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New (Basic) HTPC...With Pictures!

shadowboxer

Active Member
Just thought I'd post a few images of my new HTPC I've built for my Dad. At the moment its a pretty basic setup. Video running to a 40" Sony LCD via HDMI and analogue audio to two 2.0 200W speakers but soon it'll be connected upto the new AV receiver and 5.1 surround sound system for some DTS-MA and True HD goodness!

Spec is;

AMD Athlon II X2 240
Foxconn Cinema II Deluxe 785G
4GB Corsair DDR3 Dual Channel RAM
64GB Crucial M4 SSD
LG Blu Ray ROM
2TB Western Digital Green
XFX Radeon HD 5450 512MB Passive
Novatech Vision Media Center Case w/ 250W PSU
D-Link DWA 556 Low Profile Wireless N PCI-e

Windows 7 64 bit and XBMC. Speedlink SL 6399 USB IR remote.

Thanks to the SSD, boots into XBMC in <15 seconds and use Windows 7 Media Center with Cyberlink Power DVD 10 Ultra for Blu Ray playback.

The case is from a Novatech and has a branding sticker on the front. Thankfully this came off really easily (with very little glue and residue) to give the front of the case a nice look. Case is low profile and finished on the front and top/side with brush aluminium effect. Very scratch prone and is a finger print mangnet (hence the dusting cloth). :D

The case is pretty basic. Comes with a 250W PSU and a built in IR receiver and remote too. Haven't tried this one as the Speedlink SL 6399 works perfectly in XBMC (after a bit of tweaking in evenghost). Cooling is also pretty limited. There are no grill on the sides or top. There is space to install a 120mm fan (only with ITX boards) or 80mm fan towards the front of the case but that's all. Also if you do install an 80mm one in the "correct place" it actually blocked all of my SATA ports!Luckily due to the larger grill I managed to shift it along a bit to free them up.

The drive bay adapter is removable, only allows you to install two drives, one 3.5" and one 5.25" drive.

The M4 is just attached with some double sided tape. The PSU doesn't get very hot all so I'm hoping it'll be fine there! I took the Speedlink SL 6399 receiver apart and managed to do a bit of a mod so that it is all internal now, so no horrid external USB receiver! Just makes for a better finish. It doesn't power the system up but will shut down fine. Boots into XBMC in around 14-15 seconds from POST. Ran AS SSD Benchmark and getting around 250-260MB/s Read speed so quite happy with that on this board.

Using the latest build of XBMC, whatever version we're upto, and transparency for the skin. Plently of my own personalised backdrops to give it a nice media centre feel on the home page. Images change every few seconds too. I prefer quite simple skins and themes so gone for fairly plain fanart backdrops for movies, where as for music videos and TV shows prefer thumbnails and banners.

The system idles a nice 30 deg C with the stock cooler and just a single 80mm intake fan. During blu-ray playback and 1080p video sits around 40 degrees which isn't too back. Blu Ray playback is very good at 23.976fps and very rarely get frame stuttering thanks to the Radeon HD5450. System is surprisingly quiet, not even audible from 3m even on very quiet scenes. Finally the best bit for me...total outlay £235! [exc Windows] :smashin:

Also posted HERE for easier viewing - also more images.
 

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bagatanmd

Active Member
i have the same mobo for my kids set up. very nice:thumbsup::thumbsup:
 

Grangey.

Distinguished Member
nice build mate, looks cracking! however, i have one question

boots into XBMC in <15 seconds and use Windows 7 Media Center with Cyberlink Power DVD 10 Ultra for Blu Ray playback.

WHY?!?!

Why are you still using w7 + Powerdvd ultra for bluray playback? When you can simply set powerdvd as your external player from xbmc??
 

mikes

Well-known Member
Not sure why you describe it as basic!

It shows that a fully functioning HTPC can be built at very modest cost and will do all an HTPC is asked to do.

You do not need an i3/i5/i7 gaming PC to fulfill the requirements of an HTPC.

BTW 4 Gb of RAM isn't needed with Win7

Well done.
 

shadowboxer

Active Member
Why are you still using w7 + Powerdvd ultra for bluray playback? When you can simply set powerdvd as your external player from xbmc??

:confused: I did try to do this but came up fruitless unfortunately, will have another go when I have some time. Also, will be working my way through the XBMC sticky and XBMC forums to try and get the most of it. At the moment all I've done is pretty much a clean installation and loaded scrappers etc.

Not sure why you describe it as basic!

It shows that a fully functioning HTPC can be built at very modest cost and will do all an HTPC is asked to do.

