HTPC build and experiences ASUS E35M1-l Deluxe Zacate

Canon

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I just thought I would share my experiences with my recent HTPC builld in case anyone is interested or finds it useful.

Components I used:
LIAN LI PC-Q09B Black Aluminum Mini-ITX Tower Computer Case 110W Adapter Power Supply
ASUS E35M1-I DELUXE AMD Zacate E-350 AMD Hudson M1 Mini ITX Motherboard/CPU Combo
G.SKILL Value Series 4GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) Desktop Memory Model F3-10666CL9S-4GBNT
LG Black Super-Multi Combo Drive SATA Model CT21N - OEM
OCZ Vertex 2 OCZSSD2-2VTXE60G 2.5" 60GB SATA II MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
Logitech diNovo Mini Black Bluetooth Wireless Mini Keyboard
Windows 7 Pro 64-bit

Resources and issues I have run into so far:
Here are some of the resources I referred to in order to get up and running and resolve some of the issues that I ran into with video playback:

Asus support site driver downloads page
I planned to get drivers online anyhow to make sure I was grabbing the most up to date drivers. Unfortunately they do not provide the WIFI adapter drivers here for some reason and the support CD I received with my board was defective and could not be read. I haven't looked into this further just yet since I'm not using the onboard WIFI in my setup.

Windows 7 Media Center Setup Guide over at AVS Forum

Hulu Desktop Windows 7 Media Center Integration 2.0
Using this utility in combination with the Hulu Desktop application, I can easily launch Hulu from the Media Centre interface, it seems to work pretty well. The transition between the two is a little clunky but once you get there it's pretty cool.

ATI Catalyst 11.2 drivers
The drivers provided by ASUS didn't seem to accelerate the video, playback improved after installing these drivers direct from AMD.

Arcsoft Total Media Theatre 5 (still evaluating right now)
Playback was an issue with the Asus provided graphics drivers but after installing the Cat 11.2 drivers, it seems to work fine for Blu-Ray playback but HD DVD playback (using an XBOX 360 HDDVD drive connected via USB) seems to have issues like sound not working until you drag the playback bar to another part of the movie, then only Stereo sound (not passing DTS, DD etc. though like it should) and the odd frame drop if something else uses the CPU (even moving the mouse and causing the media center interface to come up can interfere with playback). Hardware acceleration is at least working a bit because turning it off makes it totally unwatchable.

Network Throttling Settings Microsoft KB
Official Asus E35M1-M Pro AMD Zacate motherboard thread over at AVS Forum - special thanks to post #186 from Chomper87

I was having random stuttering during playback (especially higher bitrate videos, but still noticeable for other content). I'm not exactly sure at the moment if disabling Green Ethernet was really necessary to resolve the issue but I did disable it as others seem to indicate compatibility issues in general based on the Realtek implementation. After disabling the network throttling using the microsoft KB article as a guide, things seem to be smooth now.

Switching audio playback devices via shortcut
Using the provided script and a tool called AutoIT I was able to create a couple of shortcuts to switch the audio between the onboard Realtek analog audio and the HDMI audio quickly. This is neccessary because my receiver will only output audio from digital sources in Zone 1 which means I need analog audio output if I want to play music etc. in Zones 2 and 3. I can easily RDP into the machine and change this setting now.

Mocha RDP Lite iPhone/iPad/iPOD Touch app (not sure how to make a link to iTunes store).
This app seems to have everything I need and it's free. The main limitation with the free version is that you can't right click but that's not an issue now that I have shortcuts to change my Audio Output device quickly. This app also supports Wake on Lan via magic packet which works very well on both my iPod Touch and my iPad. I can also quickly launch iTunes if need to as well.

iTunes Remote works great from both the iPad and iPod Touch to control music playback when i'm running music to my secondary zones...

Comments on the hardware:

The motherboard:
Overall I like the motherboard. The BIOS seems to be quite well laid out and I was easily able to Overclock to 1.8 Ghz on default voltage which did seem to improve overall system performance noticeably and seems to be without much penalty as it relates to heat. As an aside, the automatic OC features gave an 80mhz OC. I tried both the Tubo Key II switch and the auto overclock feature in the BIOS and they both seem to give the same result. The Bluetooth works great with my Logitech DiNovo Mini, I just can't wake the machine with it, I haven't looked into this yet but it's minor for me since wake on lan works well. One issue I did have was on first boot, I had to use the MemOK button to get it to boot with the memory module I bought. The module I have isn't on the QVL, so OK, but this is a handy feature and seemed to work as intended.

