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Almost all present-day memory modules are at least DDR-1333. Depending on the APU chosen, the reader should go for DDR3-1600 or even DDR3-1866, as the added bandwidth can improve the iGPU performance in particular, and there is not much point in purchasing a module with lower speeds than what the APU natively supports. It is always possible to run higher rated memory modules at lower speeds if one wants to save power or reduce heat, and it is generally better to purchase modules with lower latency specifications, as this has the potential to improve performance in games and sometimes even for renderers such as madVR.

For most HTPC applications, 4GB of memory is more than enough. However, if you are repurposing the HTPC for other tasks such as intenstive video and photo editing, it might be worthwhile to invest in 8GB of memory. While performance typically does not vary between brands (assuming the same timings and clock speed), reliability might. It is therefore essential to choose the memory vendor and model carefully.

Some of the memory kits we recommend for the lower-end APUs (A4-3300 and A4-3400) are below. While all memory modules should work with all motherboards in theory, in practice that's not always the case, particularly if you're going to run low voltage modules. We recommend checking motherboard vendor compatilibity lists if you're not willing to deal with the potential need to return your memory kit for a more compatible set.

  • G.SKILL Sniper Low Voltage Series 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600: This kit operates at a lower voltage (1.25V) compared to similar kits, and can run cooler. The timing is also quite good at 9-9-9-24 when operating at 1600MHz. Coming in at $52, this is one of the best kits for a low power HTPC.

  • G.SKILL ECO 8GB (4 x 2GB) DDR3-1600: This kit also operates at a lower voltage (1.35V) and has excellent timing parameters of 8-8-8-24. However, it is a quad channel kit and can only be fully utilized with an appropriate motherboard. Priced at $100 it's somewhat expensive, but it may prove more compatible for some systems than 1.25V kits like the above Sniper Low Voltage.
  • AMD Entertainment Edition 2GB (1 x 2GB) DDR3-1600: This is one of the cheaper alternatives, coming in at $16. It operates at the standard 1.5V with timing parameters of 9-9-9-24.

For the higher-end APUs, we recommend memory kits rated for DDR3-1866. At these speeds, it is not possible to get low voltage kits.

  • G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 8GB (2 x 4GB): This kit comes in at $75, operates at 1.5V, and has timings of 8-9-9-24. Users have reported that it overclocks effortlessly to 2133MHz. This makes it an idea candidate for HTPCs that will also serve as gaming rigs.
  • Crucial Ballistix 2GB (1 x 2GB): Coming in at $21, it is quite cheap compared to the G.SKILL kit above, but you only get one fourth the total memory. It operates at the same 1.5V and has the same timings. Of course, the drawback is that even with four of these in an appropriate motherboard, you only have 8GB of memory while the previous kit can give you 16GB.

Moving on to storage options, the reader will have to take a stance on the HDD vs. SSD debate. While a cheap SSD might sound very tempting (and may even prove excitingly fast in the initial days), the choice must be made only after careful consideration. At AnandTech, most of the SSDs that get reviewed go into production machines. I have been using an OCZ Agility 3 240GB SSD in my personal laptop. It is based on the SandForce SF-2281 controller. Unfortunately, I have experienced annoying random BSODs whenever I try to hibernate or put the laptop to sleep even with the latest firmware. A quick search on the various SSD forums indicates that SandForce-based SSDs usually don't like hibernation or sleep mode. This is just something to keep in consideration, because it is quite common to put HTPCs in sleep mode when not in operation.

If you plan to use your HTPC just as a front-end for local media residing in a NAS/optical drive, a 128GB SSD should serve you well. On the other hand, if you are planning to use your HTPC as a recording or download machine, it is suggested that you go in for a 2TB or 3TB hard drive in addition to having a 64GB SSD as a boot drive. If the HTPC is to be used in the backend as a media server/download or recording machine (and a media streamer or some other device is going to be used in the front-end), a SSD is not needed at all.

