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Old 12-05-2013, 10:35 PM - Thread Starter
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BUILDING THE PERFECT SILENT HTPC (2013)

 

I’ve been an online lurker of A/V websites for a long time now and about a half a year ago, I decided it was time to build my own HTPC – but not just any HTPC, the perfect silent HTPC. I apologize if another article of this nature has already been written and I’ve been fairly light on technical information here, so if you would like to see more, let me know and I will be more than happy to adjust it accordingly.

 

For all the community has done for me over the years, I figured it was time to give back and share what I’ve learned through this process. This article was written based on my own experience building a silent HTPC and breaks down the challenges and thought processes I took to get there. It was frustrating for me trying to find information online because it seemed like no one was building the exact HTPC I was trying to build. I figured if I was looking for that information, there was probably someone else who was too.

 

If you just want to see my build, scroll down to “MY SETUP.” You’re welcome.

 

For those that do read on, I promise it won’t be time wasted.

 

My full current setup

 

 


THE CHALLENGE:

Build a powerful HTPC that looks good, runs cool, can play games, and is powerful enough to run madVR on high quality without dropping frames. Great! Not that hard right?

 

Oh, but there’s one more thing… It also has to be completely passive cooled with NO fans (not even case fans) and has to have no moving components whatsoever (except for the Blu-ray drive).

 

Keep on reading to see if I succeeded.

 

 


BACKGROUND:

Why build an HTPC in the first place?

 

Simple: I’m an audio and video nut. I’ve been in the pursuit of the best audio and video quality possible at a (fairly) reasonable budget (so no $10,000 reference components here). I also wanted a device that has a huge amount of flexibility, both in the formats that can be played, but also in the types of things I can do (like play games).

 

Now keep in mind that I’m bit of an exception to most people. I am not terrible interested in the best streaming device that lets me connect to a million different video and audio streaming services. I DO use these services, but I am much more concerned with the quality of my local files (my 1080p video collection and FLAC music collection). If all you want is a great media streaming device, look at an Apple TV or Roku, or even a Raspberry Pi using XBMC. But if you fall into my camp, keep on reading.

 

With that, let’s look at all the devices that I’ve tried…

 

 


WHAT DEVICES HAVE I USED FOR VIDEO PLAYING/STREAMING?

PS3 running PS3 Media server or Plex:  

  • For the longest time, I was running PS3 Media server and using that to stream my 1080p content from my main PC to my theater. It has been really great to me, with quite good image quality (one of the best for a streamer) but I have a couple caveats. The problem is that PS3 media server on HQ is a bandwidth hog, couldn’t pass through DTS audio to my receiver, and still transcodes and compresses the signal.

 

Xbox 360 running Plex:

  • Plex is an awesome app for transcoding video, but as you know, as soon as you transcode something and send it over a network, you add compression to the mix. Did I end up using it for long? Nope.

 

Apple TV Jailbroken running XBMC and Plex:

  • With 2nd generation Apple TV’s selling at double their retail value and everyone telling me how awesome it works, I had to try this. I think airplay is awesome so I went and Jailbroke my Apple TV to try and stream my media collection and… Well, some of my high bitrate files bogged down XBMC. A jailbroken Apple TV is great for a lot of things, but this isn’t one of them.

 

Pivos XIOS DS Media Play!:

  • A tiny, Android powered, XBMC running media device capable of playing almost any video file you can possibly throw at it! My search for the most capable and flexible media player was finally over… This was going to be the last device I ever needed! After 10 minutes of using it, I was ready to throw the f*cking device through a window. I’m going to go out and say that this is one of the single most idiotic media players ever created. It’s a BETA product at best, and an effing joke of a product at worst. If you are the type of person who wants to plug in a mouse and keyboard to a media streaming device and have a setup process that is about 100 times more complicated than installing XBMC on a raspberry pi, all for okay video for the 50% of the time it actually works, then by all means, buy one. Now go away and bang your head on a wall some more.

 

WD TV Live Streaming Media Player:

  • What do you do when you are frustrated, out of options, and just want a media player that plays all your files? You buy the 3rd highest ranked media player on amazon (third to the two ROKU players which are more for streaming than playing file formats). I figured I couldn’t go wrong here; this thing HAS to work… Then I loaded up a high bitrate FLAC encoded MKV and… it didn’t play the file. Un-fricking-believable. The whole side of the box covered in a list of supported formats and it MAYBE played 70% of my media files. That is unacceptable. It was taken back the next day.

 

ASUS O!Play:

  • I do not have direct experience with this device, but I took a few files that the WD TV couldn’t play and gave it to my buddy that has an ASUS O!Play. The only thing that’s important is that it could not play any of the files (or it did so with unwatchable visual artifacting).

 

It was after this that I decided that no media streamer had a powerful enough processor to handle what I wanted it to do and finally gave in to building an HTPC.

 

Now what you’ve been waiting for.

 

 


MY SETUP:

For those of you that don’t give a crap about my ramblings and just want to know what components I used to build it. Here it is.

