4K HTPC Follow-up – Six Months Later

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It’s been about a half of a year since we built our 4K HTPC, so I thought we should take a look at where we stand today. I’m sure that many of you are probably wondering how this set-up has fared over the course of the past six months, so let’s get to it.

We will cover the following:

  • Problems and/or issues experienced
  • What, if anything, would I change
  • What I like the most
  • Plans for the future

Problems

In general, I have had very few issues with this HTPC. Most issues have been very minor, annoyances mostly.

Hardware wise, I really haven’t had a single issue that wasn’t brought up in our initial build. The hardware is solid, temps are good, everything is running like a champ. I couldn’t be happier with the components I choose, I think they provided the best value to performance ratio possible.

Software wise, there are still a few issues. If you read my post concerning the BIOS screen showing up on my 4K HTPC, you may be surprised to learn that it is still an issue. I have since upgraded to Windows 10, so I won’t rule that out as a possible cause. There is no problem with the BIOS itself, you just cannot see the BIOS menu.You need to connect to a lower resolution display in order to view the BIOS. Strange right?

So if I need to do something as simple as change the boot priority, I need to disconnect everything, move the HTPC over to my office where my gaming PC is setup. Then I need to connect it to the monitor, PSU, and keyboard it uses. Then lug the SOB back once all changes have been made. It’s a pain in the ass that I cannot find a fix for. Luckily I don’t need to tweak the BIOS all that often.

Changes

As I mentioned before, I am very happy with the components I choose, but hindsight being 20/20, they weren’t perfect choices either. Now that I have had some time to think about the system and it’s potential, there are a few things I think I would do slightly differently, if I had to do it over again.

PSU

Although the FSP 300W SFX PSU I selected is perfectly acceptable for what I had originally intended, I think I would have been better off spending a bit more and going with a slightly more powerful PSU. 300W is fine is you only plan on using low power components. Such as lower end graphics cards. But it doesn’t leave you much room should you ever want to upgrade to a more powerful graphics card. Like I said before, if you have no need for these types of components, you are good to go. The 300W PSU is more than enough to handle your HTPC and all of its accessories and peripherals.

That being said, if I had to do it again, I would probably go with the SilverStone 450W SFX 80+ GOLD Modular PSU. Though significantly more expensive, this power supply should be more power efficient (80+ Gold) while also allowing some extra head room, should I need it in the future. Also, the PSU is modular, so you only use the cables you actually need. This PSU is a good choice if you ever plan on installing a mid-range graphics card.

Pick up the 600W version if you plan on adding a high-end graphics card, such as the GTX 970 we installed in part 7, just make sure you meet all the requirements if you plan on going high-end. But if you can fit a full-size GTX 970 in your case, you can probably fit a full-size PSU, therefore, you probably have no need for a small SFX PSU, just use a standard ATX PSU if you have the room.

SilverStone SFX 450W 80+ Gold PSU

Case

This one is tough. I really love the SilverStone ML04B I used, it’s a great small form factor case. My problem is a catch 22 really. I need a small form factor, and I want to stuff more/bigger shit inside of it, but I don’t have much room to work with. Since my build, I have increased the space in which I can store my HTPC by building a custom TV stand out of MDF (I can do a how-to post on how to build one if I get enough interest, so let me know). So I now have a bit more wiggle room, but it’s not like the space can fit a full-size PC by any means. The biggest drawback to its size constraint is its inability to accept full-size graphics cards. This really limits which graphics cards you can add to your system. You must use low profile cards, severely limiting your selection to low-end and just a handful of mid-range cards.

If I was doing it over again, I would go with the SilverStone Grandia Series HTPC Case. This case will allow for you to use (most) full size, run of the mill graphics cards. You will still need to consider the size of the card you are looking to add, but you will have a much larger selection to choose from. The case also includes three larger (120mm) fans, so I imagine this would improve cooling vs the ML04B.

SilverStone Grandia HTPC Case

Likes

My favorite thing about this HTPC build is the ability to do it all. It’s quite a capable machine. If setup properly, it can be the centerpiece of your home theater or your entire home if you have a Plex server setup. It could literally do everything, assuming you add the proper components.

