My Slimline & Quiet HTPC Build

southak

Active Member
Hi everyone, and welcome to my first build log. I've been thinking about building an HTPC for a while, but always rejected the idea as my media player had all my A/V requirements covered. However with the (relatively) recent increase in popularity of 1080p streaming, and a significant hike in my internet speeds, my requirements have changed. Apart from anything else my trusty Popcorn Hour A300 has started to play up, all of which means...it's time to upgrade!

My primary aims are to have a living room PC capable of:
  • Multi-region playback of Blu-rays and DVDs from the original discs
  • Playback of ripped Blu-rays, DVDs and downloaded content from my NAS using KODI as the front-end
  • Streaming of online media e.g. YouTube, iPlayer, Netflix, etc
  • Playback of all audio either through my home cinema set-up or my wireless headphones
As I researched the project I developed some secondary objectives, namely:
  • Being able to play PC (Steam) games at the native resolution (1920 x 1080) of my 50-inch Panasonic plasma with all or most graphics options set to high quality
  • Achieve low noise performance
  • Achieving a rating of at least 9.0 on the WAF scale (Wife Approval Factor!)
Some things I'm not interested in at this stage and therefore did not come into my thinking:
  • 4K/Ultra HD. My current TV is the best I've ever had and I don't anticipate upgrading for many years (touch wood it doesn't go *pop* as I post this)
  • Streaming TV directly from satellite dish/cable
If, like me, you're thinking of your own build, check out the following links:
This isn't my first PC build, but it is my first HTPC build, so all-in-all I'm looking forward to it. I'm lucky enough to be in a position where I can buy whatever components I want so no doubt some of my choices will seem a little overkill considering my objectives - having said that I'm not particularly frivolous either, so let's see how we go. Regardless, I hope you enjoy my thread and if anyone has learned anything from it, or any of my no doubt numerous mistakes, then it will have been time well spent!

My current home cinema set up:
Close Up.JPG
My Current Set-Up.JPG


As always any questions or comments are welcome.

Kevin

POST INDEX - COMPONENT SELECTION; FIRST COMPONENTS ARRIVE; MORE COMPONENTS; SHOPPING SPREE & CABLE MANAGEMENT; CABLING TEST AND CPU/COOLER FITTING;
 
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southak

Active Member
COMPONENT SELECTION

Case: Lian Li PC-C37B
This is the first and most important decision in any HTPC build IMHO - this decision dictates or eliminates so many components further down the line. I am looking for something to fit in with my current home cinema set-up, something slimline (I hate towering PC cases and also I had to consider the WAF), slick & clean, black colour for sure, with front USB access as well as ability to fit an optical drive and a full size PSU. It was between the Fractal Node 605 and this; I eventually eliminated the Fractal due to its height.

CPU: Intel i3 6300T

The new Skylake "T" CPUs seem tailor-made for HTPC builds, being more powerful and more thermally efficient than any previous comparable generation of Intel chips. Having chosen a slimline case, thermal efficiency was a prime consideration, and with a TDP of just 35 watts each I could have chosen any of Skylake "T" chips, but I went for the i3 6300 T as I don't need true quad-core and it seems the best value (currently).

CPU Cooler: Scythe Big Shuriken 2 Rev. B
Again, the choice of a slimline case means a low-profile cooler is a necessity. Probably I could get away with the stock cooler but I really like the reviews of this, it's large but very quiet. I did look at some of the Noctua coolers but basically I'm too vein - I detest the beige colour of them.

Motherboard: MSI Z170M Mortar
Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX 2x4GB

The new Skylake CPU's are DDR 4 compatible, so it seems to make sense to take advantage of this. This motherboard has all the features I need, is Micro-ATX (a requirement of the Lian Li case) and basically it looks the dogs knackers as it, and the memory, matches the matt black interior of the case. The low-profile memory will help with air-flow and will fit under the CPU cooler if required.

Hard Drive: Samsung EVO 500GB
I have a 6TB NAS so probably an SSD of this size is overkill but they are so cheap these days I thought "why not"! I guess I'll use it for on-board storage too, the odd blu-ray iso, etc.

Graphics Card: Gigabyte GTX750ti

This may slip into an as-yet undefined "phase two" of the build, but at this stage this is the most powerful low-profile graphics card around. Not only that, but it has very low power requirements with some even able to be powered through the PCI-e bus itself - all of which means meaning less cooling, less noise, less cables. Given my gaming objectives I doubt I'll need anything more powerful.

PSU: TBD
Not sure what to get yet, I may go for either the Silverstone 500W SFX-L or something from the EVGA G2 series. Whatever I choose will be semi-fanless, powerful enough to be completely silent at low-mid power draw, and fully modular with low-profile cables. I've taken a call that I'll wait for the case to arrive before I buy the PSU in order that I can check what size PSU will fit comfortably.

