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Desktop Server to mini-itx HTPC conversion?

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Hey guys,

So I have a AMD Athlon II X4 630 mATX setup housed in an Antec Sonata II that doesn't see much use. I was using my Zino as an "HTPC" until hard drive issues erupted. Now I'm reconsidering everything and am thinking about building a mini-itx HTPC that packs a punch and is more useful.

I've thought of moving my AMD setup into a smaller shell. Here's what I have now:

CASE: Antec Sonata II
CPU: AMD Athlon II X4 630
MB: Asus M4A785TD-M EVO (mATX)
RAM: 4gb Patriot Sector 5
Storage: 1x 250gb and 4x 500gb in RAID 5 (3ware 9650se)
Media: LG DVD Burner

I'm not really interested in maintaining a RAID5 array at this point. At the time I just thought it would be cool to play around with. And it certainly is nice to have all the extra storage, but not sure if it's essential in my case.

My proposed conversion:

CASE: InWin BP655
CPU: AMD Athlon II X4 630 [kept]
MB: Asus M4A88T-I Deluxe
RAM: 4-8gb Patriot SODIMMs
Storage: 1x 250gb and maybe 1x 500gb (this part doesn't concern me too much right now) [kept]
Media: LG DVD Burner [kept]


So I'd be keeping several components: the CPU, DVD drive, and some hard drives. But all else I would sell off to recoup the cost.

Is it worth doing a conversion like this? Or should I really invest all the time and start from scratch? I would much rather deal with less and not build a completely new system and then have to sell off the old system for parts. The way I see it, I'm going to have to sell parts if I did a conversion anyway, but it might make things easier with less to deal with.

It's also crossed my mind to get a nice HTPC mATX case (i.e. the Sugo SG02, that way I don't have to buy a different type of memory and motherboard) but I am captivated by the mini-itx movement smile.gif I guess my other question with that is, if I'm using the same general components, is there going to be a big difference in power consumption between mATX and mITX?

My main purpose for this would be to leave it out in the living room and keep it on 24/7 to serve as an HTPC/media center/fileserver/VM server/occasional light gaming machine... my only other concern is leaving it on 24/7 and how that will result in potentially higher temps as well as power consumption.

Thoughts on this? Any feedback on the proposed setup?
Edited by jplee3 - 5/18/11 at 5:52pm
post #2 of 4
Thread Starter 
I've been doing some testing with my Kill-a-watt and found that the current setup draws 115~ watts with the RAID array!!!

Without the raid card and drives powered/hooked up, it looked to be around 70~ watts or so, so this is what I would expect if I were to essentially move the rig into a different mATX htpc case. Not sure if that's the number I'm aiming for or would be happy with. The Zino draws no more than 50~ watts it seems, when idle.

As far as what I would *guess* it would be on the smaller M4A88T-I board, well, I saw some ratings of 28~ watts idle for a Athlon II X4 615e on the same board. If I use some math (simple algebra), and figure that the 615e's rated TDP is 45w and the 630's rated TDP is 90w, I calculate the estimated draw of a 630 CPU on the M4A88T-I would be around 60~ watts or so. Of course, this is assuming that I would have the dvd burner and at least one hard drive, which I think is what they had when benchmarking the 615e's consumption.

Arg..... not sure if these numbers would lead me to still want to use this unit as a 24/7 HTPC. I think my only other option, if I really wanted to do that, would be to 'downgrade' the CPU to something more energy efficient (i.e. the 615e... but that unit is over $100 at least!).

Any advice or suggestions for a good cpu (45watt TDP or less) that could still handle what I'd be asking of it?
post #3 of 4
wow you love to type and explain things with Math NICE!

....anyways its really up to you, but all I have to say is I am a mAtx fanboy and recently built a mini itx lan/ semi gaming rig. the novelty wears off Fast!

fwiw mAtx allows for many more options for an HTPC. you can have a video card, raid card, cable card, sound card, and any other cards up to 4 as you already know,

so for my parents HTPC i basically made it out of my old pc. It is a Core 2 Duo 2.66ghz, mAtx mobo, a Radeon all in wonder (gpu/tv tuner combo card) with a Giant Zalman VGA cooler, and 4 HDD's all in my old Lian-Li 351. With 2 1300rpm Gentle Typhoons up front. Lastly this is in the media cabinet with only 2 120mm intake fans and exhaust holes at the top. it never gets above 45c on gpu and about 45c on CPU when watching 1080p.

