Suggestions on SFF HTPC - AVS Forum
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Old 05-14-2012, 08:19 AM - Thread Starter
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There are quite a few pre-built small form factor PCs on the market today. I was wondering if anybody has any suggestions for nice small, preferably fanless SFF PC for HTPC use.

I had looked into the Lenovo Q180. Reviews on the Lenovo site indicated that playback above 720P was poor.

Foxconn seems to have a new range of small devices. All I really need it good video playback at full speed and the ability to carry PCM audio in 5.1 channels over the HDMI.

I am OK with a barebones approach. Cheaper is, of course, better.

I could go mini ATX or ITX etc.; and am open to sugggestions or pointers that direction also.

Any suggestions?
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Old 05-14-2012, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by originalsnuffy View Post

Cheaper is, of course, better.

Any suggestions?

You get what you pay for.

Plenty of threads on this topic. Use the search function.
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Old 05-14-2012, 08:32 AM
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For very little more (or less in some cases) than a ION or Zacate solution, you can go G530 / H61 and have a very capable HTPC -- much more capable actually. If you search around a bit you'll find a myriad of complaint about the off-the-shelf SFF systems from overheating to being too slow.

To help narrow a hardware choice, we'd need to know a few more things:

1. What OS/HTPC software do you plan to use?
2. Do you need an optical drive?
3. What are your storage needs? Do you plan to have a lot of media local or will it be out on your network?

The smallest HTPC I've built is the following (supports Live TV, 1080p video from network):
E-I5 mini-ITX HTPC case
http://www.ecosmartpc.com/ei5.html

ASUS P8H61-I motherboard
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16813131727

Intel Sandy Bridge G530
http://www.directron.com/bx80623g530.html

Kingston 4GB DDR3 1333
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16820139046

I also have a 128GB SSD in the system, the Crucial M4 128GB which varies wildly in price. I need 128GB to buffer recordings until they are swept to my server. If you aren't doing that then a 64GB SSD would suffice. Right now though there's only $30 difference, worth it IMHO.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004W2JKZI/ (128GB)
http://www.amazon.com/Crucial-64-2-5.../dp/B004W2JKWG (64GB)

I also have a IR remote/receiver and wireless keyboard too.

 

 

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Old 05-14-2012, 08:37 AM
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great response StardogChampion. That answered a few questions I had as well.

So much more helpful than "just do a search"... if that's really all you have to say, then why waste the time posting?? Let the people that want to help OP post first.
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Old 05-14-2012, 08:41 AM - Thread Starter
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Stardog;

Thank you for the suggestions. I will check these out.

I have been reading quite a few threads and it can get overwhelming. So pointers like this are helpful.

I did read the Assassin guides; some of the systems seemed about a year old and aimed on larger platforms, so I did want some focused help.
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Old 05-14-2012, 08:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by originalsnuffy View Post

Stardog;

Thank you for the suggestions. I will check these out and then come back with some other questiions.

I have been reading quite a few threads and it can get overwhelming. So pointers like this are helpful.

I did read the Assassin guides; some of the systems seemed about a year old and aimed on larger platforms, so I did want some focused help.

My guides are about as up to date as you will find anywhere. As I state at the beginning of my sticky guide I am now keeping them up to date over at my blog do to limitations with the forum software here at AVS.
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Old 05-14-2012, 08:45 AM
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It'd be worth having a "how to ask for help" sticky so everyone know to say what software they'll use, where they'll store media, if they need a optical drive, what's your budget, etc. -- maybe a form to fill out and paste into a thread kind of thing?

And no worries, sometimes with the threads it's better to read the first page then the last page and work backwards. Coming in cold there is a lot of information.

 

 

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Old 05-14-2012, 08:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StardogChampion View Post

It'd be worth having a "how to ask for help" sticky so everyone know to say what software they'll use, where they'll store media, if they need a optical drive, what's your budget, etc. -- maybe a form to fill out and paste into a thread kind of thing?

I made one about a year ago and asked for it to become a sticky. It never made it there. Maybe someone can find it and resurrect it.

