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 Post subject: HTPC + NAS or just "silent server"?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2012 12:03 am 
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So I wanna build my home theater PC. But, I don't know what type of build I want to do.

What are the advantages and disadvantages on having a standalone HTPC with a standalone NAS server?

I want a silent PC, wich will be used for web browsing, watching fullHD movies (XBMC or FlexAPP server), and later get a tv-tuner card to watch (and record maybe?) tv-shows. Will also be using this as a torrent server, VPN service perhaps and maybe some lightweight logon scripts for my other PC's, some light SNES/PS2 emulation or light 3D gaming.

I want to have maybe two (max 3) 3,5" HDD for media-files, and a SSD for the OS, and a ODD (slim?)

Should I go for a chassi that can take all the HDD's or buy a smaller chassi that only supports one 2,5" SSD? And get a standalone dedicated NAS server? Will two 3,5" HDD heat up a chassi much? Or draw a lot of unwanted Watts?

The kind of build I've been thinking of is a mini-ITX with integrated AMD Fusion E450, or AMD A8 (seems better for the gaming part) or is it worth waiting for core i3 ivy bridge with Intel HD 4000 graphics (http://www.cpu-world.com/CPUs/Core_i3/I ... -3225.html). Will not run any dedicated graphics card.

Is it hard getting a AMD A8 or core i3 very (not hearable) silent and cool in a smaller box?

The criterias are first and foremost
- noise levels
- power consumption (I know E450 uses very little, but based on what I've read its not too much of a difference from the other parts I listed when on load and in sleep. How much PSU power do I need for this?)
- price (this seems to go up a lot when choosing a standalone NAS)
- heat (does a external PSU help?)
- good looking

I found the HDPLEX Fanless computer case cool, but are heat becoming issues with those? Don't know if they're shipping to Europe (Norway/Sweden) either.

Thanks in advanced, :)


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC + NAS or just "silent server"?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2012 7:51 am 
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sliddjur wrote:
What are the advantages and disadvantages on having a standalone HTPC with a standalone NAS server?

The standalone HTPC can be silent (or at least make less noise) if it has no spinning drives. The standalone HTPC can also be smaller if it has no 3.5'' drives.
You also get the usual advantage of standalone devices: you can upgrade and/or repair one without touching the other.

The advantage of a combined device is that it would cost you less, save you some time, reduce clutter (cables and whatnot) and perhaps consume less electricity.

If you go for separate devices, this should be done on the NAS:
sliddjur wrote:
Will also be using this as a torrent server, VPN service perhaps and maybe some lightweight logon scripts for my other PC's,


sliddjur wrote:
Is it hard getting a AMD A8 or core i3 very (not hearable) silent and cool in a smaller box?

So far as I know, it's hard to go much smaller than the HDPLEX without compromising on noise.
I don't know what fanless case if any would support the AMDs.

CPUs which are easier to cool such as the E450 are poor for gaming and might also be poor for some other application (I don't know what FlexAPP is).
But I don't think you need an A8. A less powerful Fusion CPU should serve you well and be easier to cool.

sliddjur wrote:
- power consumption (I know E450 uses very little, but based on what I've read its not too much of a difference from the other parts I listed when on load and in sleep. How much PSU power do I need for this?)

The E450 uses more than comparable Atoms but packs a better GPU. The CPU is poor but any computer with a comparable GPU will consume more power even if you underclock the CPU.
Any PSU will be sufficient for an E450 or the low-end Intel models. Even the more powerful AMD chips which are not very efficient will be content with fairly modest PSUs.

sliddjur wrote:
- price (this seems to go up a lot when choosing a standalone NAS)

It doesn't have to. Without the drives (which you would need in any case), you can build a basic NAS for a lot less than the price of an HDPLEX.
If you want one of the fancier models, it's a different story but those would also have advantages over a regular HTPC doubling as a server.

sliddjur wrote:
- heat (does a external PSU help?)

Yes, when compared with inefficient internal PSUs. Efficient internal PSUs are expensive.


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC + NAS or just "silent server"?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2012 10:21 am 
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sliddjur wrote:
What are the advantages and disadvantages on having a standalone HTPC with a standalone NAS server?

I consider the two roles (serving vs playing) sufficiently different that they warrant separate machines. This allows you to select hardware and software optimized for each task.

For example, I would not build a media storage server with 2.5" drives - insufficient capacity or not cost-effective at high capacities. I want some form of redundancy, and this means more drives (and more money, power, heat, noise, etc.). Trying to keep many drives cool and quiet (let alone silent) is a challenge, and it quickly becomes more cost-effective to just store them elsewhere (in a basement, or closet) where noise doesn't matter.

Storage servers require little/no GPU and very little CPU power. You can use practically whatever you have laying around to assemble a simple server. My first server was an ebay-special pentium 3 that lived in a office closet and did its job admirably (serving flacs to a sqeezebox). But there's no way this thing could have decoded & played HD video.

