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ITX HTPC - Case, Mobo & CPU confusion

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November 14, 2009 11:20:30 PM

I'm folks, I'm looking to build my first HTPC and I'm having some trouble sorting out a few things that I'm hoping you all can help with. This build will be used for the following, in priority order:

- Watching web based video, specifically Hulu & Netflix through Windows 7 Media Center
- Playing BluRay DVDs
- Streaming music from both HD (MP3 & Windows Media lossless) and online services (Rhapsody, etc.)


I'd like to have a fairly small, quiet, low power system and I don't need infinite expandablity. Here are the areas I'm still confused about.

Mobo/CPU - I like the mini-ITX form factor and in looking around I like the look of the Zotac boads because they have wireless and graphics built in. I'm wondering about two specifics in this area:

1. Pros/Cons of going with the Zotac IONITX with the Atom chip (Option 1) versus a Zotac/Wofdale combination (Option 2). I've seen both in the forums but don't have a good feel for how they each behavior. Specific options are blow.


Option 1
Zotac IONITX-A-U Atom N330 Dual Core 90-Watt PSU WiFi ITX Intel Motherboard (9400M integrated graphic with dual core 1.6)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Option 2
Intel Pentium E5200 Wolfdale 2.5GHz 2MB L2 Cache LGA 775 65W Dual-Core Processor - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

ZOTAC GF9300-D-E LGA 775 NVIDIA GeForce 9300 HDMI WiFi Mini ITX Intel Motherboard - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...


2. Second question is about power, you can get the Zotac borads with or without a 90W power supply. Is it worth going for the on-board power or skip it and use the PS that comes with most the cases?

3. Finally, I haven't really found a case that seems right yet. Most the mini-ITX cases seem to only allow the slim DVD drives, but I have not found any BluRay drives in that format. Any recomendations for cases that fit this system? (Note: Expandability isn't an issue, I'll build a new HTPC if I ever need more functionality.) Cases I'm considering at this point:

Antec Black M FusionRemote 350 Micro ATX Media Center / HTPC Case - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

IN WIN BP655 Black Mini-ITX Tower Computer Case 200W Power Supply - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Interested in any suggestions for a solid case that can host the full size BluRay DVD player.

The rest of the components are pretty standard per postings I've seen in this forum:


APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: Now-ish BUDGET RANGE: Around $500

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: Primarily newegg.com COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA

PARTS NOT NEEDED:

Operating System:
Windows 7 Ultimate RTM 64bit

PARTS PREFERENCES:

Hard Drive:
Western Digital Caviar Green WD7500AADS 750GB 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Hard Drive -Bare Drive
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Optical Drive: (No real favorite here, I'm open to suggestions.)
LITE-ON Black 4X BD-ROM SATA Internal 4X Blu-ray Disc Reader Model iHOS104-08 - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Memory:
G.SKILL PI Black 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) Dual Channel Kit Desktop Memory Model F2-6400CL4D-4GBPI-B - Retail
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

THanks for any help/advice you can offer.

Mike
November 15, 2009 1:08:20 AM

The Atom-based system will be able to do anything but HD or fullscreen Flash video--as of yet there's no way to move Flash processing to the GPU and streaming something high-res will overwhelm the CPU.... dropped frames, etc.

Here's an article discussing Flash video performance on an Atom 330 system: http://www.anandtech.com/weblog/showpost.aspx?i=602

There's also no way to run that Atom system without the external power adapter... notice the blank area on the board where there would be a standard 24-pin ATX power connection.

I'd go with the 775 based system for the added CPU muscle. It should handle any HTPC duty you might want to throw at it, even if the GPU is a little less powerful. It also has the standard ATX power connector. As it uses a higher-power processor, it will have a CPU fan and a bit more noise.

On cases, go with something you like the look of. If you can afford to buy a somewhat more expensive notebook blu-ray drive, you can do that and use a case that only allows slim drives. And I'd recommend one with a decent PSU, or purchase your own. Remember that the power requirements of the Pentium system will be a lot higher than the Atom system.
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