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[New system build] Quiet low-power HTPC

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February 11, 2010 1:27:56 PM

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE: ASAP
BUDGET RANGE: whatever it takes but as cheap as possible

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT: recording tv shows through tuner card, watching movies, storing my media, serving files on home network

PARTS NOT REQUIRED: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS: ebuyer.com
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: UK

PARTS PREFERENCES: Intel i5 on microATX mobo

OVERCLOCKING: no
SLI OR CROSSFIRE: no

MONITOR RESOLUTION: No monitor needed - will connect to TV
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: I imagine it will be on most of the time so I would like it to be low power. It will be in the living room so I would like it to be quiet.

OS: Ubuntu/mythbuntu (I have Ubuntu on my laptop and am happy with it)

PARTS:
Intel Core i5 661 3.33GHz Socket 1156 - £153.73
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/185942

What HSF do I need/want for this CPU? The quieter the better.

Intel TOM COVE DH55TC H55 Socket 1156 VGA - £74.61
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/185943

Antec NSK1300 MATX Cube Case Black/Silver - With 300W PSU - £60.74
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/112650

Western Digital WD15EARS 1.5TB Hard Drive SATAII 5400rpm 64MB Cache - £77.99
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/182437

Corsair 4gb (2x2gb) Ddr3 1333mhz Xms3 - £96.17
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/166463

LG CH08LS10 Super Multi Blu-Ray Reader & DVD±RW - £80.28
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/177383

Hauppauge 289 WinTV Nova-T 500 Dual digital DVB-T PCI TV Tuner - £70.55
http://www.saverstore.com/product/20008644/7725665/Haup...

Total cost is under £650

QUESTIONS:
- Is a Core i5/mobo combination a reasonable choice for the task and is it low power?
- What sort of power can I expect the system to draw when idle?
- Am I right to go for onboard GPU? As far as I can work out this should lower power consumption significantly and should still be powerful enough for movie watching. Also could be upgraded later.
- Is the Hauppage Nova T-500 a suitable PCI card? I want a dual card at minimum. I just have an aerial at home, no satellite.
- There are several options for HTPC software. XBMC. mythtv. Any recommendations?
- If I wanted to get some redundancy in the storage what would be the most cost effective upgrade? Some sort of RAID solution?
- For power reasons I guess I am better with just one HDD though. Is this true?

Thanks for reading this and any advice!
John.

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February 11, 2010 1:40:55 PM
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The i5-661 doesn't look like a great value compared to the other i3/i5 processors for what you want to do. You could go with i5-650 or i3-530 and still be able to do what you want to do with no problems and save quite a bit of money. Sure, the i5-661 is faster but for what you want to do you don't need faster. The others are already fast enough. For instance, I ran XBMC with Windows 7 using a AMD Athlon X2 2.6Ghz processor and the on-board 780G (ATI HD3200) graphics without a hitch. Even the i3-530 blows that setup out of the water.

I have the Antec NSK-1380, which is the newer (but still been around a while) version of the NSK-1300 you have above. I think it's a big PITA. It's also really bad for heat dissipation, especially once you stick a card into it. It the drawback to a cube case where the PSU and the ODD overhang the motherboard. And, in that case, the only fan is the PSU fan. The NSK-1380 comes with a slot blower, not sure if the NSK-1300 does, but once you put a card in it I think it would become moot.

And, forget fitting 2 drives in that case with a card. You lose one of the HDD "bays" to the card and you've already lost the other one to all the wires from the PSU to the front of the motherboard. It's really one HDD max in that case despite it having 3 spots.

If you have the room, something like this http://www.ebuyer.com/product/130945 would be a better choice with more room for HDDs and tuner cards.

February 11, 2010 1:42:52 PM

The thing with cube cases is the clearance for the cpu cooler. Generally, the stock cooler will fit just fine. The BIOS of a modern mobo will let you control fan speed. If in doubt, check the mobo manual.

As for quiet cooling, it's the dB(A) that determines the noise. I don't think you can hear 20 dB(A). 25-30, most def. That's what you look for in a quiet fan.

http://www.ebuyer.com/product/173868

IMO, green is a cash grab. Everything that was old is new again, but costs more cuz of green. Also, every modern cpu has a technology to save electricity. Be it Intel or AMD. For Intel, it's Enhanced Intel SpeedStep® Technology. It's on by default. When the cpu idles, it throttles down the clock speed and uses less wattage.