 

Home Theater Components:

  • Receiver: NAD 747
  • TV: Toshiba Regza 46”
  • Power Cleaner: Belkin
  • Front Speakers: Tekton SEAS Pendragons
  • Center Speakers: Totem Rainmaker
  • Rear Speakers: Totem Rainmaker
  • Subwoofer: Totem Thunder
  • Speaker Cables: Black Cat Morpheus & Monster Speaker Wire
  • Headphone Amp: Little Dot MK III Tube Amp
  • Headphones: AKG Q701
  • Remote: Logitech Harmony 880
  • NAS: QNAP TS-869 Pro

·         

HTPC Components (Prices in CAD):

  • Case: Silverstone GD08 ($159.99)
  • Motherboard: ASUS P8Z77-V ($134.99)
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-3770T Processor (8M Cache, up to 3.7GHz) (~$300)
  • CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-C12P SE14 (with the fan removed) ($69.99)
  • GPU: EVGA GeForce GTX 650 SuperClocked 1GB ($119.99)
  • GPU Cooler: Arctic Cooling Accelero S1 PLUS Passive VGA Cooler ($29.99)
  • RAM: 16GB Corsair Vengeance LP DDR3 1600MHz CL10 Dual Channel Kit ($169.99)
  • Hard Drive: Crucial M4 256GB SSD (~150)
  • Power Supply: KingWin Stryker 500-Watt ATX 500 Fanless Power Supply STR-500 ($169.99)
  • Blu-ray Player: ASUS BC-12B1ST 12x Blu-ray Combo Drive (OEM) ($69.99)
  • IR Trigger for ON/OFF: Simerec PCS-2 (~$50)
  • IR Reciever and Remote Control: HP USB Microsoft MCE IR Remote Control Kit (~$20)
  • OS: Windows 8.1 Pro
  • External DAC (Digital Analogue Converter): HRT Music Streamer+
  • RCA Cable: Chord CrimsonPlus Interconnect
  • Power Cable: NAIM Audio Power Cord

 

Software:

  • JRiver Media Center 18

 

 


WHY SILENT?

For those that are looking at this article thinking “You could have built an awesome HTPC with way less headaches by just using fans/watercooling. What’s wrong with you?” Let me explain:

  • Water pumps/fans cause vibration which can affect components inside the computer as well as the high end audio/video components that are in the same media cabinet. There are two sides to this, with people believing that small vibrations will have no effect on a digital/analogue signal while others believing that it does. This is not the place for that argument – much has been written on this subject elsewhere. Just know that I fall into the former camp.

  • The HTPC is in my bedroom and I don’t want to hear fans if I leave it on
  • I don’t want to have to clean dust out of my HTPC regularly (if ever)
  • I don’t want ANY noise while listening to music/watching videos (yes, I know it’s negligible, but it’s still there)
  • Finally, it is badass turning on a computer and only hearing a small “click” followed by dead silence… AWESOME.

 

 


THE BUILD

I’ve built lots of computers before so everything was pretty straight forward. If you want a walkthrough on putting together your own PC, Google it and you’ll find lots of information; I’m not covering that here. The challenge I had was passive cooling the video card. The guys down at my local computer store told me that it was impossible to get a moderately powerful NVIDIA GPU passive cooled in my HTPC. Challenge accepted.

 

Side note: The reason I went with NVIDIA is so that I could use CUVID (explained later) and because I have heard some rumors that NVIDIA cards produce higher IQ than their AMD counterparts (it also runs DDR5 memory which AMD doesn’t do) (Edit: This is incorrect, both cards run GDDR5 memory). This is a whole other discussion and many forums can be found debating this at length. I have no proof whether or not this is true, I am simply stating the reason I went with NVIDIA.

 

One of the big problems I had was with the Arctic Cooling GPU heatsink. It is rated to work on cards up to a 650Ti, but the heatsink itself is too large for almost any HTPC case (it will hit the top panel of the case). The only logical solution was to bring it home and bend it…

 

 

 

I did the bending carefully on the curb outside my house, bending it a little bit at a time with a block of wood and a hammer as to not damage the heat pipes. I made sure to bend it away from the card so that it would actually pull the heat further away from my CPU inside my HTPC (considering there are no case fans). I think you’ll agree that the result was great and I managed to avoid damaging the heatpipes in the process.

 

GPU: I ended up going with a GTX 650 instead of a GTX 650Ti because of heat. The 650 has a TDP of 64W while the 650TI has a TDP of 110W. Higher power = more heat and I was a little worried about heat dissipation in an HTPC without any case fans. That’s why I ended up going with the GTX 650.

 

CPU: The selection of the i7-3770T again had to do with heat and power. It has a TDP of 45W in an incredibly powerful CPU.

 

PSU: The KingWin power supply was selected because it is a passive PSU with a platinum power rating. The more efficient the PSU = the less wasted energy that is converted into heat.

 

IR Trigger: If you are unsure of what the SIMEREC PCS-2 is, it is a device that allows you to turn your HTPC on and off using a media center remote (or any universal remote). Yes… you heard me right. I spent ages trying to find a solution to this problem and this little guy is it. And it works perfectly. Note: You do have to splice a cable onto the live wire coming from your power supply (see pictures) and you do have to drill a hole in your case for the IR receiver (which is different than one you can use to control the HTPC with a media center remote. Other than those little caveats, it works brilliantly).

 

IR Trigger Installation: Live Splice

 

 

IR Trigger Installation: IR Receiver

 

 

Full SIMEREC Installation

 

Hole drilled for SIMEREC IR Receiver

 

All Components Installed

 


SOFTWARE:

I use JRIVER MEDIA CENTER (and plugins) as my main player that pulls content over my network stored on my QNAP NAS. I’m sure most of you are familiar with Jriver, but for those who aren’t, it began life as one of the reference PC audio players that audiophiles flocked to and it eventually worked its way into the videophile world. With Jriver MC 18, MadVR – one of the best rendering engines available (although, heavy on the GPU) – is now built-in.  I will explain how I have streamlined my media experience in Jriver below.

