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 Post subject: A Tale of Two HTPC's
PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2009 2:20 pm 
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Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2007 4:12 pm
Posts: 21
Location: San Diego, CA
I've actually got two HTPC's to show here, although the tale of their coming together is heavily intertwined. I've had an HTPC for years, housed in an old Antec Ovation II. It was decent, not particularly powerful or all that quiet, but it served its purpose well, mostly playing standard def Xvid .avi files. At some point I upgraded it to an Intel C2D E6600 with a Scythe mini-Ninja cooler (80mm Scythe fan) and an Asus 8600GT w/ passive cooling to quiet it somewhat and allow it to handle at least 720p x264 .mkv's. My main living room display is limited to 720p anyway, so it was sufficient although nothing great.

I decided to build another HTPC when we upgraded the TV in our bedroom to a 1080p Plasma. Benefiting from all the awesome research and advice here (as demonstrated by this thread) and at other sites, I put together this:

Antec NSK 2400 w/o PSU
Scythe S-FLEX 120mm Case Fan, 800RPM, Noise: 8.7dBA, Model: SFF21D
Scythe Mini Ninja
Enermax Modu 82+ 425W
Intel Pentium E5200 Wolfdale 2.5GHz LGA 775 65W
Gigabyte GA-E7AUM-DS2H microATX motherboard
CORSAIR 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400)
OCZ Vertex Series OCZSSD2-1VTX30G 2.5" 30GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid state disk (SSD)
Trendnet 802.11n PCI adapter
Adesso 2.4GHz RF Wireless Mini USB Keyboard
Scythe Kaze 40mm Fan for NB cooling

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It's a great system, able to handle all the files I've thrown at it, and is almost dead silent. The PSU is crazy quiet, and the Scythe 120 fan is also really good. After reseating the NB cooler with better thermal paste, and adding the 40mm Scythe fan, I've got no overheating issues there at all, and it's also essentially noiseless. I mounted the mini-Ninja with a Thermalright 775 mounting kit, something I would recommend to anybody, as I truly detest the 775 push pin mounting.

Unfortunately, the Antec 2400, as much as I like it, just did not really fit size-wise where we wanted it in the bedroom. I ended up having to put it behind the TV, on the case's side, which of course is not what it's designed to do. So, long story short, I moved that HTPC down to the living room, and decided to rebuild my old HTPC to fit better in the bedroom. I should say, the new build kind of a kludge, and not necessarily something I would recommend to anybody else, but I thought you all would enjoy it nonetheless.

Lian-Li PC-Q7
No case fan
Cogage MST-140 1366/775 CPU Cooler by Thermalright
Zotac GF9300-D-E mini-ITX motherboard
Intel C2D E6600
2x1GB OCZ RAM
Western Digital Scorpio Blue 160GB notebook drive
Zalman Fanmate 2
150 Watt Pico PSU
Belkin USB 802.11n adapter
Gyration Air Music Remote/Keyboard

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As you can see, it does fit quite nicely behind the TV, so in that sense the Lian-Li case is precisely what I wanted. OTOH, it's not a very good case, imo, and is poorly designed overall (although it looks nice). Knowing I would likely use a PicoPSU, I didn't have to worry about fitting a large PSU in above the motherboard, and could pretty much use whatever CPU heatsink I wanted, even a big tower. But since there would be no case fan, I wanted something that was down blowing, and that would help with any NB heat issues on the Zotac board. I would have happily gotten a Scythe Zipang, but my hatred of the 775 push pin mounting drove me to Thermalright. I was really intrigued, however, by the less expensive Cogage branded Thermalrights, however, so I thought I would try out the down blowing MST-140, knowing that even if it wasn't quite the performer the Thermalright AXP-140 might be, I could undervolt the 140mm fan sufficiently to achieve good cooling and near silence. And generally that has been the case, although I ended up just using a Zalman Fanmate to dial down the fan instead of Speedfan as I usually would do. Also, the heatsink did not fit into the case well, hitting the optical drive cage, but since I wasn't going to need an optical drive, I just ripped the cage out.

Another important point about the Zotac MB is that the included WiFi adapter is nice and space-saving, but since it's only 802.11g rated, it just couldn't handle high def files (at least on my n-based home network). I disabled it, connected an USB 802.11n adapter and am having no stuttering issues with even 1080p files.

Couple of other points: the Adesso wireless keyboard is pretty bad. I wouldn't recommend it. Gyration is much better, in my experience. I'm using Windows 7 with both of the builds, and have been very happy with it. I've had a number of issues with getting Ubuntu (9.04 Jaunty Jackalope) working correctly with VDPAU graphics acceleration sadly (although I really love both XBMC and Boxee) so I'll probably try again with the next major release. On the living room HTPC I also have a Hauppauge HD-PVR connected, and right now running that in Linux is a bit of hassle as well, imo. In Windows 7 I just use Media Player Classic-Home Theater to take advantage of GPU acceleration on media playback, and it's great, no problems at all. The Grytion mouse/remote and keyboard have a lot of built in functionality that I can't use yet in Windows 7, hopefully they will release some updated software soon.

Thanks for taking a look!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2009 8:43 pm 
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Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2007 1:45 pm
Posts: 310
Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Very nice builds! I'm envious of your Vertex, but couldn't bring myself to pay the premium just yet. How are your temps for the GF9400 in speedfan? I'm curious because I was on the fence between the mini-kaze vs the thermalright tower cooler, but ended up ducting instead.
Also, are you running your S-FLEX @ 800rpm or undervolted? Since you have a fan on your NB, you should be able to get away with a lot lower revs on the case fan unless your ambient temps are high.

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Gaming rig: Tt Tsunami,P5Q Pro,Q9450 w Ninja,8GB RAM,4870 1GB w S1,WD 640GB,SB X-Fi Plat,ZM-MFC2.Kama PWM in PSU,others S-FlexEs.
HTPC: NSK2480,GB GF9400,E5200 w/ Minja,4GB RAM,WD GP 1.5TB,Nova DVB-S. Minja PSU fan,S-FlexEs case fans.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 14, 2009 10:53 am 
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Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2007 4:12 pm
Posts: 21
Location: San Diego, CA
The temps on the GF9400 are fine, I actually don't really monitor it any more, since Speedfan never flags it as an issue.

I'm running the S-Flex a little undervolted, but not much. It is a really, really quiet fan, imo. It's always a good sign when you have really put your ear next to a fan to determine if its truly on or not. :wink:


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Sep 15, 2009 5:42 pm 
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Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2007 1:45 pm
Posts: 310
Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
What kinds of temps are considered "fine" is pretty subjective, so i hope you'll excuse the prying. For reference, my typical long-session usage temps are at 58±2°C in speedfan and a so-far unrealistic full CPU+GPU load is ~71°C. Ambient is typically 16-20°C. How much of an improvement does the mini-kaze give you?

_________________
Gaming rig: Tt Tsunami,P5Q Pro,Q9450 w Ninja,8GB RAM,4870 1GB w S1,WD 640GB,SB X-Fi Plat,ZM-MFC2.Kama PWM in PSU,others S-FlexEs.
HTPC: NSK2480,GB GF9400,E5200 w/ Minja,4GB RAM,WD GP 1.5TB,Nova DVB-S. Minja PSU fan,S-FlexEs case fans.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Sep 15, 2009 8:14 pm 
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Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2007 4:12 pm
Posts: 21
Location: San Diego, CA
Understood. Let me get some numbers for you.


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