Quote:

Enhanced Intel SpeedStep® Technology is an advanced means of enabling very high performance while also meeting the power-conservation needs of mobile systems. Conventional Intel SpeedStep Technology switches both voltage and frequency in tandem between high and low levels in response to processor load.


http://ark.intel.com/Product.aspx?id=43553
Related resources
February 11, 2010 10:00:58 PM

p55ibexpeak said:

IMO, green is a cash grab. Everything that was old is new again, but costs more cuz of green. Also, every modern cpu has a technology to save electricity. Be it Intel or AMD. For Intel, it's Enhanced Intel SpeedStep® Technology. It's on by default. When the cpu idles, it throttles down the clock speed and uses less wattage.


I think looking for a 'green' CPU is important in an always on HTPC. Your electric cost per year is about 9 * elec. price($/kwh) * watts, so for an average US price of 10c per kwh, a 50 watt saving would save you about $45 per year. My HTPC is eating about 150W, so I'm looking for ways to trim the fat. Would love to use an atom or similar board but not sure if will cut it.
February 12, 2010 3:49:15 AM

I would go with a i3-530 CPU for this build. It is cheaper than the i5-661 CPU and consumes slightly less power. Encoding will be slightly slower, but not by too much.

See following Anandtech review which compare both the mentioned CPUs:

http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?i=372...
February 12, 2010 8:51:02 AM

Thanks all above for much useful info.

From the review, it seems to me the i3-530 is not more power efficient at idle which will be the default state of the system. I'm torn between the 2 to be honest, the £50 saving might tip me in favour of the i3-530.
February 12, 2010 9:55:27 AM

Dougie Fresh said:

If you have the room, something like this http://www.ebuyer.com/product/130945 would be a better choice with more room for HDDs and tuner cards.


That sounds like good advice to me, I'll go for this case.
February 12, 2010 10:05:06 AM

I would also go for an i3-530. The dual-core i5s are rather over-priced IMO.
Also, I would look at a case more like the one Dougie suggested; it fits better in an HTPC environment (:
Last thing, look for a faster drive, like the Samsung Spinpoint F3 or Seagate 7200.12. Both also consume less energy.
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/173804
February 12, 2010 1:49:40 PM

blackjellognomes said:
Last thing, look for a faster drive, like the Samsung Spinpoint F3 or Seagate 7200.12. Both also consume less energy.
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/173804


I looked at this
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/1.5tb-hdd-caviar,23...
and decided if the system was going to be idling most of the time then the power requirement at idle was the most important metric. So I'm tempted by the WD15EADS
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/160649
which seems to have the lowest idle power consumption for a 1.5TB drive with reasonable other characteristics (low noise, speed, etc...)

I think when I went to ebuyer, I got it confused with the one I listed in the original post WD15EARS. Thanks for drawing my attention to that!
February 12, 2010 4:33:15 PM

Ok thanks for all the advice and I think its helped me decide on the following components. I'm still a bit confused about cooling.:

Antec NSK 2480 MATX Desktop Case Black & Silver - With 380W EarthWatts PSU
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/130945

Intel TOM COVE DH55TC H55 Socket 1156 VGA DVI HDMI Out 8 Channel Audio MATX Motherboard
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/185943

intel Core i3 530 2.93GHz Socket 1156 4MB L3 Retail Box Processor
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/185937

Corsair 4gb (2x2gb) Ddr3 1333mhz Xms3 Memory Kit Cl9 (9-9-9-24)
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/166463
or perhaps I could go for this at a saving of £17 and no heatsinks stuck on either
Crucial 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1333MHz/PC3-10600 Memory Kit CL9 1.5V
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/166995

Western Digital 1.5TB Hard Drive SATAII 7200rpm 32MB Cache - OEM
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/160649

Sony AD-7240S 24x DVD±RW DL & RAM Internal SATA Black Bare Drive - OEM
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/164449
I couldn't find a silver DVD player and I decided I don't need blu-ray yet so I'll live for the time being with a black player in a silver case. I couldn't find anywhere comparing the noise levels of the DVD players.

Some PCI TV tuner card TBD

It might be my ignorance here but do I really need a £45 fan? Is there anything more reasonably priced I could buy?
Scythe SCZP-2000 ZIPANG 2 Socket 478/775/754/939/940/AM2/AM3/1156/1366 with 140mm Fan Heatpipe Processor Cooler
http://www.ebuyer.com/product/173868

So at the moment that all adds up to about £500 + the TV tuner card. Any feedback still appreciated but I feel like I'm about ready to order.

I also noticed danobar's very similar thread that was interesting to read
http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/forum/280095-13-build-htp...

Thanks again!
John.
February 13, 2010 7:14:06 AM

Best answer selected by JohnReid.
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