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 Post subject: Small quiet HTPC for Music and Movies
PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 8:41 am 
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Posts: 15
UGH! How did I know that reading this forum would make me want to build other projects as well!

As some of you may have seen I am going to be building my new main machine using parts outlined here: viewtopic.php?f=23&t=65144 (I hope to build it this weekend). This will serve as my main media machine from now on and will be located in my basement/man cave/home theatre setup (you know how it is :))

HOWEVER, this has got me thinking about updating this years-old mini ITX build that I have upstairs. Currently its hooked up to a DIY USB touchscreen (screen is in the cabinet with the stereo equipment and the tower itself is sitting partially hidden on top of it because there is no more space in the cabinet and for heat concerns). BUT of course after reading all you guys with your fancy projects and seeing the word "quiet" repeated 100 times, the fan noise, of course, has started to get to me as it is clearly audible above ambient noise levels. It is also running an Athlon XP 2200+, Windows XP, 512MB RAM and no GPU doesn't really help me to address my real needs going forward which include:

Something to stream Netflix on an adjacent TV (for which I am currently using a web enabled blu-ray player which is terrible at this, both for the lousy interface as well as the inability to keep a connection), as well as stream music and videos that I will have on my main HTPC (via Wireless-N). It will never have to play music and movies at the same time, not that I imagine that would make a big difference.

This is what I had in mind for this little guy:
Mini-Box M350
90W PicoPSU
ASUS P8H77-I mITX (edit: would I be losing anything by going with a cheaper board like the ECS H61H2-I3)
Pentium G620 (As I understand it this has integrated graphics enabled: is this enough for the video streaming? I am not "one of those" who has everything in 1080p, but I hate stuttering video just as much as the next guy)
64GB SSD (Kingston SSDNow I have from a few years back, doesn't need to be big as nothing will be stored locally aside from W7)
4 GB RAM of some kind, likely 2x2GB and low profile
Stock cooler will do?

I am wondering if using an AMD APU setup (say the A4-3400) will be better for these purposes? From what I can see the motherboard is about the same price but the processor comes in a few bucks cheaper, so cost wise no real advantage to me...

Thanks for you input guys...step by step I hope to kill all my PC noise and boost my power efficiency--one computer at a time :)


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 Post subject: Re: Small quiet HTPC for Music and Movies
PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 10:37 am 
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I'd go for the AMD then, since you'll primarily utilize its GPU-power. Streaming videos don't stress the CPU by much so the power consumption should be somewhat equal to the efficient Intel CPU's and AMD motherboards usually have more features than Intel motherboards.

RAM is so cheap these days that I'd always go for 2 x 4 GB. I'd never buy a stick of 2 GB since low density RAM is so hard to sell secondhand. So why not go for more "dense" RAM?

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 Post subject: Re: Small quiet HTPC for Music and Movies
PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 10:44 am 
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Location: UK
For an Ivy Bridge H77 motherboard it might be worth considering one of the two Ivy Bridge Pentiums currently available rather than the older Sandy Bridge range such as the G620 2.6Ghz processor. The Ivy Bridge Pentium G2120 is a 3.1Ghz CPU and the G2100T is a 2.6Ghz 35w TDP part. In the UK the G620 costs around £46, the G2120 around £76 and the G2100T around £63. My local hardware dealer not longer carries the G620 but instead offers the G630 at additional cost. The G2120 is in stock but the G2100T is harder to find. Given your intended use I suspect the G2100T, despite the extra cost, would be a better buy than the G620/G630.

The A4-3400 is one of AMD's Llano FM1 socket APUs, which have now been replaced by the newer Trinity FM2 socket APUs. Due to the change of socket neither the motherboards or processors are interchangeable between Llano and Trinity. So if you're going to consider AMD it might be worth looking at Trinity rather than Llano. The Trinity equivalent of the Llano A4-3400 is the A4-5300. The advantage of either Llano/Trinity as far as I can see is that gaming graphics performance is substantially better than equivalent Intel CPUs. For video streaming I don't think you would see much if any difference between an AMD or Intel setup at this level .


