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Can you make a HTPC still a secondary gaming machine?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
When i move into my new apartment i want to make a second computer so that guests may use it on a TV as a movie /music / photo player, home theater. But it would be cool if i somehow also was able to have it play games like League of Legends, and other multiplayer computer games. That way they don't have to game on a laptop or something while i still be using mine. Whats the best route to go from here? I have 8gb G.Skill ripjaws that ill be removing from my main pc to this one. i want a small ITX build that looks elegant since i won't get an xbox/ps4 and will strictly just want to game on windows. Any suggestions where to start ? Thanks
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post #2 of 19
Get a modern Intel i3 or AMD quadcore.

The iGPU in modern processors can handle league and similar games just fine. If you want to play more demanding games, you can upgrade to a low end discrete card like the upcoming RX460.

Use an external sound card / DAC / receiver, or get a motherboard with good on-board audio, so that you can use the single PCI-e slot on your ITX won't get used up by audio.

Get some decent speakers. The speakers in your TV suck.

You already have the memory you need.

Since it is a HTPC, overclocking won't be your goal, so you can go with just about any half decent motherboard, with the possible exception of needing high end on-board audio as mentioned above.

Case is personal preference. Pick whatever you like.

Get a nice low profile air cooler that will fit in whatever case you like. Avoid water for a HTPC unless you have a really good reason.

Grab a reliable PSU that will fit in your case. Since your case is going to be ITX, it may or may not support full size ATX power supplies. you shouldn't need more than 300W.

Some nice high quality fans that will last forever and won't make much noise. I personally like the sound signature and reliability of Noctuas for HTPCs, but there are other good choices. I suggest you stick with PWM compatible fans, as that will make controlling them easier, and unless you go super cheap with the motherboard, you won't need any separate controller hardware.

Fan filters if your case doesn't come with them.

SSDs are better than HDDs if you can afford them, obviously for speed and reliability, but in this case also because they draw less power and make less noise and heat. There is a good chance that HDDs will be the loudest part in your entire system, so getting dead silent SSDs can go a long way. That said, since it is a HTPC, you are probably going to want to save a lot of video files, and having enough storage space on SSDs alone will probably be cost prohibitive. In this case, use a SSD for your OS, all your games and programs, page file, etc. Get a HDD just for audio and video. Set the HDD to spin down when not in use.

A nice wireless keyboard/mouse combo. Logitech K400/400Plus is a great choice. Durable and lightweight without being so tiny that it becomes awkward to type, gives you full control over the system from the couch with just a single device.

Get a nice wireless mouse too, just got when you want to game. That is, unless you plan on playing only games where a console style controller would be more convenient, in which case grab you preferred game controller. I personally like both the Steam and the PS4 controllers. Both work great with PC. Xbox 360/One controllers are also popular, but honestly they're not that great unless you already play enough Xbox that they just feel natural to you already. Unlike the Steam and PS4 controllers, they don't offer much customization, and they lack the very useful trackpads that allow the Steam/PS4 controllers to work on the desktop and in games where mouse support is required.
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post #3 of 19
For start, you can tell us what your budget is?
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post #4 of 19
AMDs A10-7xxx CPU pack some punch in their built-in GPUs.
Stays cool and quiet for just video and music playing. Needs third party CPU-cooler.

When pressed in gaming they will heat up and needs more cooling with more fan noise.
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post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thanks so much for the answers guys wow that first comment really helped me put the idea out there more clearly. Couple of questions now. Do these small PC's have enough room for a hard drive and ssd? i might just buy one of those combo drives that have like 1tb hard drive and 200 gb of ssd.

Next is the audio. If I'm going to hook this up to some good speakers will i need a central hub that connects a subwoofer and side speakers ? I kind of want like a 5.1 system.

Is it possible to have this machine hooked up to a modem/router so that it becomes a network drive ? I want to be able to download movies while I'm out so like maybe remote desktop in and have the movie downloaded by the time i get home.

Without speakers , i want to spend about $500 . I can def increase that if you guys think its necessary but would be cool to stick to that. Thanks again fellas
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post #6 of 19
I don't game on my HTPC so it's not stressed that much. You can see the components in the sig line. They probably would work well with a gaming set up by adding an additional memory stick. You would also have to get a different case as this Lian Li case is passively cooled as HTPCs don't generate much heat at all. I have a HDD for recording television programs, movies and sports. You don't hear it at all when it's in use. Yes, you can hook it up to a router. I run my through the on board WiFi and don't have any issues with it at all (but it's only about 10 feet from the routher:D). You certainly should be able to do the build for under $500. Just make sure to get quiet fans since it is being used for watching TV. Also, if you are going to use MSFT Windows Media Center you need to get Win7.
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post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan G View Post

I don't game on my HTPC so it's not stressed that much. You can see the components in the sig line. They probably would work well with a gaming set up by adding an additional memory stick. You would also have to get a different case as this Lian Li case is passively cooled as HTPCs don't generate much heat at all. I have a HDD for recording television programs, movies and sports. You don't hear it at all when it's in use. Yes, you can hook it up to a router. I run my through the on board WiFi and don't have any issues with it at all (but it's only about 10 feet from the routher:D). You certainly should be able to do the build for under $500. Just make sure to get quiet fans since it is being used for watching TV. Also, if you are going to use MSFT Windows Media Center you need to get Win7.

so if i buy a wifi motherboard, it will connect to the home internet without any wifi dongles ? Cool. Also what is the most quiet fan that fits a HTPC ? As for windows do people just use windows 7 or is there some special version or skin people use specifically for using it as a media center ?
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post #8 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by crizthakidd View Post

Thanks so much for the answers guys wow that first comment really helped me put the idea out there more clearly. Couple of questions now. Do these small PC's have enough room for a hard drive and ssd? i might just buy one of those combo drives that have like 1tb hard drive and 200 gb of ssd.

