May 3, 2012

My silent HTPC - Part 1

Three years ago, I got a Syvio 200a NMT (Networked Media Tank). I was quite happy with it at first, since I could play1080p on my TV, when I didn't have a blu-ray player. Over time, I got less and less happy with it, because the media collection on it grew, and it became slower, and slower, and... well.

Now I've decided to upgrade to a tailor made HTPC. And I figured, why not blog about the experience. After all, I have no experience building this kind of PC (I've built a lot of regular deskop PCs) and I imagine some other could learn from it.

So, part 1: Deciding on what to get. I had some requirements:

  • Obviously, 1080p playback via HDMI
  • Slick UI - like oversight on the Syvio
  • Small
  • Little or no noise
  • Fit in with the rest of my stereo components

The Syvio is very small, but I don't need quite as small a box. In fact it'd be more convenient if it were a standard width component. I quickly landed on the Streacom FC5 OD. This is a completely fanless chassis, which supports mini-ITX and micro-ATX, up to 65W CPU. A drawback is the price, of course. Also, the 150W Pico-PSU and the IR receiver are not included. So if I were on a budget, I'd go for the Aplus CS-160 mini.

Image from

Now to choose the platform. In a HTPC system, graphics performance is pretty important. With that in mind, and what I could read on numerous forums, the AMD Llano (FM1) APU seemed the right choice (Intel is more expensive, and, until Ivy Bridge, their GPU did not beat AMD's). I went for the A6-3500 since it had a triple core for multitasking, and a better GPU than the A4 series. ALso the more powerful A6 and A8 APUs are rated at 100W. For the price, it's certainly worth trying anyway. And it may be possible to add a discrete card later (using a riser card), for getting CrossFire performance!

Since the chassis has specific requirements to which board can be installed, I went for the Asus F1A75-M PRO, which is listed on their list of supported motherboards.  I also happen to like Asus' products. The A75 chipset also gives you SATA 6 Gb/s and USB 3.0 interfaces.

Image from Asus

Unfortunately, it's a micro-ATX board, which means the 3.5" HDD mount screws are unavailable. So I  got the only TB 2.5" drive I could find, WD Scorpio Blue. (Not having a NAS I have to rely on local storage, and I figured SATA 6 Gb/s interface is overkill for playing movies, I've never run into issues before with my SATA 2 drive. If space is really an issue there's another 2.5" bay available for another TB later).

The optical drive was really a no-brainer since the chassis supports only slim 3.5" drive with eject button to the left, and the only one I could find like that was Sony's BC-5600S. It's the only one I could find that matches that.

Finally I need some memory and ended up with Corsair Vengeance DDR3 1600MHz 8GB CL9, probably overkill with 8 GB but you never know. It has standard timings and voltage, and I've read that it works without issues with the motherboard.

As for the software, I've not yet really concluded, it'll be up to the next parts of this blog. I'm really leaning towards Ubuntu with XBMC installed, XBMCUbuntu or Open-Elec. If I run into too many issues with drivers etc, I may consider Windows, but from what I've found I should be able to run XBMC on linux with this. (I even checked, the IR remote is usable with ubuntu).

If you live in Norway, has my shopping list. (Though I'm in no way affiliated with them)

Click here for part two!

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to see the HTPC when its done :) And hear your comments ;)