500 and change with the i5 NUC + parts.

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My audio server is a mid 2011 Mac mini -- with a third party SSD replacement -- running JRiver Media Center.  It may not be the cheapest, but if you care about silence and elegance, you are unlikely to find a better solution on the PC side.

 

AJ

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I've been looking to do something similar, I plan to use steamos along with xbmc for gaming and media streaming.

 

I wouldn't bother with windows unless you intend to rip dvd/bluray with anydvd on the htpc.

 

I'm a long time xbmc user, currently I still use apple tv 1 and apple tv 2 for xbmc boxes.

 

the mac mini is also an excellent choice for an htpc, especially if you are into the apple ecosystem (iphones/itunes/etc).

 

another though that is even cheaper than the NUC, is get a nexus 7 2013 tablet and a chrome cast, + xbmc android app.

 

Though to be honest I have not tried it to see what lag/degradation effects from casting are, and of course you won't be streaming bluray with this solution.

 

regarding your nas;

 

 

 

Future streaming from a NAS (if I can find one that can reuse all the HDs that I have sitting around)

 

 

Almost any nas can reuse harddrives, however I don't think any will reuse the while keeping any existing content.

 

In other words, any nas worth buying will reformat the disks into the raid array they use.

 

I like netgear nas, I have like 5 of them lol.

Edited by dedub
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I'm looking to build a HTPC using an Intel NUC i5 (I know it's possibly overkill, but the i3 version is $70 cheaper and I rather get the i5 with HD5000 graphics).

 

The plan was to install an OS (Win 8.1, etc.) on a primary mSATA drive, and keep the content on an external HD which I would plug in when needed. I would use a wireless keyboard with touchpad to interface with the device, and the primary use would be for all PC-related stuff (sharing pictures on FB, watching local video/media content, etc.)

 

Anyone else have a HTPC/Plex/XBMC/etc. setup that they want to suggest? 

 

My core needs are:

 

- Playback of local media files stored on USB HD

- Full web browsing capabilities with able to play streaming websites (Youtube, etc.)

- Future streaming from a NAS (if I can find one that can reuse all the HDs that I have sitting around)

 

Check outs tomshardware, http://www.overclockers.com/forums/, anandtech, etc. 

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The only reason I was looking to use Windows as the OS was from the "family" usage standpoint. If my wife and I are hosting family, and we all want to sign down and look at a picassa photo album of _______'s event, it would work so much better to have a familiar OS.

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Ah, I didn't mention budget.

 

So far I'm looking at $500 and change with the i5 NUC + parts.

Here you go. It's just about $556, however you could go down to 4gb of ram if you wanted to and get a $20ish or so cheaper power supply. However the one I picked is actually quite quiet and very power efficient, which is a huge plus to me.

 

Edit: forgot the link, silly me xD.

http://pcpartpicker.com/p/R9bZ99

Also if you're willing to consider going AMD I could probably get it down to 450/500 including a good enclosed liquid cooling CPU cooler and higher clocked ram (2100/2400 compared to the 1600) to boost the new apu's (it actually scales rather well). The only draw back, assuming the liquid cooling CPU cooler is added, would be it'd require a bit higher wattage.

Edited by kojitsari
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thats a pretty cool site (pcpartpicker.com), thanks for the link.

Pcpartpicker is probably the best resource for build you own PC fans. It auto checks compatibility, tells you the wattage you need, and for almost all of the cases will tell you if various items will fit. Power supplies, fans, CPU coolers, even some graphics cards (they haven't updated it to do all graphics cards yet but are working on it).

Plus having multiple retailers prices at your finger tips is nice, it even factors in micro center bundle deals on CPU's and motherboards.

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My audio server is a mid 2011 Mac mini -- with a third party SSD replacement -- running JRiver Media Center.  It may not be the cheapest, but if you care about silence and elegance, you are unlikely to find a better solution on the PC side.

 

AJ

I concur on the mac mini, except mine is 2009 with a 500GB Samsung 840 Pro.

