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Low power HTPC around $400

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December 12, 2011 8:57:00 PM

Hi Folks, I am venturing into building my own HTPC. The intended use is to watch Blu-Ray movies, 1080p/H.264 content, flash and similar streaming media, might want to play low level games someday, downloading stuff to watch. I am trying to keep the idle power consumption low and also want the machine to be responsive (boot, right-click, etc).

In building this system, Below is what I have so far
1. AMD Athlon II X2 270u.
2. SAPPHIRE 100326DDR3L Radeon HD 6670 1GB 128-bit DDR3 PCI Express 2.1 x16 HDCP Ready Video Card
3. OCZ Agility 3 AGT3-25SAT3-60G 2.5" 60GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
4. 4 GB DDR3 RAM
5. Planning to utilize my existing laptop's blu-ray drive.
6. keyboard/remote can be ignored for this discussion

I am not planning for extra HDD as my system should connect to a NAS for media. What I want to know from you guys is
0. Do all the components look compatible?
1. Would I need more powerful CPU for the above specified purpose?
2. Would my laptop blu-ray be a problem? HDCP issues or slot size issues, or connector issues?
2. I would prefer the system to be as small as possible (somewhere like 16 X 16 X 5) and don't prefer the cube form-factor. With that in mind, I would need recommendations for
a. A nice looking case (1 or 2 dark color) that I can keep in my living room and can accommodate my GPU
b. A AM3 mobo that would fit into the case and have 1. Gigabit ethernet & optionally bluetooth. 2. SATA III for my SSD 3. Highest (of-course with the above budget in mind) speed connectivity to the DDR3 RAM

Edit:
I did some search on mATX mobos but I could not find a low price AM3/SATA3/mATX combination. Also I am not 100% sure if my GPU would fit comfortably in a mATX mobo/small form-factor case. Makes me feel like to I might have to go with ATX/mid-tower combination to keep my prices low


Thanks in advance

More about : low power htpc 400

a b B Homebuilt system
December 13, 2011 11:51:44 AM

Just a few comments,

First, perhaps you should reconsider your build and go with either an i3-2100T or Pentium G620T. Both have TDP of 35W. The chip you selected is a 25W chip, however TDP does not necessarily mean power draw. I've seen builds with these two Sandy Bridge chips pulling less power than an AMD Zacate, which is rated at 18W TDP. They are better performing and can perform all of your media duties without the need of an extra graphics card. The graphics card in your build blows your power savings BTW.

That said, there are plenty of 1155 motherboards, and a few of them offer onboard bluetooth. The ASUS P8H67-I Deluxe would be a good one to get. If you are still going with the AM3 25W CPU, ASUS also makes the M4A88T-I Deluxe board that is small and has bluetooth as well.

For your optical drive questions, is your blu-ray drive mini-SATA? If so, you will need an adapter to connect a standard PSU to the optical drive. Some ITX cases come with the adapter because they are meant to take a slim dirve. The Antec ISK series, for example. Check my build details using an ISK case.

Keep us updated on your project. I love these small low power builds.
December 13, 2011 12:56:44 PM

Thanks for your reply. Once I get out of work, I will research the components you are suggesting and your build. Couple of things though: I would like to stick with AMD components, so would not prefer I3 and Pentium. Secondly, I don't think my GPU would increase my power consumption on regular usage and on idle time. Only on 3D stuff the GPU would be in full power, which is definitely reasonable for me.

I will find out my connector on bluray drive.
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December 13, 2011 5:48:37 PM

re: your build
Very nice. You seemed to have saved your $$$ with the APU which also solves size issues.

I like your idea of finding a case with flap for the bd-rom drive.

I am still thinking of separate GPU/CPU/MoBo

I would like to know how does your system perform while playing streaming (flash) media at 1080p or 720p

Also, are you able to add shaders, aliasing etc without slowing the FPS to a noticeable speed?
a b B Homebuilt system
December 13, 2011 6:05:56 PM

I'd suggest a Llano build.

