Ultra-slim yet Powerful HTPC Build (Wesena e5)

sashaarrabi91

Standard Member
Hello everyone!

I'm new to avforums, so bear with me please :)

My story is the same as many of those who build HTPC's: I am sick of paying cable fees on a monthly basis that are gonna pile up over a long period of time. I'm also looking for a stutter-free, powerful all-in-one solution for all multimedia content, on a budget of $1,500 maximum. The price is hefty, but I really mean all-in-one. I'm not buying anymore media players in long, long time :nono:

I decided to use the Windows Media Center built into Windows 7, and build a very compact, yet very powerful system that had the following functionalities:

  • Watch and/or record 4 simultaneous streams of Live HD Digital TV (w/ CableCARD) using the built-in WMC Guide
  • Play stored HD video content in any format
  • Stream HD video content from online streaming websites (youtube, hulu, etc.) and services (Netflix, Internet TV, etc.)
  • Play DVDs and Blu-Ray Discs (through PowerDVD plugin)
  • Play music stored on the system as well as on other computers on the home network
  • Rip DVDs and BDs
  • Burn to DVD/CD
  • Extend Windows Media Center from HTPC to Xbox 360
One of the most compact cases out there is the Wesena e5. One of the few problems with using such an ultra-slim case is ensuring proper heat control and making sure the components (like heatsink/fan and PSU) fit in nicely.

After tons and tons and TONS of research, I think I came up with the right parts for the job. What do you guys think?

Case: Wesena e5
Mobo: ZOTAC 890GXITX-A-E
CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 980 Deneb
Heatsink/Fan: Akasa Low Profile AMD CPU Cooler
TV Tuner: Ceton InfiniTV 4
Blu-Ray Drive: Sony Optiarc BC-5600S
PCI-E 1x Riser: HOTER PCI-E Express 1X Riser Card
HDD Fan: Thermaltake A2427
Memory/RAM: Team Elite 8GB (2 x 4GB)
Hard Drive: Seagate ST31000524AS Barracuda
PSU: Athena Power AP-MFATX40P8

Total Cost (rough estimate): $1,125

One of the things I'm unsure about is the HDD Fan. I know I don't particularly need it, but the case offers two 3.5" enclosures, and I just don't know what to do with the "extra space" :confused: What can go into a 3.5" drive bay other than a hard drive?

Finally, the motherboard has an integrated graphics card (AMD HD 4290) that is supposedly able to play Blu-Ray content without stuttering. Hopefully with that coupled with the beastly processor, I'll be able to encode and decode videos in a snap.

Other than that, I think I'm ready to order and start documenting (with pics) the whole build process - once I get the blessing of avforums members first, of course :thumbsup:

PS: For those of you who would like to know more about the parts without clicking on each link, I compiled a nice word document that summarizes the most important stats of each part, and I attached it to this post.
 

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tony_park

Active Member
Hi,

checking the processor cooler, are you planning for one with a fan, as the cpu is rated at 125w TDP, and the cooler, without a fan rated at 45W TDP - so you're gonna have cooling problems with this, if I understand it correctly!

Personally, if I was you, I'd be looking around at Intel i3 2100T processors etc, with either a suitable graphics card, or even onboard gpu, as that may be a better option.

HTH
Tony
 
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sashaarrabi91

Standard Member
I thought the processor might be overkill. Since I don't want to change too many of the specs, especially the mobo, how about the dual-core AMD Athlon II X2 260 Regor? It runs at 3.2 GHz, but its only 65 watt TDP. Should that work fine? Link for the processor is here.

Would I still need to change the CPU cooler?
 

bryanchicken

Novice Member
why have you gone for that particular motherboard and cpu?
In a small form factor (especially a slim one where you need a small cooler) i would want the coolest running components i could get to prevent it being noisy.
For me, that would be one of the intel T CPUs (eg, 2100T, G620T). I believe these T processors also come with a half decent low profile cooler as standard.
I doubt that Akasa one is going to be quiet tbh, and cooling a 65/95W monster is going to have it going like the clappers most the time.

The 2100T is cheaper than the first AMD cpu you chose too, and the 620T is comparable in price to the 2nd.

Also, the case you linked has 4 x 60mm fans installed, and doesn't seem to indicate a space for the 80mm thermaltake fan you've listed.
 
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sashaarrabi91

Standard Member
@bryanchicken, you bring up really good points about noise reduction. The main reason I want to stay with that particular motherboard is because of its integrated graphics card. It insures I can play blu-ray/HD content without stuttering, and frees up the pci-e slot for the tv tuner. I also like the built-in wifi.

