Small, Silent HTPC Build - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 08-23-2012, 10:00 AM - Thread Starter
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I may be asking for the impossible, but I am trying to put together an HTPC that will fit the following criteria:

Small form factor - Can be a slim micro ATX, but something 5"x17"x13" or smaller.
Silent or near silent - This HTPC will be going in bedroom cabinet right next to bed. Don't want a bunch of big fans keeping me up at night
Cool - As stated, it will be placed inside of a bedroom cabinet with other AVS equipment (bluray player, Pioneer 5.1 AVR, external HD) and this new HTPC all going in the same small cabinet. I will most likely cut the back out of the cabinet for ventilation, but as I want silent I do not want to vent the cabinet with fans.
Internal TV Tuner preferred

The objective is to feed my antenna signal to this new build and use this as my primary household TV. This HTPC will be my media player, OTA receiver and DVR. I will use my existing Bluray player fed through the AVR for Bluray discs. I would like to stream hulu, netflix and amazon prime as well as watch online streaming content such as ESPN3.

I have looked at the barebones boxes such as zotac, shuttle, etc., but these don't give me the option of an integrated two tuner PCI TV tuner. I could use something like the Homerun, or one of the external tuners with those boxes, but I am not familiar with them and am not sure how well they would work. I like the form factor, and the fact that many of the barebones boxes come with external PSU's, but cpu power and heat are also concerns.

Finally, I will be operating this PC from my living room, which is only 12' away from the cabinet that I will house this in, but it is through a wall and a cabinet, so RF (or equivalent if there is anything out there that I don't know about) control is necessary. Ideally, I will be able to control the HTPC, AVR, and Bluray with the same remote. The AVR and Bluray are both IR, so I would need to use an RF blaster (I have a NextGen already, so I can use that for the AVR and Bluray control, just prefer to have the HTPC receive direct RF since the extender has never worked 100% perfectly for me).

Is a new build the way to go, and if so is it even possible to create what I need, or should I just get a packaged barebones unit? Any help is appreciated.
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post #2 of 7 Old 08-23-2012, 10:03 AM - Thread Starter
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Oh, I should add that I would like to run an SSD in this build, since it appears that limits the MOBO's that are available to me.
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post #3 of 7 Old 08-23-2012, 10:23 AM
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Why would it limit the motherboards? You can use a SSD with any modern SATA motherboard.

If you're going to use this as a DVR, though, you'll probably need to have a hard disk as well. You can use a 1 TB 2.5" laptop drive and still keep the size and heat down. Even most of the small ITX cases will handle two 2.5" drives (one SSD, one 2.5" hard drive).

I think you need to decide on what tuner you plan to use before you start picking out a case. That appears to be the limiting factor on how small a case you can use.
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post #4 of 7 Old 08-23-2012, 05:44 PM
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TV tuner is really a non-issue as you can get an external device from silicon dust that will take am antenna or clear cable signal and send it down your local lan. The main issue how much HDD/SSD space you need and the form factor that can accommodate all those drives. Or are you thinking of having an external NAS?

Look at SPCR for silent pc reviews. Probably the best one I've had is a mac mini bootcamped to run widows 7. Quiet, sipped electricity, and I had it on all the time. There are several like them now in the pc world.
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post #5 of 7 Old 08-24-2012, 05:51 AM - Thread Starter
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I was planning on using my 1.5 TB WD external as my media storage hard drive, are there any issues with media access speeds when using a USB attached external to an HTPC?

The concern I had with the homerun was video quality degradation over the LAN. I know a lot of you out there use these devices, any info on whether you notice any issues with resolution? Also, I am concerned about the reliability of running through my router (I have not need to access the content on any other LAN connected devices, I am just trying to get the feed to my HDTV). With that being said, if not being able to fit a PCI tuner card is the only down side of a mini pc/barebones box, then I would be fine with the trade off for the size (and I believe noise) advantages. But I am not sure if these mini pc's have enough power (CPU, GPU) to serve as a functional HTPC. I am also worried about cooling as it seems these boxes tend to get hot since the manufacturers have to cut back on fans and case air space. If anyone has built a system using a shuttle, zotac, foxconn, Revo etc. please let me know how well it is working for you, and whether you think a cabinet with other equipment (back removed for ventilation as stated originally) would get too hot.

Marker, ideally a mini running bootcamp would work great, but the cost adds up way to quickly, $600 for the mini plus I still need a windows key and a tuner to add to it. I am trying to keep this pc under $500 total, which seems possible with pc.
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post #6 of 7 Old 08-25-2012, 09:06 PM - Thread Starter
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Just bought the Foxconn nettop from newegg, with a free 60gb SSD.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16856119072

Just to tough to pass up $175 (after adding the RAM) for an HTPC that will handle most of what I need, and be close to silent while doing it. One of my main concerns is heat, as the reviews seem to say this thing runs hot, but I will add a little AS5 and see how it goes.
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post #7 of 7 Old 08-26-2012, 04:46 PM
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There is no loss of video quality using HDHR as long as you use a wired ethernet connection.

Wireless, however, gets iffy as it depends on interference, distance, latency, etc which can degrade the viewing experience even with 802.11n using HD video.

Congrats on the purchase. It looks like a nice product. I've heard good things about the amd e350. Make sure to use the wired ethernet connection. You could also have a NAS with all your media or connect an external HDD via USB 3.0. The free SSD will make a world of difference in user experience (it just feels faster). The E350 also does hardware decoding of HD video, so you should be set. Enjoy!


From http://www.anandtech.com/show/4134/the-brazos-review-amds-e350-supplants-ion-for-miniitx/3

"There’s native HDMI support and a full implementation of AMD’s UVD3 decode engine supporting hardware H.264, VC-1 and MPEG-2 acceleration. Although both of these advantages are also enjoyed by ION the next feature isn’t. Brazos supports Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA bitstreaming over HDMI....

Failed Tests
- 1080p60 60 fps L5.1 H.264
- L5.1 H.264 (16 reference frames)
- FLAC, ASS Subs - High CPU Utilization
- HD Real Media
- Deinterlacing"


For the majority of user case scenarios the failed tests above should not be an issue. The big thing is support for the popular HD video + audio formats. Also the article is dated and may have had improvements since publications.
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