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Small HTPC, not underpowered?

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February 10, 2013 12:12:27 PM

I'm looking to build a small HTPC to watch downloaded or streamed content, running XBMC. I'm looking for a balance here between small, quiet, and adequate power for an HTPC. I'm a long-time builder, but I'm hoping I can avoid wasting time and money on parts that won't meet my needs, so I thought I'd reach out to the community. :)  I've gone pretty detailed here, but I'm flexible if someone sees another way to meet my goals.

First off, I'd like to mount it to the back of the TV via VESA. My router is in another room, so it will need wifi, ideally onboard. I'd love this to be quiet, if not silent, but not run too hot. Other than that, I don't need much more than an HDMI hookup and the ability to play any number of codecs at 1080p without dropping frames.

I've been researching for a few weeks now, and there's some interesting stuff out there. The Raspberry Pi, Atom chips, and the new NUC options all look promising, but run the risk of being underpowered or lacking features. So here's what I'm thinking for a build:

Mini-ITX board: Ivy bridge sounds like a good option for it's low power, keeping heat and noise down. Willing to go with a premounted CPU, but so far nothing I've found has onboard wifi, HDMI, and can output 1080p reliably.
Celeron CPU: Good low-power option. I'm assuming I can use the onboard graphics processor for my needs, but if this chip is underpowered, can go bigger. I don't need a gaming rig though.
Case: The Antec ISK 110 looks great, and a likely purchase, though I'm open to other VESA-mounted options.
Cooling: Passive would be ideal, as I'd love to make this silent. However it could run hot, which I want to avoid.
Hard disk: I've got a spare 128gig SSD for this build.
Controlling the box: I own a Dinovo Mini, so I'll be using that or the XBMC Android/iPhone apps.

So I know this is a challenge, which is why I'd through this out there to see what you guys think. Component suggestions? Any pitfalls to watch out for?

Thanks in advance!
February 10, 2013 12:35:16 PM

PCPartPicker part list / Price breakdown by merchant / Benchmarks

CPU: Intel Core i3-3220T 2.8GHz Dual-Core Processor ($127.99 @ Amazon)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z77N-WIFI Mini ITX LGA1155 Motherboard ($109.99 @ Newegg)
Memory: Corsair 8GB (2 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory ($39.00 @ Amazon)
Case: Antec ISK 110 VESA Mini ITX Desktop Case w/90W Power Supply ($81.59 @ Amazon)
Total: $358.57
(Prices include shipping, taxes, and discounts when available.)
(Generated by PCPartPicker 2013-02-10 09:36 EST-0500)

stock intel cooling will be fine :) 

intel i3 3220T is the lowest power desktop ivy cpu, has 35W power rate
and that gigabyte mobo has integrated wifi

btw.... antec ISK has only 90w :| 35W for cpu, some for mobo+ram, and some for SSD
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February 10, 2013 12:51:46 PM

Thanks AMD Radeon, you bring up a good point on power. The 90W in the Antec ISK 110 will likely be too little to pull off this build. :( 

I think can go Celeron though, as Intel just released the G1620. It's 55W, which is a bonus. Anything I'm overlooking here?
http://ark.intel.com/products/71073/Intel-Celeron-Proce...

That Gigabyte board looks good. Only issue is the long wifi antennas. Forgot to mention, but I'll have to contend with little ones that could potentially pull on stuff. :)  I assume I could swap these out for the more standard screw-in style ones?
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February 10, 2013 2:00:37 PM

i built a mini pc up for a friend of mine using the Antec ISK 110 vesa option for a travel pc but for the life of me cannot remember all the specs but pretty sure i had an i5 running in it using an Arctic cooler cpu fan and it was quite as all hell , holding the case up to my ear i couldn't hear it running
i'll have him cpu-Z it and tell me what its running again
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February 10, 2013 6:59:26 PM

Thanks tassietim, very interested to hear about the build. Also good to know an Arctic Cooling heatsink will fit in that box. I'd be curious to know which model you guys used.
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February 11, 2013 3:58:21 PM

Okay, I've done a little more research and found a case with a larger power supply: the Akasa Euler.
http://www.akasa.com.tw/update.php?tpl=product/product....

It takes thin mini-ITX, so I'm limited on boards, but the Intel DQ77KB looks good. I'll have to resort to USB wireless, but I can live with that.

My question now has to do with the Celeron chips the board supports. Intel shows the G1610 and G1620 chips are compatible. However, the Euler case recommends a max TDP of 35W. There's a G1610T chip that would suit, but it's not listed on Intel's compatibility list for DQ77KB.
http://processormatch.intel.com/CompDB/SearchResult.asp...

Would this chip work with the board? I'm wondering if it's simply an oversight on Intel's part, as "find processors" returns zero results for the G1610T.
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Best solution

February 11, 2013 5:16:43 PM

I would guess that CPU would be compatible with the motherboard. It is LGA 1155 Ivy Bridge, and G1610 is on the list will all the other Ivy and Sandy Bridge CPUs.

If you are really concerned, you could buy the G1610 and undervolt it manually through BIOS so that it will operate identically to the G1610T.

For what it's worth, I don't see the G1610T for sale anywhere. Do you already know where to get it?

Cool idea for an HTPC and it looks like you have a good plan.

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February 11, 2013 8:41:25 PM

Ha, that's a brilliant idea! It'll certainly be a first for me. I never in my life considered underclocking a system. :) 

You're right though, I don't see the G1610T for sale anywhere yet. Maybe I'll even consider the G1620 or a low-end Pentium, and undervolt based on need. I got this plan from Silent PC Review, who used a Pentium G2120, though it got a bit hot for my tastes during testing.
http://www.silentpcreview.com/Akasa_Euler_Fanless_Thin_...
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February 12, 2013 8:21:33 AM

Best answer selected by W32BenN.
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