 

Plugins:

  • MadVR (comes with Media Center)
  • LAV Filters
  • madFLAC
  • Reclock Update: This is no longer used in my system due to Bitstream complications
  • AutoFrequency

 

Jriver Setup:

I’m not going to go into a detailed setup because I have not had enough time to play with all the various settings. There are really good articles on setting up MadVR and LAV Filters here (http://www.homecinema-hd.com/intro_en.html) here (http://myanimelist.net/forum/?topicid=516729) and here (http://azurehakua.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/mpc-hc-lav-filters-xy-vsfilter-madvr/). You’ll notice that many walkthroughs are using MPC-HC as their media player. I have used it and it is a fine piece of software (although very basic) that delivers excellent video quality. The main reason for my selection of Jriver Media Center is because of the good library management tools and the excellent iOS app available.

 

What I do want to tell you about is how I have set up zones so that video files get played through HDMI with bitstream pass-through, while audio files play through my external USB connected DAC.

 

To accomplish this, I set up two zones inside of Jriver media center and created custom rules (by right clicking the zones) that make any video file play through my “Movie” zone and any audio file play through my “Audio” zone. With the “Movie” zone, it was set up to bitstream audio through HDMI to my receiver while the “Audio” zone was set to use my USB DAC to play music (connected through RCA to my receiver). On my receiver, I simply set one preset as “Movie” using HDMI for audio and another preset as “Music” using RCA analogue pass-through. Easy as that! Now whenever I play an audio file, it automatically uses my “Audio” zone in Jriver and plays through my DAC to my receiver. If I then switch to a video file, it stops any audio playing and uses HDMI to bitstream the audio. Perfect!

 

Because I went to great lengths to not ever have to use a keyboard, the last piece of the puzzle was to launch right into Jriver. I set up my HTPC to boot into windows (without the login screen) and I set Jriver to launch on startup. Additionally, I set Jriver to launch into Theater View on launch. Now when my PC starts up, it goes straight to the desktop, Jriver launches automatically and launches right into Theater View which I can easily navigate with my Harmony Remote.

 

 


BENCHMARKS:

Below I've started compiling some benchmarks so you can get an idea of the performance of the machine. If there is a benchmark you'd like to see, let me know and I will do my best to add it.

 

Boot Time (To Desktop):

  • 23 Seconds

 

Windows  Experience Index (yes, I know it doesn't mean much, but it's a benchmark nonetheless):

  • 7.3

 

 

 

3DMark Score:

(To be updated)

 

HEAT/POWER:

Below are some preliminary load tests. Please note that due to the nature of this PC being passive cooled, ambient temperature has a greater effect on the internal component temperatures. You'll be happy to know that the current ambient temperatures I tested in are quite high (~23-24 degrees Celcius, or ~73-75 Farenheit for you Americans ;)).

 

Prime95 test with 8 threads at 100% load for 22 hours and 42 minutes

Result:

  • MAX CPU Temp: ~94 degrees Celcius over 22:42 hours. No shutdown, no blue-screen.
  • Max Idle GPU temp with CPU at 100% in the same case was ~58 degrees Celcius
  • Note: Let's not mince words, 94 degrees is hot, really hot. But the important thing is that it ran throughout the whole test without so much as a hiccup.

 

Idle Temps

Results:

  • CPU Temp: ~45 Degrees Celcius
  • GPU Temp: ~41 Degrees Celcius

 

1080P HD Movie Playback (H264 - MPEG-4 AVC, 23.97 fps, Planar 4:2:0 YUV 10-bit LE, 16bit flac @ 48000 Hz, subs on)

Results:

  • Max CPU Temp: ~42 Degrees Celcius
  • Max GPU Temp: ~79 Degrees Celcius

 

Gaming (Final Fantasy 14) for ~1 hour

Results:

  • Max CPU Temp: ~87 Degrees Celcius
  • Max GPU Temp: ~101 Degrees Celcius

 


WISHLIST:

Despite the fact that I am extremely happy with my HTPC (I often wonder why I didn’t build it sooner), there are a few items that I want to add. Here is the list:

 

Outlaw Audio Model 7500 Amplifier (http://www.outlawaudio.com/products/index.html)

  • 200 Watts per channel in to 5 channels. This will take the place for all my channels right now and once I add mono’s for my front LR speakers, it will take the duty of powering the remaining speakers

 

Streacom FC10 Fanless Chassis (http://www.streacom.com/products/fc10-fanless-chassis/)

  • If the 250W power supply ever comes out, this is the case I’m buying hands-down. It’s beautiful, it’s passive cooled, and all my components should work in it.

 

SOtM tX-USB (PCI) (http://www.sotm.sonore.us/)

  • This is literally a PCIe card with USB ports. It is designed to reduce noise for the digital, clock and USB power circuits. This is what I would connect an external DAC to

 

Wyred4Sound DAC-2 (http://www.wyred4sound.com/webapps/p/74030/117839/457975)

 

D-Sonic M2-1500M Mono Amplifier (http://www.d-sonic.net/products/mono/)

  • Eventually I want to drive my front speakers with mono amplifiers (I have new speakers on the way). These D-Sonics are some of the most powerful, yet well reviewed Class-D amps there are. Once again, check out 6moons for an awesome review (http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/dsonic/1.html).

 

 


CLOSING REMARKS

 

 

I’ve been using my HTPC almost every day for the past few months now and I’ve been thrilled with the Video/Audio quality and ease of use. I have also had no problems whatsoever with my HTPC – no resets, blue screens, overheating etc. With both my Media Center IR receiver and the SIMEREC IR mod, I now have a complete home theater system that only requires my Harmony 880 universal remote to control it. Literally EVERYTHING works without having to touch my HTPC or a keyboard. I sit down, turn on everything with my Harmony remote preset, and do all my navigating with the same remote. When I’m done using my HTPC, my Harmony remote shuts down my entire system (including my HTPC), all without having to get up (laziness level: GOLD). This is exactly what I wanted it to do when I set out on this build and I think I’ve succeed.