You do not need an i3/i5/i7 gaming PC to fulfill the requirements of an HTPC.

BTW 4 Gb of RAM isn't needed with Win7

Well done.

This was exactly my reasoning. I didn't need to spend £500 on something to stream my media or play HD files. I have another system/PS3 for gaming and work so didn't need anything powerful or too extravagant.

I called it "basic" as there are quite a few high-end HTPCs in this forum with large full ATX cases etc. Having something smaller is much more appealing for myself. I would have gone the mini ITX route but this would have bumped up costs for something which doesn't need to be expensive. Most parts were second hand and as I was in no rush just waited for new things to be on offer.

As for the 4GB of RAM, your spot on. The RAM didn't arrive with the other bits and bobs so pinched a 2GB stick from my i7 system and it ran perfectly fine.

The SSD is a pure luxury - was on offer so seemed a bit too good to refuse(£83.99 inc next day delivery). Was actually meant go in my main system but for the time being I'm happy to leave it where it is. Without the SSD the whole system only cost slightly upward of £150!:thumbsup:
 
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stevos

Distinguished Member
How does the CPU handle XBMC?

I was looking at the AMD Zacate options but notice some bad posts in regards to sluggishness of resposne etc on XBMC especially the better looking skins.

Have to admit i am not really up on AMD processors but is the Athlon II X2 240 a significant step up from the Zacate?

I really like the look of the case other than the front USB ports, such a shame. If you put your finger over them in the picture, it looks like a proper hifi/av part. I will probably end up with something like a Wesena E6 which is a bit overkill on price but looks the part on the piccies
 
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icstm

Active Member
Lovely build, I really like it - the price is awsome!

2nd, very good temps

3rd, do you use wireless or wired for HD playback?

Where did you get the remote from, which apps does it work with and how would you review it?

@ Grangey: you should have just pointed him to your thread ;)
 

shadowboxer

Active Member
How does the CPU handle XBMC?

CPU is great with XBMC. I picked it up on ebay for £25 quite a while ago for another project which never came to fruition. As I had it lying around and fancied a HTPC it basically built it around that and some other spare parts. Responsiveness is great, its not the newest spec or lowest powered system (65W CPU TDP) but does everything I need it do to and feels great. Whilst I was putting it together I downloaded XBMC temporarily on my main rig (in sig.) and honestly both systems feel the same inside XBMC. Not tried with many other skins (only transparency, confluence and aeon) but all were great with just 2GB of RAM. Can't comment on Zacate performance as I've not got first hand experience but I generally found that the cost of a simple microATX AM3 motherboard and Athlon II X2 CPU is about the same price as a Zacate board (even cheaper if you get second hand as there are plenty around) - although if you want stutter free blu ray playback add £25 or so for a Radeon HD 5450 gfx card.

Can understand about the front USBs, would have been nice if they were covered with a plastic flap or something but hey, for £50 and including a PSU I really don't care!!:D

PS Wesena cases are beautiful, I really love the designs of the smaller low profile ones, but couldn't really justify the case costing the same, if not more than what's inside it.

@icstm Thanks very much.

At the moment using wireless for HD playback on bbc iplayer, it does seem to buffer every so often but SD playback is fine. Will be using homeplugs later on when we get a dedicated NAS/server but at the moment I can live with it.

The remote is the Speedlink SL-6399 - after doing some research I found that most users found it worked out of the box. So picked one up from ebay for the delightful price of £2.30 including delivery!:smashin: Removed the PCB from the plastic case and did a bit of a mod so it fits nicely behind the IR receiver window and just connected it up.

I'm still playing around with evenghost so not got it fully optimized for my liking but it does the basics at the moment completely fine. Will feedback once I've got a bit further with it.
 
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spyder viewer

Distinguished Member
Glad to read that you got on with the case ok. It's a pity there aren't more cases like this one around for this sort of application. I also think it would do very well for anybody wanting an economy desktop machine.

I had a reply to my supply enquiry to Novatech and was told that they should have it back in stock by the end of May.

Great!
 

stevos

Distinguished Member
Have to say i am very tempted to just buy one of these cases as a starter build

I haven't used a HTPC before and spending a large amount of money on a case/system that i end up not using would be a bit silly.
 

shadowboxer

Active Member
Yeah got on very well with the case, can't really complain too much for the price. Just a few minor points;

1) Probably could do with a ventilation grill on the top to exhaust hot air from the CPU.
2) PSU made a horrid rattling sound, turns out there was an internal wire loose and waving around which was hitting the fan - managed to do so adjustments to it and it OK now though.
3) Not really many expansion bays for a case of this size, would be nice to have another 3.5" or 2.5" drive bay.
4) On the two SATA power connectors, but as theres only 2 drive bays I guess it make sense. I had to use a molex-SATA adapter to power the SSD.
5)Very easily scratched and is a total finger print magnet - finding myself wiping it clean every time I go to turn it on or off! lol.

