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 Post subject: Silent system showdown - which build would you pick?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 11, 2013 2:28 am 
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Joined: Mon Mar 11, 2013 1:29 am
Posts: 5
After what seems like months of reading and research I am almost ready to build my first HTPC. I say almost because I have narrowed it down to two similarly priced builds and am wrapped up in knots trying to choose between them. Some advice and perspective from the experts at SPCR would be much appreciated!

I am aiming for an inaudible HTPC that will sit in my TV cabinet. I have two small children so my wife and I often watch the TV at low volumes with subtitles on. Our house is in the country away from busy roads and the TV room is pretty quiet so hums, whines and fan noise would probably be noticeable. In addition, our bedroom is next to the TV room, so when the HTPC is recording something I really don't want it keeping me awake at night.

The HTPC will be running XBMC on Windows 8 and be used for recording live TV (TBS6280 PCIe tuner card), watching movies and TV series ripped from DVD, listening to music and looking at photos. Maybe some streaming stuff like YouTube or Netflix. No gaming and no need for an ODD. Media will be on the onboard HDD to start with. I may build or buy a NAS later this year if I feel I need the extra space.

Build 1: True Silence

HDPLEX H5.S w. 80W internal fanless power supply
ASUS P8H77-I ITX
Intel i3-3225
1TB WD Green HDD
G.Skill 8 GB RAM

Total cost ~€590

Notes:

+ HDPLEX case is gorgeous and will match my other AV equipment
+ Silent without tweaking (I will upgrade to an SSD later if I can hear the HDD, though I have a WD Green in my desktop PC and cannot hear it even when I am sat next to it.)

~ Less future proof? (Not sure what future needs will be though!)

- More expensive option overall
- €200 for a PC case, ouch!
- Passive case cooling system limits motherboard choice.
- Using 3.5 HDD limits motherboard choice even further.
- No space inside for more drives, will need to turn to a NAS if more storage space is needed.


Build 2: Whisper Quiet

Fractal Design Node 304
Seasonic Platinum-400 Fanless
ASRock H77M-ITX
Intel i3-3225
1TB WD Green HDD
G.Skill 8 GB RAM

Total cost ~€565

Notes:

+ Cheaper option overall.
+ I am super happy with my Fractal Design Define Mini, excellent quality case, and expect the same of the Node 304.
+ More flexible platform for future upgrades.
+ Lots of space inside for adding more drives.

~ Will it be quiet enough? No way to know without taking the plunge.

- May need to buy a third party CPU cooler, could bring the cost up to equal Build 1
- €137 for a power supply?! That's madness.
- Power supply also overpowered for the build, is there a better silent choice?
- Bigger case will not be as good a match for other AV equipment.


Decision time!

So, what do you think? If it was your money, which build would you go for and why?


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 Post subject: Re: Silent system showdown - which build would you pick?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 11, 2013 7:47 am 
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Joined: Mon May 16, 2011 11:23 am
Posts: 681
Location: Germany
This is a dual DVB-T tuner card, half hight?

It does produce a fair amount of heat, so i'd choose option 2 and add in a G360 PSU instead of the fanless one because won't be audible with the TV on. And i would see that the case fan does spin fast enough to keep the card reasonable cool.

And no stock cooler for your CPU, a Scythe Kozuti might be enough and still won't be audible from 3 feet away.

And for the saved sum from the PSU, i'd chip in a small SSD for system and enough room to catch your recodings on, while you have to move them later to the HDD of course if you want to keep them.

And you'll need a decent remote, be prepared to spend some money on that ;)


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 Post subject: Re: Silent system showdown - which build would you pick?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 11, 2013 8:51 am 
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Joined: Sun Jan 23, 2005 11:44 pm
Posts: 165
Location: London
From what you said i would go for build 1.

You list "Passive case cooling system limits motherboard choice and Using 3.5 HDD limits motherboard choice even further", as minus points but if you have already chosen your MoBo these are mute points.
Also the "No space inside for more drives" is kinda a mute point as even though you cant add more drives im guessing you could just get a larger drive, e.g 2/3TB.

The point about being less future point is a fair point but IMHO if it does the job you want will you really be upgrading it in the future, and even if you do want to upgrade it in the future how far away are you talking ?
future proofing sounds great but i have found that with the speed that hardware changes, what you think is future proof today wont be tomorrow.