I think its solely needed.
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Old 05-14-2012, 08:55 AM
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Here is that thread I made (15 months ago)...

Ask the mods to make it a sticky if you think its worthwhile.

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...6#post20025956
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Old 05-14-2012, 10:18 AM
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originalsnuffy, do you want to give the questionnaire linked by Assassin a try to ask "what should I build?". You can be our questionnaire beta-tester .

 

 

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Old 05-14-2012, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by StardogChampion View Post

originalsnuffy, do you want to give the questionnaire linked by Assassin a try to ask "what should I build?". You can be our questionnaire beta-tester .

lol.

Most won't even notice it even if it is a sticky.

It's just easier for people to just ask. And when constructing the original thread- few put in enough effort to ask properly or give all the needed information.

I doubt that would change even if you sticky ten how to ask threads at the top.

I would bet you my SSD. Anyone want to take the bet?

Lol. Sorry to sound cynical but it's true.

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Old 05-14-2012, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Mfusick View Post

lol.

Most won't even notice it even if it is a sticky.

It's just easier for people to just ask. And when constructing the original thread- few put in enough effort to ask properly or give all the needed information.

I doubt that would change even if you sticky ten how to ask threads at the top.

I would bet you my SSD. Anyone want to take the bet?

Lol. Sorry to sound cynical but it's true.

That's why you link them to it and don't answer any of their questions until they fill it out. Cuts down on time (tremendously I might add) and miscommunication which will ultimately lead to a better build and experience for everyone.

This basically what other forums do including the one who I borrowed the initial questionnaire from.
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Old 05-14-2012, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by assassin View Post

That's why you link them to it and don't answer any of their questions until they fill it out. Cuts down on time (tremendously I might add) and miscommunication which will ultimately lead to a better build and experience for everyone.

This basically what other forums do including the one who I borrowed the initial questionnaire from.


Agree.

PM sent.

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Old 05-14-2012, 05:06 PM
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Newegg as well as a few other places have Foxconn ITX systems based on intel h61 and h67 chipsets for around $120+sh, occaisionally under $100 on sale. These systems are all desktop style cases which is ideal for htpc. They include a healthy number of ports incl hdmi and even esata on the back too. There are also some AMD based ones I think, but the intel ones are where it is at IMO.

With one of those, the only thing you are lacking compared to the zacate/atom systems is the cpu, then of course both need HDD and ram. Throw in a G530 or better yet a few bucks more towards a G620 (to step up on the graphics side moreso then processing power) and go from there. If you happen to have a spare drive laying around, you can pretty much have a funtioning system for under $200.

You can also piece it together entirely for about the same. $40-50 for case w/psu, $50 mobo then same as above. Problem is ITX boards are much more limited in selection and are generally about $10 more then equivilant spec'd mATX boards. mATX is very easy to do cheap as there is a bigger selection to choose from. For example if you arent too concerned with tons of ports, you can pick up an ECS H61 mATX board w/hdmi for $30ar from newegg, and a $40 case w/psu and be well under $100 then of course add the above stuff. What I see in those foxconn ITX barebones is besides some of the assembly work being done for you already, if you consider the cost of motherboards with an equivilant load of ports and such, they are actually pretty price competitive too even though you can build something a little more no frills for a little less money.
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Old 05-14-2012, 05:39 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you all for the excellent input.

I do agree that normally one should give way more information than I did originally provide to help spec out the system. But in this case I am trying the idea on for size of "under speccing" the system rather than my typical style which is to "over spec". Hence the idea of constructing a system potentially without optical drive, etc.

I would be adding the rig to an already overcrowded space. There is already a Dune Smart B1, an old Denon 2900 SACD/DVD-Audio unit, turntable, laserdisc player, VHS deck, DVD recorder, and CD changer. Not to mention the receiver and SA8300 cable receiver. Oh yes, and a ESATA-USB drive behind the Dune (connected to the Dune). And everthing hooks up to the media servers over the home network.

But there is room on top of the Dune.....without changing things around.

The other option is to pull out the CD changer and then I should have enough space for a regular desktop style rig.

