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-   -   HTPC laptop/desktop advice (http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/htpc-systems-software/34082-htpc-laptop-desktop-advice.html)

mneszt July 11, 2010 09:09 AM

HTPC laptop/desktop advice
 
Hi! I've been coming to this site a lot over the last year or so since I discovered it, but this is my first time posting. I'm looking for some advice concerning purchasing a new laptop and/or desktop for HTPC purposes. I've been waiting for what seems like forever for new laptop models to come out in Canada, but I got tired of waiting yesterday and decided to try out a Sony VAIO E laptop from FutureShop yesterday (I have 14 days to return it if I don't like it). It seems like a pretty decent option, but I'm wondering if I might be able to get something that better fits my needs for around the same price or a few hundred dollars more.

I'll try to cover all my bases. Sorry if it's long, but I appreciate any advice I can get!

Information regarding expected system usage:
  • HTPC (up to 1080p .mkv and Blu-ray)
    • connected to Pioneer VSX-9040THX receiver (supports all current audio formats via HDMI) for a 5.1 speaker set-up and 1080p Samsung LCD TV.
  • General purpose computing (i.e. occasional Word/Excel/Powerpoint, email, internet, etc...)
  • Skype video calling my relatives/friends that have just moved away to Toronto and Alberta!
  • Light-Moderate gaming - Most of my gaming (which isn't much) is otherwise done on an X-Box 360.
    • Dragon Age Origins, Civilization type games
    • I would like to be able to play Diablo III at a decent framerate when it is released.
    • I don't need to be able to play games on super high-res, and I don't play much online. I just want a decently smooth frame rate.
Budget and other info:
  • ~$1000 (before taxes), but willing to go upwards of $1500 depending on what it will get me (see below). I will supposedly be receiving a $1900 scholarship in the mail, but I'm going to pretend that it doesn't exist until it's actually been deposited into my bank account.
  • I will probably be buying a 3-year warranty for any laptop I purchase.
  • I have never built a system before, but I am willing to try. However, I would MUCH rather just purchase parts off of an online retailer (NCIX or NewEgg) and pay somebody that actually knows what they're doing to put it all together. The thought of tinkering with a motherboard and CPU worries me (I don't want to break it!).

Options I am considering (listed prices are before Quebec taxes):
  1. Getting a single laptop with Blu-Ray ~$1000-1200 - options include....
    • Sony VAIO E series - $999 at FutureShop - 15.5 inch 1366 x 768, core i5 430, Radeon 5450, Blu-ray, 500 GB 5400 RPM HDD, 4GB Ram, VGA webcam, battery life ~2-3 hrs and TONS of pre-installed programs that uses 33% of system memory when idling!!!
    • Sony VAIO F series (~$1200 from Sonystyle.ca, 16.4 inch 1600x900, core i7-720QM, nVidia 330m,Blu-ray, 4 GB Ram, 500 GB 7200 RPM HDD, 1.3 megapixel webcam, backlit keyboard, pitiful battery life, and Windows 7 Professional with the option to prevent them from installing a billion programs).
    • There doesn't seem to be any other decent laptops with Blu-Ray in Canada around $1000.
  2. Get a new desktop HTPC and cheaper, thin and light laptop and +/- standalone Blu-ray player
    • HTPC desktop - a cheaper build with Core i3 530 vs AMD Athlon II X something, 4GB ram, Radeon 5570 vs 5670 , Western Digital Caviar Black 1Tb or Caviar Green, ? case
    • Laptop - 13-15 inches (but preferably < 14 inches), light, good battery life - perhaps
      • Acer Aspire TimelineX - I think the 13 inch one is ~$650 from online retailers in Canada, but I heard that the build quality isn't that great.
      • Anything else with decent build quality and battery life that won't break my budget.
  3. Decent laptop and stand-alone Blu-ray player (e.g. PS3) or external Blu-ray drive
    • Lenovo Ideapad Y460 - ~$1150 after 10% coupon with free shipping and 3 year warranty (includes accidental damage protection) - 14 inch 1366x768, Core i5 520, 5400 RPM HDD, switchable Radeon 5650, pretty decent battery life on integrated graphics mode ~4-5 hours, ? quality webcam
    • Envy 14 - in a perfect world this will be released in Canada for about the same as in the USA, but in reality, it looks like we're only getting a super-inflated $2000 option with a lower-res screen (at least according to Amazon.ca).
    • Another laptop, perhaps something with nVidia Optimus?


In terms of personal preference, I think that option #2 would be my optimal choice. I think it provides the most "bang for the buck" out of the 3. Option #1 is probably my least favorite as I don't think it makes sense to have a laptop that big. To me the whole point of a laptop is having something portable. A 16 inch behemoth is definitely not portable (especially with <2 hrs of battery life) and a 15 inch machine isn't much better IMO.

Thanks again for any help!

