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Fine tune my $400 HTPC ion build > case, heat, power

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July 12, 2010 6:51:17 PM

APPROXIMATE PURCHASE DATE:
ASAP

SYSTEM USAGE FROM MOST TO LEAST IMPORTANT:
1080p mkv, mp4 playback, hd flash video

PARTS NOT REQUIRED:
monitor, bluetooth keyboard/mouse, logitech remote

PREFERRED WEBSITE(S) FOR PARTS:
newegg, amazon

PARTS PREFERENCES:
none

OVERCLOCKING:
no

MONITOR RESOLUTION:
1920x1080

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:
-my second pc build, first htpc build
-planing on running xbmc either under xbmc live or win7 for flash
-trying to go quiet by going low power and going small but to save cash i am going to use a 3.5" internal HD rather than 2.5"

-from what i've read best bang for the buck to play 1080p and stay small and quiet is ion (over core i3 plus cheap GPU) but i am willing to change plan. especially because i dont need expect to go super small (see the case i expect).

-regarding ion2 it looks like the performance boost on video playback isnt mindblowing. i dont care if it is fanless, should be quiet enough.

i chose the ASUS AT3IONT Deluxe because it has IR, wifi, bluetooth and DDR3 ram.

i'm going to put in a green WD harddrive like this 2TB 3.0 SATA drive

no optical for now.

this is the case: Silverstone GD05B which holds a few 3.5" drives.

here are the questions. i'm just going to ask them all. any help would rock.

1. does the ASUS board stink/fail?

2. does anyone know anything about the power supply to the asus board. it looks like it has its own? and then it can power a harddrive?

3. is the power on the asus board enough alone? that is, do i need a PSU?

4. do i need a fan for the heatsink on the board? what kind?

5. if i get this case, are there too many fans/will it be more noise than i need? if i disconnect the fans will the thing fry? can i take out the power supply?

6. is there a similar looking, similarly priced miniITX case with 3.5" bays?

7. how does IR on a motherboard hook up to a case like this?

July 13, 2010 12:20:06 PM

also, i am planning on putting in 4gb 1066 DDR3. is that overkill? is 2gb "plenty"?
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July 13, 2010 8:17:39 PM

If you plan to have a "normal" (micro-ATX) sized HTPC case, I think you should reconsider the Atom-Ion setup. The only good reason to have a ITX ion is to have a very small system with very low power requirements. Also, if you put an Ion board with built in power into a case designed to house an ATX PSU, you will have a big hole to plug up.

That said:

1. does the ASUS board stink/fail? That ion is the best available. It has the same short-comings of all ion setups though: It will struggle with HD flash and any other high bitrate media unless hardware acceleration is working perfectly. Just a word of caution

2. does anyone know anything about the power supply to the asus board. it looks like it has its own? and then it can power a harddrive? The 90W power brick will power a hard drive.

3. is the power on the asus board enough alone? that is, do i need a PSU? As long as you stick to the integrated video and such, the 90W brick is enough. Think of it as a laptop power supply.

4. do i need a fan for the heatsink on the board? what kind? The board has a large heatsink that covers both CPU and NB. However, I've read reviews that suggest using a fan. It all depends on your case ventilation. If needed, a quiet 80mm fan can be placed on top. Check out Noctua fans for silence.

5. if i get this case, are there too many fans/will it be more noise than i need? if i disconnect the fans will the thing fry? can i take out the power supply? You can get quiet fans if the bundled ones are too noisy. Also, you can either volt mod the fans to run at 5V or 7V (default is 12V) or purchase a controller like the Zalman fanmate to silence your fans.

6. is there a similar looking, similarly priced miniITX case with 3.5" bays? The only true ITX case I can think of that can accomodate 3.5" drives is the expensive Luxa2. Otherwise, you'll have to go micro-ATX, like your chosen case, or go to an external enclosure for your HDD.

