Perfect HTPC "Streamer" Build / Boxee Box - Xbox 1 Replacement - 2013 Edition - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 19 Old 12-27-2012, 04:09 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi,

Looking to build a perfect "Streamer" HTPC / Boxee Box / Xbox 1 XBMC replacement. Cost is not primary concern but functionality and cosmetic feel is. Would like to use standardized components. Ability to run Windows, Linux (variants), and potentially OSX if desired. All media would be streamed and local playback. Blu-ray capabilities would likely be supplemented with external USB BD Drive. The idea is to have a strong streamer box that "fits right in" in a home theater environment (both in power and preferably "ease of use").

Costs a bit more than Boxee Box but ideally should last longer than 2 years (software agnostic) and hardware should likely be able to handle next 5-7 years of media. Options like Boxee Box and Roku still handle the "raw" playback of media well but the UI is getting sluggish, software support is starting to die out (on purpose or simply upgrading the hardware and only supporting newer versions). Options like Raspberry Pi are cheaper but the hardware is getting pushed to the limits today.

==================
= Desired features
==================
Functionality:
-- Able to ON from Powered off state (Requires: CIR header - activated via proper remote control)
-- HDMI CEC support (Requires: HTPC Header on mobo - activated via Pulse Eight's Internal CEC adapter)
-- Able to stream a full fatass uncompressed 50GB 1-1 blu ray (Requires: Decent CPU/GPU. Preference to Intel HD4000 GPU or better)
-- HDMI out, Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0 (Requires: newer mobo)

Cosmetic:
-- Smallest functional form factor we can get without getting into completely custom/proprietary - (Requires: Mini-ITX, and likely a PicoPSU or similar)
-- Able to fit full size SSD / full size RAM / standard desktop CPU for sake of price and "standardized" feel (Requires: A small thin case, something similar to Apple Mac Mini)
-- Prefer to have the "horsepower" to be "buttery smooth"
-- Fairly quiet - will attempt using stock CPU cooler

=========================================
= The Hardware
= PC Part Picker URL: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/BJsB
=========================================
Chassis: Realan E-i3 mini-ITX HTPC case w/ 120watt PSU (At $115 about $20-$30 more than Minibox M350 + 150watt psu)
>> CPU fan/Heatsink: Gelid Solutions CC-SSilence-iplus 25.8 CFM Ball Bearing CPU Cooler (add to prices about $30 but running stock cooler is kinda asking for it in this small form factor and essentially required with the thin cases)

Motherboard: Intel BOXDH77DF Mini ITX LGA1155 Motherboard (Has CIR header and HTPC Header)
CPU: Intel Core i3-3225 3.3GHz Dual-Core
RAM: Corsair Vengeance 8GB Low Profile (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory (Dual channel as GPU relies on the memory here)
SSD: Intel 520 Series 60GB (Any SSD would do here, preference to Intel/Samsung for reliability) - Link for list of currently cheapest Intel/Samsung SSDs SATA 6gb/s sorted by priced

HDMI-CEC: Pulse Eight - Internal HDMI-CEC Adapter
Intel CIR Module: CIR Receiver w/Cable and Mounting Bracket for Intel Motherboards + 4 in 1 Backlit Remote
Remote Control: URC R40 Remote Control (At $150 - About $70 more than Logitech Harmony 650 but makes more sense as 650 holds 5 devices this can handle bit more and seems much more independent from everything else.

Approx. Total Cost: ~ $750 = $600 (HTPC) + $150 for the Remote (budgeting around $500-$700)

EDIT: Things to note:
1. Apparently the Pulse Eight Internal CEC adapter supports power on from S5 (cold boot). In theory you could get away with either the CEC or CIR module (the CIR module provides you a IR receiver in any case).

~v

--Decided to not build this for the time being, running a long hdmi cable to the TV from a old computer - dont feel strongly enough about TV to purchase this over a mountain bike or something like that and old computer had enough juice. Did order the URC-R40 remote though. For $600 I maintain this would like be the most ideal HTPC streamer build of 2013 until Intel's new platform comes out.
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post #2 of 19 Old 12-27-2012, 06:07 AM
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I think you need to decide right now whether you want it to be a Hackintosh, as that more or less calls for a Gigabyte board and maybe some other specific hardware choices. Obviously if you want a CIR header you need to go with Intel or Asrock, as you've said. There are some alternative solutions for on/off. Check this out. Method #2 worked well for me.

I also don't know if the HDMI-CEC adapter will work on a mac at all. Any specific reason why you're considering a hackintosh? It's definitely very limiting HTPC-wise.

