View Full Version : [TMA] HTPC

August 1 2011, 02:38:36 PM
I've been using a Late '06 Mac mini for the last few years as an HTPC. It was plugged into a 22" LCD TV that only supported 720p, so it worked pretty well, but I recently upgraded to a 32" LED TV that supports 1080p. Sadly, the poor little Mac mini doesn't support 1080i and can't cope with 1080p playback without stuttering. Combine this with the fact that it's quite noisy and I'm on the verge of running out of disk space (120GB internal, 750GB external via FireWire) and I think I can safely say it's time for an upgrade.

As much as I would like to buy the new Mac mini, it costs too much for too little. TBF, I'd never buy an Apple desktop again, since they all seem too expensive for what they are. I seem to be left with no choice but to build my own HTPC.

All of my media is stored on HDDs. Whenever I get a new DVD, I rip it to my HDD to save me the hassle of having to fiddle around with discs. I've also ripped both my sister's and my mum's DVD collections and, when a friend loans me a DVD, I tend to rip that too. I've downloaded quite a few TV shows, some legally, some not so much, a lot of them in 720p and a few in 1080i, so I've got HD media as well.

I have yet to purchase a Blu-ray drive, but the discs are a lot cheaper now than they were Blu-ray initially came out, so I might consider buying one soon. I'd still rip the content to a HDD. I have no interest in buying a 3D TV, at least not for another few years when 3D TV and film is more common.

So, basically, I'm after an HTPC that supports 1080p playback and has plenty of disc space. DVD/Blu-ray drive integrated into the box isn't important. I currently use Plex, though I'll probably switch over to XMBC when I move from Mac OS X to Windows 7 (already have a legal copy).

At the moment, I have my eye set on this case (http://fractal-design.com/?view=product&category=2&prod=42) and this motherboard (http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/AMD_CPU_on_Board/E35M1I_DELUXE/). They seem to cost about 130 each and then I could spend another extra 30 on memory and 100 on 2x 2TB drives to be left with an HTPC for around 400. I have a 250GB 7200rpm SATA2 drive I can use as a boot drive and an external DVD drive. The case has 6x HDD slots and the mobo has 6x SATA 6GB/s connectors, so I can expand that when necessary, and the onboard GFX it is said to play 1080p smoothly, though a discrete GFX card can be bought for about 30 if it doesn't. If the onboard is fine, I'll probably buy a sound card.

Has anyone else built an HTPC or does anyone have any experience with the mono I listed? I looked at pre-built HTPCs and they tended to start at 500, so I'm guessing my build is good value for money.

August 1 2011, 03:23:07 PM
Keeping an eye on this thread.

I've a home server and a HTPC that I built a few years ago, and I'm seriously considering merging them. I'd picked out exactly the same case and motherboard that you'd picked, although I hadn't taken the plunge yet as there's no desperate need to upgrade.

It's a shame that the case doesn't have an optical bay, although you could use an external enclosure (eg. http://www.scan.co.uk/products/jou-jye-st-2512sues-525-external-aluminum-box-sata-to-e-sata-usb-20-for-cd-rom-rw-hdd-blu-ray) and then run it over esata.

balistic void
August 1 2011, 03:31:35 PM
Get micro board with nvidia ION integrated graphics. Very low power + quiet + enough grunt for hidef.

Ryas Nia
August 2 2011, 01:43:00 AM
no go micro atx with an AMD A8, ion is dead and ATOM sucks balls :P

August 2 2011, 11:14:56 AM
...whats wrong with an atom board with ION2 as an HTPC ?


Hint: Nothings wrong with it

August 2 2011, 06:47:35 PM
no go micro atx with an AMD A8, ion is dead and ATOM sucks balls :P

dude, A8's TDP is 100W
I'd go with a Hudson-M1 board, nice specs, can handle HD, fanless

August 2 2011, 08:05:15 PM
I guess I should look at micro boards as well as mini. Mini ITX seems to be restricted on the SATA port front.

My issue with the ION is that, at least at the mini level, the highest number of SATA ports I could find was 4, though most boards seemed to only have 2. To be fair, most of the AMD boards I found had 2, 3 or 4 and the Asus one I linked was the only one with 6. ION has the advantage of RAID, but the disadvantage of SATA 3Gb/s, not 6Gb/s. That said, access speed isn't particularly important to me. Having only 4 ports means 3 HDDs and a DVD/Blu-ray drive, 4 HDDs if you go for a USB DVD/Blu-ray. I'd quite like to have the ability to plug in a few more when the time comes, without having to resort to clumsy external drives.

The A8 looks nice, but, as pazuzu said, it uses over 5x the power of the Hudson-M1. Power = heat. Heat = fan. Fan = noise. It would also be ~50% more expensive, as you have to buy the board and the CPU separately and you'd need a micro case.

Will take a peek at micro cases tomorrow ... I've got a hunch that it'll work out cheaper due to the larger range of motherboards and the expansion slots will give me more options if I choose to upgrade later (sound card, TV tuner, GFX card for 3D playback) ...

August 2 2011, 08:10:19 PM
Soo plug in a low profile pci-e sata controller if oyu want moar drives ?

Mini-ITX rocks

August 3 2011, 12:08:22 AM
why A8? A6 should be way more than enough for an HTPC