HTPC - Hardware Advice (1 Viewer)

D3tritus

Portal Pro
February 14, 2008
62
12
I've been running with my current MePo machine for a number of years now (I originally specified and built it back in 2008, see this post over at Silent PC Review for details) and it's beginning to show its age. I've got MePo running on top of XP and MePo 1.4 is the last version to support it. Couple that with some unidentified compatibility issues preventing me from upgrading beyond MePo 1.2.3 and my path is clear.

My MePo setup is pretty basic. I don't run the live TV stuff as I have a dedicated HUMAX box running some custom firmware to cover that side of things. I run a fileserver in the loft and share files over Gigabit ethernet to the MePo box in the living room. I have kids and any optical media tends to die a quick death when they're about so I rip everything and store it on the fileserver, keeping nothing in the living room. This has the added bonus that there's no slot or tray to post toast/coins/miscellaneous crap into...

I was very happy with my previous build...once I'd put a discrete GFX card in there. Almost completely inaudible, capable of 1080p, full digital audio. Loved it. This time around I'm hoping to take things a step further:
- low power, completely fanless.
- S4/5 suspend/resume.
- ability to deal with the newer UI functions (image cross-fades, etc. are currently a bit jerky).
- faster boot time.

With these goals in mind, I've arrived at the following spec (this spec adapted from a post on the XBMC forums):
CPU: Intel i3-3225
Key points are the TDP (55W) and the integrated HD4000 graphics. My understanding is that this integrated gfx will easily handle everything I throw at it, up to and including 1080p/i content. I've no intention at this point of doing 4K or 3D. I have also read that the all pervailing 24P issue is, if not completely gone, handled well and mostly un-noticeable. Looking at this link on CPU-World, I should see triple the performance (~+180%) of my old CPU (AMD 64 X2 BE-2400).

MoBo: Gigabyte Z77N-Wifi
Mostly chosen for the form-factor, lack of active cooling, high-temp protection and the presence of SATA3, USB3 and S4/5 capability. I'm also a fan of Gigabyte kit. I've run with their motherboards on various machines over the years and they've always been dependable.

RAM: Corsair XMS3 2x4GB DDR3 1600MHz
Reasonably priced, compatible RAM. Not much more to say.

Case: Hdplex H3.S + 80W PSU + Hdplex internal IR receiver
Like the case. Was reviewed well on Silent PC Review (optical drive version). The clever way they handle S5 resume makes this case particularly attractive to me. Having a dedicated internal IR receiver hooked into the ATX connector makes a lot of sense where standard S5 resume is not triggering from USB (and, frankly, given past experience with this I don't trust resume to work as advertised).

SSD: Intel 520, 120Gb SSD
I run one of these on my main machine. Fast, but more importantly, reliable.

So, does this look like a reasonable build? Anyone forsee any problems with it? My biggest concern is that I've not really got the option to fix any audio/video issues I experience post-build by purchasing dedicated cards. I need to keep the TDP down and the PSU won't cope with much more anyway. Got to get this right...
 

kiwijunglist

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    PSU 80W is pretty low given the 55W cpu. I'm guessing that PSU is designed for low wattage cpu. I'd recommend lots of research into this, you may be better off using a 'mobile' low wattage intel cpu or a bigger PSU.
     

    D3tritus

    Portal Pro
    February 14, 2008
    62
    12
    Yeah, I was a little concerned about that. The margin is a little tight. I've cross-posted this over on SPCR and the feedback there has been to wait for the dual-core Haswell processors in September (along with the C2 stepping motherboards for the USB suspend/resume fix). This would seem to be the ideal solution, the processor is roughly equivalent in terms of raw processing power (assumption based on specs, will need to see reviews of final silicon), the TDP is 35W on the Core i3-4330T, giving significantly more headroom...also the HD4600 gfx finally fixes the 24P issue completely. Looks like I may be waiting a couple of months and then revising this spec.
     

    kiwijunglist

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    Yes 35w sounds better. There is also the chip they use inside the Intel nuc. That would be available now. Also amd has some nice chips like the a6-5200 which is 15w. BTW a 35w CPU may run too hot if you have an enclosed fanless cabinet.
     
    Last edited:

    D3tritus

    Portal Pro
    February 14, 2008
    62
    12
    I think the cabinet should be OK. I built it myself after failing to find any media units with decent airflow. It's open back and front with large open shelves...there should be plenty of air around the case to let it breathe...
     

    D3tritus

    Portal Pro
    February 14, 2008
    62
    12
    I think these Haswell CPUs are available now, did you build your new HTPC, D3tritus?
    Sadly not. I've yet to find an i3-4330T on sale anywhere. I could just underclock an i3-4330, though. What's more of an issue is the lack of any reviews of the i3-4330* and integrated GPU performance. Couple that with a general wariness of 'new' kit...I don't want to be burned by early adopter issues. I'll wait a while longer until there's more info out about the real-world performance of these CPUs.
     

    D3tritus

    Portal Pro
    February 14, 2008
    62
    12
    Understood. Please keep us updated :)
    Will do. :)

    Keep your eye on the lower power AMD chips, most people prefer the amd onboard gpu's even for htpc usage.
    Something like this - 25W total
    http://www.tomshardware.com/news/ECS-Kabini-KBN-I-5200-Jaguar,23200.html
    A long time ago (in a galaxy far far away?) I bought an AMD processor for my main gaming rig. I had nothing but problems with it, not due to the silicon but down to poor hardware drivers. That was followed up with very similar issues with an AMD graphics card I bought (round about the Doom 3 era) which prevented me from playing a couple of games while they sorted out the issues. Since that point I've sworn off AMD hardware, they effectively lost me as a customer...my current HTPC rig has been singular in that it's provided me with a good five years or so of solid performance from AMD chipsets/drivers. I understand they're somewhat better these days and there's little arguing that their hardware performs very well and represents good value for money, I would just rather spend a little more on Intel (and nVidia if we're talking discrete gfx for gaming) and get something more reliable/stable.
     

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