In this post, I present my choice for Low-power HTPC build 2014, which can function as a HTPC NAS combo. The objective will be to make this home theater PC build function as a media center PC attached to the TV as well as be ON 24×7 working as a network attached storage device. Since this will be an always-on machine, it was important to have low energy consumption to keep electricity costs low. My current HTPC NAS combo is a MSI Wind Nettop PC with Atom 330 dual core, 2 GB or RAM, and 1.5 TB Samsung EcoGreen drive. It cannot handle HD video natively so I have had to install Broadcom CrystalHD decoder. It still works great and draws only about 29 Watts of power during peak load. With Kodi 14.0 Helix stopping support for CrystalHD cards, I had to find way to upgrade my 4-year old system with a good low budget HTPC build 2014. So here is my low power DIY AMD HTPC 2014 build.
Update (Dec 11, 2015): Here is my updated low-power energy efficient HTPC NAS combo build for 2016.
Low Power DIY Budget HTPC Build 2014
Make no mistake, low-power does not mean low Horse Power. This media center PC will have enough horse power to play HD and ultra HD (4K) videos or decode videos on the fly for a Plex media server. My budget for this HTPC build 2014 was less than $500. I recently reviewed the Raw Mini, which may be the best mini HTPC for some people. But in my case, I wanted a HTPC NAS combo and the Mini has option for only one mSATA drive. Another key point is that this will not be a Gaming PC even though it can handle some moderately graphics intensive games. So let us go to my HTPC build 2014 guide. [Read: How to install XBMC on Ubuntu?]
AMD 5350 2.05Ghz Quad-Core Processor
AMD hit a home run with the AMD 5350 2.05Ghz Quad-Core Kabini Processor and this APU is currently one of the best HTPC processors available. For just about $60, it is a best value processor that offers great graphics and CPU performance while only drawing 25 Watts of power or less. Let me remind you that I wanted to stay within the 29 Watts that my previous HTPC build was drawing. This AMD APU has good Linux support and is a great option for a XBMC HTPC. [Read: 5 Best XBMC skins for Raspberry Pi]
ASRock AM1H-ITX Mini ITX AM1 Motherboard
While there are many AM1 motherboards, and some of them very inexpensive (like this MSI motherboard for just $30), I went with a slightly more expensive motherboard from ASRock. I chose the ASRock AM1H-ITX Mini ITX AM1 motherboard that sells for about $60 for 3 reasons:
- USB 3.0: This board has 2 USB 3.0 ports each in the front and the back. USB 3.0 ports make it a bit future proof, in case I decide to connect an external drive.
- 4 SATA ports: Most motherboards came with only 1 or 2 SATA ports. I needed at least 2 (for SSD and Storage Drive) and preferably more (possibly a Bluray drive or RAID in future?). This motherboard has 4 SATA III ports.
- DC Power: This ASRock motherboard can take both AC and DC power. Having the option to supply power through a laptop brick power adapter takes out the need to have PSU inside the case – less heat generation and less noise).
So this makes it a great motherboard for my HTPC build 2014 and near future. [Read: Review: Logitech K830 Wireless Backlit HTPC Keyboard with TouchPad]
Silicon Power S70 120GB 2.5″ SSD
If you want to show off your HTPC build 2014 to others, an SSD is a must. Trust me, it will make you happy too. Booting takes seconds and everything just flies. I managed to jump in on a recent deal and got the Silicon Power S60 120GB 2.5″ SSD for just $50. The OS would run off the SSD, while a separate HDD would serve as the storage device. This will also allow the OS to spindown the HDD during low activity thereby reducing power consumption. [Read: 10 of the Best XBMC Addons in 2014]
Kingston HyperX FURY 4GB 1600MHz DDR3 CL10 RAM Memory
My HTPC NAS combo will run Ubuntu Server. So Kingston HyperX FURY 4GB 1600MHz DDR3 CL10 RAM is more than enough for my needs while keeping costs low (~$40). This may even be enough for a Windows 8 HTPC but I would recommend going for 8 GB RAM for Windows builds. [read: 15 XBMC keyboard shortcuts you should know]
Western Digital Green 4TB 3.5″ 5900RPM
For data storage and to use as a network shared drive, I chose the Western Digital Green 4TB 3.5″ 5900 RPM drive. While I managed to get this for $110, it can cost up to $140. This has enough space for my needs, while being energy efficient. I have not had a hard drive go bad on me (touch wood). So I am not putting in another drive for RAID. I do backup my server on an external drive once in a while. If you choose to do a RAID, don’t worry the ASRock board has enough SATA ports to allow that. [Read: 5 Must have Android apps for HTPC or Home Server control]
Inwin BP655.FH300TB3 Mini ITX HTPC case
Finally, for the case for my HTPC build 2014 I went with Inwin BP655.FH300TB3 Mini ITX Tower w/200W Power Supply for $60. At this point, I am not looking into using a laptop brick DC power supply. So to start of, I am using the 200 Watt PSU that came with the case. While it is not the best PSU, it works for now. The major reason I got this case was, front USB 3.0 port. Once I set it inside my entertainment center I do not want to mess with it. So this was important to me. You may be able to find cheaper cases if having front USB ports is not important to you. This HTPC case also has space for a 5.25″ drive in case I decide to invest in a Bluray drive in future. [Read: 7 Raspberry Pi accessories to build a XBMC media center]
Closing Thoughts on my HTPC Build 2014
To remind again, this HTPC build 2014 was primarily for acting as media center and network attached storage device for both media and personal files. Potentially it may be used as a Plex media server in future. While it can handle moderately intensive games, I do not intend to use it for gaming. The total cost was approximately $380 so it is a low budget or medium budget HTPC. It is very energy efficient (24 Watts average as measured by Kill-A-Watt) and costs just about $20 to keep it running for one whole year (@ electricity cost $0.10 per KWh). This home theatre PC may not blow a hardcore gamer or a pro HTPC builder out of their mind but for an average home user this HTPC build 2014 is great and may even be good for 2015 and later.