The Case:
The LIAN LI PC-Q09B case seems to be a nice case to work with. It fit the form factor I was looking for and with a bit of planning and tinkering I was able to get everything to fit in nice and neat (well ok, as neat as I could manage haha).

The wiring was a bit tight but honestly, for this setup was pretty much the perfect length and I wouldn't say I had a major issue with this. It's all about cable routing. It's too bad that the cable for the front panel USB 3.0 connections was terminated with actual USB 3.0 plugs internally. I ended up using the supplied USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 header connection cable provided because I wanted to keep everything internal. For now this is OK because I don't have any USB 3.0 devices but I wish they shipped with a USB 3.0 header connection and then just provided a couple adapters, one to plugin to the USB 3.0 ports on the back if your mobo doesn't have the 3.0 header and a USB 3.0 to 2.0 header connection.

The darn blue power light on this case is way to bright though so I have disconnected it for now. I have considered that it may be possible to wire a resistor into this to reduce the brightness but truthfully, I don't think I'm going to bother. I was going for as silent a solution as possible so I tried running the machine without the included case fan but I found CPU temps got too high (~65-70 degrees C). I removed the included molex adapter and plugged the fan into the CPU fan header on the motherboard. The motherboard can control the speed of the CPU fan via software in Windows or also settings in the BIOS. It has configurable cooling profiles but I found the default profile keeps the fan at < 1000 RPMs and it's virtually silent. This keeps temps mostly < 50 degrees C and the case is cool to the touch.

The Keyboard:
So far the Logitech DiNovo seems pretty decent (I wouldn't say it was worth the full price but the sale price was OK). Right now I'm kind of wondering how I can quickly pull up the magnifier application and adjust zoom level without having to do that manually with the mouse, I still haven't found much on this yet. Usually on a normal keyboard you can hit ctrl and then tap + 2x to open and then ctrl + the - or + key but since these are buried under an FN function key, I was unable to get this combo to work. For now I used the Setpoint software to assign one of the 3 assignable shortcut keys to launch the magnifier application so I can actually see what the heck i'm looking at when I'm outside Media center :).

Anyhow, pictures always help tell the story, so here are some pics of the build.















 

bastage

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good looking build. Your is going smoother then mine as I still havent got the hdmi audio working on the asrock zocate board.
 

Canon

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Yea, I saw your post in the Zacate thread. Mine was detected and working right away (I just installed the various drivers from the ASUS website). It shows up as an AMD HDMI audio output if that helps, it has nothing to do with the integrated Realtek audio.

I'm having no trouble getting it to pass DTS and Dolby Digital. I still haven't seen it pass DTS MA or Dolby True HD but I've read that has something to do with Arc soft Total Media Theatre and I think they are working on that.
 

bastage

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Yea, I saw your post in the Zacate thread. Mine was detected and working right away (I just installed the various drivers from the ASUS website). It shows up as an AMD HDMI audio output if that helps, it has nothing to do with the integrated Realtek audio.

I'm having no trouble getting it to pass DTS and Dolby Digital. I still haven't seen it pass DTS MA or Dolby True HD but I've read that has something to do with Arc soft Total Media Theatre and I think they are working on that.
yea I tried the AMD drivers 1st, but it wasnt detected. I am downloading all drivers that I may need & am about to reinstall OS & do Just AMD before anything else & see if its detected. & if that doesnt work I am going to try again & do just the Asrock ones. I am pretty sure I tried off the CD 1st & chose not to install everything, then did AMD cat drivers so I think there may be a dirty driver install issue.
 

bigddybn

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Comments on Netflix HD performance? Mine has been pretty piss poor. Bumping it down a notch fixes it but "F" that.
 

Canon

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I don't currently have a Netflix subscription but based on what I heard, that is a common complaint.