Arinoth July 11, 2010 09:53 AM

Well just to let you know if you're looking to have a stand alone htpc there are a few things you don't need that you think you do. First off is you do not need 4GB of ram, you can get by just fine with 2GB. Depending on how small you want to go and if they can handle them, you could go with an atom itx board. I'm not sure how well the last generation atom N330s can handle 1080p/bluray with their nvidia counter part on board however i know they can handle 720p.

ipaine July 11, 2010 10:03 AM

Well for option #2, which is what I would go for as well, you could look at either of these notebooks:

NCIX.com - Buy ASUS Eee PC 1201PN Black Atom N450 NVIDIA ION2 2GB 250G 12.1IN WXGA Draft N WIN7 Premium Netbook - 1201PN-PU17-BK In Canada. $519.99

or a little bit bigger and higher powered:
NCIX.com - Buy ASUS U30JC-A1 13.3IN Core I3-350 4GB GeForce G310M 320GB WIN7 Premium Notebook - U30JC-A1 In Canada. $969.99

There are others in between, but it does come down to how much gets spent in the HTPC.

mneszt July 11, 2010 10:59 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Arinoth (Post 401910)
Well just to let you know if you're looking to have a stand alone htpc there are a few things you don't need that you think you do. First off is you do not need 4GB of ram, you can get by just fine with 2GB. Depending on how small you want to go and if they can handle them, you could go with an atom itx board. I'm not sure how well the last generation atom N330s can handle 1080p/bluray with their nvidia counter part on board however i know they can handle 720p.

Would the following build be good enough to play 1080p with the integrated graphics?
  • $116 - Western Digital WD20EARS Caviar Green 2TB SATA2 3GBPS 64MB Cache 3.5IN Hard Drive OEM
  • $125 - Antec NSK1480 mATX Mini Desktop Case Silver Black 1X5.25 2X3.5INT 350W
  • $75 - AMD Athlon II X2 250 Dual Core Processor Socket AM3 3.0GHZ 2MB Cache 60W
  • $50 - Kingston ValueRAM KVR800D2N5/2G PC2-6400 2GB 1X2GB DDR2-800 240PIN DIMM Memory
  • $95 - Gigabyte GA-880GM-UD2H AMD880G mATX AM3 DDR3 1PCIE CrossFireX Video Sound GBLAN Motherboard
  • Total ~$460

Arinoth July 11, 2010 01:01 PM

Well you can't use that ram with that motherboard as its DDR3 ram mobo and you are looking at ddr2 RAM. I can in a little bit link you what my current htpc build is as i found for me my ionitx doesnt have enough sata ports to act as a htpc and server.

Silverstone Grandia GD05B Black HTPC mATX Desktop Case 1X5.25 2X3.5INT 1X2.5INT 3X120MM Fan No PS $87.04

AMD Phenom X3 8250E Triple Core Energy Efficient Processor 1.9GHZ 1.5MB L2 2MB L3 65W AM2+ OEM $45.64

ASUS M4A785-M mATX AM3/AM2+ 785G DDR2 PCI-E16 PCI-E 2XPCI SATA RAID Video Sound GBLAN Motherboard $74.95

Corsair CMPSU-400CX 400CX 400W ATX 12V 30A Power Supply Active PFC 120MM $48.49 (22$ MIR on it until the end of the month)

All of these things have been price matched with NCIX and comes in at 256.12$

supaflyx3 July 11, 2010 02:11 PM

a Acer nettop would be perfect for this.
dual core atom, ION graphics and can play 1080P/bluray, has built in HDMI aswell.
i think they're around $300 for 2gb of ram and a 320gb hdd.

mneszt July 11, 2010 02:31 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Arinoth (Post 401961)
Well you can't use that ram with that motherboard as its DDR3 ram mobo and you are looking at ddr2 RAM. I can in a little bit link you what my current htpc build is as i found for me my ionitx doesnt have enough sata ports to act as a htpc and server.

Silverstone Grandia GD05B Black HTPC mATX Desktop Case 1X5.25 2X3.5INT 1X2.5INT 3X120MM Fan No PS $87.04

AMD Phenom X3 8250E Triple Core Energy Efficient Processor 1.9GHZ 1.5MB L2 2MB L3 65W AM2+ OEM $45.64

ASUS M4A785-M mATX AM3/AM2+ 785G DDR2 PCI-E16 PCI-E 2XPCI SATA RAID Video Sound GBLAN Motherboard $74.95

Corsair CMPSU-400CX 400CX 400W ATX 12V 30A Power Supply Active PFC 120MM $48.49 (22$ MIR on it until the end of the month)

All of these things have been price matched with NCIX and comes in at 256.12$

Thanks. Where did you pricematch the Phenom X3 to get it at $45?

Also, would the configuration I posted above work if I switch to any DD3 memory? This is pretty affordable: NCIX.com - Buy Patriot Signature 2GB 1X2GB DDR3-1333 CL9 Memory Module - PSD32G13332 In Canada.

Or would I be better off going with the motherboard you suggested? How does it compare to this one: NCIX.com - Buy Gigabyte GA-MA785GM-US2H AMD785G mATX AM2+ PCI-E DDR2 Video Sound GBLAN CrossFireX HDMI Motherboard - GA-MA785GM-US2H In Canada. ? They both seem to have excellent reviews.

Arinoth July 11, 2010 03:10 PM

Shopbot - Compare prices - Canada - Price Comparison - Comparison Shopping and PriceBat.ca - Search & Compare Canada Online Store Prices Before You Buy are your friends. Its how i Price Matched everything listed there. I should mention that the Phenom X3 i got is OEM, which means it doesnt come with a heat sink (fine for me as i got one for it anyways). It only supports ddr2 (which i got for like 20$ used when i was starting my old htpc build) and the asus one is slightly better then the gigabyte one.


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