 

Hopefully you have found this article helpful. I’ve put a lot of time into researching and building the perfect HTPC at a reasonable price and I think I’ve mostly succeeded – at least until I try and tackle this build in one of the Streacom cases, but that's a whole other can of worms. For now, I finally have a media player that does everything I want it to do while providing reference-grade image and sound quality. What more could you possibly want! ;)

 

If you have any comments or questions, I would love to hear them and I will hopefully update this article accordingly. I hope you enjoyed reading through this and at the very least learned a little something in the process. Now it’s finally time to sit back and enjoy my setup!

 

Update: My next project is already in the works. I have a Streacom FC5 EVO WS (http://www.streacom.com/products/fc5ws-evo-fanless-chassis/) on order and I’ll be trying to get all of the components used in this build (maybe even better) inside this chassis. Stay tuned!

 

Cheers! 

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Old 12-05-2013, 11:49 PM - Thread Starter
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2013.12.07 - Updated Thermals in article

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Old 12-06-2013, 03:14 AM
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This is a fantastic project, and a fantastic post. I'm inclined to follow your lead, I can hear my HTPC whirring away.

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Old 12-06-2013, 03:18 AM
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Have you tried stressing your CPU for several hours with something like Prime95?

The thing I don't like about your design is that there is no case ventilation directly above your CPU heatsink, and the CPU heatsink is not designed for passive cooling anyway.

I don't have any pictures, but for my passive HTPC build I used a mid-tower case (Enermax Fulmo) turned on its side, and the side panel (which is now facing up) has a large grille for ventilation.

I also used a CPU cooler specifically designed for passive cooling, the Nofan CR-95C.

I used an Intel Core-i7 3770K CPU and I ran 8 threads of Prime95 on it for 24 hours and there was no overheating problem.
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Old 12-06-2013, 03:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jim2100 View Post

Have you tried stressing your CPU for several hours with something like Prime95?

The thing I don't like about your design is that there is no case ventilation directly above your CPU heatsink, and the CPU heatsink is not designed for passive cooling anyway.

I don't have any pictures, but for my passive HTPC build I used a mid-tower case (Enermax Fulmo) turned on its side, and the side panel (which is now facing up) has a large grille for ventilation.

I also used a CPU cooler specifically designed for passive cooling, the Nofan CR-95C.

I used an Intel Core-i7 3770K CPU and I ran 8 threads of Prime95 on it for 24 hours and there was no overheating problem.

I really like that passive CPU heatsink, the Nofan. $100 is a bit steep, but it looks great as well.

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Old 12-06-2013, 07:41 AM
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I'm impressed. High quality build and high quality post. Well done !

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"Too much is almost enough. Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing. Moderation is for cowards."
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Old 12-06-2013, 08:12 AM
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Awesome looks like the right timing for me, as I'm always looking for the best possible way to extract tunes out of my build for ultimate performance.

Just realized we have the same Case.. Btw love your remote solution, I'm going to research it and see if it's something feasible for me. Not that savvy with wiring, and tinkering.

Looking forward on reading more about the new project, and the USB card (SOtM tX-USB) very cool indeed.



Thanks for sharing


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Old 12-06-2013, 09:22 AM
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I hate to critique such an awesome effort biggrin.gif Clearly you put some thought and effort into this build and it shows in spades. I'm a bit interested in discussing the CUVID, and the choice for Nvidia though. Did you do the 0-255 hack for Nvidia ? Also not the "Ti" version doesn't that lead to increased heat and possibly stuttering on MadVR level 5 (or Red October Jriver equivalent) ? I was always under the idea that an overkill option actually used less power and generated less heat than a barely enough option because the more capable and more powerful and more modern and efficient processor just handled the duty better. Example: Core i7 CPU but downclocked, or on energy save mode typically runs around 800-1600mhz (uses 5% or less of CPU for playabck) and only very briefly does it jump up to a "turbo mode" where it's 3000mhz+ or the CPU is near 100%. When it does it's a much shorter duration too, so it drops back down that much quicker than a lesser powered dual core. This actually allows it to run pretty cool for normal tasks, and use very little energy.

That's the reason why the "T" version or "S" version of the CPU isn't always a great deal (assuming you are paying more for it). You can always downclock or set up the settings so a "K" or a normal CPU gives you the same result. Either auto (power save mode that drops core clock) or manually in the BIOS where you can permanently set the clock lower and under volt it. i7 has so much head room that it still get the job done, even if you drop it down in clock speed and voltage which reduces heat (and noise assuming it's fan cooled and the fan can spin slower).

My understanding is that this is partially true with video cards too. A video card that's under a heavy load is going to generate heat (and more noise if it's fan cooled and the fan is going fast) while a more powerful video card might not get stressed so much. The spec of the product isn't really the big deal. It's actually a falsity and myth. Because a "T" version CPU is rated at lower TDP (thermal design power) doesn't mean it actually uses less power than the Non T version to get a specific job done (such as play back a video). It only draws less power in a situation where both CPU are pegged at 100% (and the non handi-capped T version is actually doing more work) when the T chip is being limited in performance by the settings. Think one CPU at 3000mhz and another at 3800mhz that are basically the same chip- the 3800mhz is drawing more power but it's also doing more work. In cars it would be like if you took two identical race cars, and you placed a restricter plate on one of them and went racing. Then you said the one with the restricter plate was getting better gas mileage. While it's true, it's also going slower and making less horsepower. If you dropped down the throttle and power on the other car to the same power levels and speed it would probably get about the same gas mileage. Of coarse then neither would have a great chance at wining the race versus other cars not being restricted.

