AVS Forum Club Gold
Join Date: Jan 2006
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Table of Contents
A form factor specifies the physical dimensions of a system. Basically it is the motherboard form factor that defines the overall size of a system. There are dozens of standardized form factors. Among them we will be concerned with the following three most popular form factors.
(FYI the model number of each motherboard/case in the picture is:
The AV receiver is ONKYO TX-NA807, W435 x H199 x D436 mm. You may wonder why the width of the microATX case is almost the same as that of the ATX case. The reason is simple: the PSU is usually laid flat in a microATX case, while it is laid vertically in an ATX case. As a consequence, a microATX case is usually shorter in height than an ATX case.)
Because of the size, Mini-ITX provides the least expandability (0 or 1 expansion slot), usually 2 memory slots and CPU support is often limited by the cooling performance of a small Mini-ITX system. MicroATX supports up to 4 expansion slots, while ATX supports up to 7 expansion slots. Usually a Mini-ITX/microATX motherboard comes with an integrated graphics so that you may not need a discrete graphic card. An ATX case can usually hold more storage drives than an microATX case, and a microATX case can hold more storage drives than an Mini-ITX case.
2. Performance and Cost
Typical tasks done by a HTPC are
Performance and cost is the secondary category of the list.
3. CPU-Chipset-GPU Manufacturers
CPU, chipset (in motherboard; controlling various I/O devices and connecting them to CPU/memory) and GPU are the three main hardware components of a system. Intel and AMD are the main suppliers of CPU for PC. Intel and AMD are producing chipsets for its own CPUs and NVIDIA for both. Intel (integrated GPU only), AMD and NVIDIA are the top three GPU manufacturers.
CPU/chipset/GPU manufacturers is the third category of the list.
The components selected here are based on my hand-on experience and/or my extensive research. Here are general considerations in choosing components.
Intel produces chipsets for its own chips and AMD for its own chips.
DDR2 vs DDR3: DDR3 SDRAM is the mainstream memory standard and you should choose it unless you have a specific reason to use DDR2.
Capacity, timings, voltage: For normal HTPC usage, 2GB in total is plenty enough (in particular under Windows 7). CAS latency and timings are important for memory-intensive applications, in particular games. However these have little effect on the majority of HTPC-related tasks. So just ignore them. The standard operating voltage of DDR3 SDRAM is 1.5V. Some memory modules require higher voltage than that for better stability. Adjust the memory voltage in BIOS according to the specifications of your memory modules.
Brand: Basically the brand does not matter in performance as the standards are established by JEDEC rigorously. It's not like Intel vs. AMD in CPU. Reliability and overclockability may vary from brand to brand, however.
Graphics and Sound Devices
With the advent of Blu-ray Disc (and HD DVD), HDMI became the standard specifications for transmitting video and audio signals from a player/PC to an AV receiver/display. Right now there are basically three HDMI solutions in PC:
Here is a summary of audio formats supported by various PC video/audio solutions.
My Pick of HTPC
In case you have no idea what to choose (and no time to dig), here are my pick.
MicroATX Mid-Range Intel System
The system provides the best video/audio playback performance, as well as reasonably good performance/low power consumption in various CPU intensive tasks. You can add the Radeon HD 5670 discrete graphics card if you like.
Keyboard & Mouse
COM (Serial) Port Bracket
I will use Antec ISK 310-150 in the standard and premium systems below.
I will use Antec MicroFusion Remote 350 in the low-end systems, Antec Fusion Remote Black in the mid-range and high-end systems, and LUXA2 LM200 in the premium systems below.
Intel (LGA 1366)
Intel (LGA 1366)
Each of them has a Silicon Image SiI3726 5-port SATA II port multiplier and is bundled with a 2-port SATA PCIe x1 host bus adapter based on Silicon Image SiI3132 supporting port multiplier (FIS-based). You can attach up to two enclosures (10 drives) to one card. Supports RAID 0, 1, 10, 5 in software mode as well as JBOD. Note that SiI3726 needs to be connected to a PM aware SATA port. In general you'd better use the bundled host bus adapter to avoid compatibility issues.
Each of them has two Silicon Image SiI3726 5-port SATA II port multipliers and is bundled with a 2-port SATA PCIe x1 host bus adapter based on Silicon Image SiI3132.
5-Drive SATA Enclosure with Built-in RAID Port Multiplier
The case has a JMicron JMB393 5-port SATA II port multiplier with RAID function, that supports non-PM aware host. So you can connect it to any eSATA port of your system with decent performance in hardware-accelerated RAID mode.
FYI, Sans Digital claims that when connected to a SATA 6Gbps port, you can expect in RAID 5
RocketRAID 2322 uses the same SATA (PCI-X) controller as Supermicro AOC-SAT2-MV8 mentioned in "Media Storage Server" (Marvell 88SX6081). However it lacks a hardware RAID processor. For better performance you should choose a RAID controller card with a hardware RAID processor engine such as
15 HDD Tower System
15 HDD Tower System with Hot-Swapping
20 HDD Rack-Mount System with Hot-Swapping
The last two systems hold 24 data HDDs using the upcoming NORCO RPC-4224 rack-mount chassis (expected in August).
24 HDD Rack-Mount System with Hot-Swapping II (Tentative)