Mini-ITX HTPC build - rate my premium HTPC system, suggestions please

Hello all,

First, thanks for taking the time to look over my system and offer feedback and advice. This is my 5th build, but first ever HTPC. This machine will only be used for watching HD video, lots of storage for my home network, and maybe some light game emulation (e.g. NES, SNES emulators).

1) Mobo - ZOTAC H55ITX-C-E LGA 1156 Intel H55 HDMI USB 3.0 Mini ITX Intel Motherboard -

I love this mobo. Tiny mini-itx form factor, and has USB 3.0 and wifi-N without using the PCI Express slot. Has HDMI. This board does everything I want except for RAID 5.

Question - I want to hook this system up to a 5.1 surround speaker system. Is the onboard sound decent enough to allow this, or will I want a premium component (PCI card or separate audio deck)?

2) CPU - Intel i3-540

This CPU handles my 1080 video onboard, without need of a separate GPU. At the same time, I'll probably need to do some occasional encoding/ripping to get things in the right format, and this cpu gives me more muscle to do that than an Atom processor mini-itx setup. (at least, that's my thinking. Would appreciate any different insights anybody might have).

3) Case - APEX MI-008 Black Steel Mini-ITX Tower Computer Case with 250W Power Supply

I like this case well enough. Has a nice look to it, and it has an external 5.25 bay, an external 3.5 bay, and an internal 3.5 bay. And I love the price. I plan to mount a 3.5 hdd in the internal bay (a 640gb hdd which I'll use to store backup images of my laptops, which therefore should rarely be spinning and generating heat/noise). The external 3.5 bay I'll use for a face plate card reader/extra usb 2.0, which also has mounting brackets for two 2.5 hdds behind the face plate. The external 5.25 bay will hold the optical drive (either blu ray reader, or blu ray with light scribe).

4) RAID Enclosure - Mediasonic HF2-SU2S2 3.5" Black USB2.0 & eSATA Pro Box 4 Bay Enclosure -

An attractive looking and attractively priced external 4 bay enclosure. My mobo has an esata port, but doesn't support RAID/Port multiplication. So item 5 on this list is a simple RAID card w/ esata ports to let me turn this tower into a single RAID 5 volume.

5) RAID Card - SNT SNT-PCIX Card Silicon Image 3132 SATA II PCI Express 2 x eSATA Port Multiplier RAID Controller Card -

As I understand it, this card handles the esata port multiplication and RAID 5 so that I can use item 5 as a raid volume. As I understand it, cheap cards of this variety use the cpu to do the raid calculations. I'm thinking this won't be a problem since the i3-540 cpu should have plenty of leftover horsepower to handle this. (thoughts?)

6) RAM - 4 gigs of the cheapest DDR3 I can find at the various black friday sales. Since this rig won't be doing any gaming, I'm thinking I don't need to care about memory with tight timings, etc. The mobo supports up to 1333 speed, so my strategy is to get the cheapest 1333 ram regardless of timings. (agree on this approach? is there any reason at all to consider getting 8gb of ram?)

7) SSD - very seriously considering getting a 64gb ssd to serve as the boot drive. Current favorite is -

If I don't get an ssd, then I'm going to get a 500gb 2.5" laptop drive to serve as the boot drive. I'd get way more storage than an ssd, and comparable power usage, but my boot time would be pretty slow... plus a 2.5" hdd costs $30-$50

I definitely don't want to use a 3.5" drive as the boot drive. I don't need that kind of capacity, and don't want the added heat or noise.

8) because it wouldn't be as much fun without a cool remote I'm considering this - Logitech Harmony 1100 RF bundle -

However, that remote is like $400, so I'm not in a hurry on that last part. Anyone have a recommendation for a more reasonably priced remote that is still easy to use?

The main thing with the remote is that it needs to operate the tv and the pc, and it has to be easy enough to use that everyone in my house isn't constantly bugging me because I'm the only one that can work it. (that wouldn't be good for W.A.F. - wife acceptance factor).

Thanks again for your thoughts and advice!

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  1. Forgot to mention - OS will be Windows 7 x64 (either Home Premium, or Professional). Will probably just use Windows Media Center, but will also be playing with other options like SAGE tv.

    I'm not ready to get into all the different software options yet (easily a topic for a separate post), but thought I'd mention it in case anyone wants to know when reviewing the hardware.
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