7. how does IR on a motherboard hook up to a case like this? The case you've linked does not have built-in IR. You will have to purchase an external USB IR receiver. A lot of remotes come with a bundled IR receiver that connects to an available USB port. Like this one or this one. You can also use your logitech remote with the USB receviers bundled with the remotes.
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July 16, 2010 12:18:54 AM

@rwp: fantastic answer. thanks so much.

i suppose i will go for a mATX system. what a great idea.... and alot more research needed.

the next question then is what the minimum would be to get the job done. win7 flash in hd or xbmc live for mkvs in 1080p...

now my reading indicates core i3 alone may do the trick. any thoughts? should i go core i3 with no gpu or cheaper cpu and cheap gpu and if so what types? cheap and power efficient would be the goal. (and hdmi if no dedicated graphics i need an mboard with hdmi)

and then i suppose i'll need a wifi, ir, bluetooth card separate.
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July 16, 2010 12:27:44 PM

The core i3 has a built in GPU that can handle 1080p media on its own. You must have an H55/H57 chipset motherboard to enable the GPU though.

You may also want to consider AMD's lineup with the 785G/880G chipset motherboards. The Intel core i3's advantage over AMD is that they are able to bitstream uncompressed HD audio found on blu-rays to a receiver over HDMI. AMD is limited to standard DD/DTS surround sound but they are more budget friendly. So if you don't care about HD audio, consider an AMD setup if you still want to meet your $400 budget.
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July 18, 2010 2:21:18 PM

Rwpritchett, youre my hero for your excellent advice. I definitely dont need HD uncompressed audio. My original build (ASUS AT3IONT Deluxe with wifi/IR/BT/remote, 4GB DDR3, 1TB 3.5" HD, silverstone case) = $445.

This new build i researched is $447:



Rosewill Remote

Silverstone case

Azio BT dongle

MSI motherboard

AMD Sempron 140 Sargas

G Skill Mem

WD Green HD




The processor is an "AMD Sempron 140 Sargas 2.7GHz 1MB L2 Cache Socket AM3 Single-Core Processor". I think I like that its 45W. I've read you can "unlock a second core" with certain motherboards, the MSI 880G radeon 4250 below included. Has HDMI out and DDR3 to keep power a little down. Also, proper use of the case's PSU.

The remote is way better, the build is a lot more updatable.

And the new questions are:

--how much more powerful than the ION build is it (it can surely do 1080p mkv and flash hd, right? with this CPU and the integrated graphics on the board? should i unlock the extra core?)

--and then how much more power does it draw (I am going to be paying an extra $20 a month in electricity bills? is it going to be super loud? not that i really care about either)

--should i throw in super quiet fans?
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July 18, 2010 5:23:14 PM

According to this review, the Sempron had the same idle power as an atom 330 (31W). The Sempron has a clock advantage over the atom, but it's only single core vs. the dual core atom. I can't find any direct comparisons, but I can tell you that my previous HTPC was a 2.7GHz AMD dual core (X2 5200+ Brisbane) and it handled 1080p and flash HD. It probably depends more on the hardware acceleration of the graphics chip.

You should definitely try to unlock the second core. That's free performance! (if stable). If you find the sempron underpowered, you can always upgrade to a different CPU. That's one downfall of the atoms, they are soldered to the motherboard and cannot be changed.

Also, that Silverstone case doesn't have a PSU so you'll need to add one if you don't have one already. The Corsair 400CX is on sale this weekend and would be a very good choice.

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July 18, 2010 6:12:10 PM

rwpritchett said:
Also, that Silverstone case doesn't have a PSU so you'll need to add one if you don't have one already. The Corsair 400CX is on sale this weekend and would be a very good choice.


Thanks again. The WD drive above is also in the sale. I dont know how i managed to miss the case didnt have a psu. I was original thinking of the Antec NSK case which does come with a PSU. I must of overlooked that. This case by In Win is similar but steel instead and cheaper. It comes with a PSU but only 1 80mm fan place and doesnt come with one. Weird. I am gonna go with the silverstone even though its an inch taller because i like aluminum, the look, the reputation and the 3 fans that are supposedly quite.

regarding the processor, nice review. looks to outperform the atom 330 despite being single core and stay near voltage. i suspect if i unlock the second core it may suck more power but thats ok. for $35 its easy enough to give it a shot.
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July 18, 2010 6:13:34 PM

and if anyone else stumbles here, the CPU's memory controller is supposedly ddr2 but newegg reviews has lots of people using ddr3 1333
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