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Finally found an ideal MCE Case(Barebones etc)

Paul D

Well-known Member
After what seems like an eternity, i've finally found a HTPC case that will fit on my floating shelves:)

Most other HTPC cases are too "deep". (depth wise etc)
Other cases can also be too big overall.
This one is only slighty taller than the original SKY+ box.(same width and depth etc)

Even the current low profile prebuilt systems are too deep and expensive for decent spec, meaning i've had to wait.

Shuttle finally came out with one that would fit(M1000), but that costs around £1250:eek:

So without harping on any further...!
Here it is..."Aopen EPC945-m8"

430(W)x89(H)x325(D)
It is silver and black, but they will also be releasing an all black version.

This one uses normal PC processors, and the black GT will use mobile processors etc.

I couldn't find a GT, and thought it would be cheaper to stick with the P4 930 Dual processor route.

It is a barebone system, and all you need to add is CPU/Mem/HDD/DVD of your choosing.

The EPC945-m8 is available from various places, but i found it for £282.53 inc VAT from:
www.pcnextday.co.uk

Next up i will start giving details of what makes this so good!

Ok here we go.

It has a scart socket pre installed for those who wish to connect to normal TVs.
It also has DVI/VGA for those wanting to use a LCD/Plasma.
But if you want to use your own PCIe graphics card(low profile), then you lose the scart facility.(the scart connects to the pre-installed add on card etc)
I don't think this will bother most, as Higher definition/resolution will be the goal etc.

It comes with a MCE remote, and this hints at its intentions.

It is intel ViiV enabled, and needs MCE2005(UP) to run.
It has a VFD display pre-installed(Blue dot matrix), and this turns into a clock when the PC is in standby or off.

It has a MCE "eHome" infrared receiver built in, meaning no need to have the seperate(Ugly) USB module.
It has two sockets at the rear to add IR transmitter(one included), so MCE can control your SKY box etc.

It has two of SPDIF out connections...optical(front) and Coaxial(Rear)
It also has SPDIF in(optical?) i assume for use with recording MP3 etc.

It uses the INTEL High definition Audio chipset for sound.(Azalia 7.1ch)

The front panel consists of:
Spring loaded drop down panel for the DVD drive.
Drop down panel for the muti card reader.(Pre built in!)
Lower drop down panel, giving access to media transport buttons(Play FF/RR etc), and USB/Firewire(inc mini)/SPDIF/MIC headphones.
 

Paul D

Well-known Member
Here the first pictures showing the layout.
I've removed the DVD/HDD cradle, and fitted the fanless XFX nVidia 7300LE low profile VGA card
 

Paul D

Well-known Member
Heres the "included" heatpipe quiet fan system.
It is really is whisper quiet, with the HDD and DVD being louder!
 

Paul D

Well-known Member
All done!
Final spec:
P4 930 Dual cores (x2)3.0ghz CPU 2mb cache x2(4mb) etc, so should fly!
512mb x2(1GB) DDR2 5400 speed memory.
Samsung Dual layer DVD writer(Sata)
XFX nVidia 7300Le 128mb fanless.
Modded to low profile using the removed "add on" cards low profile bracket etc.;)
I had a Spare 7200rpm Hitachi HDD 120gb(I network from the main house server for DVD/Music/Photos anyway etc)
Costs.. about £530 inc VAT.
But i may add a digital Tuner/Fm card.
 

Paul D

Well-known Member
Right, so that's the photos done!

Next problems/hitches found so far.

No manual for the motherboard didn't help.(Just a quick start guide)
I think the install/setup manual is available online.

First problem was getting MCE2005 to install.
It would load the initial setup drivers, and then give the dreaded "window needs to close to protect..Blah blah..blue screen etc)

:oops:

Scratched my head for a few minutes on this one.

Then i remembered to check the BIOS settings more carefully.(i've had this before with IDE+SATA sysytems)
And yes, SATA was set to "raid" and needed setting to IDE mode.

Bingo! we were in business...:clap:

Once MCE was installed, i started to add the drivers.
No real problems, but the ehome Infrared receiver driver (or lack of)was flagging up.
All that is needed is a good session with windows update!

Once done, no driver flags were showing, and the MCE remote and my existing MS MCE keyboard (and mouse stick/nipple) worked perfectly.

I downloaded some plug ins for MCE (My Movie/My weather/My Outlook etc), and called it a night.

Tomorrow, i want to start making use of the VFD and play some more with the ViiV "away mode" standby settings.

Up to now, it all seems very polished and professional and i have built a fair few systems for people over the years.

Any questions, just fire away:smashin:
 
Nice Find, might have ot get one of these myself, seems they done the hard work for oyu, all you have to do is just put in your components, very cheap to considering a case like this without a motherboard retails for £160 anyway, so it's whisper quiet with a Pentium D 930?, what kind of temps do you get for the CPU at full load and startup?, also does it support Dolby Digital Live?, as in does it have a built in dolby digital encoder like the Nforce/HDA cards...,I would buy this if I had not got a £120 Intel Viiv mobo a few months back..., loookingfor a case for this althoguh for the price of a decent one this is prolly a better option..., can you put two hard drives in the system and also is it a standard MATX mobo?, as in can you replace it wiht your own one?..
 

xxxx

Novice Member
Paul D said:
It has a scart socket pre installed for those who wish to connect to normal TVs.
But what does it actually output? Composite video and stereo L/R, I expect. RGB seems less likely.

