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Build: Mini ITX HTPC

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January 29, 2010 3:14:50 AM

Ok, so... I've been wanting to build a home theater pc for a while, right now, I am just using spare parts in a regular case and I'm very happy with windows 7 media center, but, having a giant case next to my tv isn't as pretty as it could be; enter mini itx.

I have never used one but they look pretty fantastic, and they support bluray? Well that just made me wet myself... ok, so heres what I need... I need help finding parts a build but i don't really know what i need... I've seen a mini itx board with a pci-e slot... do i need that? will the nvidia ion work well enough? do the cases for mini-itx even have room for a dedicated gfx card? Can these things support a tv tuner....? These are all questions I've been asking myself and I don't know the answers and instead of fumbling around in the dark, my hope is that someone out there already has built what I want, and can just list the parts they have... otherwise, im ok with someone giving me there 'yet to be built' wish list :) 

thanks, I can't wait to see some ideas!

BUILD SPECS:
Media Center PC based on Mini ITX form factor
Plays Dvd/Bluray (optional)
Plays HD Files (1080p?)
Tv Tuner (pci-e or usb?)
HDMI (with audio output)
...and anything else that you know I'd need?

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: 1 - 2 weeks

BUDGET RANGE: As cheap as possible, but I am flexible on price, so long as it is a good deal price vs performance

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: HTPC, File Server, Web Browser

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: NEWEGG, Tigerdirect, CompUSA (Tampa, Fl Retail Store)

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA

PARTS PREFERENCES: None

OVERCLOCKING: Wasn't my intention but, if i can, why the hell not?!

MONITOR RESOLUTION: 720p +/ 1080p

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: Small, neat case (preferably one that lays down not stands up like a desktop), quiet, low cost, also... on the case, if there are any with lcd displays (not like full color screens, but i mean lcd like on a clock) for status or track number or, whatever, I dunno what they have or what they can do but that seems like it would be neat!

More about : build mini itx htpc

January 29, 2010 4:42:24 AM

If you want a small PC, but also not a crippled one, then go for mATX ones...the mini ITX wont offer any additional slots, and very limited upgrades...
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January 29, 2010 5:22:29 AM

A Dell Inspiron Zino HD is $625. It doesn't have Blu-ray, but it has entry-level specs that can do everything else you've mentioned. The HDMI cable is not included in the price because you can buy them cheaper from newegg.

Please keep in mind that this is an entry-level system. You can put something better together yourself but it requires a lot of planning and research. It's not something that can be completely explained in one email. I recommend you stick with a pre-configured system.
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January 29, 2010 3:03:27 PM

If you are still interested in ITX and can wait a little bit, check out what Zotac has coming down the line:


ZOTAC H55-ITX WiFi

Pair that up with a Core i3 and a PCIe tuner and you'd be good to go. Comes with onboard 802.11n, PCIe-16x, and the Intel video supports UVD and can bitstream HD audio.

As said before, ITX will limit your expansion options, but there are plenty of USB or network based expansion available (i.e. HDHomeRun, etc).
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January 29, 2010 3:28:24 PM

rwpritchett said:
If you are still interested in ITX and can wait a little bit, check out what Zotac has coming down the line:
http://www.legitreviews.com/images/reviews/news/H55ITX.jpg

ZOTAC H55-ITX WiFi

Pair that up with a Core i3 and a PCIe tuner and you'd be good to go. Comes with onboard 802.11n, PCIe-16x, and the Intel video supports UVD and can bitstream HD audio.

As said before, ITX will limit your expansion options, but there are plenty of USB or network based expansion available (i.e. HDHomeRun, etc).


instead of tv tuner, get a cableCard tuner (so you can get more functionality)

ceton is making a quad cablecard tuner in late march
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January 29, 2010 8:53:43 PM

So, how special is the nvidia ion?
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January 29, 2010 9:18:25 PM

Or, better yet, nvidia ion vs the onboard gfx of the core i3?
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February 13, 2010 12:00:53 PM

Might be a little late but I hope this helps...haven't tried this yet so don't know the results; all found on newegg

NOTE: there are no reviews for the motherboard I used in this build but it's the cheapest that allows you a good dedicated graphics but ZOTAC is flaky on the BIOS so the DFI motherboard is more expensive not only b/c it is expensive itself but also means you have to upgrade to DDR3 and i3-7 series CPUs.


Motherboard:
CPU:
RAM: [http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...][/url]
DVD Burner:
Case:
Power Supply:
CPU Fan:
Graphics Card:
Hard drive:

If you want to down or upgrade CPU, RAM, Burner, or Hard Drive, you can but with this case you HAVE to have a single deck b/c it only has one slot AND if you want a hard drive underneath it you have to pick a slim one. The one I picked out is slim and has EVGA 2 year warranty, but picking anything above that in performance is difficult b/c of the larger size of the newer cards. It also comes with TV-out and HDTV cable so I think it will support and HTPC

The case holds a regular size power supply and I picked that one b/c modular keeps cables hopefully to minimum b/c the case is small already. Good CPU cooling is really recommended due to the passive cooling design and keep in mind that if you want another one, you need a low profile one.

An alternative is getting a more expensive case with a intake fan as cooling

Case:

It already has a good 300 power supply that received good reviews, the only components you can/need to change is the DVD and GFX b/c this case only supports a slim DVD drive and the case allows a bigger graphics card to be installed. Cooling is still important but i believe the case only supports coolers up to 78mm so be careful on the selection. I do not believe you can upgrade to Blu-ray with this build and don't worry about the extra cables for the slim, they include a converter with the case.

Slim DVD:
Graphics Card:

The graphics card will perform better than the 9800 but it will not include the cabling so you will have to buy it separately. Both builds will cost about the same so it depends on what you want. I personally would go with alternative with the more expensive case b/c of case fan but remember to tie up unused wires well to promote better airflow (the power supply it comes with is not modular).

I hope this helped. Hope it goes well if you decide to do it but please DOUBLE CHECK my research; I don't want to lead you down the wrong path.
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February 18, 2010 4:10:52 PM

If you can be patient you can build a great system for well under $400. Newegg just had a miniITX case for $30 with free shipping. The Zotac 9300 board seems to be getting good reviews and there are plenty of posts in the forums for guidance. I would go with a socket 775 CPU since you can get them for less than half the price of the i3 and RAM would be a bit less as well. ATI is coming out with a bunch of new 5000 series cards right now to pump up the video if you want, or add in a TV tuner. Go with a cheap DVD for now and keep you eyes open for a deal on a Blu-Ray drive later. I built an HTPC with Black Friday deals for about $350, now I've got the itch to build a smaller system for the Master Bedroom.
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