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Budget mini-itx/htpc build with low power Sandy Bridge

Last response: in Systems
June 29, 2011 1:56:20 AM

Hi guys!

I am looking for a little bit of advice from experts as I am about to build my first Mini-ITX/HTPC. Here are details.

Approximate Purchase Date: 1-2 month(s).

Budget Range: I don't really have a budget for this purchase. It will be financed probably partially with cash and partially with credit card so I don't have exact price range, however the least expensive = the best.

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Internet (Opera, Firefox), some work with spreadsheets (OO Scalc), watching movies (non-HD but I would like to have this possibility, maybe I'll start watching movies in HD), playing Minecraft (that is the only game I will be playing, I don't need highest graphic details and 1000 FPS though) - all of them under Ubuntu Linux.

Parts Not Required: keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers, OS, HDD (I have SSD).

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: any

Country of Origin: Preferably United Kingdom as it is where I reside.

Overclocking: No

SLI or Crossfire: No

Monitor Resolution: 1920x1080 (via HDMI with audio!)

Additional Comments: I am looking for a small, quiet, low power consumption and low budget PC that can however, handle big Excel files with lots of data, charts and complicated formulas and in my spare time running Minecraft (not necessarily in high details)

Parts Preferences: I am not up-to-date with new PCs so I need an advice here. I did small research and...

CPU: it looks like Intel Sandy Bridge low power ("T" version) processors are tailored exactly for me. For example Core i3-2100T.
Is it possible however, to get "T" version of i5 or even i7 (if there are any)? Or is it crap and better go for normal or even "K" version? (just reminding that power consumption is quite a factor to me) One guy in comments said that he was trying to play Minecraft with this CPU and all he got was 5-10 FPS. I cannot really believe it as I have the same result on my Eee PC 901 with Atom CPU (N270) and much worse video chip (GMA 945), anyone has an experience with this CPU and Minecraft?

HDD: I have already SSD - 64GB RunCore SATA Mini PCI-e
It is on mini pci-e so I need an advise what adapter should I use to connect it to internal SATA?

Mobo: This actually depends on what CPU I'll take (or the other way round ;) ). From what I googled H67 is better then H61. LGA1155 + HDMI + H67 - this narrows the choice down to just few models. What do you think about this one - ASRock H67M-ITX
One guy in comments complains a lot about lack of compatibility with Linux but on the other hand his response "was not helpful" to 5 people. Any thoughts?

RAM: 2x2GB, have no idea which one exactly at the moment.

Chassis + PSU: M350 looks perfect: simple and cheap. Is this Pico PSU enough for this build?

Thank you all in advance!
June 29, 2011 4:19:00 AM

^ You might want to check out the upcoming AMD Llano CPUs,... They will be cheaper for sure, have better graphics inbuilt, and CPU performance will be good enough for your needs,... Expected time of release - July 1st week,...
June 29, 2011 11:30:27 PM

Llano looks nice ( but if integrated graphics is going to be ATI (Radeon based GPU) then I think I'll stick to Intel. I will be using Ubuntu and I have a very bad experience with ATI cards under Linux. Theoretically there are drivers (even two or three different ones) for Radeons but forcing them to work with Linux is a nightmare - one driver works well in 2D but 3D sux, the other one is opposite, one of them gives you artefacts all the time, another freezes computer during scrolling in Firefox, etc. Unless I have a written guarantee that ATI works well with Linux I am staying away from it.
Related resources
June 30, 2011 3:43:54 AM

^ Hmm that is true that the AMD cards were not as good with Linux as the Nvidia cards,...
But take a look at this article,...
Its your call though, I know no ones wants to have an headache setting it up, but if it works fine, then you can give it a try especially on the low-budget side...
July 16, 2011 11:59:03 PM

No one is answering but whatever. I have already bought parts and assembled my computer. More or less it is what I described in the first post: 2100T, mobo BOXDH67CFB3, RAM CMX4GX3M2A1333C8 - 4GB (2x2GB) Corsair DDR3 XMS3, PC3-10666 (1333), Non-ECC Unbuffered, CAS 8-8-8-24, 1.65V, different case then I wanted in the first place but this one is OK: CIT MTX001B, Black, mini-ITX Case with 300W PSU. Plus parts I had before (DVD, SSD,...), a couple of adapter to connect this old stuff and USB WIFI - TP-LINK TL-WN722N.

I have installed Xubuntu 11.04 64bit and I was surprised to see that everything works great out of the box.

I had/still have few minor issues.

There are some weird problems with the WIFI. But I am pretty sure they are related to this edition of Xubuntu. WIFI had been working veeeery slowly and disconnecting sometimes. I googled this some answers and this helped "sudo echo "options ath9k nohwcrypt=1" > /etc/modprobe.d/ath9k.conf". Now WIFI works great. However, iwconfig still shows "Bit Rate=1 Mb/s" while I am experiencing normal speeds from the range of 3-8mbps. I am saying it is Ubuntu 11.04 related as I have problems as well with WIFI and Xubuntu 11.04 on my Eee PC 901 (I have installed this Linux simultaneously on both computers). It is just keeping disconnecting, constantly and there is totally different WIFI card inside. I haven't solved it yet.

VLC does not work properly. It plays even full HD but video and voice are not synchronized, voice goes faster and I think video drops some frames. It doesn't mean what quality I play, some tiny 320x240 or 1920x1080, it is crab in both scenarios. I couldn't fix it with VLC so I have installed ubuntu restricted extras and now default player "Parole Media Player" plays everything without any problems. If anyone however, has some ideas what is wrong with VLC I will appreciate any tips.

Minecraft works but to be playable I had to set up every details to the lowest ones and also fog to "tiny".

Apart of above mentioned, I am not experiencing any other problems with Sandy Bridge and Linux at the moment