I want to replace the Akasa fan I chose earlier with the Silverstone NT07 linked here. It has pretty good reviews in terms of noise, and it would work fine with the 65W cpu I listed above (the Athlon X2 260 Regor). In the end, I'm more concerned with power and ability to encode/decode quickly than with noise, and I do have a personal preference of AMD over Intel :)

The Thermaltake fan I listed is a hard-drive fan which would be placed onto the hard-drive, and will take up the extra 3.5" bay available in the case.

If there's something more useful to put into the extra 3.5" bay (other than another hard-drive), I'd love to know!
 

sashaarrabi91

Standard Member
Okay, I've checked and cross-checked all the parts to make sure they'll work together, and I believe I'm ready to get this build together.

I'll be buying the parts right after new years (after I get some cash gifts from Christmas and new years), and I'll update this thread immediately with some pictures once I get the parts, along with a step by step guide on how to put the build together, and some temperature stats.

The last thing I'll order is the Thermaltake Hard Drive Fan, which would take up the extra 3.5" bay in the case, because I'm still unsure about it. Does anyone out there know anything else I could put in an internal 3.5" bay other than a hard drive? Thanks for all input so far guys, I'm looking forward for some more :)

I'll keep this thread updated if I find any parts that are better and more cost effective. Still taking any recommendations/comments until after new years!
 

spacemanc

Active Member
You don't have to use the extra bay just because it there!

You could use it for a small SSD boot drive (some of them come with 3.5 adapter plates), and keep the second drive purely for storage. I've just bought a 64GB Crucial M4 to use as a boot drive, and although it was quite expensive for the size, I haven't regretted it.
 

sashaarrabi91

Standard Member
Hey apex82, I'm attaching the final list of the parts that I want to get, along with their price and from which website I'm ordering them. It also gives a brief summary of each individual part.

I considered getting an SSD boot drive as spacemanc suggested, but hard-drive prices are insanely high right now - once the price goes down, I'll consider it again. Until then, I'll just put the hard-drive fan as a placeholder, and somewhat as a faint hope that it will help cool down the temperatures in this beast :)

If you followed my previous doc attachment, then you should check this one out. All the links and prices are updated. Also, the Hard Drive now comes with a $30 DVD burner, which I'll either sell or install in my desktop.

For those solely interested in total price, it totals to: $1,140

Keep in mind however, a large part of the price is the TV Tuner, which costs roughly $300 alone.

I'm ordering the parts soon! Cheers.
 

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sashaarrabi91

Standard Member
Wow, it has been a while. Sorry for those who were following!! Sorry apex82 :(

Fortunately, things are ready to go back on track! The funds are (finally) there, and the specs have changed a little. Let's cut to the chase (click links for full specs):

Case: Wesena e5
Motherboard: Intel BOXDH67BLB3
CPU: Intel Core i3-2125
Heatsink: GELID Solutions Slim Silence i-Plus
TV Tuner Card: Ceton InfiniTV 4
Blu-Ray Drive: Sony BC-5600S
Hard Drive: Seagate ST31000524AS Barracuda
Power Supply: Athena Power AP-MFATX40P8
Memory: GeIL Pristine 8GB

As before, attached you'll find a word document providing all the details, prices, and specs of each component.

For those budget-minded of us, as it stands, the project's total cost is $1,074 (including shipping to the US).

I have begun ordering the components, and even made some space on my camera to take a ton of pictures so I can post a step-by-step guide here on AVForums once the pieces arrive. I am also considering a Youtube video, so if I see some support for that, I'll do that as well ;)

I started by ordering the case and bluray drive. If you guys notice any critical errors with my choice of hardware, let me know while there's still time!!! :lease:

Otherwise, sit tight and I'll post an update very soon.

Cheerio!!

PS. Any questions/comments will be responded to promptly!
 

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sashaarrabi91

Standard Member
Not yet! I chose it mainly for its very low-profile form factor (max height @ 28 mm), although the reviews here and here make it seem like a good cooler as well. Once I put it in my system and I have it running, I'll post some temperature readings of the CPU, so check back here and you'll see the results :D
 
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sashaarrabi91

Standard Member
I just received the tracking number(s), and the Case and Blu-Ray drive will both (supposedly) arrive this Wednesday, 4/11. :clap:

Get ready for some pictures!!! On a side note, the Ceton Tuner should be arriving this Thursday or Friday.

