Building a new HTPC with low power in mind

allanmb

Standard Member
I am about to make a new HTPC as my old one is crashing a lot with a suspected motherboard problem. I am hoping to keep power consumption to a minimum and have to use a micro ATX form factor to fit inside my Antec Fusion case. I use the HTPC for viewing/recording TV via a Hauppauge NovaT500 and for watching HD-DVD and BluRays so it needs to be fast enough to decode 1080p. I want to have digitial audio out too but if this isnt on the mobo then I can use my SB X-FI PCIe card. I currently have an AMD X2 4600+ which I guess will not be power efficient. What is my best option for a low power system with these requirements?
Cheers
Allan
 

fredwatt

Active Member
Also looking to the same .... but I guess you're looking for a windows solution (I am in the linux camp).

Now days for windows at least, NVIDIA & ATI, provide video acceleration in their onboard IGPs. So you don't need as powerful cpu, as you might think. In addition, the nova card processes the tv signal, so this is mostly a disk i/o process, not cpu.

You will need to think about power supply.. this is key... you need an efficient one... check out the Pico solutions (90% efficient). But you need to ensure that you calculate the wattage ... blu ray drive will eat the watts.

For a low power AMD solution think about 240e + AMD 785G motherboard. The X2 240e is due to be released at the end of this month (Oct 09)... so hang tight... the only down side is the on board hdmi... it can only handle 2 channel lpcm... so you can't have 8 channel output. (but no good for me as no video acceleration under linux). But if you can live with spdif or analogs then this is worth checking out.

The other option is using a socket 775 solution with the new celrons e3200/e3300. Again read up, and pair with a 9300/9400 IGP motherboard. The celrons are low powered, teamed with a good board you should be able to idle around 50Watts depending on cards, and hard disk requirements.

The intel onboard igp currently do not have the frame rate or video acceleration you need for smooth HD. So not many people go down this route for HTPC.

The ATOM 330 IONS could be of interest..... though might find they are a little slow for non-htpc duties. Plus normally they only have one pci, or pci-express slot (so after the Nova-t 500 card, no room for sat card, or other tv cards or sound cards). But you could get a ION solution idling around 25 to 40 watts.

There's quite a few low power disks around. For HTPC think green and think large (for your recordings). Maybe Western Digital 1TB low power/green. Better to have one or two large disks then lots of little power hungry little disks.

Hope that helps a little.

For more good information see http://www.silentpcreview.com/forums/viewforum.php?f=28
 
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FlexiPack

Standard Member
I'm interested in building a low power HTPC. Someone recommended me looking at the Atom ION 330 but the only downside atm is the flash performance. I want to be able to play IPTV content.

So I wondered if a micro ATX could be built with a similar power usage (idle and in use) to the ION 330.

Thanks for the info Fred, something for me to think about there
 

fredwatt

Active Member
I've read this as well Flexi. ION will not be fast enough for flash, or HD flash. NVIDIA are working to get flash acceleration in their gpu's. But that's for the future. So if you want flash, think about a 785G or geforce 9300 mobo (note 9300 is more low powered than 9400).

Also alot of people want to use their computers for more that just HTPC. As a always on file server it could be a goer (but sata ports could be ltd). But if you want your HTPC to be more like a desktop, then from what I read it may not be a good choice. Plus due to the chipsets it's not quite as low powered as you'd think. Most idle from 25W+ upwards (depending on cards, disks etc). I would read up carefully before using a ATOM if using it for Windows+<add your own app here>.
 
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allanmb

Standard Member
Thanks Fred, I dont use HDMI for sound anyway so the 785G chipset sounds great. Now I just need to hang tight for the processors to hit the market :)

And yes you are correct assuming that I will be using Windows. In fact it will be Windows 7. I did try linux for my htpc a while back but couldnt get it working as much as I'd hoped. What software do you recommend for the linux route? It would need to support a remote (MS Media Center one pref).

Cheers
Allan
 

fredwatt

Active Member
AllanMB, 785G + efficient X2 = a great choice :)

On Linux, I am happy using MythTv, I find it makes for an excellent multi-room PVR solution, plus I can use other lovely linux software such as MPD. It's a fun hobby. But (always a but), under linux there is no software to play Blu-Ray Disks. Plus I use the version from SVN, as I am happy to build MythTV and update frequently. SVN version has the NVIDIA VDPAU support.

For BluRay I am going to buy the oppo 831, and only use Linux for the Music+Radio+PVR+always on File Server etc. But that's just me.
 

jensrow

Active Member
I'm interested in building a low power HTPC. Someone recommended me looking at the Atom ION 330 but the only downside atm is the flash performance. I want to be able to play IPTV content.

So I wondered if a micro ATX could be built with a similar power usage (idle and in use) to the ION 330.
NVidia have been working on the issue with Adobe and a hardware accelerated version that will work with Ion and other Nvidia chipsets will be out in a few days:smashin: -note it won't work on ATi or Intel GPUs - linkie.
 
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simc1978

Active Member
AllanMB, 785G + efficient X2 = a great choice :)

On Linux, I am happy using MythTv, I find it makes for an excellent multi-room PVR solution, plus I can use other lovely linux software such as MPD. It's a fun hobby. But (always a but), under linux there is no software to play Blu-Ray Disks. Plus I use the version from SVN, as I am happy to build MythTV and update frequently. SVN version has the NVIDIA VDPAU support.

For BluRay I am going to buy the oppo 831, and only use Linux for the Music+Radio+PVR+always on File Server etc. But that's just me.

I'm hoping that it is just a matter of time before Blu ray hits linux, but that is something to consider.
 

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