Your build is also way, way overpowered. Btw, even an HD2000 handles 1080p perfectly. The power might come in handy though if you decide to run a Plex server or play PC games.

I would also encourage you to avoid the small form factor. I know it will look nice, but it will really limit your ability to upgrade later on. Smaller cases generally call for smaller fans too, which tend to be louder.
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post #3 of 19 Old 12-28-2012, 01:30 AM - Thread Starter
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Thank you for the reply lockdown571!
Quote:
Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

I think you need to decide right now whether you want it to be a Hackintosh, as that more or less calls for a Gigabyte board and maybe some other specific hardware choice.
Regarding Hackintosh, ehh it was somewhat a "nice to have" if ever wanted to tinker in that direction. However CIR is of more paramount importance.
Quote:
Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

I would also encourage you to avoid the small form factor.
Regarding size: No upgrades in the hardware outside of possibly adding RAM/maybe maybe upping SSD capacity but thats it. This is meant to be set it and forget it hardware-wise. I WANT it to be small, compact, and most importantly feel as close as i can get it to a "hockey puck" feel you get with Apple TV/Mac Mini/Boxee Box. I am interested in feedback/suggestions on DVD player like chassis that will be also somewhat acceptable - my biggest beef with those those chassis is that they also use custom PSUs and the costs are 2-3 times of the Mini Box M350 with powersupply kit (about $100 for it all)
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Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

Your build is also way, way overpowered. Btw, even an HD2000 handles 1080p perfectly. The power might come in handy though if you decide to run a Plex server or play PC games.
No intention to run PC games or Plex server on this machine (ever!) - this will be streamer box only. Primary concern with the UI over the years taking over and slowing the machine down. I mention in beginning that hardware today (like BoxeeBox) exists that very well handles 1080p but its the UI/experience that gets sluggish with the latest fancy effects and updates.

The future wife-acceptance factor will be greatly affected by the "experience" vs how well it plays back 1080p - my current Raspberry Pi and Boxee Box have gotten rather slow with the latest - I feel like I'm using one of the cable companies's sluggish DVR boxes, even though 2 years ago my BoxeeBox seemed much slicker. This is my biggest beef with the way things are today - I am getting sick of the technology never ending tinkering (dont get me wrong I ENJOY it immensely but i also enjoy getting out more). My GOAL with this build is to not have to tinker with getting another streamer box for another 4-7 years cause each time it requires massive amounts of research and planning - which I prefer to not do on a bi-yearly basis for an ever expanding collection of devices in our digital lives.

Anyone have great experience with DVD player like chassis that didnt cost an arm and a leg?

~v
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post #4 of 19 Old 01-11-2013, 12:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Made some changes. Switched to Intel mobo (for HTPC and CIR headers), Dropped to i3-3225 from i5-3570k ($100 savings) - i rather buy a pair of designer jeans on sale for that $100 than have the extra processing power sit there never to be used, removed CPU cooler (will attempt with stock - saving $25), dropped wifi/bluetooth support as those can be added on later no problem (about $35-40 savings today), added HDMI CEC internal dongle, add Inteset Intel CIR Module+Remote

1. POWER!! Will 60watt work? will 80watt work? 102 watt? Dropping the i5-3570k cpu to i3-3225 means i will no longer need the 150watt brick. Seems like the picoPSU-120 + 102W Adapter Power Kit ($55) + the Minibox M350 chassis ($40) will give a cost savings of $6 dollars and a smaller brick. Side perk would be the option to get silver vs black for the build.

2. Which REMOTE Control for CIR? - Based on the current build what is best suggested remote for Power on (CIR) support?
--For now removed the Motorola Nxyboard and Rii Mini 6 and just will the cheapo remote that is bundled with the CIR module from Inteset.

(non-priority question) 3. How does the Intel stock cooler perform in the Minibox M350? Unbearable or acceptable? Anyone have good experiences that would recommend in the Minibox M350 case?
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post #5 of 19 Old 01-11-2013, 01:52 PM
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Doesn't the i3-3225 draw 55W by itself?! You're really pushing the boundaries with the case and power supply, and IMO will end up hurting yourself in the end. I'm no expert, but I would go for at least the 150W (although even that seems low!).

I also think the stock intel cooler is pretty noisy. If you're obsessed with noise, you will probably want to replace it. Because of the case it will need to be VERY low profile.

Also, the small fan in that case looks like it will be noisy! I guess you could just try disconnecting it and relying solely on the CPU cooler, but that's probably not a great idea.