T and S version chips are good for the low profile cooler that comes with them (if you need it). But the fact they draw less power is not necessarily true. It's more complicated.

I always felt about the same with video cards (but I never tested it). My theory would be that a more powerful modern GPU that is more advanced, more efficient, has more stream processors, etc... would actually use the same power or less and generate the same heat or less if doing equal task and equal work to a less efficient and less powerful video card. Only when you push them hard does the power more powerful card really make a significant difference in power draw, or heat created. Running a more powerful card at a lower level only makes it easier to keep cool usually. Just because the more powerful card is capable of running hot or using more power, or being more powerful does not mean it always will.

In fact- Lots of times you might not need the GPU card at all. I have a 4770k in my Desktop that can run 4800mhz on turbo mode (and suck down some voltage tongue.gif) but that doesn't mean it does. It rarely even runs at full clock. In fact right now it's running 800mhz while browsing this thread: Evidence:




So in a situation where the power isn't needed my juiced up K series CPU isn't really going to draw any more power, or make any more heat than a down clocked T version chip. The only difference is the T version CAN'T make the heat the or suck the power mine can because it won't reach the same level of performance and it's limited by design; in contrast I could go 5000mhz with my K chip but it's going to make tons more heat and take tons more voltage to get stable (you would never do this without great cooling)

Video cards have some similarities to CPU in this regard.

My understanding of the Nvidia was that it had some 0-255 issues when you run HDMI (like the Intel iGPU) but you can registry hack to get the full 0-255 level. Also the "CUDA" or "CUVID" you mention doesn't translate to PQ it's just a different way of processing it. Then end result of the image quality is the same. If you use CUVID, or DXVA, or software decoding, it will all result in the exact same image. CUVID is really just a wrapper around DXVA and it uses the same video logic internally (<- Credit to Nevcariel)


So I'm not sure a more powerful CPU card necessarily means it would draw more power while going video playback. At a specific task it's only going to draw so much, so assuming the more powerful video card was also more efficient it's actually might use less.


Think a modern i7 Haswell versus a few generation old lower spec power chip. The new Haswell actually uses less to get the job done, (even though it's capable of higher performance) You only need so much to get the job done.

Power specs aren't really reliable in determine power draw in a specific task. You are better to look at benchmarks of video play back or specific tasks you might do and compare those.

A GTX 650 / GDDR5 won't do MadVR on highest level very well (if at all) while a "Ti" will. So would something like a 7790 Radeon or higher. It would be interesting to test in the same MadVR level (say level 4) if the Ti uses more power or less power than the normal 650 ??? IDK ???

I use LucidLogix Virtu GPU (came with my Radeon card). Basically it regulates if I need a GPU card or not. If high end graphics power is needed for applications like DirectX 11, high-resolution 3D gaming, the system will assign the job to the discrete GPU. If not, the discrete GPU automatically goes into idle mode, while heat drops, fan speed slows down and GPU utilization goes down to zero, resulting in a green, power-efficient, long-lasting system. It came FREE with my Radeon card and works great with my Intel CPU. Just because you have a GPU card doesn't even mean you need to use it (not all the time anyways, mine is off right now on this webpage) http://lucidlogix.com/product-virtu1.html

Lastly you mentioned you are using Re-Clock. Do you not Bitstream HD audio to your AVR at all via HDMI ?? Are you decoding locally and using the DTS.dll copy paste decoder hack ? I'm a big fan of RE-CLOCK too, but it's tricky because it messes with HD audio bitstreaming.


All that said,

I think you did a really nice job on a really nice build. It's well thought out and put together, and it's very capable. I am highly impressed, it's one of the better builds I have seen around here in quite some time (if ever) Well done biggrin.gif

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Old 12-06-2013, 09:23 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by imagic View Post

This is a fantastic project, and a fantastic post. I'm inclined to follow your lead, I can hear my HTPC whirring away.

 

Thanks imagic! It ended up being easier than I expected! My new build is waiting to see what sorts of TDP the new GTX 750 cards will run.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jim2100 View Post

Have you tried stressing your CPU for several hours with something like Prime95?

The thing I don't like about your design is that there is no case ventilation directly above your CPU heatsink, and the CPU heatsink is not designed for passive cooling anyway.

I don't have any pictures, but for my passive HTPC build I used a mid-tower case (Enermax Fulmo) turned on its side, and the side panel (which is now facing up) has a large grille for ventilation.

I also used a CPU cooler specifically designed for passive cooling, the Nofan CR-95C.

I used an Intel Core-i7 3770K CPU and I ran 8 threads of Prime95 on it for 24 hours and there was no overheating problem.

 

I have run Prime95, but only a small test for an hour. I forget the temperatures but it never overheated. The great thing about this build is that by having a dedicated graphics card to handle madvr, I rarely (if ever) see my cpu usage run above 50%. At 45W TDP, that keeps it remarkably cool. That Nofan heatsink looks great as well, but it may be too tall to fit inside a case like this? The Noctua I used without the fan keeps it quite low profile.

 

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Originally Posted by Mfusick View Post

I'm impressed. High quality build and high quality post. Well done !

 

Thanks Mfusick! Glad you enjoyed it! :)

 

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Originally Posted by Djoel View Post

Awesome looks like the right timing for me, as I'm always looking for the best possible way to extract tunes out of my build for ultimate performance.

