The 2013 HTPC Build

I no longer own any laptops. Everything in our house is a tablet: multiple Nexus 7s, multiple iPad 4s, and a Surface Pro. In fact, the only traditional computers I own are my triple-monitor desktop home office beast, and the small Home Theater PC (HTPC) that drives all our home entertainment in the living room.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

What do you use for software now? I’ve been using Windows Media Center 7 + MediaBrowser, which I’m happy with, but I am worried about its future.

For HTPC software you should really try JRiver Media Center. They have a Windows and a Mac version and there is a Linux version in the works. It is a quality piece of software and there is a great community of people using it.

Is there a difference between the Intel Core i3-4130T and Intel Core i3-4130 (without the T)?

JRiver also supports MadVR for video rendering, so you can have nice upscaling algorithms (e.g. Jinc windowed Sinc functions) and use a 3D-LUT for display colour correction.

You can also use MadVR with the free and open source MPC-HC player.

You will need a decent GPU for MadVR though …

Cool Setup! I’m tempted to build something similar. How loud does the system get when playing games?

Don’t you think that a 2013/2014 HTPC device should be much smaller? Not as small as Apple TV but perhaps about the size of OUYA?

PS I also really want a perfectly silent HTPC with passive cooling, I hate hearing that hum coming from the cooler(s). Well, the HDDs are still making noise (a 2-4Tb SSD is not affordable)

So… What do you use for coding? You’re still a programmer, right?
I can’t imagine writing code on an HTPC, not to mention a tablet.

I agree that for people that use computers only for content consumption, htpc+tablet is usually enough.

@NoamTamim: I’m guessing that would be his “triple-monitor desktop home office beast”. The HTPC isn’t general-purpose, it’s just for entertainment.

Even though I’m not a gamer, I find this to be an exciting convergence. My teenage sons, who are gamers, watch movies with me – and might just be very charmed by the possibility of playing their Steam games on the big screen in the family room.

14W seems like an awful lot of IDE power usage when a Roku box draws 2W under load. A Core i3 seems like serious overkill for a HTPC. What about the Bay Trail Atoms or an ARM system?

This little HTPC box just keeps getting more versatile over time, while costing me less (in power consumption, at least) every year.

Have you done a cost calculation? I’m sure it cost you less in power to run, but how long will you have to run this to break even on the hard ware you just paid for?


How well would this system run if you added a tuner card? My current HTPC has a dedicated GPU and CableCARD tuner, so this system isn’t quite up to snuff yet.

I have that same case, as it offers a GPU slot. You might be thinking: You don’t need that.
But I really need my HTPC to pass-through dts-hd and dolby-ma to my receiver. The only one who can do this is Nvidia GPU’s (on linux)
Do you know if it is possible through Intel?

I’m starting to turn cold on laptops too. I can hook up a bluetooth mouse and keyboard to my tablet, and with remote desktop software I can use my tablet as a laptop running from any PC anyway.

With Splashtop, for Android at least, if you have a tablet with Tegra 3 and a PC with a supported nVidia graphics card, you can even play DirectX games on your tablet streamed from your PC.

I have a laptop capable of playing games, but it’s a pain to get it to work. The mobile nVidia graphics card has a lot of compatibility issues, it doesn’t work as fast as full graphics cards for graphics-heavy games, and you have to keep constantly cooling the laptop or it will shut down from overheating.

Having a full PC streaming games to a tablet feels like a much better solution.

$139 CPU
$079 Mobo
$049 RAM
$079 case
$050 pico PSU
$100 120GB SSD (much more reasonable choice)
$100 windows 8 non-pro

Also while it’s not quite as slick, you can pick up a cheapo i3 laptop for $350 or so with an i3 and just stick it below your TV closed. Makes a great HTPC and comes with a built-in UPS.

William Furr asked: What about the Bay Trail Atoms or an ARM system?

Two issues with an ARM:

  1. Many of them are too cpu-lacking to handle things that you can’t fget/don’t have a hardware CODEC for. e.g. a Raspberry Pi can do a lot of things, but the xmbc guys say it struggles with DTS audio because it’s CPU-bound.

  2. For people who don’t think “setting up Linux is FUN!” the OS options for ARM systems are limiting.

(And of course anything like real gaming flies out the window entirely…)

Idle power is something you shouldn’t worry about too much for a Single Device You Use Regularly; the difference between 14 watts and 2 watts idle is, yeah, 12 watts.

And over a year that’s 105 kwh. Or, at the US average of 12.5 cents/kwh, about $13.12 per year.

Not worth expending money to “fix”; it’d take ages to “pay for itself”, at the cost of greatly reduced utility.

Tonido ( is awesome for any home media server. One can access the music and videos stored on the Home Media Server from anywhere.