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I concur on the mac mini, except mine is 2009 with a 500GB Samsung 840 Pro.

 

I had the stock 500 GB Toshiba drive replaced with a 120 GB SSD.  While the Mac mini is already quiet, I wanted no spinning drives or fans in my listening room.  And I could not care less about the loss of storage capacity.  Nothing but the OS and a few applications are stored locally.  The spinning drive where the audio is stored is on a 2 GB NAS in another room, connected by 1000BASE-T Ethernet and a 5 GHz 802.11n bridge.  It works well.

 

AJ

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I had the stock 500 GB Toshiba drive replaced with a 120 GB SSD.  While the Mac mini is already quiet, I wanted no spinning drives or fans in my listening room.  And I could not care less about the loss of storage capacity.  Nothing but the OS and a few applications are stored locally.  The spinning drive where the audio is stored is on a 2 GB NAS in another room, connected by 1000BASE-T Ethernet and a 5 GHz 802.11n bridge.  It works well.

 

AJ

 

I have a synology 2gb DS211+ off the same router over gigabit ethernet inside the cabinet. I could have gone with the external usb drive route but I had the nas from the office. The 500GB SSD is probably overkill but we got a great deal on it at the office.

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Updated with more detail:

 

HTPC in the living room:

Intel i5 NUC with Intel low power SSD and micron low power ram.  The NUC uses basically no power (between 5-20w).  I run windows 8.1 with media center.  I use a logitech harmony remote and a logitech dinovo mini keyboard (good combo).  The built-in IR blaster is very nice.

 

I have gigabit ethernet run to a closet which I hide my ceton tuner, wireless router, cable modem, and QNAP TS-470 NAS.  I use the QNAP to store all recorded TV (iscsi) and the whole system is amazingly stable/solid.

 

The NUC works like a champ and can easily support the 100-200mbit send/receive in each direction needed to support the setup (for example, one stream recording/watching would be 15mbit from the ceton to the NUC, then to the NUC to the QNAP, so 15+15+15mbit).

 

Media center + Windows Metro/Modern (whatever you want to call it) is great.  The biggest issue I have with windows are the constant barrage of updates (annoying) and lack of apps (native HBO GO would be nice).

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I went cheap with the NAS option and got a Buffalo LS421DE which doesn't come with any drives.  I then purchased two - 2 TB drives off of Newegg and set them up in RAID 1 redundancy.  Love the setup and I'm only using wireless to access the drives.  The applications from Buffalo work well enough for me to access all of my files from any mobile device (Android / iOS) on the fly.  Overall pretty cheap solution considering I got the enclosure on Woot.

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Updated with more detail:

 

HTPC in the living room:

Intel i5 NUC with Intel low power SSD and micron low power ram.  The NUC uses basically no power (between 5-20w).  I run windows 8.1 with media center.  I use a logitech harmony remote and a logitech dinovo mini keyboard (good combo).  The built-in IR blaster is very nice.

 

I have gigabit ethernet run to a closet which I hide my ceton tuner, wireless router, cable modem, and QNAP TS-470 NAS.  I use the QNAP to store all recorded TV (iscsi) and the whole system is amazingly stable/solid.

 

The NUC works like a champ and can easily support the 100-200mbit send/receive in each direction needed to support the setup (for example, one stream recording/watching would be 15mbit from the ceton to the NUC, then to the NUC to the QNAP, so 15+15+15mbit).

 

Media center + Windows Metro/Modern (whatever you want to call it) is great.  The biggest issue I have with windows are the constant barrage of updates (annoying) and lack of apps (native HBO GO would be nice).

 

That's exactly how I want to run it. You use the Harmony remote to power on the NUC? 

 

I was debating on installing Win 8.1, and leaving it on standby/hibernate when not in use, but was wondering what would be the best way to wake it. I know some wireless keyboards have a power/wake button, so that would work. How would I be able to interface with the IR built-in?

