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Ultra SFF HTPC - Smallest PC I've Ever Built

Discussion in 'Project Logs' started by newtekie1, Aug 9, 2014.

  1. newtekie1

    newtekie1 Semi-Retired Folder

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    The goal was to build a full Windows 8 PC that was smaller than my cable box.

    Lets start with the parts list:

    AMD Athlon 5350
    ASUS AM1I-A
    Crucial Ballistix Tactical 4GB DDR3-1600 Low Profile Memory
    Kingston V300 120GB SSD
    Fractal Design Silent Series 50mm Fan x2
    Habey EMC-600BL Black Heavy duty 3mm aluminum Case w/ 60W Power Supply

    A shot of the case after unboxing, check out the screw driver for scale!:
    [​IMG]

    Shot of the inside of the case, look at that cute little PSU:
    [​IMG]

    I/O Shield Installed. This case is kind of odd, the I/O shield doesn't snap into place like most cases. Instead it just kind of rests in the opening, almost like the opening is a hair to big, which made trying to get the motherboard in with the I/O shield in the right spot tricky. The I/O shield kept falling out of place:
    [​IMG]

    Motherboard installed, finally, after some struggling! I finally had to give up and unhook that power cable running to the side of the case for the power brick to plug into. Otherwise the audio port section of the motherboard would not go in. At first it looks like that cable is flexible, but it is actually rigid for about an inch into the case. As it was, I still popped the plastic support piece out of the metal part, which is why it is sitting at a slight angle in this picture. It should be sticking straight out into the case. I didn't realize this until I went to plug the power brick in and it wouldn't go in because the center pin was off center:
    [​IMG]

    CPU and Memory installed. The stock fan on the heatsink had to be replaced by the Fractal Design fan because the stock fan is too tall and the case couldn't close with it. The power cable is still not fixed in this picture:
    [​IMG]

    SSD is installed. Yes it just rests there not attached to anything. It'll be fine, you'll see in a second:
    [​IMG]

    This bracket holds everything in place, and makes sure the SSD doesn't move around. The SSD actually perfectly wedges between the fan on the heatsink and the side of the case. It isn't a tight fit, it slides in and out with no force at all, if I flipped the case over without the bracket the SSD would just fall out. But it seems like that space was designed to hold the SSD, even though I know it wasn't. You are supposed to screw the SSD/HDD to that bracket, but none of the holes lined up with a clear spot in the case, so I was forced to leave the SSD free floating. I might get some double-sided tape later and tape it to the bracket:
    [​IMG]

    Finally the final product under my TV next to my cable box(Yes, I know it is dusty. It doesn't look that bad in real life, the camera flash really shows the dust.):
    [​IMG]


    Overall, I'm happy with the build. There is a space on that bracket up towards the top of the motherboard area(by the VRM section) to mount another 50mm fan to exhaust through the vent in the side of the case. I'm not sure if I'm going to install that fan or not. I bought one to put there if needed, but I'm not sure if I will.

    Temperatures are actually pretty good, I was surprised. With the processor at 2.1GHz under full OCCT load, the CPU never went above 70°C. The case has a lot of vents in it, and because it is made of thick aluminium it acts like a large heatsink. The case does get warm to the touch when I was running OCCT.

    The CPU is actually pretty overpowered for what I need, so I backed the clock speed down to 1.3GHz and dropped the voltage to 0.9v. Now in OCCT temps never go above 65°C, in fact I never saw higher than 63°. During HD media playback the CPU temp never goes over 40°C and the case doesn't even get warm to the touch.

    I know a lot of people see that tiny fan and think "OMG, it is going to be so loud!" Nope. The Fractal Design fan is totally silent from more than 1FT away. In fact, even when I was doing testing with the top off and the case sitting on the desk next to me, I couldn't hear the fan.
     
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  2. MxPhenom 216

    MxPhenom 216 Corsair Fanboy

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    that is sweet. Fricking tiny. What are you going to use it for?

    Actually that is pretty self explanatory seeing how its an HTPC.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2014
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  3. newtekie1

    newtekie1 Semi-Retired Folder

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    This PC does nothing but stream media from my server using XBMC.
     
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  4. Champ

    Champ

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    Pics sir? I love HTPCs. All small one would be a great ideal. Nevermind, work network blocking pics
     
  5. t_ski

    t_ski Former Staff

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    I haven't seen the manual, but I think the SSD might mount to that bracket if you flip the SSD upside-down. There should be screw holes in the bottom of the drive that will line up with the slots in the bracket.
     
  6. Mussels

    Mussels Moderprator Staff Member

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    you coulda just bought a surface 3 pro with an i7 :p


    my HTPC is an android device these days, humorously enough.
     
  7. AsRock

    AsRock TPU addict

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    Sweet looks like the kinda size(s) the steam box's that are coming out.
     
  8. Champ

    Champ

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    The surface pros got knocked on, but those are monstrous tablets. Only thing I'd take over it is a shield. I'm broke and settled for a Nook HD+
     
  9. newtekie1

    newtekie1 Semi-Retired Folder

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    Yes, that is how it is supposed to go. But, the only spot that would have worked for mounting the SSD on the bracket would have put the SSD right over the VRM of the motherboard, I didn't really like that. All the other spots on the bracket were blocked, so laying the SSD in the way I did worked the best.

    Yeah, but a Surface Pro 3 is 3 times the price of what I paid for this, and I wouldn't have had the fun of building it myself.;)

    This PC is replacing a Xios DS Android box. The Xios started having issues staying connected to the Samba shares from my server.

    It is way smaller than the Steam boxes.
     