Once I get the case in and some pictures up (with dimensions for you folks), I'll put the order in for the Mobo, CPU, Memory, Hard Drive, and Heatsink, along with some other parts here and there (i.e. PCI-E x1 ribbon extender for tuner).

I am also considering a Solid State drive to load the OS on...so if anyone has any feedback on that, I'll be glad to take it! Also, I'm a big fan of WiFi, but have nowhere on the case to fit antennas - are there any adapters that fit onto a PCI-E x1 slot that don't require an antenna yet will still perform well enough?? :confused:

As always I appreciate all feedback, and stay tuned!! :p
 

sashaarrabi91

Standard Member
Great news everyone, the case has arrived, and it is gorgeous. The pictures online do not do it any justice. The material is high-grade, and the magnet-connected top cover was a pleasant surprise.

I'll be editing this post to upload some pictures to go with it soon.

I just put in the order for everything else, so not too long left!

Cheers

EDIT #1: Here's a teaser photo before I start my step-by-step guide.

EDIT #2: All of the parts should arrive on the 17th, so expect to see step-by-step pictures and some specs on heat and performance once it is up and running! Thanks to those following! :thumbsup:

sw2tuh.jpg
 
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sashaarrabi91

Standard Member
Hello guys,

Here's a weekend update before the parts come in this week (around Tuesday), as well as answers to questions I was messaged:

  • The total cost, including shipping and replacement warranties was $1,140 (aka 720 £)
  • The total shipping time (to U.S.) was approx. 1 week
  • The system will be pairing with a 42" 1080p Vizio LCD TV through HDMI
  • The system will be connected through a wired Gigabit connection
  • The system will run Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)
  • The main media center will most likely be Windows Media Center, with extensive use of plugins such as MediaBrowser and PowerDVD (for Blu-ray)

If you guys have any questions, want to discuss the best plugins for WMC, or just feel like typing aimlessly, feel free to do so!

What plugins would you recommend to use to display a large ripped collection without any stuttering??

Thanks,

Sasha
 

sashaarrabi91

Standard Member
Okay so I am done constructing my HTPC. There a few issues, including: Power Button not functioning correctly (does not boot or shutdown computer, possibly due to poor cables or non-working power button), and the button to eject the Blu-Ray drive malfunctioning (it doesn't seem to reach the button on the actual drive, so I need to eject the drive through windows instead of physically).

*EDIT* The power button was replaced by the case supplier for free, and works flawlessly. The eject button for the slot drive does not work as intended, but was fixed manually without much difficulty.

Windows was successfully installed, and Windows Media Center was chosen as the main UI. I am using a very nifty program called My Movies, which lets me organize my media library very efficiently, and provides a ton of other features. With my project nearly complete, and the issues getting dealt with, I will start posting some pictures up!!

**STATS**

As of now, the idle temperature is roughly 45C, while under 90% - 100% load it's approx 70C. Despite there being 6 fans inside the case (4 case fans, a CPU fan and a HDD fan), the system is whisper quiet.

The CPU and HD 3000 graphics combine for a very powerful machine, with no hiccups or stuttering while playing 1080p MKV's and Blu-Rays, and even multiple 1080p youtube videos at the same time. The 8GB of ram ensures quick response as well, and booting from sleep takes approx 3 seconds (thereby creating a similar feel to starting up any other AV unit like a DVD player).

Any questions?! Ask away!! I'm glad to offer any advice or additional information. Pictures will be up soon, as well as information on the TV Tuner card which has yet to be set up!
 
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sashaarrabi91

Standard Member
As promised, and especially for you, jammyb2004 ;), here are some pictures, with some personal notes and advice (denoted with two stars **) given where needed. If there are any questions, feel free to ask away! If you have an additional picture request (from a different angle, in the TV Stand, etc.) let me know and I'll do my best to provide what's requested. Enjoy!

Front of the case:
attachment.php


Top of the case:
attachment.php


*EDIT* Fully functioning power button replaced for free by supplier, and built-in IR receiver:
attachment.php


Blu-Ray slot and hidden Front Panel:
attachment.php


Opened Front Panel (2 x USB 2.0 and Multi-Card reader):
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Back of the case:
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Back Panel:
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Lever to open (amazing) magnetic top cover. Other lever is on left side above back panel:
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Top View of Motherboard:
attachment.php


Continued in next post...
 

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sashaarrabi91

Standard Member
Continued from last post...

