[New Build] Budget $500 Media Intensive Multi-Tasking


Jul 13, 2011
Approximate Purchase Date:
Two Weeks

Budget Range:
$500 After Rebates

System Usage from Most to Least Important:
Media Center Running Via Extender 24/7 (Usually Streaming xvid/mkv, and recording live TV)
Heavy Web Browsing (15-20 Tabs At A Time) Of Chrome Browser
Somewhat frequent use of Xilisoft Ultimate Video Converter (Making my xvid/mkv into iPhone4 optimized MP4's)
Frequent downloading of torrents in the background

Parts Not Required: (e.g.: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, OS) **Include Power Supply Make & Model If Re-using**
No Keyboard Or Mouse Required (Logitech Cordless Desktop)
No Monitor Required (Vizio 22" 1080p LCD)
No Speakers Required (Built-in Vizio Screen)
ATI TV Wonder TV Tuner Card
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
All of my media (Movies, TV Shows, and Recorded TV) are on an external 1.5TB Seagate FreeAgent USB3.0 capable.
XBOX360 Is used as MCExtender connected via ethernet on a 46" Vizio LED

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: (e.g.: newegg.com, ncix.com -- to show us selection & pricing)
Tiger Direct Preferred, NewEgg and Amazon Alternatives

Country of Origin: (e.g.: Grand Fenwick)

Parts Preferences: by brand or type (e.g.: I would like to use an AMD CPU & Biostar mobo with a 24" LCD and full tower case)
Hoping To Have USB 3.0 Built Into Board, SATA 6.0GB/s, & HDMI Carrying both audio and video.

Overclocking: Yes / No / Maybe
Maybe (Not Experienced In This Yet)

SLI or Crossfire: Yes / No / Maybe

Monitor Resolution: (e.g.: 1024x768, 1280x1024, 1440x900, 1600x1200, 1680x1050, 1920x1080, 1920x1200)
1360x768 ??

Additional Comments: (e.g.: Need to have a window and lots of bling, I would like a quiet PC)
Don't flame me for this, But I would like to have as high of a Windows Experience Index as I can for the Budget.

I am currently looking at 3 different starting points:
Option A- AMD Phenom II X4 955BE
Option B- Intel SandyBridge Core i3-2100
Option C- AMD A8 APU 3850

Not sure whether on-board video will be enough for what I do, not a gamer, but definitely media intensive (see usages above). If I am going to be sharing my RAM with the graphics processor, I would like to install 8GB of DDR3; but, feel like 4GB DDR3 may be enough if using a discrete graphics card.

Money saved if using lower cost processor and board would likely be spent on a SATAIII SSD drive (For example, there may be budget room for that on the Phenom build, but likely not on the SandyBridge build).

Again, most important things usage wise are that media center will be running 24/7, usually playing .mkv HD video to an extender while recording live tv; and simultaneously browsing 15-20 tabs of Chrome. Doing this currently on my Pentium D 3.0 machine with 2GB RAM, often has my processor running at 90% and my memory usage at 85% (according to desktop widget) and it struggles to run additional apps from this state such as Xilisoft converter and iTunes.

Definitely looking for some guidance from you guys!!!



Aug 14, 2010
i3's have gotten good reviews in media server builds. I would get the SB i3 because they've tested highly in encoding and consumer server arenas. Get a cheaper graphics card. Like a GTS 510 or 520 or 9500 type card. They are fairly cheap and well worth it over integrated. Don't get a SSD if you can't afford it, just not worth it. BUT, for downloading in the background, you will want 2 hard drives. Buy a 320GB as a boot drive and download onto your larger HDD. If you boot AND download extensively on the same drive, it gets a bit problematic and unreliable. (I've killed many 500GB boot drives that way...and 1TB drives too)

4GB RAM will suit you just fine, more than that in your machine is unnecessary.

If you are running that high on a PD, There is a good chance you have a virus. I've got PD machines that run 50+ tabs just fine.

Also, I've got several machines at 7.6 Windows Index and a primary unit at 7.0 and it's not all that big of a deal. I could care less honestly. But you look to have a decent build setup there. Go with the i3 and upgrade to an i5 when you can.



Jul 13, 2011

Thanks for your feedback... Part of why I haven't yet sold myself on the i3 even though many of its benchmark comparisons I've seen with the phenom II's, the i3 wins most categories- It seems weird to me to be buying a CPU with only 2 cores these days.
That brings me to this... other than intense games... What common software applications actually support 4, or even 6 cores??? What I mean by that of course is, applications that 'take advantage of' those cores. So feedback on the relevance of having 4 cores for my typical usage....?
I mean if I'm influenced enough by the forum here that SandyBridge is definitely worth the extra price then I may consider building this thing more gradually and springing for an i5, possibly the i5-2500K since the K model uses the new intel HD Graphics 3000 (not 2000 like the others) and could get away with not buying a discreet video card (at least for a while) to offset the extra cost.


Quite a few actually take advantage of multiple cores these days. And you have to also think about the fact that you have SW running in the background like virus scanners, anti spyware etc which also uses CPU time. Maybe not a whole lot but still they do use it. But you do seem to be doing some transcoding on videos so I think you should be looking at the intel offering in general, to take advantage of the HW encoder on cpu's.

Radeon 5570 or GT430 are the kind of cards with enough juice to run htpc stuff usually.


Jul 13, 2011

Ok, So I now have another vote for intel. What do you guys think of this h67 i5-2500 setup http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=603193&CatId=4910? It seems to have pretty much everything I was looking for, HDMI, USB 3.0, and SATA III, 8GB DDR3