Just realized we have the same Case.. Btw love your remote solution, I'm going to research it and see if it's something feasible for me. Not that savvy with wiring, and tinkering.

Looking forward on reading more about the new project, and the USB card (SOtM tX-USB) very cool indeed.



Thanks for sharing


Djoel

 

Thanks for the reply! HTPC's have come a long way these past couple of years. The SIMEREC IR solution is fantastic and it's actually very easy to install (took me less than 30 minutes). The only challenge was the splicing of the purple (live) power supply wire, but they give you the hardware to do it. No soldering required. I'm definitely looking forward to my new build! It's going to be interesting to see if it's even possible... it's a very very slim case. 

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Old 12-06-2013, 09:59 AM
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Very very nice build and great post! Thanks for sharing.

Wondering whether you could post a picture of the case front? Particularly interested in the hole you drilled for the SIMEREC. Not looking for cold boot with IR, but I have been toying with the idea of using the Inteset CIR on my GD-08, which would also require drilling a hole. Which I am little scared of...smile.gif
Thanks!
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Old 12-06-2013, 10:10 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the reply Mfusick!

 

This is what I love about this hobby, you think you've gotten to the end and then the rabbit hole just goes deeper and deeper haha. I'm very interested in your post. It never occurred to me that underclocking components might give better performance at the same power levels. Sometimes I wish I had the discretionary income to go and test all of these things out.

 

Over the weekend, I will definitely test out the actual power consumption when watching videos/playing games and post my findings here.

 

As for your comment about the 0-255 mod, I have not done that, in fact I didn't even realize that Nvidia cards had a problem outputting full RGB range over hdmi. The things you learn haha. I will say though that my non Ti is sufficient for Madvr on HQ (red october HQ). I know there are lots of problems with madvr on HQ with a 640, but with my 650, I sometimes drop a few frames right at the start of playback (while it switches to exclusive mode), but after that, it plays perfectly. No stuttering or dropped frames at all. Ultimately the reason I went with the non Ti was for power consumption, but after reading your post, I'm inclined to try underclocking a Ti and see what happens... hmmmm.

 

With the AMD cards, I think the 7750 would be the counterpart to the 650 for TDP. The 7790 was a higher tdp which I think is why I decided against it. I'm really not sure where my whole Nvidia over AMD thing came from. I'm sure it was a post I came across in my research that lead me to try and get Nvidia into the build. For my next build, it's going to be more challenging because I will have to find a single slot card to fit into the Streacom. Not only that, all the components will have to run under a 200W power supply... yikes.

 

That LucidLogix software seems neat as well. It seems that it's more geared towards performance enhancements in gaming, but have you noticed improvements with MadVR using this software?

 

I really appreciate your response though, makes me think about trying some new things with my build! I'll post some numbers this weekend as well as my MadVR settings.

 

Cheers!

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Old 12-06-2013, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by jkur View Post

Thanks for the reply Mfusick!


I love you build so much and think you did such a great job on it I almost hate to comment anything but glowing praise! I'm really nit picking some stuff asking for your opinion and reasoning because I was so interested in your choices, and why- and also because you seemed like you really have done your homework and research and it shows. I was hoping to discover some stuff myself possibly. That's my reason for reply, certainly not to criticize your awesome build biggrin.gif

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Originally Posted by jkur View Post

This is what I love about this hobby, you think you've gotten to the end and then the rabbit hole just goes deeper and deeper haha. I'm very interested in your post. It never occurred to me that underclocking components might give better performance at the same power levels. Sometimes I wish I had the discretionary income to go and test all of these things out.

Tell me about rolleyes.gif
I know exactly what you mean.
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Over the weekend, I will definitely test out the actual power consumption when watching videos/playing games and post my findings here.

I would be interested in seeing it. This thread already has awesome all over it. It could get legendary wink.gif
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Originally Posted by jkur View Post

As for your comment about the 0-255 mod, I have not done that, in fact I didn't even realize that Nvidia cards had a problem outputting full RGB range over hdmi. The things you learn haha. I will say though that my non Ti is sufficient for Madvr on HQ (red october HQ). I know there are lots of problems with madvr on HQ with a 640, but with my 650, I sometimes drop a few frames right at the start of playback (while it switches to exclusive mode), but after that, it plays perfectly. No stuttering or dropped frames at all. Ultimately the reason I went with the non Ti was for power consumption, but after reading your post, I'm inclined to try underclocking a Ti and see what happens... hmmmm.


I wasn't even thinking you need to downclock, just cautioning against the thinking something more powerful would automatically generate more heat or make more noise. Often it's not the case unless it's running 100% out. So fearing a better product for reason of thinking it will perform worse in heat or noise is not really sound thinking - unless you happen to know for sure this is the case. I see this a lot with different builds around here. High end parts are often the newest and most advanced, which often is also meaning they are the newest and most efficient too. Cheaper and less powerful usually means older which usually means less efficient. The power does not translate directly to efficiency.

Yes the HDMI whitepaper spec is actually 16-235 so Nvidia and Intel are not doing anything wrong by adhering to this spec- but it can mess stuff up if you don't know it or expect it depending on your set up. DVI or Display port does 0-255 without any troubles. There is a registry hack for Nvida to do it.
AMD seems to work - and has a setting for both you just select the check off box of the one you want in the control panel. I was surprised you chose Nvidia, since I always thought AMD made a better GPU (based on cost, not efficiency) for HTPC and was wondering what made you choose it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by jkur View Post

With the AMD cards, I think the 7750 would be the counterpart to the 650 for TDP. The 7790 was a higher tdp which I think is why I decided against it. I'm really not sure where my whole Nvidia over AMD thing came from. I'm sure it was a post I came across in my research that lead me to try and get Nvidia into the build. For my next build, it's going to be more challenging because I will have to find a single slot card to fit into the Streacom. Not only that, all the components will have to run under a 200W power supply... yikes.

