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Personally I think the best configuration, at least if you watch TV at more than one spot, is a client-server configuration with non-PC clients. The best solution for this was SageTV with their $150 HD-300 extenders - this was great for everything with the exception of streaming services. But unfortunately that has not been an option for a while now since Google bought them out. But nothing better has come along in the two years since
 

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Discussion Starter #122
Thanks four. Just trying to get a hagdle on the basic cooling components. Using the same example above, does the case itself come with a case fan, over and above the PSU fan? , ie

CPU fan - comes with CPU ( eg i3-4340 )
PSU fan - part of the power supply that comes with the case ( eg: SG05 )
Case fan -???
 

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Discussion Starter #124
Which Gigabyte motherboard do you end up using for the above H1.S? Is this the one you used with i3-4330 and internal SSD? Very slick.

UPDATE - Ahh, stock photo ! Your mobo was Asus H81i-plus.

So, other that the cpu cooler, no case fan or PSU fan ???
 

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Case fan -???
The SG0x cases have case fans included.
Not all manufacturers do. And you might not want that.
Buying an aftermarket quiet fan is often a good idea...
Or use a more modest CPU with a TDP of less than 60W or so and go with passive cooling.
A friend of mine did this.
The real power consumption is hardly ever even half that much on light HTPC duties.
But he tried re-encoding Blu-rays and that hit the PS limitations.

In the end he switched to 150W external brick power adapter (the cases have this option)...
So, other that the cpu cooler, no case fan or PSU fan ???
This case has no fans. The CPU is heat-pipe cooled (what the side fins are for)...
 

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Most mini-ITX boards will work - either the regular ones or the thin ones. The picture above contains, I think, a regular mini ITX as the thin boards usually seem to contain a DC power connector, not unlike a laptop. If you use an SSD in one of these systems then it is 100% silent as there are no moving parts. It isn't cheap but it is perfect. The PS can either be internal or external, so you may have another power brick hanging around. There is no case fan.
 

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Just to clear up some NUC SDD stuff. Not sure how you'd ever see a perceived diff from a 'slow' mSATA SSD vs a regular in an HTPC, but...the one example MyMedia08 gave is coming out soon in mSATA ver

http://techreport.com/news/25748/samsung-brings-840-evo-to-msata-drops-new-firmware-for-2-5-version
Bite-sized mSATA SSDs are perfect for notebooks and small-form-factor systems like Intel's NUC. Their storage capacities used to be somewhat limited, but not anymore. Samsung has rolled out a family of mini 840 EVO SSDs that includes models up to 1TB.
As well a new Celeron NUC coming in January supports 2.5' SSD inside than other models case.
http://liliputing.com/2013/12/intel-updating-nuc-mini-desktops-with-a-2-5-inch-drive-bay.html
 

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My current preference is for Asrock motherboards, for they have the CIR header and Nuvoton CIR chip, which uses a basic IR receiver and generic MCE remote (and can power/wake from it). I don't know who else does that, but haven't looked hard.

As for case fans, mine is not connected, just the PSU and CPU fans (which I each cleaned and oiled once so far).
 

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Low/no noise options:
  • Some cases eliminate case fans. They rely on the CPU fan and PS fan to cool the case. They are typically designed for lower power Intel CPUs.
  • If the CPU power is low enough, a fanless CPU heat sink can be used.
  • A "silent" third party CPU cooler is an option. Low profile versions are getting harder to find though.
  • Power bricks are silent, as are the pico power supplies that work with them. These are typically low power, 150w or less.
  • Fanless ATX PSUs are available.
  • Fan speed controllers can significantly low fan noise without seriously causing an increase in operating temperatures. These come in simple series resistor and variable speed electronic versions. Be aware that the electronic versions don't work well in combination with motherboard fan speed control but work well for silencing constant speed fans.
Regarding Flex PSUs such as those in the Antec ISK300: These are often noisy, difficult to replace and of low quality. Antec takes the approach of flaring the PSU case to use a larger fan. Antec is probably the exception when it comes to the noise and quality issues of Flex PSUs but they are still proprietary and could be difficult to replace in the future.
 

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Discussion Starter #130
The NUC has been mentioned a few times in this thread, and I/others have been luke warm on it to date.

But the latest generation of Haswell NUC boxes, are starting to intrigue me , ie one of:

Intel® NUC with Intel® Core™ i5 processor (D54250WYK)
Intel® NUC with Intel® Core™ i3 processor (D34010WYK)
Intel® NUC with Intel® Core™ i5 processor and 2.5" drive support (D54250WYKH)
Intel® NUC with Intel® Core™ i3 processor and 2.5" drive support (D34010WYKH)

Intel product page : http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/nuc/overview.html
Spcr review : http://www.silentpcreview.com/article1373-page1.html
Legit Review: http://www.legitreviews.com/intel-nuc-kit-d54250wyk-review-the-nuc-gets-haswell-power_124251/1

They seem to meet all requirements for my entertainment PC, in that it is a solution that can accommodate:

