ML03

If you're looking to build up a system to serve triple-duty as a home-theater PC, media streamer, and content creation system, while blending in nicely on an AV console, this is the one! It's equally at home hooked up to your 4K TV for streaming content, editing video files, or being used as an office PC on your desk.

For September 2019, we've made huge changes to this build refecting price drops on CPUs, RAM, and solid-state drives. The build starts with the incredibly-powerful AMD Ryzen 7 2700 eight-core CPU with 16 processing threads. Thanks to a recent price drop, it's now far and away the best CPU available for under $200, and it's also the perfect HTPC processor, thanks to its ample multi-threading capability. The CPU is paired with a GeForce GT 1030 video card that includes a proper HDMI 2.0 output for full 4K/60Hz support, along with a DisplayPort that can drive all ultra-high resolution monitors. Also on board is 16GB of DDR4 RAM and an ultra-fast 1TB PCIe-based solid-state drive, along with a 2TB hard drive and a Blu-Ray burner. To keep things quiet, we recommend the fantastic Noctua NH-L9x65 low-profile cooler, which really is truly silent. Everything comes together in the shelf-friendly SilverStone ML03 case, which will blend right in with your other AV components. Together, these components provide impressive multi-tasking ability and responsiveness, along with excellent HTPC functionality, all in a low-cost, ultra-compact system.

To see previous versions of this build, just flip to the $1,000 HTPC Archive. And take note: this is just one of 11 ultra-compact PC builds we feature in our do-it-yourself PC guides. If this isn't quite what you're looking for, we have a feeling we have another solution that will for for you, so just flip over to our Introduction to Small Form Factor PCs to learn more about the other compact options.

We use Amazon's real-time pricing engine, so prices in this guide are always up-to-date. We also include local Amazon links for our readers in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany, making regional substitutions as necessary. If you decide to purchase any of the products listed below, please use the links provided, which helps support continued development of this guide.

The $1,000 High-End Mini Home Theater PC - September 2019

    CPU:

    AMD Ryzen 7 2700

    In the past, HTPCs could get by with just four cores, but you no longer need to make that sacrifice! Step up to AMD's awesome eight-core Ryzen 7 2700, which can process a total of 16 threads simultaneously, along with boost speeds of over 3.5GHz right out of the box!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This CPU includes a 72mm-tall cooler in the box, which is too tall for this system. Please make sure to pick up the shorter cooler listed later in this guide, which has the added benefit of being virtually silent.

    Motherboard:

    Gigabyte B450 AORUS M

    You get a lot for your money with this B450-based board. It boasts eiight USB ports, high-end audio, and an M.2 slot for a solid-state drive.

    The Guru's Tip:

    The video outputs on this board will not be used in this system, as the CPU doesn't have built-in video processing. Instead you'll be using the add-in card below.

    Video Card:

    MSI GeForce GT 1030 2G LP OC

    This single-slot, low-profile video card provides tremendous home theater capability in a tiny pacakge. Most important is the full HDMI 2.0 port, offering HDCP 2.2 and 4K/60Hz, which allows for proper 4K output to a TV. We chose this MSI model very specifically because it has an HDMI 2.0 port and a Displayport for modern monitors, whereas every other GT 1030 has HDMI and a DVI port, which has been dropped on most modern monitors.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that while the motherboard has video outputs, they will not function when paired with a Ryzen 7 processor, so you really do need a video card. As an aside, we previously recommended a much more expensive low-profile card that could be used for gaming, but such cards are no longer being manufactured, due to the extremely small market for such models. We've allocated the budget to a better CPU and SSD instead.

    Memory:

    Ballistix 2x8GB Sport LT DDR4-3000 CL16

    For this build, we're going with 16GB of DDR4-3000 RAM, which will ensure you never run out of memory, while maximizing the performance of the Ryzen platform. The 3200MHz speed of this kit is 50% faster than standard DDR4-2133 kits, despite a price that's just a few dollas more.

