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Thread: Help/advice on new HTPC/Media Server build please?

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    Question Help/advice on new HTPC build please?

    Hi.

    Have been meaning to replace all my PC's for some while now and build a new HTPC/Media Server that can house all my media in one box.

    I don't play games on my PC's (have a XBOX360 for that) but regularly watch a great deal of HD content, surf the net and often multi-task. Therefore I'd like a reasonably powerful machine. Quad-Core preferably as I have three Dual-Cores at present and don't find them fast enough.

    Recently purchased a stack (10 to be precise!) of Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB HDD's.

    I'm after a decent full tower case that can house a minimum of 12 x 3.5" HDD's. Would like it to be as quiet as possible without costing a small fortune. Also that it's reasonably efficient, seen as it's often running for hours on end.

    Picked up last months copy of Custom PC to give myself an idea of what's currently about etc and came up with a shortlist of components that may fit the bill:

    Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650 (a AMD Phenom II X4 955BE was mentioned on another thread which might be a better choice?)
    Sapphire ATi Radeon HD 4770 (would prefer a passive cooling one though I don't believe ones available as yet?)
    Cooler Master Cosmos S case (a Coolermaster HAF932 was mentioned on another thread which might be a better choice? Also Antec Twelve Hundred a possibility?)
    Be Quiet! Dark Power Pro 650W PSU (also Corsair HX620W a possibility?)
    Pioneer or LG BD-RW drive

    On-board sound will suffice for now (I'm using headphones) as this build is going in my bedroom

    Would a fast boot drive (only needs to be approx. 80GB) such as a WD Raptor 10k be overkill?

    4GB RAM should cater for my needs. Not sure I need DDR3?

    Thinking of Windows Vista Home Premium or Ultimate 32-Bit OS. What are the main advantages/disadvantages of installing the 64-bit version?

    This rig must be powerful enough to playback 1080p .mkv files and Blu-Ray discs with ease (something my Sony VAIO XL-201 and Dell Dimension 9200 cannot!).
    Usually when I replace my main PC with either a pre-built jobbie or a self built one, I like it to be significantly faster/better specced than the previous one to make it worthwhile. Although I have never overclocked before it is something I like the idea of (getting better performance without too much extra outlay) and so would welcome an option whereby I can do this further down the line

    No set budget in mind. £750 to £1000 is how much I'm expecting to pay.

    All help and advise from the many more knowledgeable folk on these forums is greatly appreciated.

    Cheekster.
    Last edited by cheekster; 15-05-2009 at 12:22 PM. Reason: typo!

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    Re: Help/advice on new HTPC/Media Server build please?

    Dont really know about the newer intel quads or the phenoms for that matter but as far as the graphics card goes if you the most demanding task your going to need your gpu to do is 1080p then a 40 quid passively cooled 4550 will do the job easily... other people should be able to help you out with the rest... I doubt the build should come close to £1000 though...

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    Bows out! CAT-THE-FIFTH's Avatar
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    Re: Help/advice on new HTPC/Media Server build please?

    The Phenom II X4 955BE is on Scan Today Only for £189:

    http://www.scan.co.uk/TodayOnly/Index.aspx

    However almost all motherboards I have seen only have six SATA connectors on the motherboard.

    I would look at which motherboards can support so many SATA drives first!! The other alternative is to get an additional SATA card.

    If you are not playing any games this HD4650 GDDR2 will do the job for under £40:

    http://www.ebuyer.com/product/151397


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    Re: Help/advice on new HTPC/Media Server build please?

    Is this supposed to be acting as a media server to the whole house and your main PC? Because those two things tend to be two seperate machines, if a server is on all the time then it should be low power, low power = lower performance.

    If it's simply a media server/centre, you want to go quad and aren't too bothered about cost then one of the 65W Intel Quads would be the way to go (Q9400S or Q9550S). They run cooler and draw less power than their 95W counterparts. As for graphics, i'm not sure you'll need a GPU. A good integrated chipset (NVidia 9400? None too familiar with Intel boards) with one of the faster quads shouldn't have any bother decoding HD content.

    If you're looking at silence then you'll want to get a passive PSU, passive CPU cooler, swap out all of the case fans for really quiet ones (not sure what the Cooler Master cases use, but the Antec Tri-Cool fans are loud!) and suspend all off the HDDs in elastic mounts. That last part is tricky with 12 drives in the system, you'll be struggling for space. It might be a case of you needing to go for an mATX motherboard and mount some of the hard drives below the motherboard. Quiet computing is a pain in the arse, you make one component quieter and suddenly you find you can hear something else...