Accesories & other bits: Logitech K830 keyboard, Flirc USB remote, One For All URC 7980 Smart Remote, Sennheiser BTD 800 USB, Sennheiser Momentum Wireless

The Logitech is, as I see it, the best Bluetooth keyboard out there; Flirc USB is I believe ubiquitous in a build like this; The One For All smart remote I just like the look of; Sennheiser Momentum Wireless needs no introduction to anyone who cares at all about headphone sound quality - to those who wear Beats headphones, for example, let me just say that "this is what music is supposed to sound like"! The BTD 800 USB is a high power Bluetooth device with 25 metre range.

I've already ordered most of the above, I'll pop up some pics as it all arrives (some bits are due today - how exciting!). I live in Dubai, UAE, so availability of product is an issue (the Lian Li case, for example, I had to order online and it cost me as much in delivery charges as it did to buy the case!).

Software will be Windows 10 & KODI. I have both on my desktop PC and I really enjoy using both of them!
 
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southak

Active Member
FIRST COMPONENTS ARRIVE

First item to arrive today was...drum roll...the keyboard! Talk about a vital component. Anyway here is the lovely delivery man with my new Logoitech K830 keyboard

IMG_1708.JPG

Solid and compact packaging:

IMG_1729.JPG


Looks great, the backlit keys seems very effective. High wife approval rating:

IMG_1731.JPG

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Same day, and the case arrived to - now I'm on the way! It's a Lian Li PC-C37B. I had so many problems trying to get hold of it - in the end I ordered it from Newegg.com in the US. The price was good (around $150) but because of the weight I paid nearly $100 shipping! Not only that, but just as I ordered it there was a snowstorm in the US and my delivery point (Aramex New York) was closed for three days. Was fate telling me I made a bad selection? Only time will tell.

IMG_1718.JPG


It comes with all the bits you need to construct - m/b screws, case screws, USB3-USB2 adapter, some rubber grommets, a small speaker and an optional case sticker:

IMG_1722.JPG

I had already picked up the MSI 170M Mortar locally, so when I got the case home I was able to drop the motherboard in for my first look (here I've removed the drive cages and support arm):

IMG_1715.JPG


I have to say, they look amazing together. The matt black finish of all the m/b & case interior really looks very cool, and there seems to be plenty of room for an ATX PSU and optical drive. I particularly love the little aqua blue on the capacitors. It's made me think I should have a black & blue colour theme - the only problem is that this m/b has some red LED's on the underside - I'll have to see how bright they are and if they can be turned off in the BIOS before I buy my blue RAM!

The case comes with two intake fans already in place. They are 70mm fans so if I need to replace them my options will be limited as none of the major manufacturers make fans this size:

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Room for a full size ATX PSU. The little sticker confirms a QC check from September last year. Reassuring it's not been sitting around on a shelf for years:

IMG_1725.JPG

Overall I'm very pleased so far. The only thing that grates is the aluminium support arm and drive bay cages. Looks wise, they don't match the slick feel of the rest of the case (although I can't complain about them from a functional perspective). I've already confessed to being a bit vein; it seems I'm going to have to do something about this colour clash!

IMG_1713.JPG
 
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southak

Active Member
MORE COMPONENTS ARRIVE

Next delivery is the CPU and the SSD. I love the packaging on the new Skylake CPUs. One thing I realised, I need to get a mounting adaptor for the SSD. Doh! I picked up some RAM yesterday as well. Here they all are:

CPU, SSD & RAM.JPG


I went with the i3 6300T due it's power/TDP ratio. The SSD is a new brainer, but in fact it perfectly matches my black case interior! The memory I got a good deal on the price, even though I don't need 16GB I figure I'll use it in my HTPC, and when (eventually) i upgrade my desktop PC I can buy some smaller sticks and swap them out.

The SSD I'll probably end up mounting it under the optical drive and removing the single HDD bay altogether.

Where to mount the SSD 2.JPG

Back to the case internals, I've decided to powder-coat the aluminium parts in black. I realise of course that doing this means I'll have to do the same to the aluminum exterior of optical drive (when I eventually get one), but hey ho. Here they are removed.

Aluminium Internals.JPG

This will take a few days, probably next week now until I get them back and I've picked up the rest of the basics. I'm dabbling with the idea of mounting a LED strip under the front edge of the case. Anyone have any thoughts on how I could control it remotely i.e. via software? I've had a look at the Hue+ but it seems a bit much for just one short strip.

In terms of the optical drive, I think I've decided to leave that for phase two. We don't really watch many DVDs or Blurays, I'm only having it in there so I can get rid of the Blu Ray player and further increase my equity with the Mrs SouthaK. For now if I need to, I can rip to MKV on my desktop PC and transfer the files to my NAS or HTPC over ftp (I have a wired home network so speed is not an issue).

Next priority is to pop out at the weekend and buy my PSU, CPU Cooling fan, and drop off the aluminium bits internals for powder coating!
 