-doober

PS are you concerned about watts for your energy bill? or just in general? also Leaving a PC on doesnt it make it magically get hotter. When idle its hardly producing any heat at all and under load it obviously levels out at some point.

PPS in the end id say stick with everything you have, but grab a much smaller, more functional and nicer looking case. also whats your GPU situation?
post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 
LOL... I surprise even myself sometimes. I think my wife, being a math major, has rubbed off on me. And she claims she stinks at math. BTW: I think I scored 101% in Algebra I in high school. And from there, I went down a letter grade per year. That should tell you something... hahahaha!

Yeah, thinking about it more, while the SFF of a mini-itx is awesome, I think I would end up dissatisfied coming from the current rig setup. I think the current rig is perfectly fine, except for the crazy power consumption of having RAID and also it being in big [albeit, nice] desktop case. I may want to consider downsizing the CPU either way though if I want to lower my 60-70 watt power draw though. Because I still think that's pretty high.

I'd say I'm more concerned of wattage because I intend to leave it on 24x7 primarily due to the VMware server. I basically have an SSL VPN running on it where I'd like to have that availability all the time. Unless there's a way to 'wake' the computer out of sleep mode after I browse to the public IP/URL. I haven't come across anything like that though. Other option is to go with a more simple VPN solution on a low-powered device, like a router/NSLU2/Linkstation/etc, and enable wake-on-lan for all my other devices.

Is it possible to setup recording schedules in WMC7, and still record even when the computer is sleeping (per waking it up first of course)?

I'm mostly concerned about lowering the power bill. I don't want to leave something on that will absolutely kill it. If it can sleep for most of the day that's fine. I think if I really want to do it right I'll just invest in an atom PC or leave my Dell Mini on all day with the VPN running so I'm not consuming so much. I think the drawback is that I currently have my VPN in a VM image, and I run Squid Proxy on the same VM so I can tunnel my internet traffic ("secure browsing" for those untrusted networks and also handy for getting around proxy/firewall URL blocks... hah) through Squid over the VPN's SSL tunnel. In all this tunneling, I'm pretty sure CPU and memory get well-consumed. So I don't want to put this on a machine that can't handle it either.

What suggestions do you have in terms of cases? That nMedia 5000b sure looks spiffy, and at a very reasonable price. As far as GPU is concerned, I'm good with the onboard one. I'm able to play Bioshock on it just fine so as long as I can do that and watch TV or whatever, I'm set smile.gif I'm really not much of a gamer so it's not a big deal. As far as TV Tuner, I have the original HDHomerun and both inputs being fed from the same splitter. So dual-recording or recording another channel while watching is possible biggrin.gif
Quote:
Originally Posted by Doober;13558500 
wow you love to type and explain things with Math NICE!

....anyways its really up to you, but all I have to say is I am a mAtx fanboy and recently built a mini itx lan/ semi gaming rig. the novelty wears off Fast!

fwiw mAtx allows for many more options for an HTPC. you can have a video card, raid card, cable card, sound card, and any other cards up to 4 as you already know,

so for my parents HTPC i basically made it out of my old pc. It is a Core 2 Duo 2.66ghz, mAtx mobo, a Radeon all in wonder (gpu/tv tuner combo card) with a Giant Zalman VGA cooler, and 4 HDD's all in my old Lian-Li 351. With 2 1300rpm Gentle Typhoons up front. Lastly this is in the media cabinet with only 2 120mm intake fans and exhaust holes at the top. it never gets above 45c on gpu and about 45c on CPU when watching 1080p.

-doober

PS are you concerned about watts for your energy bill? or just in general? also Leaving a PC on doesnt it make it magically get hotter. When idle its hardly producing any heat at all and under load it obviously levels out at some point.

PPS in the end id say stick with everything you have, but grab a much smaller, more functional and nicer looking case. also whats your GPU situation?

Edited by jplee3 - 5/19/11 at 4:37pm
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