CPU Fan (fits with a little bit of room to spare). There are vents directly above it:
attachment.php


Power Cables. It's a mess, especially difficult because I'm using a Flex ATX PSU. **Pico PSU may have been better**:
attachment.php


*EDIT* Fixed Power Leads + Sata Connectors
attachment.php


20-Pin Power Connector. Barely fits onto the motherboard!! Unsure if this is a limitation of the Flex ATX PSU, or because of the distance. **Consider getting a 20-pin Power Connector Extender**, although I made it fit (just barely):
attachment.php


Blu-Ray Drive. SATA connector and 20-pin connector are awkwardly close. **Mini-ITX motherboard wouldn't have that issue**:
attachment.php


Hard Drive is close to side panel. **Luckily, the side panels are extremely easy to remove (and necessary)**, providing easy access to screw-in the hard drive:
attachment.php


Watch out for wire placement near the case fans, that would create quite an annoying noise. Once fixed, with 6 fans running inside, the case is quite quiet:
attachment.php


Some good side ventilation on each side of the case:
attachment.php


Continue to next post for pictures on software...
 
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sashaarrabi91

Standard Member
Continued from last post...

Okay, onto the software. For some reason, WMC 7 wasn't letting me take print-screens, so I had to use my camera. Anyways here they are!

Windows Media Center Start Screen on My Movies 4 plugin (Movies and TV-Series):
attachment.php


Movie selection with "Movies" plugin (part of My Movies 4):
attachment.php


Various options and information once movie is selected:
attachment.php


TV-Series selection screen (still part of My Movies 4):
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Season selection within TV-Series plugin:
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Unique strip I created to include items like Netflix and Internet TV on one strip:
attachment.php


PowerDVD 10 plugin used to play Blu-Ray discs from within Windows Media Center:
attachment.php
 
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Spee2k

Well-known Member
Hello mate.

Am thinking of getting the wesena e5 as well. Could you please comment on the wesena flex psu. Is it quiet?

Also how noisy are the fans?

Cheers
 

sashaarrabi91

Standard Member
Hello mate.

Am thinking of getting the wesena e5 as well. Could you please comment on the wesena flex psu. Is it quiet?

Also how noisy are the fans?

Cheers

The fans included with the case on the sides are completely silent. The loudest fan is the CPU fan, followed by the PSU fan, but those are still pretty quiet. Make sure the wires are kept away from the case fans, otherwise it could get quite noisy. But I'm sure you knew that already ;)

Under full load, without air conditioning in the room, the CPU fan can be noticeable. However, my HTPC is in an air-conditioned room kept at 70 F, and even under 100% load the CPU fan doesn't need to change its speed, so the sound remains the same as during idle. If kept in a cool basement, the HTPC should be quite quiet.

The PSU I got is quiet, so sound isn't an issue (I made a list above which details the model). The only issue I had with it was reaching the 20-pin power connector. That is mostly due to the Motherboard config I bought (mini-ATX). An ITX Motherboard config would most likely work better, although 20-pin extenders are relatively cheap (I bought one for $3).

Thanks for inquiring, and feel free to continue asking any other questions!
 

Spee2k

Well-known Member
Thanks for the reply. . .am sure I'll have loads of questions as my build progresses. So far trying to secure the case.

So how you got all fans running at once? And are you running them on 5v or 12v?

Cheers

sashaarrabi91 said:
The fans included with the case on the sides are completely silent. The loudest fan is the CPU fan, followed by the PSU fan, but those are still pretty quiet. Make sure the wires are kept away from the case fans, otherwise it could get quite noisy. But I'm sure you knew that already ;)

Under full load, without air conditioning in the room, the CPU fan can be noticeable. However, my HTPC is in an air-conditioned room kept at 70 F, and even under 100% load the CPU fan doesn't need to change its speed, so the sound remains the same as during idle. If kept in a cool basement, the HTPC should be quite quiet.

The PSU I got is quiet, so sound isn't an issue (I made a list above which details the model). The only issue I had with it was reaching the 20-pin power connector. That is mostly due to the Motherboard config I bought (mini-ATX). An ITX Motherboard config would most likely work better, although 20-pin extenders are relatively cheap (I bought one for $3).

Thanks for inquiring, and feel free to continue asking any other questions!
 

sashaarrabi91

Standard Member
Thanks for the reply. . .am sure I'll have loads of questions as my build progresses. So far trying to secure the case.

So how you got all fans running at once? And are you running them on 5v or 12v?

Cheers

All case fans are hooked up on 3-pin connectors, and I had to buy some molex to 3-pin adapters in order to connect all of them. The hard drive fan is hooked up to a molex connector. They are all on 12V.

Just wondering, what are the specs of the rig you're building?
 

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