This is the second installment in my below $250 budget HTPC builds. This one is a little more updated since the last, using newer spec hardware, but keeping within the $250 budget. Take a peek at what I’ve put together, and use this for a base on your next HTPC build or upgrade. You can take a look at my previous build here, or you can take a look at my current setups. Either way I’m sure you will be able to find inspiration, or advice in the never ending world of PC and HTPC building.
This list or build is just a suggestion. This isn’t the best nor the cheapest. You may be able to find something on sale and get a better part for the same price, etc. This is sort of a ‘what’s good now for the following price’ sort of thing to help you on your way. At the same time feel free to buy this setup, and run with it. It’ll work great paired up with Openelec or XBMCbuntu.
Right now lets get down to business.
AMD Athlon 5350 APU – $59.99
The APU market right now is amazing. This Quad-Core 2.05GHz model is amazing. In this tiny form factor you will be able to pump out stunning visuals in 1080p. You have absolutely nothing to worry about when it comes to lag or stuttering. You should also be able to get by with some light emulator gaming.
ASRock Motherboard Micro AM1H-ITX – $58.99
This Mini-ITX, AM1 socket motherboard is an engineering feat. It has the following ports: HDMI Port, 1x Display Port, 1x Optical SPDIF Out, 1x RJ45 LAN Port, Audio I/O Jacks, 4x USB 3.0 Ports (2 rear, 2 via header), 6x USB 2.0 Ports. What else could you possibly need? Oh yeah you wanted an onboard DC power connector? CHECK. This allows you to keep the sound down (to zero..) and keep the heat out and away from the case. Oh and if you have an old laptop power supply laying around, use that and skip on buying the one below.
Crucial 2GB DDR3 – $25.09
This is 2GB of RAM. Nuff said…
A-Data Premier Pro SP600 32GB 2.5″ Solid State Disk – $43.94
I’m actually using the same SSD I listed in Build 1 of this series. It’s solid, I trust ADATA, and it’s gone down in price since my previous build post. Win in my books.
M350 Universal Mini-ITX – $35.94
This case is a solid performer. Many people in the HTPC community have one, and it’s received great reviews all over the net.
90w Universal Ac Adapter – $13.15
If you don’t have a spare 90w (19v) laptop power supply kicking around, pick up this universal one. This powers the HTPC with enough juice, while keeping the sound down and the heat away from critical components. This also allows you to have it farther from an outlet as this cable is much longer than a standard power supply cable.
This build is a solid HTPC. I’m actually going to be recommending this to a family member who is in the market to buy a Roku, and ask him to re-consider rolling his own media player (with Openelec of course).
How could you improve upon this?
- More storage – I like the speed of an SSD. Some people want storage over speed, so some people would opt for a larger mechanical drive. Be careful if you do while using the case I recommended
- More RAM – I find 2GB is more than enough for Openelec/Linux. If you’re going to be running Windows, toss a 1x4GB stick in. No need for dual channel here!
- Nicer case – Sure the one I recommended isn’t covered in LEDs and brushed metal. If that’s your thing look into a nicer Silverstone case
All in all I hope you liked this build, and if you have any recommendations or questions please let me know in the comments, I’d love to see your feedback.
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Can you highlight some pros and cons of AMD Athlon 5350 APU vs Intel Celeron 1007U Processor (1.5GHz, Dual-Core). My priority is playing 1080p flawlessly and watching live TV without any slutter.
They will both play 1080P content. The AMD has a higher clock speed on the graphics processor though. The Intel is 350 MHz and the AMD is 600 MHz. Also the AMD has 4 cores while the Intel has 2. Overall they’re somewhat comparable, but the AMD will probably stay ‘current’ longer than the Intel.
How well does the stock AMD cooler work in that case? And would a laptop HDD work in that build in place of the SSD? Or would I be better off to use an external HDD and keep the SSD for software?
Stock cooler will work perfectly fine! A laptop HDD will be the exact same size and dimension, just slower and prone to failure down the line. I prefer SSDs in my HTPCs because of the speed. 5-6 second boot up time is amazing! I recommend people to use what they feel fits their budget and requirements. If you’re looking for a fast device and dont need a lot of space on the HTPC, then get an SSD. If you’re storing media on the HTPC then get a laptop HDD as they offer more space for cheaper.
You mention to be careful if using a HDD with the case you recommend. Can you elaborate on what you mean by that? Ideally I would like to have the OS booting off a SSD, but have an internal HDD for media, like in a tall NUC for example.
The case is very small and only has enough space for 1 internal HDD. Since you’re looking to store media on it, your only choice would be to get a 1TB 2.5″ drive. Some mechanical 2.5″ drives are taller than others which can cause some issues with fitting in the case.