7750 is probably too weak though.

7790 or Ti is minimum according to ReneTHX:
Quote:
Originally Posted by renethx View Post

More results:







- Green circle: Good (GPU load below 75%)
- Yellow triangle: Good but the GPU load is a little bit high (GPU load between 75% = 6/8 and 87.5% = 7/8)
- Red cross: Not good (GPU load above 87.5%)
- Asterisk: indicates that 1440x1080i60 is excluded.

4K UHD sources are not included in HD / FHD display results because downscaling 4K UHD to HD / FHD with Catmull-Rom (+AR+LL) is too taxing.

The tables are based on the actual measurements of GPU load like this:



Shaded area indicates that hardware other than GPU cores is not good enough to ensure smooth playback (e.g. hardware decoder can't handle 4K UHD 60fps properly [e.g. NVIDIA VP5], CPU is too slow to decode 4K UHD 60fps [e.g. AMD Trinity/Richland] etc.). Download

madVR.xlsx
madVR.xlsx (another link)


Quote:
Originally Posted by jkur View Post

That LucidLogix software seems neat as well. It seems that it's more geared towards performance enhancements in gaming, but have you noticed improvements with MadVR using this software?

I really appreciate your response though, makes me think about trying some new things with my build! I'll post some numbers this weekend as well as my MadVR settings.

LUCID is for powering down or managing your GPU card so when you don't need it - it's not wasting power. It's not really going to improve anything beyond what your GPU card already can do is my understanding. But when I am not doing something GPU intensive you can cruise around on only iGPU and save the power , the noise and heat.
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Old 12-06-2013, 12:50 PM
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I have run Prime95, but only a small test for an hour. I forget the temperatures but it never overheated. The great thing about this build is that by having a dedicated graphics card to handle madvr, I rarely (if ever) see my cpu usage run above 50%. At 45W TDP, that keeps it remarkably cool. That Nofan heatsink looks great as well, but it may be too tall to fit inside a case like this? The Noctua I used without the fan keeps it quite low profile.

I was not suggesting you change your heatsink to the Nofan (although the new Nofan model CR-80 that just came out might fit).

I was mostly just curious because the ventilation looks poor for a passive design. With a passive design, if you want to stress test it, you really need to run the stress for hours because it can take a while for the air in the case to heat up to steady state (the entire case will become a "hot box" when there are no fans circulating the air, but it is a slow process).
If you never stress the system hard for hours on end in your actual use, then it might be mostly irrelevant to your usage pattern. But if it were me, I'd still want to know if my system was going to overheat if I stressed it hard for 6 hours or whatever.
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Old 12-06-2013, 01:01 PM - Thread Starter
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I was not suggesting you change your heatsink to the Nofan (although the new Nofan model CR-80 that just came out might fit).

I was mostly just curious because the ventilation looks poor for a passive design. With a passive design, if you want to stress test it, you really need to run the stress for hours because it can take a while for the air in the case to heat up to steady state (the entire case will become a "hot box" when there are no fans circulating the air, but it is a slow process).
If you never stress the system hard for hours on end in your actual use, then it might be mostly irrelevant to your usage pattern. But if it were me, I'd still want to know if my system was going to overheat if I stressed it hard for 6 hours or whatever.

 

I'll run a long Prime test over the weekend and report back!

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Old 12-06-2013, 01:05 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for posting that chart Mfusick!

 

Looks like I might have to throw in an AMD card in my next build. The 7790 runs at 85W TDP which is lower than the 650Ti's 110W TDP, so that might be the best choice currently. I'm definitely looking at future proofing with 4k playback with my next build.

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Old 12-06-2013, 02:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Mfusick View Post

Yes the HDMI whitepaper spec is actually 16-235 so Nvidia and Intel are not doing anything wrong by adhering to this spec- but it can mess stuff up if you don't know it or expect it depending on your set up. DVI or Display port does 0-255 without any troubles. There is a registry hack for Nvida to do it.
AMD seems to work - and has a setting for both you just select the check off box of the one you want in the control panel. I was surprised you chose Nvidia, since I always thought AMD made a better GPU (based on cost, not efficiency) for HTPC and was wondering what made you choose it.
7750 is probably too weak though.

7790 or Ti is minimum according to ReneTHX:

 

It's funny, I completed this build quite a while ago so I've kind of forgotten why I made the Nvidia choice. I believe when I was researching I cam across articles such as this (http://www.anandtech.com/show/4380/discrete-htpc-gpus-shootout/13) talking about using the LAV Cuvid video decoder and it's ability to interface better with Nvidia cards. It seem, however that since completion of my build, DXVA2 has become the preffered decoder? http://yabb.jriver.com/interact/index.php?topic=80258.0. In fact, it looks like in the newer Jriver builds, it defaults to DXVA2 Copy-Back over CUVID on Nvidia cards. This is an interesting change.

 

I also remember hearing recently that Jriver snatched up the developer of LAV Filters.

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Old 12-06-2013, 03:10 PM
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I too am interested to build a silent HTPC but don't need the behemoth shown here.
If anyone has built a smaller mini ITX version please ping me!
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Old 12-06-2013, 03:31 PM - Thread Starter
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I too am interested to build a silent HTPC but don't need the behemoth shown here.
If anyone has built a smaller mini ITX version please ping me!