We've selected an SSD and hard drive for use with HTPCs below:

  • SAMSUNG 830 Series MZ-7PC064D/AM 2.5" 64GB SSD: Samsung's 830 series was well received by us, and Samsung has a good track record of reliability. At $90, the price per GB is much higher than the budget drives, but trust us, a worry-free experience even with unusual HTPC usage scenarios is worth it. If you want more storage in your SSD, a more cost effective purchase would be the SAMSUNG 830 Series MZ-7PC256B/WW 2.5" 256GB SSD that is currently on sale for $250.
  • Seagate's Barracuda 3TB (ST3000DM001): This hard drive is currently priced at $158 on Amazon. It has 3x1TB platters and delivers better performance than the initial 5x600MB hard drives. For users that like to record TV shows and/or download media files, 3TB is definitely not overkill when it comes to hard drive capacity.

APU, Chipset and Motherboard Power Supply and Chassis
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  • lurker22 - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Can you get a complete system for $150 like the Foxcon one? Reply
  • JAK620 - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I have a A8-3850 system. Built it as soon as it was available on Newegg last year.
    The CPU temperature constantly maintains at the 40~52 celcius in the summer and ~40 in the winter. (has to do with the room temperature).

    I am sure that it is not the coolest but it is pretty good enough for me to build a system without an additional graphic card, which generates more noise from the graphic card's fan.

    Unless you play a lot of games, I think that Llano has a good balance for me so far. I do not play many games on PC but still can play ME, NSF: Unleashed 11 & 2 and the likes in 720P without issue.

    Not to down play Sandy Bridge but I think that Llano is a good option as well
    Reply
  • CeriseCogburn - Monday, June 11, 2012 - link

    Because they're nutso Spivonious, that's why. If they tell themselves they must not hear a tiny fan over the blaring TV show or movie, they can justify been full on loonbat crazy and going wacko scrimping down into barely workable crud mode instead of just tossing their old core 2 or athlon 2 etc in a case and adding the video card they have laying around that will whip the pants off all their llano trinity HDxxxx junk.

    It's like a specialized hobby for wackos, who on other days go off into insanoville over $10 on a new gaming video card purchase.

    Frankly, I find it disturbing to say the least, but then there's what (some or most) enthusiasts are. I see the same thing when they want to make a NAS, or have a "server", etc... they just go bonkers to "do it the way the culture tells them they must" or something I don't get it.
    Reply
  • max40watt - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I stand by my little AMD Fusion NES HTPC as the nicest little HTPC I've ever made.

    <a href="http://photobucket.com" target="_blank"><img src="http://i302.photobucket.com/albums/nn87/max40watt/... border="0" alt="Interior NESpc"></a>

    <a href="http://photobucket.com" target="_blank"><img src="http://i302.photobucket.com/albums/nn87/max40watt/... border="0" alt="NES PC Boxee"></a>
    Reply
  • max40watt - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    Darn you lack of html.

    http://i302.photobucket.com/albums/nn87/max40watt/...

    http://i302.photobucket.com/albums/nn87/max40watt/...
    Reply
  • Einy0 - Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - link

    NICE! Love the concept. Reply
  • djfourmoney - Thursday, June 07, 2012 - link

    I sort of want to take a new empty PS1 and build a console with it using a E350/E450 APU which can easily handle tweaked ePSX settings. But all the games can be located on my server instead of locally on a drive. Reply
  • dgingeri - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    I have two questions:

    1. would an A4-3400 be able to handle BluRay playback, Hulu, and Netflix? If not, what level would handle it? That's not very clear here. I'm looking to build a lower power HTPC just for those duties. Any conversion, ripping, or other apps will be handled by my main machine and shared across the network. I don't need the HTPC to handle anything else.

    2. As long as we're looking at the Llano chip, I may as well ask, what laptop version would be able to handle World of Warcraft and Diablo 3 at decent details and 1366X768 resolution at a decent frame rate. I'm looking to buy a laptop for those games specifically for when I'm traveling.
    Reply
  • burntham77 - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    On an E-350 APU, Blu-ray works just fine, although I did have to adjust the memory settings in the BIOS so it used the maximum amount (512 megs in my case). You might have to do the same with the A4-3400. Also, I use Cyberlink's Power DVD 11 Ultra (ebay has great prices on that) as the free version that came with my Blu-ray drive did not provided proper audio decoding. Reply
  • DWwolf - Tuesday, June 05, 2012 - link

    A3500 is probably the sweetspot as far as performance goes. Better GPU for decoding, still max 65W. Triplecore for the demanding stuff. Reply

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