ML09

Want to build a sleek 4K-capable home theater PC (HTPC) that will look as good as the 4K UHD TV it's hooked up to? No problem - this guide will set you up with the perfect ultra-quiet, ultra-capable, ultra-modern HTPC! 

For August 2019, this build continues to feature our personal favorite HTPC case, the SilverStone ML09. It's incredibly small, yet still has the capacity for some serious gear. We believe that in the modern era of streaming media, an inexpensive HTPC should be quiet, capable, and most importantly, compact. Put another way, it's time to say "honey, I shrunk the HTPC!" Trust us - this is going to be a win not just for you, but for everyone else in your household! And thanks to falling prices on a wide variety of PC components, this PC isn't just extraordinarily powerful for its size, it's also a fantastic bargain. It starts with AMD's awesome the Ryzen 5 2400G, a quad-core, eight-thread powerhouse that can boost up to 3.9GHz. It has built-in RX Vega 11 graphics, which is vastly superior to anything available from Intel CPUs, and is on par with a stand-alone $100 GPU. Paired with an advanced B450-based motherboard, it will output the 4K/60Hz deep-color video via HDMI 2.0 that you need to properly drive a 4K UHD TV. And thanks to those price drops we mentioned, we can also equip this system with 16GB of quick DDR4 RAM along with a blazing-fast 1TB PCIe-based solid-state drive. And if you still want access to physical or recorded media, don't worry: this system can fit a Blu-Ray drive plus up to four 2TB hard drives, bringing the total capacity to a whopping 9TB including the SSD.

With all of that said, we know there a lot of HTPC users out there who still want to use add-in graphics cards for gaming, video capture cards for media, and a rack of hard drives for storage. For all those folks, we have our much larger $1,250 High-End HTPC Buyer's Guide, which is based on the SilverStone GD05 case, shown below. It uses a micro-ATX motherboard and provides space for up to three 3.5" hard drives and plenty of full-size expansion cards, all without approaching the size of typical ATX cases!

gd05

To see previous versions of this build, simply flip to the Home Theater PC Archive. By the way, any HTPC needs a good set of peripherals to get the most out of it, so definitely scroll down to the end of this guide to see our favorite multifunction accessories, including wireless keyboards and universal remotes.

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 (UK), Canada, and Deutschland (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 $750 Home Theater PC - August 2019

    CPU:

    AMD Ryzen 5 2400G

    The Ryzen 5 2400G APU is by far the best solution for a budget-friendly home theater PC. It has four cores and 8 total processing threads, runs at 3.6GHz with boost to 3.9GHz, and being an "APU" rather than a CPU, includes the powerful RX Vega 11 graphics chip for true gaming and video decompression capability. The Vega 11 is actually equivalent to a $100 GPU on its own!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This APU's 55mm-tall Wraith Stealth cooler could fit in this system with minor modifications, but we suggest a much quieter, more compact cooler later in this guide.

    Motherboard:

    Gigabyte B450 I Aorus Pro WiFi

    You get a lot for your money with this B450-based board. It boasts built-in 802.11ac 5GHz networking, Bluetooth, six USB ports, high-end audio, and an M.2 slot for a solid-state drive. The best part of this board is that it includes an HDMI 2.0 port, allowing for true 4K/60Hz output.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that like all current B450 boards, this one will not support the latest generation of AMD 3000-series processors without a firmware update, which is why we recommend you purchase the 2400G APU rather than the newer 3400G, which is about 5% faster but costs 25% more!

    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. Note that we always recommend the use of "single rank" memory with the Ryzen platform for greater compatibility, and Ballistix is one of the few makers of such memory.

    The Guru's Tip:

    To attain this kit's full 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 an ultra-fast PCIe-based M.2 drive for not much more than a hard drive! The 1TB version of Intel's 660p will get your OS and apps running smoothly at a cost per gigabyte that's truly amazing.

    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.

    Case:

    SilverStone ML09B

    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:

    Note that you'll need to remove the included 120mm fan from this case to fit the CPU cooler. The case has just 47mm of CPU cooler clearance when using either an optical drive or slim fan, and 70mm with nothing above To get more tips on how to build it up, check out our hands-on review.

    Power Supply:

    SilverStone ST45SF-V3

    This Bronze-rated SFX PSU is equipped with a 92mm fan, which has the power to push a lot of air at load, while being very quiet at idle.

    The Guru's Tip:

    While you can theoretically fit a longer SFX-L unit in this build, it would require removing the 2.5" drive cage.

    CPU Cooler:

    Noctua NH-L9a-AM4

    While the AMD processor includes a decent 55mm cooler, this slimmer 37mm cooler is required if you want to use the case's included 120mm fan or the optional Blu-Ray burner listed later in this guide. The other major advantage of the NH-L9a is that it's infinitely quieter than the stock AMD cooler - in our testing, it was essentially silent.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Learn more about this great cooler in our full hands-on review.

    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

    Optical Drive:

    Panasonic 12.7mm UJ260 Blu-Ray Burner

    Tap into your catalog of DVD and Blu-Ray discs with this slimline Blu-Ray burner, which can read CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Rays, and can write to all of them as well. Note that to use this drive in the slim case we recommend, you have to add two additional components, the adapter listed below, as well as the slim Noctua cooler we recommended earlier in this guide. The stock AMD cooler will not provide sufficient clearance to mount a disc drive.

    The Guru's Tip:

    To play commercial movies, you'll need licensed software, and we recommend Cyberlink PowerDVD 18 Ultra.

    Cable:

    Startech Slim-Line SATA Adapter

    To connect the Blu-Ray drive, or any slim optical drive, you'll need this adapter, which converts the drive's laptop-style power connector for use with a desktop-class power supply.

    The Guru's Tip:

    We've also tried Startech's all-in-one adapter, but find that it can cause clearance problems.

    Memory:

    WD Blue WD20SPZX 2TB 2.5"

    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 drive. It's quiet and reliable. You can add up to four of these drives to this system, for a total of 8TB of storage!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Given that a lot of HTPC users are switching to streaming content, we no longer view a large hard drive as mandatory, especially in a lower-cost HTPC like this one.

    DVR (Optional):

    Hauppauge Colossus 2 PCIe 1080p HD-PVR (Opt.)

    Want to record cable TV or other content onto your PC? Then drop this handy card into your mini system's single PCIe slot!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that this device cannot read HDCP encryption directly, so you may need a splitter that will strip that before connecting it to the Colossus.