An interesting product. Thanks for the description.
 

Paul D

Well-known Member
meansizzler said:
Nice Find, might have ot get one of these myself, seems they done the hard work for oyu, all you have to do is just put in your components, very cheap to considering a case like this without a motherboard retails for £160 anyway, so it's whisper quiet with a Pentium D 930?, what kind of temps do you get for the CPU at full load and startup?, also does it support Dolby Digital Live?, as in does it have a built in dolby digital encoder like the Nforce/HDA cards...,I would buy this if I had not got a £120 Intel Viiv mobo a few months back..., loookingfor a case for this althoguh for the price of a decent one this is prolly a better option..., can you put two hard drives in the system and also is it a standard MATX mobo?, as in can you replace it wiht your own one?..
The only temps i have seen so far is when running Media Centre:
Case temp 39C - CPU temp 40C. (on for over two hours with a room temp of 23.5C)
There are two fans, one for the PSU and one for the CPU.
Both are whisper quiet (but not silent) at these temps.
I will know more when i start running some high def through it later today.

I have the HDA card fitted in the cinema room HTPC.
Like you i wanted real time DD encoding.
I've not tested this yet, and it does depend what cMedia chip they have fitted.
I won't using this as a serious gaming machine, so DD encoding was less important.(though it would be nice!)

You can fit two hard drives, and it has onboard raid via the Sata connection.

I'm not sure what size motherboard it is.
It's either M-ATX or B-ATX.
Because of all the extra facilities (VFD/Card reader/Inputs-outputs), i'm not sure a replacement MB would work.
 

Paul D

Well-known Member
xxxx said:
But what does it actually output? Composite video and stereo L/R, I expect. RGB seems less likely.

An interesting product. Thanks for the description.
I have no idea(and i've disconnected it anyway due to using my own VGA).
I assume it will only be composite/SVideo anyway.
The manual is available online at
www.aopen.com

If i find out, i will report back.
 

2010

Novice Member
That looks like a really smart case actually, especially for the money!

Thanks for sharing.
 
Paul D said:
Meansizzler,
According to the website, it is a M-ATX motherboard.:)
Thanks this is jsut what i'm lookign for, I can take out the mobo and sell it then replace it with my Intel one since it has Dolby Digital Live, also how hot do oyur hard drives get, since they are under the optical drive they must gett pretty warm?, in the 40's I would say, in my Silverstone case they are cooled by and 8CM fan and never go over 31 degrees, to me HArd Drive cooling is important, but apart form that I might pick one of these up.., like the facy it has the card reader and built in VFD and MCE Remote Reciever something which alot of HTPC cases lack...also the CPU heatsink seems to be doing a great job form your results....
 

Paul D

Well-known Member
I cannot comment on the hard drive cooling, as only time will tell.
I also have concerns about the passive heatsink on the VGA card, but again i will see how i get on.
I have looked at the way the fans and vents work, and it looks like they have designed an airflow system.
I think maybe using a temp probe would be the only way of telling for sure.
 
Paul D said:
I cannot comment on the hard drive cooling, as only time will tell.
This program will give you your HD temps DTEMP...and have you got any CPU temps at full load?, try running a 1080P quicktime trailer and 1080P WMVHD trailer at the same type and maybe a 1080i .ts file to...I have a pentium D 830 which runs at 45 Degrees startup and 65 Degrees Full load, but then again i'm using a Passive Cooler and the PSU is the only fan drawing heat away from the CPU, basically the PSU sits directly above the CPU...
 

phototaker

Standard Member
Paul, Looks like a superb well specified bare bones system. I am very tempted. How loud are the fans ? I built a Shuttle X a few years ago, it was advertised as being quiet ! I soon found out that this was not the case. Would you notice the fans if you were sitting say 10 feet away in a normal living room ?
 

Paul D

Well-known Member
Hi
Here's some temps when running hi-def footage for over an hour:

Room temp 24.4C

Sys temp = 52C
CPU temp = 45C
HDD temp = 51C

CPU Fan Speed 1371rpm (1081rpm when idle)

As mentioned, the HDD makes the most noise (when accessing data etc).
In a silent room i can hear it clicking from my seating position.(8-9ft away)
The DVD drive when it is at maximum spin, can be heard. But i would imagine most people can judge how loud that will be.
Otherwise i cannot tell it's on, unless i get a few feet away.

If it helps any, my XBOX 360 sounds like a helicopter taking off and is still very audible even when in dashboard. (I has now been moved to the cinema room)
Aopen have managed to design a PC that is both quiet and powerful. Microsoft should be ashamed.

The only trouble is that what i find whisper quiet, somebody else might think annoying.
Some people want total silence, and view any noise unacceptable.
Positioning will also play a part, because it has vent holes in diffferent places.

Before i carry on with my findings, here a few more pics to give some idea of size.


A bit closer!

Picture with the control flap down
 

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