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 Post subject: Re: Small quiet HTPC for Music and Movies
PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 11:46 am 
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Joined: Thu Oct 04, 2012 5:43 am
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Thanks for the replies guys. Since this machine isn't really going to be used too intensively I was mainly looking at the older stuff. I just don't want to go too cheap/old haha. Moreover the only AMD based mITX board I can see available from my usual searches (here in Canada) is an FM1 board but is still $104, so I don't know if its worth going with an FM1 setup if there won't be that much difference between that an the Intel.

I guess the main thing that concerns me now is that I didn't realize that those Sandy Bridge CPUs pulled 65W. I hope I'm not cutting it too close to the Pico's 90W. At this point I am even considering something like the G540 and that ECS H61 board since from what I've read it can handle video just fine and I can get the two of them for under 100 bones

edit: crap now I'm reading that they really aren't capable of that without an external GPU...and here I thought I could do this on the cheap :( haha


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 Post subject: Re: Small quiet HTPC for Music and Movies
PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 12:31 pm 
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The cheapest H61 board plus a G630 would certainly be OK. There was a review by X-Bit Labs of how the Sandy Bridge Pentiums performed against the SB Core i3 2100T.


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 Post subject: Re: Small quiet HTPC for Music and Movies
PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 1:17 pm 
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Very interesting...good find--Thanks! I will read through that now. The dream is still alive!


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 Post subject: Re: Small quiet HTPC for Music and Movies
PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 2:59 pm 
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fyi: Newegg.ca shows the new AMD Trinity CPUs and mobo's in stock..but only uATX.

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 Post subject: Re: Small quiet HTPC for Music and Movies
PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 4:32 pm 
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Yeah I am wondering if I might do better with a uATX setup--definitely cheaper than the ITX and really since it'll likely be sitting in the same place the actual footprint of the machine being a bit larger may not make that much of a difference...hmmmm so many options! The problem is that those uATX cases are usually so much bigger--really have to sift through them to see if there's something suitable...


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 Post subject: Re: Small quiet HTPC for Music and Movies
PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2012 7:28 am 
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My A4-3400 based HTPC has video jitter/pixellation issues in the following situation:

My server is a WHS2011 running Playon to stream content. The A4-3400 system is win 7 premium 32 bit with tubecore installed in media center. My other 2 HTPC's are intel based and play this content without any problem.

I've been able to get rid of the video issues on the A4-3400 by installing a $20 graphics card. I suspect CPU/GPU memory bandwidth/sharing issues are the problem.

The A4-3400 works very well for all other HTPC functions except the specific one mentioned above.


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 Post subject: Re: Small quiet HTPC for Music and Movies
PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2012 1:47 pm 
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jnowski wrote:
I've been able to get rid of the video issues on the A4-3400 by installing a $20 graphics card. I suspect CPU/GPU memory bandwidth/sharing issues are the problem.

The A4-3400 works very well for all other HTPC functions except the specific one mentioned above.

Which begs the obvious question of what and how much RAM is on that system?

I'm current running an FM1 system w/ an A10-3870 as my HTPC w/2 sticks of 800mHZ RAM, 4GB each. Obviously a different beast, but zero issues w/ HD content streamed from a Windows Server 2008 using XBMC. I've also used a 4 yr old Athlon 2.4ghz dualcore on an AMD785 chipset board with 2GB of RAM for the same purpose w/o any video play issues.

Sounds like some kind of conflict between Playon & the GPU driver for the A4 if the $20 card solves the problem -- the GPU in the A4 should be higher performance than any $20 card.

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 Post subject: Re: Small quiet HTPC for Music and Movies
PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2012 6:59 pm 
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I have 4GB DDR3-1333 RAM on the A4 system. I may pop for some DDR3-1866 (newegg ~ $25). I always use a minimum of 4GB RAM on my machines, memory is cheap.

The playon software is running on the WHS2011 server (H61/E8500 ~30% CPU load). The tubecore software runs on the client PC's. I'm running WIN 7 SP1 32 bit on the clients so more than 4GB RAM is not usable.

The $20 card is a Radeon HD5450 fanless I picked up on sale.

The main HTPC is a DG45ID/Celeron E-3400/HD5570 and has had zero problems running my media.

My main PC is a H67/i5-2400/GT440 which sees some light video editing. It also has no problems running anything I throw at it.


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