Ideal board for combo HTPC and NAS appliance?

Offloading HDDs and other functions to remote NAS or servers is increasingly popular
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Ideal board for combo HTPC and NAS appliance?

Post by FactionOne » Sun Nov 02, 2008 4:29 pm

Hi guys (and gals),

First post here so I guess a little intro is in order...

I've got a pretty varied history working with PC hardware, now out of the 'mainstream' working with some application-specific hardware for TV research.

It's been a while since I've specced-up a new machine for my own use; and I thought this one was going well. All of a sudden I arrived here and found that there are more hidden caveats to consider than I'd initially thought of. I was hoping some of the brains here might be able to help me out...

OK, So I've decided I want to build a (pseudo)NAS machine as a standard NAS box without drives comes in at about the same cost (or higher) as you can spend on a little machine...

When I hit on that theory, I also thought the machine could be used as a (basic) HTPC at the same time. All good so far...

I'm now trying to solve the riddles of case/psu and MB...

I don't want to spend serious £££s, as this machine won't be critical to my existence, and is only going to be hooked up to a 19" wide HD ready LCD in the bedroom for the moment.

So, I had settled on an Antec NSK2480-UK V2 case (inc. PSU) to put this all in, as footprint isn't exactly a major issue for me; the chassis is reasonably well put-together, and has 2x5.25" and 2x3.5" bays. The plan is to install 2 x 1TB HDDs in RAID1 for NAS and Media Storage, and possibly a third (smaller) HDD in a 5.25" bay adapter for the OS to live-on.

I've got concerns about the noise the 380W PSU will produce; and I'm under no misconception that it'll be silent - I was just hoping that it's not 'too' bad. Comments/suggested alternatives for chassis/PSU welcome.

So, on to the Mainboard/CPU...

I think, being realistic, that ITX isn't going to be for me. I guess uATX is what I'm going to have to look at as a minimum...

I'm going to need at least one PCI/PCI-E slot for a Dual DVB-T tuner card, and another for a DVB-S2 card as I'd like to play with the Freesat HD service we get here in the UK.

I'll be blunt about this - I'm pretty much true-blue (I've used all kinds of architecture for 'work' but the last machine I 'personally' owned which wasn't Intel had a K6-2 300 in it (or something like that)); so I was considering iG45 chipset boards, as they'll have enough SATA with RAID to satisfy my storage requirements, look (on paper) to have reasonable graphics capabilities (and connectivity - a DVI and an HDMI would be great), and suitable expansion possibilities for my tuners...

Once I get that far-in I get a little stuck. I was exploring the possibility of a Gigabyte GA-EG45M-DS2H - that looks to tick all the boxes I have so far. Normally I prefer to use Intel or Asus boards, but I'm prepared to look at others if the spec is right.

What are your thoughts about this one? Again, comments or alternative recommendations are most welcome. If there's an Intel board which you think offers similar spec but perhaps better performance/reliability, I'm all ears...

I guess it'd have to be pretty wrong to fall short of my basic requirements - I don't plan on installing a Blu-Ray drive or anything in the first instance, but it'd be nice to know that I might get accelerated playback of Blu-Ray discs should I ever get to that point.

I suppose once the board's sorted-out I only need to worry about which CPU to use... The machine isn't going to do anything other than run HTPC stuff and provide network-storage, so it needn't be too powerful. What would be a suitable S775 chip for this? I guess I'm asking what is the cheapest/slowest/coolest/quietest S775 chip I can drop on a board of this type and have (probably) Vista MC run reliably, playing/recording SD (DVB-T) and HD (DVB-S2) TV, and MAYBE sometime down the line, Blu-Ray movies? A recommendation of a suitable heatsink for that CPU would be great too. So far I've been looking at:

Akasa AK-975
Akasa AK-960E
Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 LP

...Would you rate any of those?

And finally, just out of interest, if you were looking for a quiet large-capacity HDD (in terms of both 'idle' rotation and read/write head activity), would you go for Samsung Spinpoint F1 or WD Caviar Green?

Sorry for such a massive post, but it seems that all my spec-queries tie-in with each-other...

Any help gratefully received!

Thanks in advance,

Last edited by FactionOne on Sun Nov 02, 2008 4:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by MikeC » Wed Jun 03, 2009 10:14 pm

Too bad no one answered your query... but 6 mos later, what did you end up doing?
Mike Chin, SPCR Editor/Publisher
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