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 Post subject: Small and quiet Media Server?
PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 10:38 am 
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Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2005 6:13 pm
Posts: 6
Hi everyone,

I had until recently an Intel Mac Mini Dual-Core that served as combined fileserver (external harddrive) and Media Center for playback of DVD, DivX, Xvid, mkv, etc.

It has now passed to the eternally white fields of Apple - just outside warranty. Since I've decided NOT to redo my experience with Apple (it has caused me no end of grief (and cost) - hardware and software related) I'm looking for an alternative.

It needs to be no noisier than the Mac-Mini, which was at the ok level, and it shouldn't be too much bigger. Of courser quieter and smaller is always better.

My main priority is low noise (which is obviously why I'm here), although at an affordable price (Not much more expensive than the Mac-Mini, which is ~€500), and preferably prebuilt.

Size is of minor concern although I don't want a tower next to my TV obviously ;)

My main problem is that I really don't know how much CPU I need to run a good Media Center (ie DivX/XVid, mkv, etc. viewing). Can the new Atom processors handle that or do I need a Core 2 duo?

I've been looking at TranquilPC and their offerings, which look very nice - but does anyone have any experience with their products for this purpose?

I hope someone can help me with some good advise.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 11:13 am 
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Joined: Mon May 29, 2006 6:29 am
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Location: IN, USA
I don't have one, but the Popcorn Hour media extender seems to be very popular. I've been thinking of getting one. It sounds like you don't really need a full computer.


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 Post subject: Re: Small and quiet Media Server?
PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 1:42 pm 
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Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2007 7:28 pm
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Location: USA
Kazper wrote:
My main problem is that I really don't know how much CPU I need to run a good Media Center (ie DivX/XVid, mkv, etc. viewing). Can the new Atom processors handle that or do I need a Core 2 duo?

For the large majority of that stuff you could probably get by with the dual-core Atom at least, but you'd kind of be shooting yourself in the foot for system longevity and versatility. More CPU power means more ability to decode the odd high complexity file. Given how inexpensive relatively high performance / low power options such as the Intel e5200 and AMD 4850e are these days, those are the way to go. Unfortunately, if you want something close to the Mini's size with decent power that means a system based on Intel's mobile chips (just like the Mini) and that adds a serious amount to the price. Still you can definitely find stuff for €500. Have you looked at the Dell Studio Hybrid?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2008 2:37 pm 
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Joined: Fri Dec 10, 2004 8:10 pm
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Location: San Jose, California
http://www.engadget.com/2008/09/21/dells-studio-hybrid-torn-down-for-kicks-and-giggles/


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 Post subject: Re: Small and quiet Media Server?
PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 10:05 am 
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Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2005 6:13 pm
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jessekopelman wrote:
Kazper wrote:
My main problem is that I really don't know how much CPU I need to run a good Media Center (ie DivX/XVid, mkv, etc. viewing). Can the new Atom processors handle that or do I need a Core 2 duo?

For the large majority of that stuff you could probably get by with the dual-core Atom at least, but you'd kind of be shooting yourself in the foot for system longevity and versatility. More CPU power means more ability to decode the odd high complexity file. Given how inexpensive relatively high performance / low power options such as the Intel e5200 and AMD 4850e are these days, those are the way to go. Unfortunately, if you want something close to the Mini's size with decent power that means a system based on Intel's mobile chips (just like the Mini) and that adds a serious amount to the price. Still you can definitely find stuff for €500. Have you looked at the Dell Studio Hybrid?


I hadn't but have spent some time checking it out now. It looks really, really interesting, however, it's rather expensive it seems - about €780 for the most basic model for sale on their website. I feel I'm paying a premium for Vista and Works - one of which I already have a license for I used to dualboot the mac-mini and the other I don't need.

Then again it's not like Tranquil's PCs are any cheaper and they are actually slightly more expensive. They are fanless though, although I don't mind a (quiet) fan. But both are right at the edge of my pricing range. I could spend that much but I'd have to be damn sure it's the right choice...

Anyone with experience with either the Dell or the TranquilPCs? Or other alternatives?


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 Post subject: Re: Small and quiet Media Server?
PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 1:35 pm 
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Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2007 7:28 pm
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Location: USA
Kazper wrote:
[It looks really, really interesting, however, it's rather expensive it seems - about €780 for the most basic model for sale on their website.

This why it is a good idea to include your country in your forum profile. The basic Studio Hybrid is a lot less money than that in many countries . . .


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 Post subject: Re: Small and quiet Media Server?
PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 2:05 pm 
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Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2005 6:13 pm
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jessekopelman wrote:
Kazper wrote:
[It looks really, really interesting, however, it's rather expensive it seems - about €780 for the most basic model for sale on their website.

This why it is a good idea to include your country in your forum profile. The basic Studio Hybrid is a lot less money than that in many countries . . .


Well - I'm thinking those many countries more or less means "outside Europe" ;) That's actually why I gave the approximate price in €, but I guess I could have been a bit more clear on that.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 12:32 am 
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Joined: Tue Sep 20, 2005 6:55 am
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Location: UK
in the UK a mid-level Dell S/Hybrid costs £499 (this is with Core 2 Duo T5750 2GHz + 2GB RAM, 160gb hdd), that is roughly 650 euros. including insured shipping to wherever you are in europe would probably take it to around the €750 mark. a TranquilPC T2e Atom 330 system with optical drive comes to about £400 not including shipping, although currently their online shop seems to be down so I cannot check this.

the Asus Eee box can handle up to 720p, so if you do not watch 1080i or higher then that is a much cheaper option, around £200 (€260).

these are quite demanding requirements, you want it to be cheap, extremely small, extremely quiet and extremely powerful (for an SFF). so it's not a surprise that there aren't that many options in this price range.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2008 8:28 am 
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jaganath wrote:
these are quite demanding requirements, you want it to be cheap, extremely small, extremely quiet and extremely powerful (for an SFF). so it's not a surprise that there aren't that many options in this price range.


I know I can't get everything :) Size is definitely least important, and price second least. While I'm a student and have to be careful about spending my money you can defend a lot of money spent if it's spent on the right thing ;) Unlike the Mac-mini which apparently couldn't stand medium-intensive usage as a Media Center.

But if the dual Atoms can play Media Center that is definitely an option, although - as you say - not insured for the future. While I do only have a 720p TV atm I'm thinking the Eee Box is probably taking that direction a step too far though with absolutely no leeway in power at all. Core 2 would be ideal - but then we do get into a whole different price-range.

As said - that might be worth it, but I have to be sure that the solution (eg. the Dell Hybrid) is a strong solution then. Since it has a fan noise worries me, but it could be a non-issue. Maybe someone can tell. The Core 2 solutions of TranquilPC are even more expensive, and while I can be sure they are quiet I get into other worries like their outputs andother technical info (which their site seems to do badly at informing about?)

Anyway I'm very grateful for the advise and suggestions so far. I'm quite experienced at buying normal PCs or laptops, where I don't think I've regretted anything I've bought in the last 10 years :) But when we get into Quiet/SFF systems I'm completely blank.


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