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    Re: Help/advice on new HTPC/Media Server build please?

    Quote Originally Posted by McPhee View Post
    If you're looking at silence then you'll want to get a passive PSU, passive CPU cooler
    Even disregarding that he will have 10 HDDs, the very minimal noise generated by, say for example a Corsair or Be Quiet! PSU, and a HS w/ a Noctua fan would be the least of his worries.
    ~'Armaments, universal debt, and planned obsolescence--those are the three pillars of Western prosperity'~ Aldous Huxley




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    Re: Help/advice on new HTPC/Media Server build please?

    Don't think the cosmos s will let you fit that many drives, my cosmos only has 6 3.5" bays and 4 5.25" bays.
    Got a stacker though, and that holds 12 hard drives using the 4in3 modules, plus there's space at the bottom of the case for more even when using eatx motherboards.
    http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/Gigab...-SATA-RAID-ATX will take an amd quad and has 8 sata ports. Could maybe pair it up with a 4550 for vga and hd.
    Alternatively, get an htpc mobo, like an nvidia 8200 or amd 780g based board with on board hdmi and add a sata card for the storage. Don't know how much power they draw though, more or less than a 4550?
    On board hd video and loads of sata ports seem to be mutually exclusive.
    Also, I'd recommend against getting a raptor. Noisey and expensive. either use 1 of the seagates you have or get a single platter 320gb drive. Fast and quiet.
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    Re: Help/advice on new HTPC/Media Server build please?

    Seems to me you're trying to build a jekkel (sp?) and hyde. You want good HD / HTPC performance, but you also want something approaching an SME storage server.

    If I was you I'd build two separate machines - a very low power file server and a proper HTPC. The file server can be always on, the HTPC you can fire up when you need it. Get appropriately low power components for the file server and this will draw less power overall.

    Neither needs to be particularly powerful as far as the processor goes, as long as the HTPC uses software that can make use of the hardware acceleration available on, e.g. an HD4350. A quad core would be overkill on a huge level. The file server only really needs a low power single core; the HTPC would be fine with a dual-core or, at most a triple core (e.g. Phenom II X3 710). Otherwise you're just spending money on processing power you won't use.

    What array / layout are you planning on arranging your 10 HDs in? You're unlikely to find a consumer-grade RAID controller that'll support as many as ten drives in a single array, so you'll probably have to group them into several volumes or use a mix of hardware and software raid (although the second option would degrade performance). As previously mentioned, you're also likely to need at least one additional SATA controller card - and maybe more...

    In other words, I would seriously reconsider your current plan. It really doesn't sound like a good use of resources to me...

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    Smile Re: Help/advice on new HTPC/Media Server build please?

    Thanks for all the replies so far. Some very valid points raised. I know I was probably asking a lot in my first post on this thread, so I'll try and revise what I'm setting out to achieve...

    At the present time this new build will not be used as a media server, in fact it won't be connected to either of the other two PC's elsewhere in the house. Perhaps I'll cross that bridge as when the need arises.

    So this will be my only PC/HTPC in addition to my new Dell Studio 15 laptop (I plan to sell my existing four PC's and 11+ external HDD's!).

    My chosen option would be to have 10 or 12 x 1.5TB HDD's in a full tower case along with all the components of my HTPC, unless there's a better or more suitable option?

    Perhaps the first and main component to start with is the case? Any opinions or recommendations from owners of the three cases I've shortlisted would be most welcome.

    This rig doesn't need to be silent, just reasonably quiet would do. But I certainly don't fancy something that sounds like a hairdryer or vacuum cleaner whilst I'm trying to enjoy a TV show or movie!

    I appreciate mobo's usually have 6 x SATA ports and that I'll require one or two SATA controller cards. Any recommendations?

    Processor wise, will the Intel Q9400s & Q9550s run cooler and more efficient than say an AMD Phenom II X4 955BE? If so and are similarly prices, I'll opt for Intel.

    Don't mind going for a mobo with integrated graphics but only if it will happily cope with 1080p .mkvs and smooth Blu-Ray playback. I have no problem saving money but not at the cost of poor performance.

    @llololloy

    That mobo is pretty impressive and might be the ticket if peeps think I'd be best going down the AMD route?

