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Thread: SFF Media centre

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    SFF Media centre

    After all this messing around with old, hot, and frankly useless hardware I've got floating around, I'm sick of it. I need something completely different for my second machine.

    Essentially this has to be a low power system - #1 priority, I want it to sit in the background and serve files, record from a TV tuner card and generally do donkey work. In order for it to serve 2 purposes, and therefore make financial sense, I also need to to be a full-fledged media player; 720p required, 1080p desirable (for upgradability). Essentially the only way I'm going to get such a low power machine (sub 100 watts absolute maximum) is with a modern video card taking all of the processing away from the CPU.

    My immediate thought was the Atom 330 in a custom SFF case - I like a project - but I've not found one with a PCI Express slot. Has anyone experience with the Atom in a decent, PCI express motherboard? Perhaps the old low power Celeron board would suffice? I'd love to take on a VIA C7, but again, I'm not so sure of the suitability. Has AMD got anything in this segment?

    Of course secondary here is the requirement for a video card. HD 3450 maybe? I might want it to upscale some N64 Emulators or such so a little bit of 3d capability would be nice, but not if it compromises the x264, wmv-hd or other functions. Have NVidia got anything similar with a small power draw?

    Opinions appreciated. Itching to get started on this one actually
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    Re: SFF Media centre

    AMD all the way for this one. Onboard graphics and a low powered X3 or X3 chip will be plenty for your video requirements. The AMD 780G or NForce 8200 chipsets are both good choices I think, I'm sure people will argue between the two, mATX boards available for both. Find a nice case and a TV card and you're all but done!

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    Re: SFF Media centre

    Yeah what you need is 780G or 8200 Chipset motherboard and a AMD 4850e (45W 2.5GHz duel core).

    You can not get a PCIe Atom board they do not exist.

    If you fancy something really small then you could go for a mini-ITX board like the Jetway JNC62K see this thread for a build recently completed by Strike-down http://forums.hexus.net/small-form-f...ia-server.html

    Alternatively the µATX route is cheaper as the motherboard will cost ~£25 less, and you will have more choice in the cases (unless you want to spend a fortune on a case).

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    Senior Member strike-down's Avatar
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    Re: SFF Media centre

    Quote Originally Posted by Webby View Post
    Yeah what you need is 780G or 8200 Chipset motherboard and a AMD 4850e (45W 2.5GHz duel core).

    You can not get a PCIe Atom board they do not exist.

    If you fancy something really small then you could go for a mini-ITX board like the Jetway JNC62K see this thread for a build recently completed by Strike-down http://forums.hexus.net/small-form-f...ia-server.html

    Alternatively the µATX route is cheaper as the motherboard will cost ~£25 less, and you will have more choice in the cases (unless you want to spend a fortune on a case).
    Couldnt recommend that setup enough works like a dream. Even when all 7 other computers are streaming data from it, it still has plenty of horsepower left over to run something like pj64, with a bit extra

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    Re: SFF Media centre

    Quote Originally Posted by strike-down View Post
    Couldnt recommend that setup enough works like a dream. Even when all 7 other computers are streaming data from it, it still has plenty of horsepower left over to run something like pj64, with a bit extra
    Ah well I'm sure we're all suckers for 4-player Mario Kart 64! Got the USB controller adapters and everything

    To be honest I was looking for something a little... less thirsty. The Jetway board is something I've looked at before, but the 45w TDP of the Athlons seems a bit much. Ideally I'd like it to be passively cooled; I've already decided on mobile HDDs and have a spare slot-load combo drive waiting to go. I'd rather like something that sits and eats a teeny tiny bit of juice until I need it and ramp up the GPU when something intensive is required. Maybe power the thing with a PicoPSU.

    The LinITX link was however very helpful, in that all of the C2D boards are far too expensive (and it's mobile-on-desktop that I'm leaning toward). I'm not going to pay a £100 premium for a 25w reduction in processor TDP... and it might well be that that's gained by using the onboard graphics on the Jetway thing anyway... argh so confusing!

    It could well be that I end up scouring fleabay for a second user Pentium-M board... but the more I think about it, the more the suggested setup makes sense
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    Re: SFF Media centre

    You will be looking at ~50W idle with the setup like Strike down has got and ~90W under full load (from the wall so factor in ~80% efficiency for PSU requirements) I really do not think you will find a system that will do be able to do what you want for less power really, you could go for a single core rather than duel core AMD announced some 22W single cores a while back but I am not sure if they are coming to the retail market.

