Low End HTPC
The goal of a low cost HTPC is to pack a lot of features with great accessories for all around $500. Here is what this machine will do for you:
- 1080p Playback
- Dual Tuner DVR
- HD Netflix + Other streaming services
- Full computer with Windows 7
- HDMI audio + video
- AMD + ATI based HTPC
- 5.1 Audio
The choice for the motherboard is pretty simple, which is the BIOSTAR A880G+. This is a great motherboard that supports 5.1 Audio, built in Radeon 4250 Graphics, Gigabit LAN, 8GB DDR3 support, a PCI Express 2.0 x16 and 2 PCI slots. Also on board are 4 SATA 3Gb/s ports supporting Raid 0/1/10, and to top it all of you get full HDMI audio and video. It should be known up front that this board does not support S/PDIF digital audio. You can find it both on Newegg and Amazon for around $70, but often much cheaper in bundles.
You have a lot of options here depending if you would like to go low energy or prefer more power. For lower energy consumption my recommended pick is the AMD Athlon II X2 255, which is a 3.1GHz 65W dual core processor and can be found on both Newegg and Amazon for around $60. If you want a bit more power then upgrade to the AMD Athlon II X3 450, which is a 3.2GHZ triple core processor but comes in at 95W. It will run you a bit more money available on both Newegg and Amazon for around $75.
I would highly suggest at 4GB of RAM, and my favorite company is G.Skill. You can pick up 2x2GB of their DDR3 1333 Ripjaws for around $45 on Newegg. There are a lot of alternatives out there for RAM so take your pick.
Hard drives are up to you, but I personally prefer to have a single drive dedicated to the operating system, and another dedicated to TV recordings. For the operating system specific drive size doesn’t really matter, but you could pick up a 7200RPM Western Digital 160 GB for around $35 on Newegg Feel free to go bigger if you want to store videos and music, but it all depends on your personal setup. For the TV recording drive I would pick up at minimum a 1TB drive and I really like the Samsung Spinpoint F3 which is a 7200 RPM 32MB Cache drive that will only run you around $60 on Amazon or Newegg.
You have tons of options here, if you want small or large it is all up to you. I like to buy cases with power supplies built in, but perhaps you want to go another route. I ended up picking up the APEVIA X-QPACK on Newegg for around $70 which includes a 420W power supply and a front panel LCD display for temperatures. It is a bit larger, but is nice for heat dispersion. a smaller case that is a bit cheaper around $60 on Newegg is the IN WIN Slim case, which has a 300W power supply which is plenty of power and it is highly reviewed.
- Windows 7 Home Premium – $100
- Silicon Dust HDHomeRun Network-based Dual Tuner – $100
- Or AVerMedia AVerTVHD Duet Internal Dual Tuner - $70
- Media Center Remote – $20
James reviewed an extremely similar setup so you can get a feel for just how powerful this system is. Read the full review here. Your price will vary depending on the respectable website and if you do any combo deals.