    Lmk if there's anything else I need to clarify in order to best advise me what you'd all recommend as I'm sure there's other areas I've overlooked?

    Cheekster.

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    Re: Help/advice on new HTPC/Media Server build please?

    I use an Asus M3N-HDMI and an energy efficient AMD X2 5600 with 4gb ram for my HTPC. It runs a 550w Tagan PSU, and plays back Blu-ray and remuxed to mkv blu-ray perfectly. The M3N-HDMI has an on board Geforce 8300 chipset, which deals with hardware acclerated 1080p/24 video, as well as 7.1 16 bit/48khz lcpm over HDMI and it works for me without issue.

    It has 6 SATA ports iirc, but 2 are reserved for esata headers I think - I'm not using them due to a limitation of some kind anyway - so I run a Silicon Image Sil3114 card. The machine has an LG HD-DVD/BD combo drive, and 7 SATA HDDs in it, all 500 or 750gb.

    I also run a Zalman flower cooler on the CPU, I don;t even need the fan on so it's fairly quiet with that, the near silent Tagan PSU and a couple of 80mm Noctua fans.

    I had a Xonar HDAV 1.3 deluxe in there until February when I sent it back to Asus for the 24hz firmware update - I am still waiting for that to be resolved - but the board & PSU combo supported that without issue (it needs a molex to function correctly).

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    Re: Help/advice on new HTPC/Media Server build please?

    Quote Originally Posted by cheekster View Post
    My chosen option would be to have 10 or 12 x 1.5TB HDD's in a full tower case along with all the components of my HTPC, unless there's a better or more suitable option?

    Perhaps the first and main component to start with is the case? Any opinions or recommendations from owners of the three cases I've shortlisted would be most welcome.
    I bought an Akasa Infinity which has 11 5.25" front bays. Right now I have one of each of these in it, using the first 5 bays:
    http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/Icy-D...h-Hot-swapable
    and
    http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/Icy-D...ap-Best-Seller

    These 8 drive cages will be connected to a Dell PERC5/i. I'll get another set and connect them to the other PERC5/i I have in the system.

    I was going to have DVD-R in the very top bay, but thats where the power button and front USB, Firewire, SATA and audio ports are, so I'll just have the optical drive connected via SATA in an external case if I can find a nice one.

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    Re: Help/advice on new HTPC/Media Server build please?

    EDIT - ignore me, I really should read both links

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    Re: Help/advice on new HTPC build please?

    Okay guys, plenty of good advice so far. I'm leaning towards having a full tower case housing my HTPC components and many HDD's at the moment rather than two seperate builds as I can't see the need to have a server running 24/7 until such time as it is required to stream media around the house.

    Can you please load up all the components you'd purchase, into a basket, if this was a project of your own with the likes of Scan (unless there's cheaper deals to be had elsewhere) and post the results below?

    Give me some food for thought.

    Many thanks.

    Cheekster.
    Last edited by cheekster; 16-05-2009 at 07:30 PM. Reason: .

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    Talking Funkstar

    That Akasa Infinity looks decent, great price, plenty of space for HDD's and the promotional stuff says plenty of cooling, therefore should be possible to have it running reasonably quiet?

    Cheekster.

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    Re: Help/advice on new HTPC/Media Server build please?

    I would have said to run RAID5/6 with 1.5TB drives but then you don't need 7/24 and those Seagate 1.5TB drives doesn't play nice with controllers (random dropout)
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    Probably get screamed at but I have yet to run any type of RAID configeration for back-up purposes! Got to the point where I have so much storage, to have it all backed up would cost a small fortune and take a great deal of space.

    Cheekster.

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    Re: Help/advice on new HTPC/Media Server build please?

    Cheekster, Arthur and the World

    RAID is not a substitute for backups!!!!!

    Your N array has a much higher chance of failing than N single drives, as your data is spread over N drives.

    For example for a 10 disk RAID 5 array, if you loose 1 disk, you will worry lots, if the 2nd disk goes you are totally stuffed.

    You are also subject to RAID controller failure/corruption. Soft RAID is a better choice.

    RAID is only for high availability or for performance. It increases your chance of loosing data.

    RAID 50 is worth considering.

    How do I know? From bitter experience....

    Better to stay away from RAID. If your stuff is important, back up to separate external drives and keep them offsite. So if you loose a drive, you only loose 2Gb tops and you will have an external backup.

    If find that after 3 years you can consolidate 3-4 drives to 1 and that becomes an archive too. Much safer this way.

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