Well, my HTPC front end finally bit the dust.
Basically, it was the remnants of my old gaming rig from like 5 years ago. Asus crosshair II mobo. First gen phenom quad core. 4GB RAM. This thing went through the ringer. It used to have two nvidia video cards in SLI. One day i was carrying it in the ice and slipped, and dropped it. Right on the corner of the case. case it was in warped. Plastic window broke. Killed one of the pcie slots, one of the video cards, and the onboard video. I played games on it for another three years before i upgraded, and then i chucked it in a full size ATX media center case. But now it's dead. The SATA controller is dead, or at least, the ports are dead. My wife and I were watching "the Newsroom" and it bluescreened and never came back. Truly a Sad day. It has been a trooper. It was big, loud, and inefficient, but it was my first media center build and I loved it.
So, now, it's time to get smaller, more fully featured, more efficient, and quieter.
I still have a really beefy backend (12tb), so all I really NEED up front is something that can stream HD over my network. Don't need big storage or anything like that, though i would like a little extra space to maybe play some controller-enabled steam games.
I knew I wanted a case with a smaller footprint than my current case, and moving down from a full-ATX case will definitely help in that respect. I went back-and-forth a lot between mini-ITX and micro-ATX. I really REALLY REALLY like some of the mini-ITX cases aesthetically, but i was really hesitant about jamming all that stuff into such a small space, let alone the deal with the power supply needs. Other considerations: Limited almost exclusively to one HDD (i don't want to buy an SSD yet); lots of slot-load DVD bays -- not many with 1x external 5.25in bays; cooling can be a bitch. In the end, I decided to go with micro-ATX. Sidebar: I don't see why so many micro-ATX cases are so big and/or ugly. If some of these manufacturers (Lian-Li, i'm looking in your direction) just scaled up their mini-ITX cases even the slightest bit, they would have great stuff. But, i digress. I decided on the Silverstone GD05B
. It's simple, smaller than my last InMediata case, and has a single external 5.25in external bay with a door. I just opened it up tonight, and I'm very happy with what i see so far.
After i decided on form factor, I had the joint task of choosing mobo/processor. I could have really gone a lot of ways with this; just about every mobo manufacturer makes several mATX boards, some marketed towards desktops/gaming, some marketed towards HTPC. So the questions are: 1.) What features do I want in a mobo? 2.) What features do I want in a processor?
Motherboard specs I wanted weren't all that demanding. I could give or take onboard graphics (they can be a nice fallback). Required 4 DIMM slots. Standard 24pin ATX power. Fanless or mostly fanless (Read: quiet). SATA III capability. RAID 0/1.
In a processor I was looking for: Low power consumption. 2 - 4 cores. Speed negotiable.
The decisions on these two components obviously hinge on each other. I make no attempt to hide the fact that I'm an AMD fan, So that narrowed my choices by 50% (give or take). I looked at some of the low-power laptop chips, but when it was when I started thinking about Video Cards that my decision was really made for me. Rather than add yet another fan to my rig, I decided to go with one of the new(ish) Trinity core APU's from AMD/ATI -- this is a big deal for me as it's the first time I've bought anything with ATI graphics since i build my very first computer in 2002. I grabbed the AMD A10-5800K APU
. Black edition. 3.8gHz, quad core, AMD Radeon HD 7660D Graphics, no extra fan or PCIe slot necessary.
Once I had the processor picked out, I was locked into socket FM2, and it was time to decide on a motherboard. Full disclosure: I love ASUS products, especially the mobos. I have build so many PC's with ASUS components, that usually when it's time, I just click around on the Asus website until I find something I like, look it up on Newegg, and make the purchase. Not this time. I did poke around on the Asus website, and did find a mobo i liked well enough, but at the last second, I went in a completely different direction and picked up the ASRock FM2A75 Pro4-M
. It's black, it's cheap, and the reviews were pretty ok.
I guess here i should note that I was able to re-purpose a couple 8GB DIMMs as well as a couple 10kRPM, 2.5in Enterprise drives that were slated for recycling at work. That saved me a bit of cash. They were SAS, so I picked up a couple SAS to SATA converters for a few bucks.
Oh yeah, how to power this thing. My estimated power consumption is pretty low (somewhere in the league of 320w, if i recall). I was able to find a decent 400w (overkill, but not by much) fanless PSU from a decently reputable company that looked ok. That PSU is the SeaSonic X series SS-400FL
. It's a little pricey, but I was willing to pay for a little quiet. 100% 5egg reviews. Winner.
Last but not least, the optical drive. I think this is the most boring component to buy on any build. They all do the same thing. I wanted a Blu-Ray drive (upgrading from a plane jane dvd-r/w). I wanted writable blu-ray capability. I could go either way on 3D. Solution solved: LG Black 14X Blu-ray writer
Oh yeah. to cool my processor, i went with the Scythe Big Shuriken 2
. Good reviews, relatively inexpensive, QUIET.
I'll be sure to throw some pics up here during/after the build process. I love building new machines.