Next is the audio. If I'm going to hook this up to some good speakers will i need a central hub that connects a subwoofer and side speakers ? I kind of want like a 5.1 system.

Is it possible to have this machine hooked up to a modem/router so that it becomes a network drive ? I want to be able to download movies while I'm out so like maybe remote desktop in and have the movie downloaded by the time i get home.

Without speakers , i want to spend about $500 . I can def increase that if you guys think its necessary but would be cool to stick to that. Thanks again fellas

Hard Drives & Solid States:

Fitting a SSD and a HDD into an ITX case is not a problem in the slightest.

Depending on the motherboard you get, you can use a M.2 SSD that will connect directly to the motherboard and take no space at all in the case.

If not, SSDs are small, don't have any moving parts, don't get very hot, etc, so you can literally just use some velcro and stick it anywhere there is some space. I have 2 SSDs velcrod to the rear panel of my HTPC and another 2 velcrod to the rear of the mobo tray on my main system. The system I built for work has a SSD velcrod to the vertical bar that supports the ODD/HDD rack. No issues from any of these in the last 7 years.

So essentially, you only need to have a predefined space for the one HDD.

Audio:

For the audio, you can use an external DAC/Soundcard, a purpose built home theater receiver, or an internal built in soundcard. You won't have space for a PCI-E internal sound card and a PCI-E video card on an ITX motherboard, so internal add-in sound cards should be avoided.

Some motherboards have pretty decent built in audio. You can connect your subwoofer, your speakers, etc all to that built in soundcard directly and you're good to go. The only exception is if your speakers are passive and require external amplification, in which case you will need to buy an amp to sit between the soundcard and the speakers.

If you get an external DAC/Sound card, it will plug in via USB and therefore take up no space in your system. You would again plug all your audio inputs/outputs directly to it. Some of these externals also include amps, so if you have passive speakers, you won't need to also add an amp. This isn't true for all of them however, so it just depends on the setup you pick.

If you go the receiver route, it works very much the same way as an external DAC, and will almost always include a built in amp. These are usually the preferred devices for HTPCs but I honestly find them to be serious overkill, often having a large amount of feature redundancy with your HTPC and/or your TV. You pay for those redundant features and they take up space, so you're probably best off avoiding a receiver if you are building your own system specifically as an HTPC, but it is up to you.

Network Drive:

You can set up network shared drives/folders within your modern operating system of choice. No issue there at all.

A better solution however would be a dedicated NAS. Plug the NAS directly into the router, and then all systems on the network can access it at any time. No need to proxy through the HTPC. The physical separation of the two devices several advantages. For instance, the HTPC does not need to be powered on for the NAS to be accessible. If something were to physically damage your HTPC, the NAS being a separate physical device has a good chance of remaining safe. Etc.

You can buy a purpose made NAS box, but those are usually pricey. If your router is half decent, you can usually just plug an external HDD into it via USB and set it up as a NAS via the router's settings interface. If your router doesn't support this, or you just feel adventurous, you can make your own NAS using an old computer or even a Raspberry Pi.

Budget:

You say you want to spend $500 not counting speakers. When you say not counting speakers, does that means not counting JUST the speakers, or the whole audio setup?

Either way, I think it is pretty doable as long as you don't demand a particularly fancy case (Lian-Li, Silver Stone, the other usual HTPC cases that cost a few hundred bucks by themselves), and are willing to reuse an old graphics card, or stick with the built in graphics of your CPU. Adding in a new dedicated PCI-E card will probably put you a little over budget, but you can always add that in at a later date if and when you find it necessary.
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post #9 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by crizthakidd View Post

so if i buy a wifi motherboard, it will connect to the home internet without any wifi dongles ? Cool. Also what is the most quiet fan that fits a HTPC ? As for windows do people just use windows 7 or is there some special version or skin people use specifically for using it as a media center ?
I have the Gigabyte mITX MoBo and it has built in WiFi but requires two antennas to be plugged in. I use Noctua fans in all my builds. Some don't like their color but since I never have windowed cases it really doesn't matter to me. My HTPC has a Hauppage cable card hook up so I can get premium channels from my provider (HBO, showtime and some sports channels). At present this is only supported by Windows Media Center. Win7 includes it free of charge while ti is an extra add on if you have Win8.1. Win10 does not support it at all. MSFT says they won't support it in five years but I will cross that river when I get to it.
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post #10 of 19
I don't see any reason for the sound card. If you are planning on getting new spearkers just get an amp that has HDMI inputs. It's all digital then so there is no point for a soundcard.
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