The 2013 HTPC Build

Neat, what’re the WEI scores for these machines?

I am just finishing a build now with these specs:

Just over $600 for everything. It’s running Win 7 and scores 5.8 WEI. Not sure about idle wattage though…

That’s an enormous full-sized power-hungry desktop computer. Really not the same animal. Also it’s an ivy bridge CPU, so only HD4000 graphics.

I would certainly choose a mac mini over that, at $100 lower cost (you forgot to pay for Windows).

@Rodalpho I didn’t have to pay for Windows (or rather, it was paid for long ago in a TechNet subscription), I also wanted it to be my primary Blu-ray player (ruling out a Mac Mini). I tried to look for smaller cases and power supplies, but the build quality was terrible in most of the smaller ones I was looking at. The larger case is nice in that I could easily add a tuner or discrete graphics in the future if needed.

+1 to the software question for Jeff. I assume this is probably running some flavor of Windows, since you are running Steam on it? Is Windows Media Center being used as the DVR software?

Also, Jeff, what are you using for a remote control?

You could play even more games with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and dongle.

Still happy with my AMD E350-based HTPC built in 2011. It doesn’t have the grunt of an i3 but as I don’t game on it I can’t say I’ve ever* needed any more power.

With a modest 60GB SSD and 5TB of network storage it’s all the HTPC I reckon I’ll ever need. Completely silent and it only draws something like 18W at idle.

I may look into that picoPSU you’ve used though, a bit smaller than the one I have and I’d wager more efficient too.

*Only fly in the ointment is the fact that Netflix’ Silverlight player uses codecs that cannot be accelerated by the AMD Fusion platform, meaning some videos lag horribly in HD. All this will hopefully be solved when Silverlight eventually dies a horrible, painful death and Netflix migrates to something more becoming.

Color me intrigued. What specifically do you use your HTPC for?

The obvious (perfectly reasonable) cases are BitTorrent, web version of Hulu, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube, and home video. Along with the usual things supported by lesser boxen (Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Prime). Are there others? Sorry if you covered this in a prior post, I checked the first one and you didn’t mention the impetus.

Dmitry Pashkevich: I agree about the desired footprint. I use a Roku for most of my home media, including watching video off of a Plex server.

For my gaming computer (which also handles video I can’t see on the Roku, like HBO Go), I’ve set up a 6-core, 2-GPU powerhouse in a server rack in my basement, so there’s no noise when using it in the living room. It turns on using Wake on Lan and peripherals are connected via wall-mounted USB ports on either side of the couch. There’s a wireless keyboard/airmouse combo for navigating menus and for point-and-click games, and I can put in a mouse and keyboard for everything else.

It is always nice to read about your HTPC hardware setup. I would love to read about you HTPC software setup. What Media Center are you using on HTPC? Do you have multiple clients? How do you distribute the audio/video content across your clients? What do you use on your mobile devices to access your content? What media formats works best across your devices (MKV, MP4, AVI)? Do you manage to have Live TV embedded in your HTPC?

Do you achieve a simple setup so that babysitter and mother-in-law can use it?

@Nrichardson, the difference between the 4130 and the T model is a 500 MHz speed reduction (and a 150Mhz GPU speed reduction) offset by a TDP drop from 54 to 35W.

Add to my build above another $50 for some quieter fans. The ones in the Lian Li case aren’t Xbox loud, but not quiet enough. Also, blu-ray software since the drive didn’t come w/any…

You reminded me it’s time to upgrade my Mini-ITX box too…

All I use my HTPC for is playing recorded over the air recordings from my basement server. Things that can be done well enough with a 1W Raspberry Pi. Total price around $50 if you have peripherals already sitting around.

What do you guys think a the intel NUC as an HTPC?


I am wondering how 90W picoPSu can handle this system with 3 drives ?
I am planning to build similiar configuration, I have choosen Antec ISK case as well, because of its dimmensions and the available space in my room. I was however considering to use the included PSU (150W), after I calculated the power consumption with some online calc.

Hi, looks great… Can’t wait to use your input for my next htpc build.
Upgrading from core2Qaud to the new 4th gen i3 + passive water cooling with something like this:

How confident do you feel about HD 4k support once that format becomes readily available?
Do you expect your build to be “future proof” enough to support that?

Nice article, thank you for writing.
Do you have suggestions about wi-fi connectivity for this box?

I’m really curious about the software side of things too. I went back and forth with a few ‘media center’ software, but I still find that at the end of the day, I still end up going back to MPH-HC just like I would on a desktop. Media center software usually doesn’t let me change subs or languages as easily, or have lots of overhead with their fancy indexing and trying to

One can’t help but wonder, why bother. When Apple TV is $100 and movie rentals are $5, why would one want to put a giant ugly box under their TV and upgrade it every two years (and install software updates every two weeks, too). Don’t you have anything better to do with your time, Jeff?

Prompted by this article, I’ve just asked on Arqade (gaming.stackexchange) how people deal with multiple users of a gaming HTPC, specifically using Steam. This seems like something people who build this box for use with Steam might want to know the answer to.