Other than that - really happy with it.
 

stevos

Distinguished Member
Don't buy a PS3 if you have the desire to clean it every time you go anywhere near it, that things seems to attract finger prints for 20 yards.
 

mikes

Well-known Member
I called it "basic" as there are quite a few high-end HTPCs in this forum with large full ATX cases

I'd argue (and in my opinion) that these are not HTPCs at all, but gaming/general purpose machines that have an HDMI out thus allowing them to play media.

A huge ATX-built PC would last ten minutes in the living room with my wife!
 

shadowboxer

Active Member
I'd argue (and in my opinion) that these are not HTPCs at all...

Haha...exactly my thoughts too. I'd completely agree, their just desktop machines in fancy cases! Not true HTPCs!!
 

icstm

Active Member
I agree, though my machine sits behind a sofa, near my desk. One of the sofas seperates my sitting into a study area and lounge.

So there is no sign of the PC from the lounge area, just some cables I need to hide away for hdmi, coax and phono.
 

banthorpe

Standard Member
can you tell me what fans you used - both for the case and the CPU? you mention some trouble fitting the case fan and so I want to be sure to get the same or similar fans.

also - where did you source the motherboard from?
 
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shadowboxer

Active Member
The motherboard was bought from ebay, I was just after a basic microATX AM3 board and this one popped up. Never had any major problems with my Foxconn board in my main rig so thought I'd take a bit of a punt on it even though there aren't many reviews. Unfortunately, the UK version is not the same as the US/Asia version which comes with a wireless adapter and remote & IR receiver. Wasn't overly fussed though.

CPU fan is a stock AM3 heatsink. Was looking around for some nice low profile aftermarket coolers but nothing really came up on the members markets etc so thought I'd try the stock one in the meantime. The motherboard allows control of the the case and CPU fan so have them both running at round 50% of their max RPM to keep things nice and quiet.

The case fan is a Xilence RED WING 80mm (again a fairly budget but quiet 80mm fan) - link
 

DavidT

Well-known Member
.............The case fan is a Xilence RED WING 80mm (again a fairly budget but quiet 80mm fan) - link

I am running 2 of these fans at half speed and from a metre away they are silent.

David
 

shadowboxer

Active Member
Yeah, was surprised at just how quiet they are when you consider the price! Very impressed and as you say silent at 50% which is a real bonus.
 

bagatanmd

Active Member
The motherboard was bought from ebay, I was just after a basic microATX AM3 board and this one popped up. Never had any major problems with my Foxconn board in my main rig so thought I'd take a bit of a punt on it even though there aren't many reviews. Unfortunately, the UK version is not the same as the US/Asia version which comes with a wireless adapter and remote & IR receiver. Wasn't overly fussed though.

CPU fan is a stock AM3 heatsink. Was looking around for some nice low profile aftermarket coolers but nothing really came up on the members markets etc so thought I'd try the stock one in the meantime. The motherboard allows control of the the case and CPU fan so have them both running at round 50% of their max RPM to keep things nice and quiet.

The case fan is a Xilence RED WING 80mm (again a fairly budget but quiet 80mm fan) - link


i also bought mu mobo off ebay but that one came complete with the remote and the wireless adapter. all for £45.00
 

walleee

Active Member
excellent im waiting on these coming back into stock

How loud is the stock PSU?
 

walleee

Active Member
Glad to read that you got on with the case ok. It's a pity there aren't more cases like this one around for this sort of application. I also think it would do very well for anybody wanting an economy desktop machine.

I had a reply to my supply enquiry to Novatech and was told that they should have it back in stock by the end of May.

Great!

I spoke to an advisor on their chat on site today who said they were due today or tomorrow, I have my fingers crossed! this thread has helped confirm that this is the case i need, looks great!
 

banthorpe

Standard Member
Have you had any luck getting Dolby Digital (5:1) audio out the HDMI connector? I have mine plugged into my Sony KDL-40HX803 which then has an optical connection to my AV receiver. My XBox is connected in the same way and the receiver switches to Dolby digital when required however when playing a DVD in media center (for example) I only get 2 channel stereo. The optical output on this cinema II motherboard seems to allow Dolby Digital but I don't understand why I can get it out of the HDMI connector.

Any thoughts?
 

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