I have a hard time giving up on legacy equipment.
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Old 05-14-2012, 09:02 PM
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The system I spec'd above for you comes in at 7.87” x 9.29” x 2.95”. It'll support 2 x 2.5" SSD/HDD with a low-profile cooler. There's more information on the case here: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...8#post21941618 with some pictures of the build I did. It's available as a barebones as spec'd above (G530/H61 mini-itx motherboard). You just add RAM, SSD/HDD and software and any IR receiver/remote/keyboard you need.

 

 

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Old 05-14-2012, 10:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by originalsnuffy View Post

Thank you all for the excellent input.

I do agree that normally one should give way more information than I did originally provide to help spec out the system. But in this case I am trying the idea on for size of "under speccing" the system rather than my typical style which is to "over spec". Hence the idea of constructing a system potentially without optical drive, etc.

I would be adding the rig to an already overcrowded space. There is already a Dune Smart B1, an old Denon 2900 SACD/DVD-Audio unit, turntable, laserdisc player, VHS deck, DVD recorder, and CD changer. Not to mention the receiver and SA8300 cable receiver. Oh yes, and a ESATA-USB drive behind the Dune (connected to the Dune). And everthing hooks up to the media servers over the home network.

But there is room on top of the Dune.....without changing things around.

The other option is to pull out the CD changer and then I should have enough space for a regular desktop style rig.

I have a hard time giving up on legacy equipment.

Build a decent HTPC and you can get rid of most of that stuff...
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Old 05-15-2012, 07:41 AM
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Originally Posted by originalsnuffy View Post

There are quite a few pre-built small form factor PCs on the market today. I was wondering if anybody has any suggestions for nice small, preferably fanless SFF PC for HTPC use.

Any suggestions?

Nice is in the eye of the beholder. Small, fanless and cheap is doable -
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...1#post21924601
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Old 05-26-2012, 02:32 PM - Thread Starter
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There were some great ideas here which I will put to work on the next project; an update to the downstairs HTPC. The video on the downstairs unit is truly weak. I have not been able to upgrade the video; I do not know if it is because it only handles PCI-E 2.0 or because the power supply is too wimpy. But anyway at some point that unit needs to be swapped out.

For the upstairs rig, I did end up pulling the CD changer out of the cabinet.

That provided enough room for a Dell Slimline Vostro. Dell was running a nice deal for an i3 unit with a large monitor. The large monitor went to another PC in the house that needed an upgrade.

I then added a SSD drive (Samsung) and pulled the large SATA hard drive and blu-ray HD-DVD drive from the downstairs unit. I also changed out the stock case fan for a quieter fan. The unit so far seems to work well. Well, the Dell wireless keyboard has no range at all and I need to tweak some HDMI sound settings. But overall I think this project is going the right direction.

There are some more questions with regards to this project, but they belong in other forums.

Thank you all for the input.
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Old 05-26-2012, 02:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by originalsnuffy View Post

There were some great ideas here which I will put to work on the next project; an update to the downstairs HTPC. The video on the downstairs unit is truly weak. I have not been able to upgrade the video; I do not know if it is because it only handles PCI-E 2.0 or because the power supply is too wimpy. But anyway at some point that unit needs to be swapped out.

For the upstairs rig, I did end up pulling the CD changer out of the cabinet.

That provided enough room for a Dell Slimline Vostro. Dell was running a nice deal for an i3 unit with a large monitor. The large monitor went to another PC in the house that needed an upgrade.

I then added a SSD drive (Samsung) and pulled the large SATA hard drive and blu-ray HD-DVD drive from the downstairs unit. I also changed out the stock case fan for a quieter fan. The unit so far seems to work well. Well, the Dell wireless keyboard has no range at all and I need to tweak some HDMI sound settings. But overall I think this project is going the right direction.

There are some more questions with regards to this project, but they belong in other forums.

Thank you all for the input.

Seems like a lot of changes to get the dell where you wanted it.
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Old 05-28-2012, 10:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Point noted.

I just wanted to move some of the better components (blu ray player, large hard drive) from the downstairs, feeble HTPC to the new macho HTPC upstairs.
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