    The Guru's Tip:

    To attain this kit's rated speed, remember to select the AMP profile in the motherboard's UEFI BIOS. Note that 3000MHz translates to 2933MHz on the Ryzen platform - this isn't a bug!

    Solid-State Drive:

    Intel SSD 660p 1TB PCIe

    Given how quickly solid-state drive prices have dropped recently, you can now get a fast PCIe-based M.2 drive for not much more than a hard drive! The 1TB version of Intel's 660p is an absolute bargain, and will ensure that your OS and apps run smoothly for years to come.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This drive will fit right into the M.2 slot on the motherboard we recommend, and to make installation easy, you'll want a jeweler's-type screwdriver.

    Hard Drive:

    Western Digital Blue 2TB

    If you have a large media storage, you'll want a high-capacity hard drive, and we recommend the latest version of WD's Blue 2TB 5400RPM 3.5" drive. It's quiet and reliable - 2TB 7200RPM drives may be nominally faster, but they'll also be a lot louder, which is a bad trade-off for a media drive.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Need more space? No problem - this drive comes in capacities as high as 6TB!

    Case:

    Silverstone ML03B

    Silverstone has done some serious engineering work here, and there's simply nothing else like it on the market today. Despite its compact dimensions, the ML09 can fit a mini-ITX motherboard, a low-profile dual-slot video card, four 2.5" drives, and an SFX power supply.

    The Guru's Tip:

    The ML09 can technically fit a slim optical drive, but not with the stock AMD CPU cooler, which is why we recommend a slimmer cooler in this guide. Also note that you'll need to remove the included 120mm fan from this case to make everything fit. To get more tips on how to build it up, check out our hands-on review.

    Power Supply:

    Seasonic SSR-450FM

    Boasting Gold-rated efficiency and semi-modular cables, this PSU is a dream come true for HTPC users. It has more than enough power at 450W, while also being ultra-high quality. That means you don't have to pay for capacity you don't need.

    The Guru's Tip:

    It took years to get a Gold-rated, modular PSU in a capacity right for an HTPC.

    Optical Drive:

    LG 14x Blu-Ray Burner

    Tap into your catalog of DVD and Blu-Ray discs with this Blu-Ray burner, which can read CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Rays, and can write to all of them as well. Many Blu-Ray drives are technically "combo" drives, which ironically means they do less; they can read Blu-Rays, but cannot write to them.

    The Guru's Tip:

    To play commercial movies, you'll need licensed software, and we recommend Cyberlink PowerDVD 19 Ultra.

    CPU Cooler:

    Noctua NH-L9x65

    While the AMD processor includes a cooler, it's too tall for this build's case, and it's a bit loud. For the ultimate in quiet computing, go for Noctua's excellent NH-L9x65, which comes in at just 65mm tall, which will fit easily within the SilverStone ML-series case!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Learn more about this great cooler in our full review.

    Wireless Card:

    TP-LINK Archer T6E AC1300

    Add high-speed 802.11ac networking to your build with this great, low-cost PCIe card.

    The Guru's Tip:

    If you have a wired connection near your AV system, you can skip this WiFi card.

    Operating System:

    Microsoft Windows 10 Flash Drive

    Win 10 is by far the best OS Microsoft has ever produced, and it's updated ever Spring and Fall with major new feature releases and security enhancements.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This USB 3.0 version of W10 loads in under 5 minutes!

Optional Components

    TV Tuner (Optional):

    Hauppauge WinTV-quadHD PCI Express TV Tuner Card 1609 (Opt.)

    Add live TV video capture capability with this handy drop-in card.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This half-height card will slip right into the this system's remaining PCIe slot.

    The Home Theater Keyboard/Trackpad Combo:

    Logitech K830 Illuminated Wireless Keyboard

    Want total control of your HTPC from the comfort of your couch? Look no further than the K830 keyboard with integrated trackpad!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This keyboard even has a built-in backlight, perfect for darkened media rooms!