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I went cheap with the NAS option and got a Buffalo LS421DE which doesn't come with any drives.  I then purchased two - 2 TB drives off of Newegg and set them up in RAID 1 redundancy.  Love the setup and I'm only using wireless to access the drives.  The applications from Buffalo work well enough for me to access all of my files from any mobile device (Android / iOS) on the fly.  Overall pretty cheap solution considering I got the enclosure on Woot.

 

Do you use the streaming capabilities to watch the videos you have saved on the NAS using your TV? 

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That's exactly how I want to run it. You use the Harmony remote to power on the NUC? 

 

I was debating on installing Win 8.1, and leaving it on standby/hibernate when not in use, but was wondering what would be the best way to wake it. I know some wireless keyboards have a power/wake button, so that would work. How would I be able to interface with the IR built-in?

 

 

The NUC falls asleep/wakes up as it should.  I wake with IR.  I think you can even power it on/off with IR but I can't remember since it just sleeps all the time.

 

I built the whole setup to be very low power and very low "visual impact".  It's really fantastic.  A lot of people like the XBMC setup but I've had no problems with media center (other than a random missed recording now and again).

 

14694315996_990280f5c3_c.jpg

 

 

14714194571_e13275a5ca_c.jpg

 

To keep it sprint related, I have that lame #honorthis sprint commercial playing while testing throughput :)

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Thanks man, I think that's the way I'll go with it. Just need to save pennies and order off Amazon to get my Prime shipping :D

 

Sure, let me know if you have any other questions - I've been using ceton/windows media center for a number of years now.

 

I will tell you, this has to be hard wired with gigabit ethernet and you have to have a decently fast nas as the I/O levels are high.

 

No way in heck will this work over WIFI.

 

The only other potential issue you might have is getting the cable company to activate your cablecard (they would rather rent you a DVR for 25/month or whatever).

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Sure, let me know if you have any other questions - I've been using ceton/windows media center for a number of years now.

 

I will tell you, this has to be hard wired with gigabit ethernet and you have to have a decently fast nas as the I/O levels are high.

 

No way in heck will this work over WIFI.

 

The only other potential issue you might have is getting the cable company to activate your cablecard (they would rather rent you a DVR for 25/month or whatever).

 

I wasn't planning on using the set up as a DVR, more for NAS-based local files streaming to the TV.

 

Yeah I spoke to TWC about getting a CableCard, and they are asking for $2.50 a month, just no idea if I can bring my own cable box.

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I wasn't planning on using the set up as a DVR, more for NAS-based local files streaming to the TV.

 

Yeah I spoke to TWC about getting a CableCard, and they are asking for $2.50 a month, just no idea if I can bring my own cable box.

 

Yup, you can definitely bring your own cable tuner (that you use with a TWC supplied cablecard).

 

You can get the hdhomerun prime for about 100 bucks which will let you tune 3 shows at once or the ceton eth which will let you tune 6 shows for about 200 bucks.

 

Legally TWC has to support the cablecard (you can watch all the same channels, the only difference is no "on demand").

 

It's nice, over time you save a lot by avoiding the 11-30 bucks that they'll typically charge for a DVR box.

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Do you use the streaming capabilities to watch the videos you have saved on the NAS using your TV? 

Yes, I am able to use the Buffalo application to access video files from the NAS and then stream to either of my Chromecasts.  Works like a champ as long as the file formats play nice, which for the most part do.

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Yup, you can definitely bring your own cable tuner (that you use with a TWC supplied cablecard).

 

You can get the hdhomerun prime for about 100 bucks which will let you tune 3 shows at once or the ceton eth which will let you tune 6 shows for about 200 bucks.

 

Legally TWC has to support the cablecard (you can watch all the same channels, the only difference is no "on demand").

 

It's nice, over time you save a lot by avoiding the 11-30 bucks that they'll typically charge for a DVR box.

 

Interesting, so how would I output from the HDHomeRun to my TV? 

 

This is pretty damn cool man, thanks!

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