Centralized storage becomes more important when your number of clients increases. I'd still do it if I only had a single client, but it sounds like you have several. You will find plenty of non-media uses for it (general backups, client images, etc.). Things that you wouldn't necessarily want on a HTPC running 24/7.

I have 2 servers: 1 low-powered ubuntu box running slimserver/squeezebox server/whatever-Logitech-calls-it-now for serving flacs, and 1 unRAID server for everything else. They are both in my basement, along with my switch, router, DSL modem, patch panel. All are on a relatively small UPS. The D510MO machine idles @ 15W; the unRAID box idles at 39W. This took a lot of work initially, but the convenience of having it all centralized was totally worth it.

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 Post subject: Re: HTPC + NAS or just "silent server"?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2012 5:40 am 
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Me too, I'm looking for a silent low-powered multipurpose server. :-) Who isn't nowadays? Did I forget to add "cheap"?

At current, I was looking at following setup:

- case: Antek SK 310-65 which is a very small case with some cabling issues that only supports 2 x 2.5" storage and 1 slimline dvd/bluray/whatever. It only has 65W power supply.
- chips: Asus E45M1-I deluxe which is a low-powered (18W) passively cooled E450.
- storage: 1 x 2.5" 1TB 5400rpm samsung disk + 1 x 2.5" 120GB SSD (adata 500/500)

This machine will be used primarily for XBMC (linux version) and filesharing but will also be used as squid proxy server to protect my home network. (children etc.)

storage concerns?
I'm not so much concerned about the 1 disk and no raid because I will run a backup to an external USB disk.
For me personally, 1TB of storage is more than enough to keep crucial data.

performance concerns?
My wife has an E450 based laptop which plays full-hd flawlessly so I suppose that'll be ok.
The squid won't have very much to do as there are only a few pc's in the network.
For basic NFS, CIFS NAS-features, not much cpu is needed anyway

So I'm not completely sure about this setup but it can give you some idea. Always look at what you expect from a system, maybe if you're as me, you don't need to go for RAID or ZFS or anything like that. While those provide some peace of mind, a backup to USB-disk will probably be sufficient and you avoid the cooling- and noise-issues this way.

cheers!


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC + NAS or just "silent server"?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2012 3:16 pm 
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Yeah, i have been looking at a smiliar build. Though, I've been looking at some external power supplies for some similar chassis (http://www.ecosmartpc.com/ht100.html) this is some origan M10 rip-off? :)

Though, I want to put in a AMD A6, with any itx mobo. Both the ISK 310 and the chassi I linked to seems to have good airflow. One intake and one outtake fan on the sides.
The only concern is, how much power do I need when I use:

a random mini-ITX mobo FM1 socket
AMD A6 65w tpd
SATA hdd
maybe an additional 3,5"/2,5" hdd if space is given
a dvd player.

would a 60w external AC adapter be enough with a pico-PSU?


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC + NAS or just "silent server"?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2012 4:06 pm 
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I want to go for a external AC Adapter with a pico PSU, for low now and heat inside box.


So how much power would I need for a:
(Should I be looking at the same watt on adapter and psu?)

AMD A6-3500 65w tpd
1 SSD disk
Maybe 1 3,5" disk
Maybe a slim ODD

is a 80w adapter ok?


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC + NAS or just "silent server"?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2012 8:55 pm 
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lievendp wrote:
- chips: Asus E45M1-I deluxe which is a low-powered (18W) passively cooled E450.

This isn't cheap and is poor value. It would most likely overheat without any fans in an ISK310.
You're probably going to need fans anyway but FYI the best bundled passive heatsink you can get for Zacate is on the Zotac board.
Also FYI since you mention "low-power", the Zacate boards wasting the least power are the MSI.

lievendp wrote:
1 x 2.5" 120GB SSD (adata 500/500)

A waste. I thought you said "cheap"? You don't need an SSD and if you really want one there are much cheaper and more reliable models which would be just as good if not better.

lievendp wrote:
For basic NFS, CIFS NAS-features, not much cpu is needed anyway

Yes, the E450 is ridiculously overpowered for this. But it's nice for an HTPC if your distribution has decent drivers for the GPU. Plus the boards come with halfway decent I/O unlike Intel's Atom boards.

lievendp wrote:
Always look at what you expect from a system, maybe if you're as me, you don't need to go for RAID or ZFS or anything like that. While those provide some peace of mind, a backup to USB-disk will probably be sufficient and you avoid the cooling- and noise-issues this way.

A backup to a USB drive is actually better than RAID or ZFS. Whether it actually is sufficient or not depends on how much you care about your data. But I would generally recommend you set up backups to at least two separate external targets such as USB disks with at least one of them in a remote location before you even think about RAID or ZFS.


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC + NAS or just "silent server"?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:31 am 
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Hello HFAT, thanks for your reply.

