In a quest for a silent/eco/cheap HTPC

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Joined: Thu Aug 25, 2011 6:30 am

In a quest for a silent/eco/cheap HTPC

Post by piccobello » Thu Dec 05, 2019 2:41 pm

Hi there SPCRers!

I'm in the process of building a new (HT)PC and after some rabbit hole plunging I figured out I may be faster with some help :mrgreen:

My requirements are:
- GNU/Linux only (Debian)
- Playing/streaming 1080p video, including h264 and h265 decoding, and of course music
- Otherwise surfing the web, coding (but nothing power hungry)
- Dual screen (a smaller one for working/surfing, a larger HDMI one for media)
- No games, no 4K, no blurays
- Lots of storage space for my music/movie collection/backups
- USB 3.0
- Backing up other machines (laptops/smartphones)
- Maybe setting up a file server (extremely low traffic, not 24/7, just for home)
- Possibly/maybe in the future: a media server (low traffic, home only, no transcoding)

What I think I need based on my requirements:
- 1 CPU/1 PWR/3 Chassis PMW fan heads
- versatile fan control in BIOS (I cannot rely on OS programs, unless I found a setup which is well experimented with under Linux)
- maybe underclocking/undervolting

My constraints:
- silent
- low power consumption
- there's enough garbage around that fits my requirement so I should be able to build mostly using cheap 2nd hand components
- I'm in EU so prices are different (both for new and second hand stuff)

What I have got so far:
- a Cooler Master Silencio 550 (with an older ASUS mb and Core 2 duo which I will give away)
- including a fanless graphic card (Asus GeForce GT 520, 1 GB), a SSD and a dvd+rw that I can reuse

I bought this build for the case because it was extremely cheap (30€ in total) and had a good review here (not the best, I see, but availability and price are factors as well). It actually is pretty noisy with its current hardware, especially the front fan, but I'm confident it can be turned into what I need. Also, it has room for 7 internal 3.5" disks, +1 hotswappable in an external bay, and two 5.25", so it's pretty future proof in terms of storage expansion. Hence my quest for more recent hardware...


Based on 2nd hand market and this neat guide I will go for an Intel on LGA1155 socket but I still have lots of questions...

- AMD is hotter AFAIK, am I wrong?
- CPU: I think Sandy Bridge ones are already overkill for what I need, but maybe an Ivy Bridge will consume less/be easier to cool?
I have read somewhere (here?) that Ivy Bridge does consume less power but it's denser, so it can get hotter than Sandy?
- Chipset: Z77 would allow me to buy a sandy bridge now (they're way cheaper) and upgrade to Ivy later. On the other hand,
if I stick with Sandy Bridge I could go for a cheaper/easier to find P67 or so.


I think that I will go for an ATX as it seems to me that they're more expandable, and I would like to be able to fill up the rack if I need to, so I need at least 8 SATA ports: I don't care about their speeds but from what I see most MBs with so many ports have 4 6x + 4 3x. I have also read somewhere that smaller boards tend to be hotter. Are there reasons to pick a smaller MB, such as a microATX? Less power maybe?

Also I 'm a bit lost regarding which one. I have read a lot here and elsewhere, here's what I got:

- Asus P8Z77-V and variants: easy to find and relatively cheap, got good reviews here (PRO version), especially related to fan control; but they seem to be power hungry according to this comparison, and ASUS seems to cheat on 4-pin fan headers (in a later model), so I'm not sure any more…

- MSI boards got the lowest power consumption in the above comparisons but they seem to be more limited in terms of fan control?

- Intel got excellent reviews here and their fan control seems to be even better than Asus', but I'm not sure how much can be done in BIOS? Also I still have to research their models, the names all look the same and I start getting tired...

I already have a fanless video card (Asus GeForce GT 520, 1 GB), but I was thinking that onboard video that comes with a modern CPU would probably be sufficient for my requirements, and easier in terms of heat (hence noise) and power, am I right? That may change the requirements for choosing the MB.

Sound Onboard 5.1 and digital out would be a plus, but I guess I will buy a sound card later on, or maybe something more modern such as an external DAC.

- I still have a Scythe Shuriken Rev B from an old Pentium IV build which was deadly silent. I actually never used the 4-pin fan that came with it as I had to buy a 3-pin model for my mobo at the time, so the 4-pin one is brand new, and I can reuse it on a LGA 1155 socket! If it was enough for a Pentium IV, I assume it will be enough for a more modern CPU?
- I'm willing to buy new fans for the case, will think about it later, I can start using it with the current fans

I guess I'll have to buy this new, and it seems to me it will be the most expensive single thing I buy, especially as I would like a semifanless Gold at least, but I can start using the case with the current PSU and improve along the way

So here I am, probably wrong about everything, if you can answer just one of my questions or correct what I think I got right please do :D

PS if you know an alternative to pcpartpicker where I can also set requirements on fan connectors it would be a great help

Posts: 7374
Joined: Thu Oct 06, 2005 4:36 am
Location: Monterey Bay, CA

Re: In a quest for a silent/eco/cheap HTPC

Post by CA_Steve » Fri Dec 06, 2019 10:33 am

One of the things I found buying a used motherboard through ebay was after the mobo's are no longer sold by retailers, the ebay prices tend to go up (less availability). So, you might consider buying something used that is still available new. Plus, you'd get the benefit of:
- newer CPU means less power used for your tasks, and way better voltage and freq scaling, so little need for underclocking/undervolting unless you are an enthusiast. :)
- better integrated graphics with improved streaming engines...and you don't need a separate gfx card.
- newer mobo features, better fan control. Anything by the top 4 (Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, Asrock) in the last couple of years has very workable BIOS fan controls.

For your use case, a few year old Pentium would be fine. Look for an H or Z 170 or 270 and G4xxx CPU.

You don't mention what the smaller monitor's connector is...note that DVI (Analog) went away sometime in this period, but DVI-D is still around.

Also, look at the motherboard's fan controls. Depending on the mfgr and where the motherboard is in the product stack, there might be just one PWM fan control (for the CPU) or they all could be PWM (Asrock, typically).

AMD: tends to use more power/run hotter in these older products...but may not be a lot of watts difference for your use case.

Shuriken: Yeah, it'll work, but don't use the 12mm wide fan. Much improvement going to a std 25mm one.

PSU: Something like the Seasonic Focus or Focus Plus or Corsair RM(x) lowest wattage available (550W) is still overkill for you. You might look into PicoPSU and external brick...only caveat is the start up amperage needed for your HDDs..if you truly intend to load up the case.
1080p Gaming build: i5-4670K, Mugen 4, Asrock Z97 Anniversary, MSI GTX 1050 Ti Gaming, 8GB 1866 RAM, Samsung 860 Evo 500GB, Crucial MX100 256GB, WD Red 2TB, Samsung DVD burner, Fractal Define R4, Antec True Quiet 140 (2 front + rear) case fans, Seasonic SSR-550FX. 35W idle, 45-55W video streaming, 170-200W WoW, 318W stress test (Prime95 + Furmark)

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