This Friday night I wanted to build a compact and low power HTPC to record four television streams from my SiliconDust HD Homerun tuners. This was a fun build but I had a couple of gotchas along the way.
I have two dual SiliconDust Homerun tuners that work AWESOMELY! I cannot say enough good things about these tuners. Seriously.
So, I leave my main garage PC running 24-7 to record all of my TV. Every day and every night the garage PC runs and records all of my shows and archives them to my WHS. The issue that I have is that this PC is not very energy efficient and the garage gets to over 100° during the summer months when I am at work. In addition, if I want to watch TV in the garage (assuming a tuner is free) and I am recording then my performance drops.
What’s a boy to do?
Build a dedicated PC to record those wonderful HD streams that SiliconDust provides me of course!
- Elite 100 Case and PC Parts (shown below)
- Desk or Cabinet
- Signals via a TV Tuner (SiliconDust Homerun Dual Tuners for me)
- Three Beers (optional as always)
Parts Links and Costs
The total build was $230 without the OS.
Cooler Master Elite Case with PSU $70 at Frys in-store
E3300 CPU $30 (Newegg combo special on 07/10/10)
Zotac Board $80 from Newegg (I know Dave, but it was the only board in that config I could afford)
Corsair XMS2 Memory $30 (Newegg special on 07/29/10)
Old and used 80GB Drive (FREE!)
Under Cabinet LCD Mount $20 from Ebay
Let’s touch some hardware!
80 GB Drive Note: I know it is small but since WMC offloads all of the video to WHS I do not need a larger drive! The OS and software are only 30 GB total so I would have to have more than 10 hours of HD content scheduled in a row to cause an issue with the WMC WHS archive activities.
Component and PC Assembly
The assembly was easy and straight forward. Things are very tight in a case this small but the parts all connected without any issues. As usual you should follow the directions but the ones I received in the case packaging were worthless. I do not need them but really? Crappy Manual. Seriously.
IMPORTANT: The instructions below are just the highlights and are not intended as actual directions.
Open and consume first beverage!
Open case and remove power supply.
Install motherboard and cables
Install CPU and fan (With those stupid worthless Intel snap twist mounts)
Install hard drive
Check cable connections, routing and install PSU
I am done. Open and consume second beverage!
Power On and Windows 7 Installation
The system started the first time. The BIOS was American Megatrends, was familiar and easy to update.
I installed Windows 7 Ultimate so I could use the RDC and do additional remote testing. The OS installation took about an hour. Since this is a basically just a Windows 7 DVR, I did not install a DVD. I used a USB for the installation. USB installation is so much easier anyway.
After an hour the OS installation was complete. After another hour or so of updates, and installing the SiliconDust Homerun software, I was steady state and 40 watts at idle. This is only half of the power than my previous Homerun recording PC used. Sweet!
The final test before disconnecting from the bench was to verify the TV signal via RDC and QuickTV and calibrate the flesh tones. You have the check them for consistency.
Under Cabinet or Desk Mounting
The PC was very neat and clean. The system is a little heavy so verify your mounting weight before you hang it up. You want to make sure the cabinet (or in my case, desk) can hold the extra weight. This specific case was made to mount behind a large television with a standard VESA mount. I bought the case specifically for the mount but was going to use it with a swing mount under the desk.
I mounted the swinging bracket to the underside of the desk and then mounted the case lid to the bracket.
Once the lid was mounted I slid the case on to the lid and secured the case screws. The PC was too heavy and kept wanting to drop “down” so I used a thick plastic wire tie on a screw hook to hold it from dropping from the back. Whenever I want to service the unit I can just push the back of the unit up slightly to unhook the tie.
I connected power and a Cat6 cable and I was done. I powered up the system and then logged in via RDC to check the settings and the job was done!
Open and consume third beverage!
This was a fun build but I did have a few issues with this case and the parts. These were only gotchas although the board size issue is a show stopper with this specific case!
ATTENTION COOLER MASTER: This case is NOT really for Micro ATX. It is only for MINI ATX. Seriously.
I usually do not have gotchas when I build. I plan ahead and do the research to avoid any parts mistakes. That being said, this case is so SMALL that I had a few minor issues.
First, the power supply mounts above the corner mount of the mini ITX board. This is ok as long as you are prepared for it. The first board I tried was a Micro ATX board and the memory slots hit the PSU. I had to buy a Mini ITX board so it would fit. Crap!
The arrows show the mounting holes for the motherboard. yes, one is UNDER the PSU and the other is attached to it with a standoff.
Second, this case does not allow for expansion slots so forget any cards. Also even if you could fit another board inside the case, as you can see below, the PSU would be covering the slots.
Third, when working on such a small case always check the heights of your parts. I got a great deal on this Corsair memory but it was almost too tall to fit in the case.
Fourth, before you disconnect your monitor and keyboard verify that your power settings are all correct. I forgot to tell the PC to “Never” go to sleep.
I would walk in to the office after a few hours and the power button would be flashing. RDC (Remote Desktop Connection) would not work. Why? The PC was asleep by default. Duh. Change it as soon as you get the OS running!
Mental Note: Get Windows Media Center working before you disconnect. WMC playback is NOT supported via RDC!
Again, this is a really cool case and the build was really fun!
See you next Friday night,