Hi. Great site. Made me think seriously about building my own HTPC rather than a streamer from China. My question: How quiet does this machine run?
Hi, I’m glad I’ve made you think about this.
So with this setup, with the SSD, you’ll be very quiet. The stock cooler is quiet for what it is (stock cooler) and they run at low RPMs anyways so it won’t sounds like a wind turbine in your living room.
Another plus is the fact that there is no PSU fan! I build this with quiet it mind.
Keep it ventilated or in the open, and you shouldnt have any issues with noise.
Quick question, the motherboard website only displays drivers and utilities for Windows platform, if I install Openelec on this, would everything (LAN, USB 3.0 etc) work on the fly once I update the BIOS through USB stick?
Yep! You may not even have to update the BIOS (but it would be good to). The brains behind Openelec have included pretty much all drivers for everything.. Any modern motherboard will work right out of the box. Enjoy your HTPC! Let me know if you have anymore questions.
Maybe a dumb question, but for the 90w Universal Ac Adapter, how does it connect to the motherboard? The mobo that you suggested has a 1x 24pin ATX Power Connector, I believe.
That’s true but it also has a little port like a laptop does! See here: http://i.imgur.com/v5F1R3L.png
Could you please clarify what you mean by “You should also be able to get by with some light emulator gaming” ? I am hoping to run Project64 and get some MarioKart going!
If you’re going to be running Project64, I would reccommend taking a look at my “Build 3” here – http://www.homemediatech.net/budget-htpc-build-for-under-250-build-3/875 . That will support it just fine.
I tried and tried, but I could not get Linux or any other derivative of linux to work with this build. It installed fine, but when booting up, it just hung. I had to install windows 7 on it. Very weird. It’s probably a driver issue, but didn’t have a lot of time to debug.
Thx for the useful info. I have another dumb question. if I use the laptop power connector (without a dedicated power supply), how do you power the SATA hard drive?
The power will come from the motherboard! There is a connector near the sata ports. See here circled in red: http://i.imgur.com/tLjp4K0.jpg
Hope that helps!
Awesome! Got it. Thx.
Hi Alex, looking for a htpc to run the new Kodi helix on. Want to run it through my hdmi tv preferably on the window 8.1 system. I have a 5.1 system to plug into and obviously would like hdmi connections. what can you recommend me as of jan 2015. budget (£200) and i will purchase a recommendedlogitech mini chromecast dinovo keyboard for operation.
as a side would be nice to be able to load up minecraft so my lad can play that (with all the mods etc!)
I highly recommend you check out – http://www.homemediatech.net/3-budget-htpc-builds-for-under-250-january-2015/1059.
The Intel NUC build (last on the list) will do exactly what you want. You could spend a little bit extra to get the i3 version to future proof it. Not necessary but is an option.
The NUC is tiny, affordable and an excellent choice for your use case.
Great article, you’ve inspired me to make my own HTPC rather than wimp out and buy a NUC.
One question though, would you say the AMD Athlon 5150 would be pretty much the same? I’m asking as the site I usually buy from is out of stock of the 5350. There’s only a 0.4 Ghz in the difference on each core so I don’t think it would affect it too much.
Also, I’ve seen people running OpenELEC on a USB thumb drive. Is there much performance gain from using an SSD instead?
I would go with the 5150 if that’s what is in stock. I doubt the difference would be noticeable. As for the thumb drive, go for it. It’s MUCH cheaper, and if you buy a quick one there probably wouldn’t be much of a speed decrease. I bought an SSD so that images would load quicker, and so that I didn’t have something poking out of my HTPC (the thumb drive).
Hello! I really like this build. I just have a couple questions.
I want to build an HTPC that can play BD-ISO files without any issues. I will be running Kodibuntu (Xbmcubuntu). I would also like to watch Netflix on my Htpc.
How does this motherboard compare to the one you listed? –>ASUS Mini ITX DDR3 1600 Motherboards AM1I-A. Do you think the one I listed will be able to handle what I want to do since it is slightly cheaper than the one in your build?
Lastly, Is it possible to buy a case that is larger than the one you listed? I want to be able to install some HDD’s without having to pack everything into a tiny box. If there was a case like the one you has listed, just larger, that would be great.
Thank you for your time and your help,
Does it have Bluetooth? Can I connect remote to htpc? My router has USB plug in the back and can hook it up with cheap 2 TB hard drive to storage all videos without having it on ssd drive. So I can able to pull all media from hard drive attached to the router through kodi or android OS? Like Plex idea.
Can install android based on the ssd without having Linux,windows,Mac installed?
Can you try to build htpc for traveling? Since I am going to travel some world cities this summer and want to have smallest htpc like stick or little bigger?
Let me know thanks,