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Monday, 2 January 2012

New HTPC build

Following the demise of my last home theatre PC, which was my first attempt, I've had to make some new decisions with regards what makes a practical HTPC.

 My decisions have also been driven by the need for a relatively fast turn around as the loss of Clone Wars has been a bit of a blow to our 6 year old son.

I've been looking at various options mentioned before and those decisions have now been made, all that is left is to purchase and build.

 First off, the new motherboard is definitely going to be an AMD E450 based machine, I looked at the main board / processor combinations but to summarise, the Sandybridge processors were too powerful, generate too much heat and will necessitate active cooling. The i3 2100 was a valid option but at twice the price of an E450 solution couldn't offer the same value.

At the other end of the scale, the Atom based machines just don't have good enough graphics yet and the Ion solutions do not appear to be working well when it comes to functioning drivers.

Looking at the APU options I had started looking at the E350 but that too seemed a bit on the weak side but luckily the E450 arrived in the nick of time in the form of the Asus E45M1-M Pro, a mAtx board giving good PCIe support over their uATX board which was a bit too skimpy unless I selected a genuinely small case.

 Onto the case, the existing Silverstone Grandia GD01 is just too big & too much like a PC, yes it can accommodate a load of drives but elegant it is not. At the other end of size scale, devices like the Nexus Psile seem to forget all about remote controls and that became a criteria, a case with bundled remote at least then I have known support, pre-drilled IR space and no nasty external USB devices, equally the capacity of 2.5" drives means I would rapidly need external storage and I'm not in the market for external drives / NAS / server (yet) so everything needs to be self contained.

I had also learned that the VFD as supplied by Soundgraph is a useless, inflexible, small, unreliable piece of junk that at it's best was a clock that kept resetting itself a hour different to the BIOS and Windows.

I also have a Hauppage TV card which was connected to Freesat but all the HD channels have moved over to DVB-S2 which wasn't available / in use when I first set my machine up - I'm not fussed about not using the card any more as its purpose was HD channels but I might want to replace it one day.

I liked the look of the Wesena E5 case :
But by the time all the parts are purchased that's a lot of money and I'm not sure the case is that good, if it was then good pictures would be easier to find online.

I loved the look of the Streacom FC50D but given the supplier's website was lacking detail which just seemed a non starter.

That supply issue was rather reminiscent of where the Karma T5 (not it's first brand name) seemed to die a death, fabulous looking machine, couldn't get one for love nor money (the UK site seems to have vanished and they were downright rude when I asked where I could buy one, heaven forbid a customer) and those who did seem to have quality issues.

I seem to have been around the houses forever on this so reassessing my needs I came up with a list :
  • Looks like Hi-Fi equipment / looks stunning
  • No VFD, I'm watching everything on television why do I need an extra display.
  • Supplied remote.
  • Can handle expansion cards :
    • firstly if the graphics on the Amd E450 aren't up to the job I need to be able to add a board
    • secondly I might want to replace my TV card one day
    • I can grudgingly accept low profile as an option as there do appear to be plenty of low profile cards around nowadays.
  • If possible keeping my current power supply (Antec Earthwatts 380w) as it works fine.
Enter a case I've also had my eye on for some time, the Moneual 312B, terrible name to spell but great looking box :
All the parts are here, just need to put it together now....