Here's some questions I still have regarding:

mobo: I can't find a zotac board that has e450 on their US site, also the MSI boards seem to be difficult to find here in Belgium, at least with the hardware-stores that I know. In general, there aren't much E450 boards that are passively cooled that I can find in Belgium.
What do you mean with "... Plus the boards come with halfway decent I/O unlike Intel's Atom boards." Do you mean that atom's are the better choice here? I'm asking because I read different in the few reviews I've seen. (probably wrong impression, not sure)

ssd: I have no experience with SSD so if you could suggest an interesting alternative, that would be most appreciated. :-) And while they are rather expensive compared with harddisks, I assume they use less power and make less noise and produce less heat. (see cheap hereunder)

cheap: In my opinion the <500euro that I have to pay for this system qualifies as cheap for me for a HTPC/NAS. Question of perception I guess. I also find cheap the less important factor between "low-power", "silent" and "cheap"


And with regards to the OP's question: E450 is in my (limited) experience the best buy when combining HTPC and NAS, and can be passively cooled more easily than core-i3.
My goal is the same as the OP's so that is why I put these questions in this thread.

kind regards,
Lieven


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC + NAS or just "silent server"?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 6:25 am 
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I was thinking about E350 boards which should be just as good if they haven't been updated to E450.
So far as I know, only Zotac and Asus made passive boards. But I bet you're not going to cool an E450/E350 system without any fans in the case you want to use so a passive board wouldn't be very useful.

As far as I know, Intel 310 or 320 as well as Crucial/Micron M4/C400 should be the most reliable drives. The 40G and 60G versions are affordable. There are also cheaper, less reputable drives. But I'd take "less reputable" (Samsung, other Intels, Corsair, OCZ and whatnot) above a dodgy brand which may not provide decent support.
If you're going to go for dodgy, you could use a low-capacity Kingston or even reasonably good USB drive that's not branded as an SSD...


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC + NAS or just "silent server"?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 7:33 am 
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A colleague of mine has E350 and this does not play full-hd flawless. (I read reviews reporting the same issue)
The Antec ISK case has 1 fan included (which does it's work silently if I may believe the reviews) and there is room for another fan in the same case. It has lots of honycomb grill to improve airflow. The cabling is mess though.

Something else: Is there a general shortage of E450 or is it just too new as I don't see many boards out yet.


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC + NAS or just "silent server"?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 7:52 am 
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People are saying that the E450 doesn't play high-res videos flawlessly as well, you know.
Whether it is the E350 or the E450, they can't play all videos flawlessly with all software. But they can play most videos flawlessly with the right software.
It's possible that there's a meaningful difference between the two GPUs but I wouldn't assume that's the case without a little technical research.

So you're going to use at least one fan.
That can potentially allow you to turn a board sold as non-passive into a passivels cooled board (assuming the stock fan is noisy enough to make it worthwhile). It depends on the heatsink, on whether the case is in the right position and on the temperatures you're willing to allow. At least one of the MSI boards has a heatsink that looks decent and if you look at the XMBC forum, you'll see at least one poster has done just that...


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC + NAS or just "silent server"?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 8:38 am 
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Seems to me that it might make sense to wait a few days and then consider the cheapest Ivy Bridge with the 4000 graphics unit.

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 Post subject: Re: HTPC + NAS or just "silent server"?
PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2012 12:18 am 
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HFat wrote:
It's possible that there's a meaningful difference between the two GPUs but I wouldn't assume that's the case without a little technical research.


From what I've read, the E450 supports a certain extention on hdmi that allows for 3D thingies. But I wouldn't count on it being strong enough to do that right.

Buying an actively cooled mobo and converting it to passive with a special heatsink is not going to cut the price I'm afraid, I'll probably pay the same for this E450 mobo as for another one with the extra heatsink.

Still not sure about the build, I'll buy something and then I'll see if it works. :-) will post results here when I get them. (will take a while though)

thanks for the hints and advice.

cheers!


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC + NAS or just "silent server"?
PostPosted: Sat Apr 21, 2012 1:25 am 
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lievendp wrote:
Buying an actively cooled mobo and converting it to passive with a special heatsink is not going to cut the price I'm afraid, I'll probably pay the same for this E450 mobo as for another one with the extra heatsink.

Not a special heatsink: just the stock heatsink with the fan removed.


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 Post subject: Re: HTPC + NAS or just "silent server"?
PostPosted: Sun Apr 22, 2012 6:52 am 
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Since you can assemble a (celeron or pentium) sandy bridge system for only slighty more than the AMD systems, I recommend going that route. Even the lowly SB celerons accelerate decode of common video codecs, and if you have some quirky videos that don't trigger hardware acceleration, you can fall back on software decoding because of SB's compute power.

There's some really useful guides on AVSFourm, from users Assassin and ReneTHX. For example:

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1302559

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