Did I mention this thing is quiet? If you aren’t burning a disc at full speed, the system is virtually silent. I tend to sit about 10 feet from my TV and the sound coming from the HTPC has never once bothered me.

The Future

Like I just said, this little PC can do it all, and that is the ultimate plan.

Gaming Console

I have a PS4, but I also have an extensive library of PC games just waiting to be played. Most of these games are just sitting there collecting digital dust. My life and schedule don’t allow for a whole hell of a lot of gaming. But when I do have time, I usually sit down at my PC. So, with sadness in my heart, I am going to have to let my PS4 go. But luckily our HTPC will make for a more than capable mid-range gaming PC, equal to or greater than a PS4. All we need is a capable GPU that will fit inside of our case. Hence all the graphics card talk above.

Since I don’t plan on upgrading my case at this time, I am going to have to settle for a low-profile graphics card. I could pick up something like this Gigabyte Low Profile GTX 750Ti, but I think I am going to hold out for a low profile GTX 950. The 950 was just released last week, so hopefully they can churn out some low-profile cards in the next few months (fingers crossed). The 750 Ti is a capable card, perfect for a 1080P TV. But the 950 will support HDMI 2.0, and since were connecting to a 4K TV without a DisplayPort, I guess I am going to have to wait just a bit longer.

PSU

Gigabyte GTX 750 Ti, Low Profile Graphics Card

But what about 4K? As long as the card supports HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2, we are good to go. The GTX 950 ticks both boxes. I am not looking for a 4K gaming capable graphics card, running games at a lower 1080P resolution is still going to look great from the couch. 4K gaming (most new games) with mid-range components is still several years off. You could do it today (with high-end components), but you are going to need bigger and better everything than what we have in our HTPC.

Playing PC games from the couch with a mouse and keyboard is a bit awkward. So I am going to need a controller. I have very hopes for the soon to be released Steam controller. This controller promises precise control, and the ability to use the controller with virtually any game. Hopefully, it’s as good as they say it is. But needless to say, this controller will make PC gaming from the couch that much more possible.

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The Steam Controller

If all else fails, there is still another option to get your PC games in your living room. Steam In-home streaming works, for the most part, but I have had my fair share of issues. But the crazy fuckers at Steam have dreamed up another solution for everyone else. The Steam Link is basically Steam In-home streaming without the need for a second computer. It promises 1080P streaming at 60Hz and looks like a great alternative to those without another convenient PC to connect to their HDTV.

Steam Link

Streaming games from one computer to another is nothing new, but it does require that both PC’s be on at the same time, which I am not a fan of. When I am not using my gaming PC, I shut it down. There is no point to having two always on computers, and getting up to turn on my gaming PC just so I can play a game from the comfort of my couch, is kind of a pain in the ass. I would rather just play the game natively. Most save games should sync via the cloud, so I should be able to seamlessly jump from one PC to another.

Whole Home OTA TV DVR

There are so many routes you can go with this one. There are virtually unlimited options and types of setups. I haven’t decided how I am going to do it just yet, but I know I am going to do it eventually. Ditching cable is one of my top priorities for late 2015 early 2016. At the moment, I am leaning towards an HDHomeRun setup. But you can rest assured, when I get it all figured out and setup, you all will be the first to know (so you might want to sign up for the mailing list or follow ETR on Twitter or Facebook).

Till next time.

  • Insane

    Hi, thanks for a great articles serie, I got lots of new info. One question you did not touch that interests me is audio. I plan to listen (bestides doing other stuff) music thru htpc – mp3, spotify, etc with my Edifier studio7 2.0 system. Do you suggest to install additional sound card or integrated is enough for more or less normal audio quality? I’m not sure, what input I’ll use, probably digital (optical or coaxial) instead of analog.

    • ETR

      I wouldn’t consider myself to be an audiophile by any means, but I think it sounds pretty good using integrated audio. If I had a high end system for audio I might consider a dedicated sound card, but with my current setup, it just isn’t necessary right now. But It’s definitely something I plan on covering in future posts.

      • Rich Guszczynski

        Many home theater receivers now have usb input, acting as a usb sound card, that is plug and play. There are also high end asynchonous usb d/a converters which are all the rage in high end audio and there are several under $100 that really perform.