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Media pc, small, powerful and quiet

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July 19, 2009 7:21:43 AM

there was a review on THG several months ago regarding a small media pc built and tested to be quiet yet powerful. I cant find it anywhere. can anyone help me find that?
July 19, 2009 7:40:46 PM

I finally found the review. here it is...
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/shuttle-sx58h7-sff,...

However, I also found this...
http://www.tomshardware.com/news/Shuttle-XPC-SG45H7,659...

Im not a big gamer. I just want a capable media pc that is small and quiet. being able to use it as my regular pc with hdmi video and audio is a big plus. Give me your thoughts on the two systems and suggestions. Also need a good wireless keyboard with trackpad and decent range.
a b ) Power supply
July 19, 2009 8:59:44 PM

I'd go for a standardized micro atx form factor, which the shuttle isn't. Newegg has an apevia small form factor case with power supply for $69.99 (ends today) as part of their 72 hour sale, posted at fatwallet. It's not that hard to build your own. This case comes with 420w power supply and removable tray. The problem with the shuttle systems is that the motherboard is a custom sized so you can't choose another replacement; shuttle may not even sell the board separately if it dies. The 780 chipset for amd cpus has the best onboard video if you choose to go this route.
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July 20, 2009 7:45:17 AM

I agree, for HTPC I usually prefer m-ATX.
a b ) Power supply
July 20, 2009 7:50:21 AM

You want to use a standard m-ATX or full ATX mobo in the event it fails and you need to replace it.

It also gives you an option to look for a mobo that has what you want.
a c 137 ) Power supply
July 20, 2009 5:35:38 PM

Small, quiet, and powerful is a tough combination.

How small does it need to be?
How powerful does it need to be? Will you be gaming?
Do you care about quiet?
July 21, 2009 2:49:15 PM

im not much into gaming, but, i would like it to handle blu-ray with ease. I know blu-ray is resource demanding. I will be using it as a play-on server (www.themediamall.com/playon) , and likely other forms of streaming video. high quality HDMI video and audio is a must. Since it will be in my entertainment center which is open not enclosed, noise is a big factor. It must be quiet. I dont want the fans competing with my home theatre. even though im not into gaming, id like it to be capable... not necessarily blazing, but I may desire some gaming in the future. I think that meeting the bluray requirement will likely make it fairly capable in the gaming dept too.

Formerly an IT professional and frequent builder, I know my way around a computer. But its been a while. Its been nearly 7 years since i did it for a living. I could definately use some updating on all the new chipsets and their capabilities. Is the onboard video any good? Can they handle bluray smoothly? are they pushing video and audio over hdmi?

Thanks for your help.
a c 137 ) Power supply
July 21, 2009 4:47:33 PM

shaggy79 said:
im not much into gaming, but, i would like it to handle blu-ray with ease. I know blu-ray is resource demanding. I will be using it as a play-on server (www.themediamall.com/playon) , and likely other forms of streaming video. high quality HDMI video and audio is a must. Since it will be in my entertainment center which is open not enclosed, noise is a big factor. It must be quiet. I dont want the fans competing with my home theatre. even though im not into gaming, id like it to be capable... not necessarily blazing, but I may desire some gaming in the future. I think that meeting the bluray requirement will likely make it fairly capable in the gaming dept too.

Formerly an IT professional and frequent builder, I know my way around a computer. But its been a while. Its been nearly 7 years since i did it for a living. I could definately use some updating on all the new chipsets and their capabilities. Is the onboard video any good? Can they handle bluray smoothly? are they pushing video and audio over hdmi?

Thanks for your help.


Here are some thoughts for you:

For a quiet pc, start with the case. Look at the Anted P183 or Antec solo. Go to www.silentpcreview.com for good info on quiet computing and components.
You will probably not find a HTPC case that can deliver adequate cooling AND quiet.

For a home theater, you will probably be looking at a 1080P TV. That is a resolution of 1920x1080.
The greater the resolution, the greater the need for a strong vga card to get good gameplay. No integrated graphics is any good for fast action games.
Look for a video card that can play most games well at 1920x1200. You will probably have to pay about $100-$200. Look for a card with a true double slot cooler that sends all the hot vga air directly out the back of the case. It will keep your system quieter and cooler.

Current motherboards all have integrated High definition 7.1 sound. A separate sould card is probably not necessary, but the purists will argue the point. Since it is easy to add a sound card later, I suggest you defer that decision. Also, some sound cards seem to have driver issues; research that carefully.

Get an oem cooler up front. Using a 120mm fan, it will run cooler and quieter than stock.

Consider using the media center application in Vista or windows-7 home premium.
There is a media center remote available that can control the whole process.

---good luck---
July 21, 2009 11:22:30 PM

What about main storage? Will data be stored on a media server/NAS/server... or are they going into the HTPC as well.
I find that even with dampened HDDs (just rubber mounts), the pitch of my 5 HDDs spinning still seeps through if the lounge is completely silent. Not enough to be annoying for me, but something others might want to consider if near-zero noise is essential. I haven't tried WD CaviarGreen drives yet, but I'd assume they're quieter than my 7200RPMs.

Noise from fans won't really be a large factor as most HTPC need only one 120mm at the back and an optional 120mm at the front (for stack of HDDs). Yate Loon D12SL-12 (~$3.5 on Jab-tech or Petra) as recommended by SilentPCReview is an excellent fan for slient builds. I found in my past HTPC builds noise will mainly come from the fan in PSU instead.
HTPCs don't really need much cooling to achieve reliability. The CPU fan speed and case fan are dramatically controlled by the motherboard and I let chipset and CPU run over 50C when idling, practically silent except pitch from HDDs. The fans only pick up speed when being loaded and maintains the temperature around mid-50C.

As o1die has already mentioned, the platform to go for on a completely new HTPC build today is AMD 780G and a cheap AM2+ processor for best value and low idle power consumption. For that, the mATX form factor will be the best option for expandability and flexibility in a small sized HTPC. Going with Shuttle's SFF is a dead end.


The other option which I'm currently looking into is full-ATX media server that's hidden away and a tiny mini-ITX HTPC box that sits/sticks on your TV (e.g. Fit-PC2) streaming data off the media server for decoding. MediaPortal's TVServer/Client makes perfection integration for that.
July 23, 2009 4:33:37 PM

I already have a NAS server so I dont need much storage. enough to handle the OS, and space for buffering etc. a quiet 250gb should be plenty. however with the 1tb drives fairly cheap, its hard to say what I would do. Can someone recommend a parts list? case, fans, processor, mem, vidcard and part numbs ... thanks. or a link to a test cong would work too.
July 28, 2009 4:44:11 PM

Just wanted to bump this to the top of the list
October 4, 2009 8:19:03 PM

shaggy79 said:
I already have a NAS server so I dont need much storage. enough to handle the OS, and space for buffering etc. a quiet 250gb should be plenty. however with the 1tb drives fairly cheap, its hard to say what I would do. Can someone recommend a parts list? case, fans, processor, mem, vidcard and part numbs ... thanks. or a link to a test cong would work too.


I also would like a parts list. Actually, I would prefer a pre-assembled, ready to go package, but I'm not sure that is possible with such customization.

Size is probably the lowest of the needs for me, but I would like to find a quiet and powerful enough system to completely ditch cable programming and move to all online TV watching. Any suggestions for the computer side of the setup? Has anyone found the need to keep something like TIVO HD as part of the system, or is it not needed? Thanks again for all of your wisdom.
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