A6-3500 2.1 GHz triple core with HD 6530D: $99.99
AS Rock A55 mobo: $58.99
G.Skill Ripjaws 8 GB DDR3-1600: $29.99
Hitachi 750 GB drive: $99.99
Rosewill R102 case: $29.99
Seasonic SS-ET 300W PSU: $39.99
LG Blu-Ray burner: $69.99
a c 136 B Homebuilt system
December 13, 2011 6:06:10 PM

The AMD APU is the best option.
The A6 35oo triple core , or a dual core will cover all your processing and graphics with less power draw than a cpu + graphics card
December 13, 2011 6:24:51 PM

I had done some research with Llano and intel i3/5, but did not get interested in it. I am trying to avoid the combo packs

So staying the with the other components that I have, what are my choices for the mobo, case, etc

EDIT:
What I mean is I would like to see my options with the components that I have selected so far, before diving again into the combo packs like llano and i3/5/7


a c 136 B Homebuilt system
December 13, 2011 6:35:54 PM

cluser721 said:
I had done some research with Llano and intel i3/5, but did not get interested in it. I am trying to avoid the combo packs

So staying the with the other components that I have, what are my choices for the mobo, case, etc

EDIT:
What I mean is I would like to see my options with the components that I have selected so far, before diving again into the combo packs like llano and i3/5/7


the Llano is an Athlon core shrunk in size [to 32 nm instead of Athlons 45 nm ] with a minor redisgn to improve efficiency by 6% or so , and then the graphics core was grafted on .
It is a better option than Athlon if you are after low power usage . Much better
December 13, 2011 7:00:58 PM

270u TDP is around 25 W and the 6670 active 2d usage hovers around 20 watts, so how is llano better?

Also depending on how I might want to use my HTPC (in addition to traditional video/media watching), I have cheaper options to either upgrade my CPU (heavy processing, I am into programming) or my GPU (if I want to go to mid level games)

What I am saying is, keeping my components separate gives me more flexibility albeit at the premium of space and/or price, and I want to explore what exactly I would have to forego in the prior case

a c 136 B Homebuilt system
December 13, 2011 7:06:00 PM

nothing at all stops you adding a graphics card to Llano , and if you use the right model it crossfires with the on board to give you midrange performance from a budget upgrade
December 13, 2011 7:11:19 PM

I have read that crossfire has its own driver/software issues.

Outlander_04, I do get your point, but I want to explore the other option before I decide on what works better for me.

So to keep it on topic, any suggestions on mobo and case?
a b B Homebuilt system
December 13, 2011 8:10:21 PM

Case is a subjective matter... I suggest you select a case you like before shopping for motherboards since that will determine form factor and expansion options.

BTW, my Zacate build (Idle = 36W, load = 47W) handles all media just fine with one exception: HD Netflix. Even with hardware acceleration enabled in Silverlight 5, Netflix hasn't flipped the switch on their end to enable it. The E-350 is too slow to software decode so it only handles SD streams. On that same matter, you must make sure all codecs are set up perfectly to allow HA for a Zacate system.
December 13, 2011 8:24:07 PM

re: netflix video
Makes me think that I should sacrifice on power and go for a wee bit more powerful quad-core. Reading multiple forum posts made me believe that dual core should be OK for such streaming

re: selecting the case first
That is what I was thinking, before it started getting very difficult for me to search for a a cheap SATA 6 Gb/s, AM3, mAtX mobo. So for now I have been jumping back and forth between searching for mobo and case. But you are right, case seems more of what I should look for first

BTW, what do you guys think of
1. BIOSTAR A870 AM3 AMD 870 SATA 6Gb/s ATX AMD Motherboard for $65 on newegg
2. ASRock 880GMH/U3S3 AM3+ AMD 880G HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX AMD Motherboard for $80


And if I go with option #2, I can experiment before deciding to buy my discrete GPU (as most of you guys are Outlander suggests)

!