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    Re: SFF Media centre

    Mariokart 64 is a classic game especially as a multiplayer
    Loved it XD

    Anyway, I dont think you will find much better than the 4850e x2 with 45w tdp, unless you start spending stupid money for mobile versions of processors. Ive fitted this cooler instead of the stock cooler, and it runs near on silent:
    http://www.scan.co.uk/Product.aspx?W...2fAM2%2b%2f940

  8. #8
    A shadowy flight. MSIC's Avatar
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    Re: SFF Media centre

    I'm in a very similar boat - i want something that can play a variety of media files onto my new Pany 37" plasma (it's only 1024 x 720, but i'm impressed with the picture) (B.T.W. Richer Sounds FTW, £600 inc 5 yr warranty).
    I have an upscaling DVD player which i watched Iron Man DVD on the other day, i would be prepared to believe it was blu-ray! (Mind you, i dont have blu-ray next to it to compare, so what do i know LOL).
    I also have my router, and my Wii by the TV.

    The new Quad core PC is linked over 85Mb Powerline doodads to my router, but a) that sucks juice like a hungry juice sucking thing, so i can't leave it on 24/7 and b)i have no direct way to stream files to my TV.
    I can burn them to a disc, which works well, but that rules out future high def stuff.
    Or i could stream them over the wii, using (i think) some conversion to 'flash' software.

    I've been seriously considering the new Western Dig media player with it's USB connecting, multi-codec, 1080p upscaling goodness, but haven't seen any reviews.

    The alternative i'm considering is an Asus EEE Box for £200, but have yet to find a review about it's ability to output 720p over DVI. i know it'll come down to the codec in question though, and since an EEE Box doesnt have a HD optical drive, it'll all be downloaded stuff (come on iTunes or Amazon or anyone else, get your bums into gear).

    The other advantage to having a low power PC is i could leave it on 24/7 (so no worries about waiting for booting up, one of my wife's bugbears), and even have some background downloads going on, perhaps even host my own Diablo 2 server or similar.

    Am also bearing in mind the announcement yesterday from AMD of it's new low power platform, which gives the impression that the overall system power use will be at least as good as something like an EEE Box. Obviously i couldnt give 2 hoots what power draw the CPU has, it's what has to come out of the socket to keep it all running that counts.

    Edit: CNET review of EEE Box, but they are a bit vague IMO, simply stating that it can do 720p, no idea if they tested it.

    SPCR has some good ideas for a box like this, i'm tempted to have it hanging on the back of my TV

    Anandtech is at least a bit more specific about it's video playing abilities, which sound good enough
    Last edited by MSIC; 14-11-2008 at 11:08 AM.
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    Re: SFF Media centre

    Quote Originally Posted by MSIC View Post
    I'm in a very similar boat - i want something that can play a variety of media files onto my new Pany 37" plasma...
    Ah yes - I spent most of my first-year student loan at Richer Sounds! (back in the day of course).

    The WD media box looks alright, saw it on HUKD a few weeks ago, but I'd like PVR functionality as well... largely to save on space, not to double up on equipment.

    I've been looking into the AM2 board, and figure that if I'm reduced to getting a full-fat CPU I may as well get a full-fat motherboard (well, Micro ATX 8200-based). That one RAM slot on the ITX looks quite lonely, and 4GB RAM would cut disk swapping to near zero. Still it's big and would require a fan of some sort.

    Socket 754 Turions are a low-power option, but the limitations of DDR and a single core are unfortunate... kind of wiped out that avenue. The 915GM-based Pentium M solutions looked a little more promising. DDR2, PCIe, lots of SATA ports and so on... but they're again a single core and this time only 32-bit; no 4GB RAM installs here!

    I think the conclusion here is... well, what I wouldn't do for a decent, sensibly priced socket S1 desktop board!!

    Thanks all for the pointers... though I believe this mass of conflicting research may well just lead me into the arms of my local Shuttle dealer
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  10. #10
    A shadowy flight. MSIC's Avatar
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    Re: SFF Media centre

    You know, you prompted me to investiage some shuttles again. I bought my mum a shuttle for a system that's lasted her about 5 years (it's a socket A athlon), and every time i've seen a shuttle barebones since then it's been silly money prices (£300 for a case, PSU and motherboard!! Forget it).

    However they have a K45 and a K48 which look interesting, and a few places have them in stock (Dabs, Aria), the K48 i think being the more interesting of the 2.

    For £117 you get a case, PSU and motherboard, and since i'd be using it for streaming media, i'd only need a small hard drive (which i have a few lying around) and an el-cheapo CPU.
    Even (yes even) a dual core Celery, which i'd normally sneer at, is good enough for 720p output stuff. And the power draw will be minimal.

    It seems that the K45 is VGA output only, whereas the K48 has DVI output.
    So you're talking under £150.... and gives the chance to really muck about trying mythbuntu....

    Edit: D'oh! Might need some RAM too! It seems to be DDR2 which is about £1 per gigabyte or something these days.
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  11. #11
    A shadowy flight. MSIC's Avatar
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    Re: SFF Media centre

    Here is an interesting device from Scan, on Today Only offer at £160ish.
    http://www.scan.co.uk/product.aspx?ProductId=24427

    Would that do the job?
    Anyone got a review of it?
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