As for a remote, I would recommend using any universal remote. I like the Harmony remotes.
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post #6 of 19 Old 01-15-2013, 02:07 PM - Thread Starter
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I think have finalized the build to the below (first post updated of course). The only possibly change would be bumping the CPU to i5-3570k (but it is unneeded in my scenario) and adding a wifi/BT card+pigtails+antenna (can be easily added as needed).

The below would be what I would call the boxee box/streamer box replacement for 2013+.
Quote:
Originally Posted by vhyvenom View Post

==================
= Desired features
==================
Functionality:
-- Able to ON from Powered off state (Requires: CIR header - activated via proper remote control)
-- HDMI CEC support (Requires: HTPC Header on mobo - activated via Pulse Eight's Internal CEC adapter)
-- Able to stream a full fatass uncompressed 50GB 1-1 blu ray (Requires: Decent CPU/GPU. Preference to Intel HD4000 GPU or better)
-- HDMI out, Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0 (Requires: newer mobo)

Cosmetic:
-- Smallest functional form factor we can get without getting into completely custom/proprietary - (Requires: Mini-ITX, and likely a PicoPSU or similar)
-- Able to fit full size SSD / full size RAM / standard desktop CPU for sake of price and "standardized" feel (Requires: A small thin case, something similar to Apple Mac Mini)
-- Prefer to have the "horsepower" to be "buttery smooth"
-- Fairly quiet - will attempt using stock CPU cooler

=========================================
= The Hardware
= PC Part Picker URL: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/xLk1
=========================================
Chassis: Mini-Box M350 Case
>> PSU: PicoPSU-150-XT and 150W adapter kit
>> CPU fan/Heatsink: Gelid Solutions CC-SSilence-iplus 25.8 CFM Ball Bearing CPU Cooler (will attempt with stock cooler and save about $25 on the build)

Motherboard: Intel BOXDH77DF Mini ITX LGA1155 Motherboard (Has CIR header and HTPC Header)
CPU: Intel Core i3-3225 3.3GHz Dual-Core
RAM: Corsair Vengeance LP 8GB (1 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 (1x8GB module allows for buying another 8GB module if needed in the future)
SSD: Intel 520 Series 60GB (Any SSD would do here, preference to Intel/Samsung for reliability) - Link for list of currently cheapest Intel/Samsung SSDs SATA 6gb/s sorted by priced

HDMI-CEC: Pulse Eight - Internal HDMI-CEC Adapter
Intel CIR Module: CIR Receiver w/Cable and Mounting Bracket for Intel Motherboards + 4 in 1 Backlit Remote
Remote Control: Logitech Harmony 650 Remote

Approx. Total Cost: ~$650.00 (budgeting around $500-$700)
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post #7 of 19 Old 01-15-2013, 03:00 PM
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Have you considered the thin mini-ITX platform? I have yet to see a really good looking chassis for this standard, but there is stuff like this:

http://www.amazon.com/Silverstone-Mini-ITX-Center-DH61AG-PT12B/dp/B009FU2B5S/ref=pd_sim_sbs_pc_3


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bff99YS1DOw&feature=player_embedded
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post #8 of 19 Old 01-15-2013, 03:26 PM
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the g645 and an ssd will be buttery smooth for a lot less cash

Also the i3-2100 has been $80 at Tiger Direct and $88 at Frys Electronics in the recent past. It's likely to show up at that price (or lower) again depending on how patiently you can wait

As for power, you're fine with the Pico (or less) if you plan on using this for playback. The sandy or ivy i3/i5/i7s never see full TDP (usually never even see 20%). Check out Assassin's kill-a-watt thread for some more info on power consumption during playback

Also, S3 typically uses 1.8W or less while S4/S5 use 0.1W or less. Is it really that necessary to poweroff? I avoided the entire headache for a marginal cost of 2W per PC. Any time you save 2W, make sure it's worth it. Even if you save 2W for 24/7 all year at a (high) energy cost of $0.10/kWh you'd be saving less than $2 / year. On from powered off has never been worth that much of my time for an extra $2 (or less) per year
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post #9 of 19 Old 01-16-2013, 09:18 PM
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For power draw, when I build an i3-3225 / H77 / SSD / 4GB RAM / IR receiver / BD-ROM mini-ITX system I put it together with an 84W AC adapter. Your system would run fine with the pico-90 / 90W AC adapter combination offered at many places. In my own testing, the i3-3225 max'd out hits just under 80W in that configuration.

There is this similar case to the M350 (but nicer looking IMHO) with an internal 120W DC power supply and the aforementioned 84W or a 120W AC adapter as a available upgrade. It also comes with a VESA mounting plate. You would not need a picoPSU in that case.

