Dual Purpose mini-itx build - need advice

Greetings! Long time reader, first time poster.

I apologize for the somwhat convoluted post.

Approximate Purchase Date: Within the month….or later if processor prices are expected to drop

Budget Range: Less than $1000 Before / After Rebates

System Usage from Most to Least Important: HTPC – System to build virtual network to prepare for MS certifications. Not at the same time.

Parts Not Required: Monitor, mouse, keyboard

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Newegg, Amazon, TigerDirect

Country: USA

Parts Preferences: Intel Ivy bridge processor and MB

Overclocking: No

SLI or Crossfire: No

Monitor Resolution: Depends upon monitor being used.

Additional Comments: I am looking to build a mini-itx system that can be used for two purposes.

First, I am hoping to build a small (portable) system that I can use for testing. I am about to upgrade my 2003 MCSA to 2008 and I need a system capable of running 2008 Server Enterprise R2 with Hyper V.

This is really my sticking point because I am not sure if most modern BIOS allows for virtualization.

I probably won’t need to have more than 2 virtual systems and they won’t need ECC memory or to be particularly fast. I just need to be able to build/test the systems for study purposes.

In addition, for training purposes the instructor recommends two hard drives two Ethernet ports.

When I am finished using the system as a test bed, I am hoping to use it as a simple HTPC. I am not planning on running Server software for the HTPC. My plan is to save an image of the Server (in case I need it again) and then simply reload with W7. (Unless a virtual W7 machine can be used to run a HTPC????)

Here again, I am not sure if the video circuitry built into the MBs/processors are up to the task of running 1080P HDMI.

In addition, I am hoping, if possible, to use a lower wattage processor. I would like to leave the system running 24/7 so I can access files while I am away. (Sonicwall / VPN)

The first MB I am considering is the Zotac Z77 because it has dual Ethernet ports and supports the newer Ivy bridge.


The second board I am considering is the ASUS P8Z77. The downside of this board is the single Ethernet port. I suppose I could install a Ethernet card in the PCIe slot. What attracts me to this board is the ability to throttle back wattage usage when not needed.


Both of these boards offer more features than I need to be honest, but I was hoping for a Z77 to take advantage of native USB3 and to hopefully keep from being outdated so soon.

As far as processors I was thinking about one of the newer IVY Bridge I3 low wattage processors. Will a I3 be sufficient if I am not looking for a production server?

As far as video, again, if the built in video is sufficient for HTPC then I am should be fine. If not, I have a ATI HD3870 that could be installed. Would this card work better? (I have read somewhere on this forum about users using the 3870 for HTPC… even though it is a few years old.) The ASUS board has the built in Crossfire/SLI type circuitry that will combine the video processing. I might even be able to run something like Call of Duty.

For a case I would like to have something small but I have to take the installation of two hard drives (2.5” or 3.5”) and possibly the installation of the 3870 or a Ethernet card into account.

I found this Silverstone Case. It isn’t particularly nice looking but it seems to be a good compromise.


Finally, I plan on installing a Blu-Ray player, slimline or otherwise.

So…. Am I asking too much of these boards? Does anyone have any better suggestions of MB / Processor / Case combinations? I haven’t built a system since 2008 so I am seeking the best advice I can get.

Any and all suggestions will be appreciated. Thanks in advance.
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