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  10. Mussels

    Mussels Moderprator Staff Member

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    if its a third the price, then sure, thats valid.

    i managed to get a spare i9505 (international 4G galaxy S4) and use that as a HTPC, with software decoding in MX player i've found nothing it cant play back - as long as i'm cool with stereo audio, and needing to recharge it after ~6 hours of playback. I use ES file explorer for samba access, works really smoothly and transparently.

    i do like the cute little size of your box, but after managing to get my media needs covered by a <5W fanless device, going back to a full PC just seems weird. surface 2/3 pro seem like an interesting middle ground.
     
  11. FordGT90Concept

    FordGT90Concept "I go fast!1!11!1!"

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    So what was the total cost for this? Also, how efficient is that tiny PSU? Are replacements for the PSU available?
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2014
  12. AsRock

    AsRock TPU addict

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    I have seen them just as small i believe it was Alienware who are bringing one out which looks like the same size.

    But yes building it your self is the best part.

    Just did some more looking in to it and apparently Alienware dumped the Steam box and now it's called a Windows console for running Steam games lol.

    http://www.ign.com/articles/2014/06...steam-machine-reborn-as-windows-based-console

    Costly too lol.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2014
  13. Bo$$

    Bo$$ Lab Extraordinaire

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    Update your bios, took mine to 2.5GHZ no sweat
     
  14. newtekie1

    newtekie1 Semi-Retired Folder

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    I would have stuck with the Xios DS if it didn't have problems staying connected to my Windows server. But after fighting it for a month having to re-setup the connection at least once a week I just got fed up and figured a full Windows PC shouldn't have issues connecting to a Windows server.

    Total cost was $295. I could have cut down to about $250 if I would have gone with the Sempron instead of the Athlon and went with a smaller 32-64GB SSD instead of the 120GB, but meh...

    The internal PSU is actually nothing more than a DC-DC converter. The external power brick outputs the 12v, and the internal power supply converts it for the minor rails. I'm not sure on the efficiency, but the whole computer only draws ~20w from the wall when playing back HD media, so I'm not too concerned.

    You can replace the power brick with a larger one if you want. I found some 72w versions on Amazon pretty easily. The internal board I doubt would be easy to find a replacement for.


    Yeah, I saw some of those but I also saw somewhere that they are having issues with thermal throttling. I believe most are being built using GTX760 GPUs, and they start to throttle due to the heat.

    I'm running the latest BIOS. If I wanted to mess around with BCLK I'm sure I could get higher, I just went to 2.1GHz using the multiplier. But as I said, that was more than I needed, so I'm actually underclocking the processor at this point.
     
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  15. michael

    michael

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    Hey, I have question here.

    1. What do you actually mean by ,"Stream media from my server using XBMC" ? ( I am curious to know how you do this as your mini itx can only hold 120GB of SSD, Where do you install this XBMC software on..?

    My Idea was to build HTPC same as you and then connect say 3TB of External hard disk and then connect my Samsung smart LED TV via its spare HDMI connector to my HTPC 's back HDMI slot and then manuallay play the movie on TV by making a TV as Monitor...

    Please explain how you do it.

    Thanks,
    michael
     
  16. Mussels

    Mussels Moderprator Staff Member

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    streaming means its played back locally, but stored elsewhere. think a local version of youtube, for a super simple comparison. i've got a 4 bay NAS with only a single 1TB hard drive in it, and any DLNA client (apple, android, XBMC, game consoles, etc) client can stream files from it abd play them. some smart TV's can do that too, but usually limited in file type support.
     
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  17. DayKnight

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    That is cheating!. :p
     
  18. newtekie1

    newtekie1 Semi-Retired Folder

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    I finally did install the second fan on the side to remove the hot air from the case. Now, after extended use, the case is not even warm to the touch. Before I put in the fan the case would get warm.

    All my media files are stored on a server in my basement. XBMC is just a media player basically. So it plays the media stored on my server in the basement over the network. The SSD is only about 10% full because no media is stored on mini-ITX computer.

    Your idea would work, I could just connect an external hard drive to this PC and play an media stored on the external. However, I put all my media on a server, so that all the PCs in the house can access it at once over the network.

    Only a little. ;)
     
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  19. michael

    michael

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    Newtekie1, I liked your PC ,bu I feel that big blue led light can be annoying at front.
     
  20. FordGT90Concept

    FordGT90Concept "I go fast!1!11!1!"

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    Can the GPU in that processor handle 1080p output smoothly? Can it decode BluRay smoothly?
     
  21. Jetster

    Jetster

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    wow that top of the line AM1
     
  22. RCoon

    RCoon Gaming Moderator Staff Member

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    The 5350 can do full bluray playback with only about 40% cpu usage
     
  23. newtekie1

    newtekie1 Semi-Retired Folder

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    Few options for that. I could swap the power and HDD led connectors, that would make the power button orange most of the time, and just flash blue when there is HDD activity. I could just connect the HDD led to the power led's pins on the motherboard, so the button would be orange all the time with no blue at all. Or I could just disconnect the leds completely from the motherboard.

    Yes, it handled 1080p MKV/MP4 video just fine. Not sure about bluray, the machine doesn't have an optical drive in it.
     
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  24. puma99dk|

    puma99dk|

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    that u should be able to test with a mkv with AVC and DTS audio like u can make with MakeMKV, it's the closed thing u come to blu-ray, without having an optical drive ^^
     
  25. michael

    michael

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    can your machine play 16GB to 25GB movie file ? With all forwards option , I mean can it switch to next time in movie...?
     

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