I'd don't think the stock i3-3225 cooler fits in the M350. The stock cooler is 2.125" tall but the whole M350 is 2.5" tall. The Gelid Slim Silence i-Plus is a good cooler for the compact cases but I've found the Dynatron T459 to be better.

 

 

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post #10 of 19 Old 01-16-2013, 09:48 PM
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"Ability to run Windows, Linux (variants), and potentially OSX if desired"

If you want to run OSX, why not just buy a mac mini?
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post #11 of 19 Old 01-17-2013, 02:01 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the feedback guys.

Let me start with RAM: As will be relying on the intel GPU that uses the system RAM it makes very good performance sense to go DUAL CHANNEL on the RAM. Some folks did the tests and it comes out 10-30% increase in performance. Will need to update the build to reflect this (most like 2x4gb modules is most sensible with the i3-3225 and these scenarios).

Having the option to run OSX Linux or Windows is nice. At the same time the mac mini costs a bit more and is a bit too locked down for my tastes - in short I am not sold into buying into apple eco system/hardware but I do have many kudo points for their OS - if you ever tried playing TF2 on steam on OSX vs a Windows machine - the experience on OSX is a lot better especially the tab-in and tab-out is just magically smooth. Plus I can get more juice and faster components without having to buy the mac first and then replace the components on top of that. Been there already with a iMac 2010 (upgraded the SSD, the RAM, etc).


StardogChampion, thats a pretty slick case - I have not seen the Realan E-K3 mini-ITX HTPC case before and its definitely looks to be a worthy candidate. It does seem a little taller than the m350 and mac mini (not sure if thats my eyes playing tricks on me). Pricing is very similar to the M350+psu.

As for stock cooler, back to the drawing board for me on that one. I did some more research and there are several fitting concerns with the stock cooler (amongst the potential noisier concerns). Will have to decide on that (the Gelid or the Dynatron were both options i looked to in the past)

As for the g645 I feel the i3-3225 offers quite a bit more future proofing with later OSes etc. I kinda want the thing to last a good 3+ years without getting sluggish.

As for power on from S5 savings - it never was about the power. I found PCs just work better when shut off and on properly, and sleep has been hit or miss for some folks in the past. I prefer off to be off and ON to be on smile.gif - dont really care for sleep.

The Thin Mini-ITX platform is looking interesting but I havent seen a system board with the CIR/HTPC headers and a chassis that was just tiny vs thin. The Intel NUC is ultimately what I really want but its missing the CIR/HTPC headers and maybe could use a little more oomph. That said the NUC looks great pre assembled package.

~v
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post #12 of 19 Old 01-17-2013, 02:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vhyvenom View Post

As for power on from S5 savings - it never was about the power. I found PCs just work better when shut off and on properly, and sleep has been hit or miss for some folks in the past. I prefer off to be off and ON to be on smile.gif - dont really care for sleep.

This is placebo. Haven't turned any of my PCs off in years

I think the NUC is a slick approach to HTPCs, and more powerful ones are on the way

If OSX is important enough, you have to start there first. Some people have alread made successful builds with a NUC, but I'm pretty sure the majority of hackintosh builds are with Gigabyte mobos
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post #13 of 19 Old 01-17-2013, 02:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dark_Slayer View Post

This is placebo. Haven't turned any of my PCs off in years

I think the NUC is a slick approach to HTPCs, and more powerful ones are on the way

If OSX is important enough, you have to start there first. Some people have alread made successful builds with a NUC, but I'm pretty sure the majority of hackintosh builds are with Gigabyte mobos

This is NOT placebo. Some software behaves poorly when coming out of sleep. I actually had this issue with XBMC when connected via mysql. Sometimes it just didn't seem to reconnect to the server and would hang and then freeze. Worked 100% of the time after a cold start up though.
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post #14 of 19 Old 01-17-2013, 02:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

This is NOT placebo. Some software behaves poorly when coming out of sleep. I actually had this issue with XBMC when connected via mysql. Sometimes it just didn't seem to reconnect to the server and would hang and then freeze. Worked 100% of the time after a cold start up though.

Never used mysql, but the opposite can also be true. Programs like MCERemote buddy, Media Center Master, Air Mouse, Remote Mouse, various antivirus (sometimes even MSE), and vpn apps can have problems from a cold start that REQUIRE a usb mouse. Not great for me to start up my HTPC since some Windows Administrative control requests will either precede or remove flirc's ability to press "enter" for yes or no. Then I have to go drag out a usb mouse to plug in and get everything going. For my usage more programs have cold start troubles (which cannot be fixed under their startup option to "run as administrator") than wake from sleep troubles.