- i3/4010U ( or even i5/4250U) Haswell processsors
- HD4400 integrated graphics ( HD5000 with i5)
- up to 16 GB memory
- an SSD drive (2.5" or mSata)
- mini HDMI plus mini display port out
- HD audio via above or fort panel headphone jack (really?)
- 6 USB ports ( 4 x USB3 ; 2 x USB2)
- Windows 8.1
- One full-length mini PCI Express* slot with mSATA support (for SSD)
- One half-length mini PCI Express slot
- gigabit LAN
- IR sensor at front panel
- small form factor
- low power consumption
- integrated cooling/heatsink
- 3 year warranty
- minimal assembly/installation, ie
...Buy the box, add memory and SSD.
...Install OS, and XBMC for Windows or Media Portal
...Add wireless keyboard/mouse
- not yet clear on what this practically means :"One SATA port (internal header)"

Other networked pc 's would have the server / data storage function.. and/or I could still consider a local DAS box...or even consider larger capacity SSD.

So, what are the downsides/negatives of going the NUC route vs alternative of seeking out my own mix and match mATX/min-ITX case, motherboard, CPU, CPU cooler, case fans, PSU fans etc ? I know DIY typically offers flexibility (initial configuration and future upgrades) , and I have redeployed/upgrade my traditional pcs over the years, but once we get down to this size pc, I don't see myself swapping out CPUs or motherboards or tweaking cooling options... so for my needs, perhaps a NUC works well..and it would allow me to concentrate more of the software/usability/WAF aras and less on the hardware nuances.

I also thought NUC was a pricier option, but I think they come in even on price, ie:

DIY:
Intel Core™ i3-4340 Processor $150
Motherboard $150
Case / PS $130
16GB DDR3 RAM $250
SSD $120
Wireless Keyboard - $50
IR integration - ??
Case/PSU Cooling - ??
Win 8 - $100
TOTAL:$965

NUC:
Intel i5-4250U Kit - $420
16GB DDR3 RAM $250
SSD $120
Wireless Keyboard - $50
IR integration - $0
Win 8 - $100
TOTAL : $940
 

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If you go AMD, you can save $100 or more.

Get an Asrock motherboard, you have CIR which can use a commodity IR receiver for a few bucks, or free if you have a junk TV, VCR, or DVD player to pull the IR sensor from.

You don't need 16GB RAM, 4 to 8 GB is plenty.

The only reason to go NUC is physical size. If I have to pay upwards of $900 vs $500 or less, I would try to make due with a mini-ITX system, which I do now. It sits on the shelf below my surround receiver.
 

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Discussion Starter #133
...If I have to pay upwards of $900 vs $500 or less, I would try to make due with a mini-ITX system, which I do now. It sits on the shelf below my surround receiver.
How do you come with a difference of $400 or more $(900 vs $500 or less) when comparing the two costs? Per itemized list above, they look quite comparable cost-wise.

Removing all the stuff that is common:

DIY:
Intel Core™ i3-4340 Processor $150
Motherboard $150
Case / PS $130
TOTAL:$430

NUC:
Intel i5-4250U Kit - $420 (even less for i3)
TOTAL: $420

The DIY would need to be free to save $400, unless I am missing something here.
 

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One small but important point: unless you're running a lot of stuff on this system, I'd stick to 8GB of RAM. I'd bet that under HTPC duties, you wouldn't notice a difference between 8GB and 4GB of RAM. You tend not to multi-task much with a HTPC, and you're normally just running some sort of video player software, and that stuff doesn't need much memory.

If you're price sensitive, I'd cut back on the RAM. If not, go for it.

I'm also surprised to see the RAM price the same between the do-it-yourself solution and the NUC solution are the same price. There is usually some amount of variance between the "desktop sized" RAM sticks and the "laptop sized" RAM sticks.
 

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I think the DIY prices are a little higher than what they could be if you shop around. I bought a 4340 for $100 on Black Friday sales - Boxing day sales will start soon. And if you are happy with an H81 mobo you can get them for $70. That drops $130 off of your DIY total.
 

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$70 for DDR3-1600 8GB is outrageous? You don't want to know how much I paid for my Commodore VIC-20 with 3.5KB of RAM.
 

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About a year ago I purchased a Mac Mini, and I put 16GB in it, and if I recall correctly it cost me $85 at Memory Express for the 16GB. So, the current prices do seem to be a fair bit higher.
 

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Last week I put i5 NUC together for my HTPC running XBMC, and for some other light server duties. Base box was $396.69, 16GB (2x8GB) of G.Skill 1600 CL9 RAM was $109.98, and Plextor M5M 128GB mSATA SSD was $109.99.

Two things to note. Make sure NUC is SKU BOXD54250WYK1. That one at the end is important. Otherwise, you are going to get one without power cable. Intel has 4 SKUs. Without number at the end it's without power cable (but includes power brick), 1 is for North American power cable, 2 and 3 are for the rest of the world.

Second thing. If you do get Plextor SSD, you should know that as of today, you cannot update its firmware in NUC. Plextor relies on IDE mode (old standard) being present, but NUC only supports new AHCI and RAID. Plextor tech support says they are working on solution (they need to change how they update firmware), but they don't have ETA for new, modified update process.

I guess, there's third thing. Depending what OS you install, you better have network driver for Intel NIC ready if it's Windows. Only Windows 8.1 has built-in support.
 
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