The limitation lies with Silverlight as I understand it. I haven't been able to get a clear understanding if it is Silverlight 3 that doesn't support GPU acceleration for video decoding or if it's as simple as NetFlix hasn't put the code in place on their website to enable the GPU acceleration in Silverlight. But either way, it's because of an issue with Silverlight that everyone is having trouble doing HD streaming from NetFlix with low powered Atom and Zacate systems and it sounds like it has been going on for quite some time (i've seen posts going all the way back to 2009...).
 

bastage

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I don't currently have a Netflix subscription but based on what I heard, that is a common complaint.

The limitation lies with Silverlight as I understand it. I haven't been able to get a clear understanding if it is Silverlight 3 that doesn't support GPU acceleration for video decoding or if it's as simple as NetFlix hasn't put the code in place on their website to enable the GPU acceleration in Silverlight. But either way, it's because of an issue with Silverlight that everyone is having trouble doing HD streaming from NetFlix with low powered Atom and Zacate systems and it sounds like it has been going on for quite some time (i've seen posts going all the way back to 2009...).
Thing is that its not everyone. There are reports here & elsewhere of netflix HD working flawlessly.
 

9guns

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hey canon everything looks good man! informative post and great pics! :D
 

Activate: AMD

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very nice. I was actually looking at almost that exact setup yesterday on Newegg. i'd like to downsize my HTPC and consolidate my storage in a server rig. I'm most interested in the case. It seems like there just aren't enough options in the mini-ITX market for decent quality HTPC cases. I was originally looking for something compact with a full-size 5.25 outpu so I could use my existing BD drives since the only slimline option on newegg is the sony for $100. Pretty much everything but the Lian Li looks like a sad heap of plastic garbage. The real downfall of the Lian-Li you used is the lack of an expansion card slot in the back for my Ceton card. I figured that this could be remedied with a little cutting. Do you have any opinion on the suitability of the case for such a mod?
 

Canon

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The BluRay drive I bought was an LG, they were all out of Sony drives, it was still $120 though.

I wouldn't recommend a mod for an expansion card with this case. Lian Li has other cases which may be more suitable but they are a mini tower style.

LIAN LI PC-Q08B

LIAN LI PC-Q07
 

Canon

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I was able to get it up to 59 degrees C with OCCT but with normal usage, it seems to be around 50 while watching vídeo and a bit less than that at idle, maybe 46? I have only made a few observations and definetely nothing scientific.

Max temp on these chips is supposed to be 90 degrees C, so temps seem ok to me and its been perfectly stable.
 

Activate: AMD

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The BluRay drive I bought was an LG, they were all out of Sony drives, it was still $120 though.

I wouldn't recommend a mod for an expansion card with this case. Lian Li has other cases which may be more suitable but they are a mini tower style.

LIAN LI PC-Q08B

LIAN LI PC-Q07
Any specific reason? Its a half-height card so all i should have to really do is cut a slot into the rear of the case where the x16 slot on the mobo is. Judging by your photos there should be space, but I can see that cable management would be even worse with a card added

do you have a kill-a-watt or similar? if so what kind of power draw do you get from that thing?
 

Canon

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I dint have a power meter handy but I'm sure it is similar to the poster above.

Pretty much everything I've seen indicates mostly < 40 watts.

When considering the mod being described, consider that you lose some of that 4" of height on the case because the board mounts on top and the drives on the bottom side. I don't think there would be enough height to accommodate even a half height card without cutting the lid which I wouldn't want to do.
 

Machupo

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I was running the deluxe w/ 2x 3.5" drives (and an ssd) and was seeing ~44w, but I'll toss the habey psu and swap in a picopsu and see if that makes a difference :)
 

bigddybn

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Thing is that its not everyone. There are reports here & elsewhere of netflix HD working flawlessly.
I've yet to actually see one where someone posted CPU usage during an actual netflix HD stream.
 

bastage

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I've yet to actually see one where someone posted CPU usage during an actual netflix HD stream.
As I posted in the zocate thread I am having the stuttering issue as well. Googling around for it there seems to be an issue with more then just zocate as well thats cropped up in the last couple weeks.

Hell I Get the same stuttering on my Phenom II x4 with 6850. But I can also find people who were working fine & recently started stuttering on other windows machines as well as Mac's & Boxee Box is also experiencing the same issue.
 
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