Silent HTPC Build & Review
#1
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Silent HTPC Build & Review

The components:

CPU: i3 3225
MB: Gigabyte H77N-WIFI (Mini-ITX)
RAM: Corsair Vengeance 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 (2 Modules)
HD: Samsung 840 120GB SATA SSD
Blu-Ray: LITEON DS-6E2SH
Case: Silver HD PLEX H3.TODD with IR and 80W PSU
OS: Windows 7 64bit
Software: XBMC / Mobile Mouse / XBMCLauncher

Why these components?

I did a lot of research before I started this project, there are no doubt alternative components that will do the job, maybe better, but I can confirm that this combination of components compliment each other perfectly and provide, in my opinion, the perfect balance of cost and performance given the case I chose and the intended use of this computer.

The review

I’m going to overview most of the components as they are reviewed on countless other sites and blogs. So lets get started, I’ll try not the waffle.

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I considered a few processors including the AMD’s but the i3 3225 was really the best option by far as the case I selected doesn’t support any PCI slots so a dedicated graphics card wasn’t an option. I wanted the best Intel integrated graphics I could get and right now that’s HD4000.

Some might say it’s overkill for a HDPC but I disagree as who knows what you might want to run in the future, looking at the youtube videos of Crysis 3 and Bioshock Infinate on HD4000 graphics (low settings) I’m tempted to install STEAM, anyway I digress, the other reason for selecting the i3 3225 was the TDP which is bsolutely ideal for this case combined with the selected 80W PSU.

Now the motherboard was a toss up between the Z77N and the H77N for me, I looked at all and I mean ALL of the Mini-ITX MB’s that would suit this case and decided on the Gigabyte boards based on reviews and most importantly for me features and connectivity. The reason I plumped for the H77N was that I will never be over-clocking this box, it just doesn’t make sense.

I was so tempted to max out the RAM in this build, I use a high spec PC every day for software development and run really heavy Microsoft applications, my general view on RAM is that you simply can’t have too much.

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But, I wanted to be restrained and a little sensible on this build especially as it’s pretty difficult to get RAM usage above 2GB in XBMC running on Windows anyway. (Don’t get the Vengeance RAM with the big spiky heat-sinks they don’t fit under the hood). So why didn’t I just get 4GB you ask? Well I just couldn’t stop myself, RAM’s cheap, even the good stuff and I just couldn’t face building a new PC with only 4GB in it, shoot me.

I’ve spent the last few months building a spreadsheet of components their costs and specs, reading reviews, checking sizes and performance and form factors and reliability and forum posts and blogs and I feel sick, I’ve spent too long on this... the Samsung 840 SSD specs sounded good so that’s the one I purchased.

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To say I’m pleased is an understatement, this baby boots quicker than my Alienware development PC (which also has an SSD - all be it with a lot installed on it). From completely OFF this system boots through BIOS Splash into Windows (Auto-login) and into XBMC and is ready to use in 17 seconds, plus or minus 1/2 a second (I checked it a few times with a stop watch).

These days you don’t really need an optical drive what with USB stick installers, external devices and broadband but I wanted one for convenience all it’s been used for so far is installing the OS. When I looked for one on the net they were pretty cheap so even though I don’t have any Blu-Rays and despite the fact that it’s a ball ache to get Windows 7 to play them I purchased a drive capable of playing Blu-Rays and burning pretty much all other formats for just £35.

Now, up to this point I’ve been pretty careful about the component costs, not neurotically careful admittedly but alternatives could have saved me a small amount of money, £10 hear and there, but the case in this build is a different story. I could have bought a case for 1/10 of the cost of this one but the reason this PC makes me smile is the case, the reason this PC looks so good in my TV cabinet is the case, the reason my wife likes it too (Yes this beauty meets wife approval) is the case, the reason I did all the research to get the right components was the case. I love it and it was a pleasure to build this system because of .... .... you guessed it ... ... the case.

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When the case arrives and you open the box you feel instantly that you have probably purchased a quality product. Then you get it out of the box and start looking at it, not just the case but all of the components that come with it, the heat-sinks that connect to the CPU to the left side of the case are a work of art, as is the optical drive cover which fits perfectly with less the 1mm on each side, see these and you know you’ve got a quality product.

When friends come round I want to take the lid off and show them inside. Too evangelical? Sorry but I need to get across that it’s worth the money for so many different reasons. As Ferris once said: “If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up”.

Everything goes together well and you even get some tools, thermal paste and a bespoke metal ball applicator that fits in the grooves perfectly.

The front is a thick, solid piece of aluminium with a software driven eject button (software available on the HDPlex website for your operating system) a USB port and a small hole for the IR (I’m not getting very good angles on my IR so Larry at HDPlex is sending me a new IR receiver to try). Support has been excellent Larry responds to emails quickly.

The build instructions are good but I recommend that you have the installation guide on the website open too as they are really useful and slightly more up to date.

I can’t tell you how pleased I am with this system on every level and I hope this review helps you in some way.

Cheers, FoxTC...
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#2
congratz on your new HTPC! totally fanless!!

i admit it comes at a price, but if your happy, were all happy!!

FTW!!
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#3
(2013-06-03, 14:48)eskro Wrote: congratz on your new HTPC! totally fanless!!

i admit it comes at a price, but if your happy, were all happy!!

FTW!!