 

Just wait for my next build with this case http://www.streacom.com/products/fc5ws-evo-fanless-chassis/ ;)

 

If you want to just run the onboard intel 4600 graphics then grab this case http://www.streacom.com/products/fc8-evo-fanless-chassis/.

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Old 12-06-2013, 03:37 PM
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WOW CONGRATS !

Made the front page of AVS:



Quote:
Originally Posted by chappy16775 View Post

I too am interested to build a silent HTPC but don't need the behemoth shown here.
If anyone has built a smaller mini ITX version please ping me!

StarDogChampion. That is all.

(he's the ITX resident expert around here)

http://www.avsforum.com/u/7904449/stardogchampion

His page:
http://www.ecosmartpc.com/

His Blog:
http://outsidethestb.blogspot.ca/

I am sure he can provide you some good insight. Silverstone makes some good ITX cases that would be similar. A smaller heat sink/fan - some ITX appropriate parts. Not too hard to do, but I fear I don't have enough first hand knowledge of ITX case and what parts fit good to provide any better assistance. He knows which parts are good, and which ones fit when others don't. ITX is tricky to build in because it's smaller.

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Old 12-06-2013, 03:46 PM - Thread Starter
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WOW CONGRATS !

Made the front page of AVS:


StarDogChampion. That is all.

(he's the ITX resident expert around here)

http://www.avsforum.com/u/7904449/stardogchampion

His page:
http://www.ecosmartpc.com/

His Blog:
http://outsidethestb.blogspot.ca/

I am sure he can provide you some good insight. Silverstone makes some good ITX cases that would be similar. A smaller heat sink/fan - some ITX appropriate parts. Not too hard to do, but I fear I don't have enough first hand knowledge of ITX case and what parts fit good to provide any better assistance. He knows which parts are good, and which ones fit when others don't. ITX is tricky to build in because it's smaller.

 

Thanks Mfusick! Super excited about that!!! :)

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Old 12-06-2013, 04:21 PM
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Just wait for my next build with this case http://www.streacom.com/products/fc5ws-evo-fanless-chassis/ wink.gif

If you want to just run the onboard intel 4600 graphics then grab this case http://www.streacom.com/products/fc8-evo-fanless-chassis/.

Look forward to that.
Out of interest where does one buy these Streacom cases in the US?
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Old 12-06-2013, 04:30 PM
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Now that this thread is famous can we get some idle, average, and full load temps of the cpu and gpu?

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Old 12-06-2013, 04:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Look forward to that.
Out of interest where does one buy these Streacom cases in the US?

This is the only place I know of in the US that sells Streacom. There could be more, but this is where I've ordered mine from. http://www.shop.perfecthometheater.com/

 

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Now that this thread is famous can we get some idle, average, and full load temps of the cpu and gpu?

You bet, temps will be uploaded this weekend.

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Old 12-06-2013, 04:56 PM
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Quite the project. I'm hoping my Netgear Neo 550 doesn't die since it plays my bluray iso files just fine.
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Old 12-06-2013, 04:59 PM - Thread Starter
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Very very nice build and great post! Thanks for sharing.

Wondering whether you could post a picture of the case front? Particularly interested in the hole you drilled for the SIMEREC. Not looking for cold boot with IR, but I have been toying with the idea of using the Inteset CIR on my GD-08, which would also require drilling a hole. Which I am little scared of...smile.gif
Thanks!

 

I've updated the post with this image:

 

It's really not as bad as you think drilling into the GD-08. Just be sure to start with a small pilot hole and increase the bit size from there so you get a nice clean hole. I also put a piece of masking tape over where I'm going to drill so that I can mark the spot and keep the drill from sliding.

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Old 12-06-2013, 06:31 PM
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I applaud the effort! I gave up on making a quiet HTPC that had power too, and ended up putting it in an adjacent space (the garage) with only a remote wired power switch, a receiver for the wireless keyboard and mouse and an external Blu-Ray drive actually in the media room. It was quite an adjustment starting the computer and not hearing anything. I get to run the fans full blast and maintain silence though as well as use a cheap Antec gaming case. I'm writing this post on it right now. However, a silent HTPC in the home theater space certainly makes it more like a bonafide AV component.

Rob
Pioneer Elite SC-79 * Kenwood KP-9010 w/Goldring 1042 * Simaudio 110LP * Oppo BDP-103D * HTPC with Mhdt Labs USBridge * Yamaha NS-70T/NS-30T * SVS SB-12NSD * DSpeaker Anti-mode 8033C

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Old 12-06-2013, 06:52 PM
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Yeah, but does it run Crysis?

biggrin.gif

Nice build! I love your attention to detail.
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Old 12-06-2013, 06:56 PM
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Can someone recommend a good, reasonably priced fabless CPU cooling? Thanks.
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Old 12-06-2013, 07:42 PM
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Great build, thanks for sharing!

I have three HTPCs, and I love them all, but my wife thinks they are just a tad too loud. Might have to undertake something like this as my next project.
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Old 12-06-2013, 08:26 PM
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The most silent HTPC I have in operation is the following.

Asrock Z77E -ITX Mb
i5 3750K
8 gigs Corsair Vengeance Ram
OCZ Agility SSD
Corsair Power Supply.
Liteon DVD drive.

This system is very quiet. I am using the Intel 4000 integrated graphics on the I5. The system is running Windows 8 and I use it in combination with Windows Media Center for TV, XBMC, Plex, and it's connected to my Synology NAS through a wired network. I spent about $600 on this last year. It's a great system and super silent.

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