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southak

Active Member
Wall-E, COMPONENTS & CABLE MANAGEMENT

So I popped out this morning to pick up a courier package from work, a cheeky little pre-valentines (late xmas) gift for the long-suffering Mrs S - Lego WALL-E!

WALL-E.JPG

While I was out I popped into Computer Plaza to get the rest of the essentials (and some not so essentials). Computer Plaza is the home of the all the PC component resellers here in Dubai. They may not be quite a "one stop shop" - it takes a while for the latest tech to filter through to the UAE, and they don't have all the brands I like, but it's a great spot.

Computer Plaza.jpg

I wanted to buy my case from here but they didn't have any HTPC cases; that's why I (like many others) end up ordering online. When I went there this morning none of the 20 or so stores stocked EVGA PSU's of any shape or capacity, and in fact only one store had a named brand PSU with capacity less than 550W (Silverstone)! I guess they mainly cater for gamers, of which there are many in this region. In the end I went for Corsair. I've used them before, never had any problems, they have a stellar reputation...and as I wanted a too-high capacity PSU anyway I suppose 650W was in the right ball park.

While I was there I picked up a Noctua CPU cooler (I wanted Scythe, but no one had them). I don't like the colour of the fan so I might swap it out at some point for a Be Quiet! 92mm PWM fan, but let's see. I bought my Windows 10 disc as well - here's all the bits:

Cooler, OS & PSU.JPG


I've already installed the PSU in order that I can start planning the cable management. Despite what the website says, the 24-pin cable on this PSU is definitely NOT low profile, but I can route it round the front of the case and under the front USB hub and it should remain in place and neatly out of the way:

IMG_1748.JPG


The CPU power cable I thought about routing under the MB, but there is a natural place to route it - along the edge of the PSU, up the back of the case, and under the lip of the lid.

IMG_1745.JPG
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I've moved both of the fans to the positions closest to the front of the case. In both cases I was able to tuck the cables out of the way. On the right side (as you look at the front of the case) it's tucked underneath the fan itself; on the left I managed to tuck it under the PSU, emerging on the other side right next to the correct header.

IMG_1753.JPG
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I've identified where the fan headers, USB headers etc are on the MB are, and I've secured the relevant cables place such using cellotape! Hopefully they should emerge in just the right places!

IMG_1758.JPG


It's now time to do a primary connection test. I'll secure the motherboard in place and try and connect all the cables in the right places....
 
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Jameskatie

Distinguished Member
On my htpc I installed four case fans down the right hand side where you currently have one, and have them all running very slowly, better for noise without sacrificing airflow
 

southak

Active Member
On my htpc I installed four case fans down the right hand side where you currently have one, and have them all running very slowly, better for noise without sacrificing airflow

I was just thinking the same thing. I would like to have positive air pressure in the case, with air flow front-to-back, exhausting out the back of the case. However I may just follow your lead, and have three slow fans on one side.

The other thing I was thinking about was actually blocking the vents on the sides that don't have fans, with a view to increasing air speed through the case.

Once everything is installed and I get a chance to look at the temperatures I might do some experimenting.
 

southak

Active Member
FITTING THE CPU & CPU COOLER

Sorry about the delayed update (in case anyone cared!) had a few things on this week!

So I did the test fitting of the motherboard, screwed it in place..and happily all the cables were in the right places and managed to plug in to the right sockets without to much bother. I haven't had time to powder-coat the hard drive cage yet.

IMG_1763.JPG


The next thing to do is fit the CPU and the CPU cooler. The best CPU cooler that was available here was the Noctua NH-L9x65. Ideally I wanted something in black to match the rest of the case, but I guess I can swap out the fan later on.

IMG_1765.JPG


As I mentioned before I went with an i£ 6300T. It comes with a stock cooler, here's how it compares height and size wise to the Noctua. I'd say the footprint is about the same and the height, about twice as high (you'll need 65mm of clearance above the motherboard - thus the name)

IMG_1771.JPG


Having said that from the moment I opened it, right through the fitting process, I was blown away by the cooler - no pun intended - everything about it just says QUALITY. Even the accessories were well made, and pretty complete too - including intel & AMD fixing sets, a solid screwdriver, thermal paste and a LNA (low noise adaptor, for limiting the voltage to the fan).

IMG_1767.JPG


Kudos to Noctua as well for packaging the whole thing (apart from two plastic bags) in recyclable materials.

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It's so simple to fit as well - simply apply the bracket to the bottom of the motherboard, spin it around and screw it to the two cooler mounts (shown below).

IMG_1768.JPG


Apply a little blob of paste in the middle (I added a few very small blobs in the corner for maximum, thinnest coverage) and screw the cooler and fan to the mounts. Really easy, and done in under ten minutes.

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In goes the RAM, and I've screwed the whole thing back into the case. It looks great IMHO.

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Next job is to fit the drive cage, the SSD and the optical drive.
 

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