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 Post subject: Home Media Server Build
PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2013 11:54 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2008 7:53 pm
Posts: 18
Location: Honolulu, HI
I am looking to build a Home Media Server, the purpose of which will be to stream media (mostly movies) to my roku box (I'll build my HTPC later), run torrents and share files on my wired home network. OS will be Win7. I will run Plex and Tversity for the media streaming.

My requirements are:
-Low Powered - Will run it 24/7, so I want it to consume as little electricity as possible. at the same time I dont it to restrict performance too much.
-Small Footprint - Small Form Factor build, because the area i want to run it is in a small bedroom and space is limited
-Silent/Stealthy - As silent as possible because like I said it will be on 24/7 in a bedroom, my significant other wouldnt appreciate-none-too-much if it kept her up at night. Passive cooling (save for PSU fan) would be really great, but not sure such a build is possible with the requirements I need.
-Headless - like I said the room is cramped, so I want to run this as a headless server and only remote in via Remote Desktop/Logme In and SSH.
-Budget - dont want to break the bank with this one. Prefer under $500, but willing to go over. Will be buying online, Newegg and Amazon

I want at least a single 1TB HDD for storage. RAID probably won't be an option due to form factor, power consumption and budget.
I haven't built a rig since 2009, so I've been out of the loop as far as whats, what in hardware, so advice is much appreciated.

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 Post subject: Re: Home Media Server Build
PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 1:28 am 
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Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2008 4:27 am
Posts: 1728
Location: Switzerland
You hardly need to spend $500 on this even if you need to pay for Windows (I'm not sure why you want to use Windows anyway).
Passive cooling is definitely possible and there's not need to make an exception for the PSU fan or even to have a PSU.
The hard drive will make some noise but most 5400rpm 2.5'' drives are quiet, affordable and easy to cool. If you choose the drive well and put it in a closed case or in the closed compartment of an open case, you should struggle to hear it even if you simply mount the drive with regular screws. Even the 7200rpm models aren't necessarily loud but beware of the vibration-induced noise with them.

Do "Plex and Tversity" have special requirements?
If not, just about any hardware would do the trick. You could for instance use a DN2800MT which is passively cooled by design and doesn't even require a very open case to avoid overheating (if you look at the DN2800MT thread, you can see that a forum member might have one for sale by the way).
There are more powerful DC-powered boards but if you need something more powerful and want to avoid using fan, you'll have to use a very open case like the M350 or an expensive case which relies on heatpipes.
There are cases which come with fanless PSUs in case you want to use a regular board (Antec and Morex have popular models with a separate, closed 2.5'' compartment). Or you could use a pico.


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 Post subject: Re: Home Media Server Build
PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 8:05 am 
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Joined: Thu Nov 19, 2009 10:20 am
Posts: 484
Location: Ottawa
Are you going to be using the real time transcoding features of your media servers? If not then a low power board like the DN2800MT HFat mentioned will be fine. If you do intend to transcode then you will need something with more CPU grunt, possibly a great deal if you are using hi def files.

If you are going to build a HTPC soon then go for the low power and save your money. A good HTPC won't require transcoding.


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 Post subject: Re: Home Media Server Build
PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 12:13 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2008 7:53 pm
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Location: Honolulu, HI
after doing some research I realized my server will need to do video transcoding.

this is because i will mostly be streaming the video to roku boxes via plex. because the roku isnt powerful, the video transcoding will need to be done server side.

with this in mind i'm looking at using an Intel i3 on a Micro ATX mobo. I will be using a 5400 rpm HDD

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 Post subject: Re: Home Media Server Build
PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2013 4:24 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2008 4:27 am
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Location: Switzerland
A mATX mobo would be a serious mistake. They're pointlessly huge and you want something small. You want a mini-ITX board.
Aside from the form factor, that solves the PSU problem since you can get a a DC-powered board (lower power consumption) or a case which is bundled with a fanless PSU (which saves money and trouble, for instance by allowing you to buy every part from a mainstream retailer). So far as I know, these options aren't available with larger boards.

An i3 would probably be a mistake as well. A Pentium or Celeron-branded dual-core should be fine and if you actually need the faster clock speeds which come with the i3-branded CPUs, you'll get more cooling noise unless you go for a largish case, possibly an expensive model featuring heatpipes for passive cooling. Cooling noise while transcoding may be acceptable however (is someone going to try to sleep while someone else watches a movie in another room?).
Maybe the cheap Celeron board washu mentionned in another thread would do if you don't want a DC-powered board.

If you go with a regular case, you'll probably want an aftermarket heatsink/fan even if you go with the slower CPUs. Pay attention to the layout of the board and the room within the case to make sure it will fit without blocking important ports.
Note that you probably will have little use for a case fan (that depends a bit on the case).


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 Post subject: Re: Home Media Server Build
PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 10:52 am 
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Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2008 7:53 pm
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Location: Honolulu, HI
after doing some more reading, i think a mini-ITX would be a good idea too.

however imo i think i will need the i3. I've read that some people who have a similar setup like I want (Plex running on a server and streaming to a roku box) run i3's or i5's.

I am indeed looking at a case bundled with a PSU. if it is fanless PSU that would be a major bonus.

this rig will be in a bedroom and it probably will be transcoding often when someone nearby sleeps, so i want it to be as silent/stealthy as possible without breaking the bank or sacrificing a lot on performance.

when you say a DC powered board, do you mean like a board powered by a PicoPSU?

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 Post subject: Re: Home Media Server Build
PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 3:53 pm 
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CPU Transcoding: just an fyi benchmark.

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 Post subject: Re: Home Media Server Build
PostPosted: Sat Feb 02, 2013 11:10 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2008 4:27 am
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Location: Switzerland
The benchmark is of limited use to determine requirements since we do not know how to translate these numbers into real-life features. But at least you can use the numbers to get a rough idea of how powerful the various CPUs are.
In addition to these numbers, I should state that the i3 CPUs are marginally less efficient (more heat per work and therefore more noise) in this test than either the i5 or the Pentiums of the same generation.

Jerry_03 wrote:
however imo i think i will need the i3. I've read that some people who have a similar setup like I want (Plex running on a server and streaming to a roku box) run i3's or i5's.

Don't mind what people use. People are generally clueless.

Jerry_03 wrote:
this rig will be in a bedroom and it probably will be transcoding often when someone nearby sleeps, so i want it to be as silent/stealthy as possible without breaking the bank or sacrificing a lot on performance.

There are no miracles. If you aren't willing to pay for a passive build (that would require an expensive case such as the one SPCR just reviewed but 500$ should be sufficient if you spend carefully), consider changing the server's location (you don't need room on the floor: you could hang it on a wall, put it on top of a cabinet or something) or ditching the real-time transcoding requirement: can't you store your files in the encoding needed by your devices to begin with?
Note that passive builds are generally not supported by motherboard manufacturers.

Jerry_03 wrote:
when you say a DC powered board, do you mean like a board powered by a PicoPSU?

DC-powered boards have something like a customized and efficient picoPSU on board, except of course you get a configuration supported by a major manufacturer.
You simply connect a compatible AC/DC adapter to the motherboard and it powers the whole PC (no PSU).
If you want an i3 or an equivalent Pentium/Celeron, Intel has Sandy and Ivy DC-powered boards. They're kind of pricey but the price includes the picoPSU-equivalent and the efficency is useful for passive builds.


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