Thank you Big Grin

I wrote this review a few weeks ago, only just found time to post it, I have now changed the operating system to Windows 8. I can confirm that it's working even better, I can cold boot directly into XBMC and select a film to play in 9 seconds (soup to nuts).
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#4
120GB SSD is pretty big for Windows tho, i use 32GB and its perfect.
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#5
One question: is the build completely silent?
What about the PSU?
How would do compare the case you have choosen with the Streacom FC-8?

Dakkar
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#6
(2013-06-03, 15:02)eskro Wrote: 120GB SSD is pretty big for Windows tho, i use 32GB and its perfect.

I agree, but I'm using this for games on steam too, plus other stuff. But for XBMC only 32GB would have been sufficient as you correctly point out. I'm using usb3 WD passport drives for more local storage plus my NAS. I have dropbox linked to passport drive (very handy), it's great to take a photo or video on my iPhone and it's in XBMC to view when I get home, tried to make my setup as wife friendly as possible.

(2013-06-03, 15:09)Dakkar Wrote: One question: is the build completely silent?
What about the PSU?
How would do compare the case you have choosen with the Streacom FC-8?

Dakkar

I can't really compare it to anything else as this is my first build, however I can confirm that it's silent (TOTALLY), I am looking at adding a power LED as the only way I can tell it's on at the moment is by ejecting the drive lol.
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#7
How much did the finally build come to?
Hardware - HP Proliant MicroServer N36L 8TB / Amazon Fire TV Stick
Software - NZBget / Radarr / Sonarr / uTorrent / Plex / NZB 360

Post - HQ WWE Fanart
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#8
(2013-06-03, 23:52)jakks Wrote: How much did the finally build come to?

Just under £550 for everything.
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#9
Beautiful HTPC. Thanks for sharing it!
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#10
Great HTPC,

I just wanted to clarify though that the intel HD4000 is in fact not the best IGP you can get. Intel is fixing their IGP, or attempting to with their NEW processors Haswell (which I just bought). It still sucks though. It's fine for what it is but AMD has offered better graphics for quite some time for a cheaper price.

The A10-5700 is a comparably priced processor from AMD. 12 dollars cheaper actually.
See for yourself:
Image
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Image
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Power consumption is under 80 W as well although pushing it:
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Not saying I would have recommended this to you given the case you picked at 80W PSU I'd be extremely careful. Who knows how efficient the thing is the intel is a safe bet. But to say HD4000 is the best is misleading to anyone trying a similar build. You could purchase a much weaker CPU than the one I said and still get better graphics performance, and AMDs new offerings are even better at this price range if I could find reviews that weren't on 15W parts.

No fanboy, I haven't purchased an AMD CPU since the Athlon 64 as they don't fit my needs, but it's definitely a great CPU for the HTPC market, especially for people who may want to do casual gaming. Just wanted to clarify that.

Otherwise, great build and I love the case. Definitely will serve you for awhile and you shouldn't have to worry about sluggishness given that core i3.
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#11
(2013-06-04, 07:51)tential Wrote: Great HTPC,

I just wanted to clarify though that the intel HD4000 is in fact not the best IGP you can get. Intel is fixing their IGP, or attempting to with their NEW processors Haswell (which I just bought). It still sucks though. It's fine for what it is but AMD has offered better graphics for quite some time for a cheaper price.

The A10-5700 is a comparably priced processor from AMD. 12 dollars cheaper actually.
See for yourself:
Image
Image
Image
Image

Power consumption is under 80 W as well although pushing it:
Image

Not saying I would have recommended this to you given the case you picked at 80W PSU I'd be extremely careful. Who knows how efficient the thing is the intel is a safe bet. But to say HD4000 is the best is misleading to anyone trying a similar build. You could purchase a much weaker CPU than the one I said and still get better graphics performance, and AMDs new offerings are even better at this price range if I could find reviews that weren't on 15W parts.

No fanboy, I haven't purchased an AMD CPU since the Athlon 64 as they don't fit my needs, but it's definitely a great CPU for the HTPC market, especially for people who may want to do casual gaming. Just wanted to clarify that.

Otherwise, great build and I love the case. Definitely will serve you for awhile and you shouldn't have to worry about sluggishness given that core i3.

I don't say it's the best IGP full stop, I say best 'intel' IGP which it was at time of writing. I also go on to mention power and TDP case considerations... I thought I was quite clear. Cheers, anyway. PS. I will modify the start of the review to state when I originally wrote it, so it has the correct context.
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#12
Smile 
Nice job. You don't have to tell me, I know how pleased you are Smile
Keep me posted with the new IR receiver.
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#13
(2013-06-04, 09:13)ZetBv Wrote: Nice job. You don't have to tell me, I know how pleased you are Smile
Keep me posted with the new IR receiver.

I just looked at your build ZetBv, nice one!

Regarding the IR receiver Larry at HDPlex sent me the replacement and I received it a while ago but I didn't fit it straight away and since then the wife has "put it somewhere safe" and I can't find it. I need to put some time aside to find it and fit it, it's difficult with work and two 2.5 year old kids lol.

I'm not desperate either as I use Mobile Mouse and XBMC remotes on iPhone and iPad as well as my harmony one. When I fit it I will let you know though.
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#14
Nice HTPC thanks for sharing.
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#15
Given the problems with AMD FM2 Trinity motherboards and VRM heat, I don't think I'd recommend building a fanless FM2 HTPC. Even with this build, I'd consider getting some copper heatsinks for the VRMs. They get very hot and with no airflow to speak of could lead to throttling.
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