Also as you say build 1 matches your current AV setup. 8)

_________________
Case: P182, Fans: 4xNF-P12@800Rpm, MoBo: GA-EX58-UD4, CPU: i920, GPU: GV-N670OC-2GD, PSU: Seasonic 760 platinum, HDD: HD203WI, SSD: VTX4-25SAT3-128


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 Post subject: Re: Silent system showdown - which build would you pick?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2013 1:40 am 
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Joined: Mon Mar 11, 2013 1:29 am
Posts: 5
Ha! Two replies, each recommending a different path. This is why I am finding it so difficult to choose. :lol:

Pappnaas wrote:
This is a dual DVB-T tuner card, half hight?


Yes, it is. Even though the card is mounted chips down, the HDPLEX case does have sensible grills right below and above the card to allow natural convection.

Image

With an ITX board it is even possible to put a fan in there, though it's only attached with zip ties and seems to defeat the purpose somewhat. Maybe I will send TBS a note asking their advice. Their support has been great so far.

Image

Pappnaas wrote:
i'd choose option 2 and add in a G360 PSU instead of the fanless one because won't be audible with the TV on.


Thanks, that's a good recommendation and widens the price gap to around €100.

Pappnaas wrote:
And no stock cooler for your CPU, a Scythe Kozuti might be enough and still won't be audible from 3 feet away.


Because the stock cooler is noisy?

Pappnaas wrote:
And you'll need a decent remote, be prepared to spend some money on that ;)


I have one of the Logitech Harmony models. Can't remember which one but it will do the job.

Spoon Boy wrote:
From what you said i would go for build 1.

You list "Passive case cooling system limits motherboard choice and Using 3.5 HDD limits motherboard choice even further", as minus points but if you have already chosen your MoBo these are mute points.
Also the "No space inside for more drives" is kinda a mute point as even though you cant add more drives im guessing you could just get a larger drive, e.g 2/3TB.


HDPLEX lists just five ITX motherboards as being compatible with the H5.S and the ASUS is the cheapest. The others are Z77 models or include WiFi which I don't need. The ASUS board might be great but it bothers me that I feel forced to choose it. There is much better compatibility with cheaper MATX boards, but then there is no space for an HDD, only SSDs.

Spoon Boy wrote:
The point about being less future point is a fair point but IMHO if it does the job you want will you really be upgrading it in the future, and even if you do want to upgrade it in the future how far away are you talking ?
future proofing sounds great but i have found that with the speed that hardware changes, what you think is future proof today wont be tomorrow.


I think you are right there. It is a nagging feeling that if I spend all this money I want to get long term value. That said, I have no idea what the future is that I should be planning for! I would just be counting on the fact that whatever technology comes, it will continue to get smaller and draw less power.

Spoon Boy wrote:
Also as you say build 1 matches your current AV setup. 8)


That makes it sound like such a shallow reason for choosing the case, doesn't it? :D

Thank you both for your considered replies. You have given me plenty to think about.


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 Post subject: Re: Silent system showdown - which build would you pick?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2013 7:42 am 
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Joined: Mon May 16, 2011 11:23 am
Posts: 681
Location: Germany
No, i won't recommend going stock cooler. Not if you're willing to throw 100+ Pound into a PSU. And even if you try stock first and would then decide to change, you'll need to tear the whole thing apart again for a cooler that's listed around 25 Pounds... i wouldn't go to all that work again to save that kind of money.

http://www.silentpcreview.com/article1209-page1.html


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 Post subject: Re: Silent system showdown - which build would you pick?
PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 12:42 am 
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Joined: Mon Mar 11, 2013 1:29 am
Posts: 5
Thanks, that sounds like good advice. The Node 304 has space for CPU coolers up to 165 mm tall. Such an arrangement would also put the cooler right in front of the big 140mm rear exhaust fan.

Image

Would that change your recommendation from the Scythe Kozuti?


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 Post subject: Re: Silent system showdown - which build would you pick?
PostPosted: Thu Mar 14, 2013 12:25 am 
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Joined: Mon May 16, 2011 11:23 am
Posts: 681
Location: Germany
The size of the CPU cooler on mITX boards is determined by the space between the CPU socket and the PCI-E slot. Most boards do not allow for a bigger or tower cooler if you plan on using the slot. Only known boards to have a more suited cpu placement are the expensive ones from Asus (starts at 140 Euro) and EVGA (even costs a tad more).

So you might get away with a Scythe Shuriken Rev B or a Samuel 17 + 120mm Fan. But if choosing a H77-board, you'll have to deal with a reduced choice of cooler samples that won't block your PCI-E slot.

Other possibility would be to go closed loop water cooling for the CPU only, but as long as you stick to an i3 i can't see the need for so much cooling power (and those water loops have been tested to be inferior noisewise to a good air cooler).


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