Either way is an isolated 3rd party software problem. Windows doesn't care and performs just fine after an S3/S4/S5

To each their own, I would argue the other way if it were more applicable to me
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post #15 of 19 Old 01-17-2013, 03:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dark_Slayer View Post

Never used mysql, but the opposite can also be true. Programs like MCERemote buddy, Media Center Master, Air Mouse, Remote Mouse, various antivirus (sometimes even MSE), and vpn apps can have problems from a cold start that REQUIRE a usb mouse. Not great for me to start up my HTPC since some Windows Administrative control requests will either precede or remove flirc's ability to press "enter" for yes or no. Then I have to go drag out a usb mouse to plug in and get everything going. For my usage more programs have cold start troubles (which cannot be fixed under their startup option to "run as administrator") than wake from sleep troubles.

Either way is an isolated 3rd party software problem. Windows doesn't care and performs just fine after an S3/S4/S5

To each their own, I would argue the other way if it were more applicable to me

The only point I'm trying to make is that it's not a placebo in some cases. I'm also noticing Plex Home Theater behaves oddly out of sleep (although it is in beta).
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post #16 of 19 Old 01-17-2013, 06:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vhyvenom View Post

Anyone have great experience with DVD player like chassis that didnt cost an arm and a leg?
~v

My mini-itx HTPC uses Thermaltake's SD100 case (http://www.thermaltakeusa.com/Product.aspx?C=1414&ID=1894). Case fan is a bit noisy, but you don't hear them at all during playback. I modified the front bezel of mine to accept an iMon RF reciever, but if you have CIR enabled hardware, that might not be necessary.
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post #17 of 19 Old 01-17-2013, 08:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vhyvenom View Post

StardogChampion, thats a pretty slick case - I have not seen the Realan E-K3 mini-ITX HTPC case before and its definitely looks to be a worthy candidate. It does seem a little taller than the m350 and mac mini (not sure if thats my eyes playing tricks on me). Pricing is very similar to the M350+psu.

This case is smaller at only 60mm tall and is available in silver which gives it more of a Apple look IMHO. It has the same PSU as the E-K3.


 

 

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post #18 of 19 Old 01-29-2013, 11:25 PM - Thread Starter
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Looking into some changes:

Chassis: Strongly considering switching to the Realan E-i3 - What are the options to mounting the IR receiver? suggestions?
CPU Fan/Heatsink: Readding the Gelid Solutions CC-SSilence-iplus 25.8 CFM Ball Bearing CPU Cooler
RAM: 2x4gb ram to give a dual channel memory boost to the integrated Intel GPU

Remote Control: More research seems to lead that Logitech Harmony 650 is not the ideal choice. The URC R50 or R40 seem like strong candidates, dont require online configuration, support more devices, macros, and fit a more "traditional" remote model i am looking for etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vhyvenom View Post

=========================================
= The Hardware
= PC Part Picker URL: http://pcpartpicker.com/p/xLk1
=========================================
Chassis: Mini-Box M350 Case
>> PSU: PicoPSU-150-XT and 150W adapter kit
>> CPU fan/Heatsink: Gelid Solutions CC-SSilence-iplus 25.8 CFM Ball Bearing CPU Cooler (will attempt with stock cooler and save about $25 on the build)

Motherboard: Intel BOXDH77DF Mini ITX LGA1155 Motherboard (Has CIR header and HTPC Header)
CPU: Intel Core i3-3225 3.3GHz Dual-Core
RAM: Corsair Vengeance LP 8GB (1 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 (1x8GB module allows for buying another 8GB module if needed in the future)
SSD: Intel 520 Series 60GB (Any SSD would do here, preference to Intel/Samsung for reliability) - Link for list of currently cheapest Intel/Samsung SSDs SATA 6gb/s sorted by priced

HDMI-CEC: Pulse Eight - Internal HDMI-CEC Adapter
Intel CIR Module: CIR Receiver w/Cable and Mounting Bracket for Intel Motherboards + 4 in 1 Backlit Remote
Remote Control: Logitech Harmony 650 Remote

Approx. Total Cost: ~$650.00 (budgeting around $500-$700)

~v
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post #19 of 19 Old 02-04-2013, 02:43 AM - Thread Starter
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I have updated the first post with latest parts listing. This appears to be the most ideal config i have found so far.

The only thing that i would imagine better than this would be a Intel NUC-like device with the CIR receiver built in, and if CEC made it into the pool that would be a +1.

~v
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