MMOWare - Building Your Own Gaming HTPC Steam Machine
We’re going to discuss taking PC gaming to your television on a budget and kicking the thought that you need to pay someone for a “PC console” to the curb. We won’t discuss which OS you want to use, but I highly suggest against SteamOS and implore you to consider Linux if you want to go free or Windows 7 if you want a real authentic PC gaming experience. Remember if you’re a student you can get a legit copy for almost nothing directly from Microsoft.
The Cheapest Option
Monoprice has a 50” HDMI cable for about $50. This should be technically long enough to run from your PC to your T.V. You could get a switch box to flip displays on the go and be good to go. You can even buy a Bluetooth extender to take a controller into the living room with you along with a keyboard and mouse, avoiding the need of a gaming HTPC.
To build your HTPC you need a few things that are different from a normal PC build. Primarily, you need a smaller case. Hahahaha, I know, the joke of all this is that you’re still building a gaming PC, it’s just going to all go into a smaller case. Why a smaller case? Because it’s got to fit with your other home theater stuff.
You will need the following:
- Video Card
- Power Supply
- Wireless Keyboard / Mouse
Mini-ITX vs. Micro ATX
Mini-ITX boards are “low power consumption” or basically self cooling boards. They basically do not require a fan. They are the perfect HTPC size though and perfect in many ways for just watching movies. However, they’re not good for gaming. At all, because they don’t rely on fans and other modern things to keep them cool.
Heat & Cooling
The problem with HTPC cases is that they’re small and they can hold in a ton of heat. The neat thing is the small space makes fans much more efficient. In the parts I’m listing below, I’m just suggesting things to make a point. You will need to customize things as you see fit. However, at the price tag, a gaming HTPC should easily just be a gaming PC you stick in your living room. If you want to skip all this nonsense, you could just buy the latest Dell gaming PC or Alienware and shove it in your living room. It’ll be loud, but any gaming PC is going to be loud at the end of the day with the video card running and the fans going.
Here are a list of parts I would purchase for my gaming rig:
- Case: Grandia Series SST-GD08B ($140) or Corsair Carbide Series Air ($140)
- Motherboard: ASRock B85M Pro4 ($75)
- CPU: Core i5 4570 ($200)
- RAM: 8Gig of your Choice $20
- Video Card: Radeon 7750 ($100)
- PSU: Antec HCG-620M ($60)
- Hard Drive: Any 1TB Hard Drive ($60)
That’s about $700 worth of parts and this is on the cheap end, before the controller and the keyboard. The Radeon 7750 will play most MMOs, but you’d definitely want something a bit better and video card recommendations are likely to draw the ire of every computer building nerd out there. So I’ll say the cheapest most bottom of the line you should go and you should move up from there.
On top of this you’ll want a wired or wireless (with a kit) Xbox 360 controller, a wireless mouse, and a wireless keyboard all available on Amazon for almost nothing. In addition, you may need a wireless card (also available on Amazon for nothing) and an HDMI cable.
After roughly shoving all the parts together, you would have an official gaming HTPC. Although on the low end, with no overclocking, no custom heatsink, no water cooling, etc. The price wouldn’t be that bad though, at around $700 to say $900 if you wanted a sweet video card. You’d be able to play most modern day games on your T.V.
Oh and you’d need Windows, which is $100 or so. You can install Linux but there is no Netflix since it requires Silverlight. I suggest getting Windows and putting Steam on it, making it a "Steam Machine" vs. using SteamOS, at least for now.
I hope this article is helpful and can help you with planning on making your own Steam Machine or gaming HTPC. If you’ve got any PC building questions, email me at [email protected] and I’ll answer them in next week’s MMOware.