Smallest HTPC

Jon55

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I'm looking for an HTPC, either to build myself, or to buy a pre-built (say from ASUS, Lenovo, etc.). I just want the smallest, slimmest, HTPC machine possible. It's only going to stream Netflix/Amazon Prime/YouTube/Web browsing, and run a variety of 1080p video file types. So being able to run Windows on it is a must.

I've done a little research on it, but a lot of HTPC builds seem to be regular sized ATX boxes, which are way too big (I'm looking for a small slim box that can basically be a Mac Mini type replacement).
 

theBAYsics

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few years ago i setup a budget htpc rig using an Acer Revo. it was able to handle 1080p just fine. i'm not sure if these are still available, but there should be plenty of viable nettops today that you can choose from if you decide to go that route.

if you plan to build up a rig yourself there are HTPC cases that take m-atx/m-itx boards. here are some on newegg (http://www.newegg.com/HTPC-Media-Center-Cases/SubCategory/ID-690)
 

Jon55

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few years ago i setup a budget htpc rig using an Acer Revo

Whoa, I had not heard of these things before. THAT's exactly what I'm looking for, a slim, sleek, inexpensive HTPC that can stream/playback 1080p anything. Thank you!

Which Revo model did you have? How did you like it?
 

mrkazador

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I use an i3 Intel NUC and it has played everything I've thrown at it. Its really small, it can fit in the palm of my hand!
 

Jon55

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I use an i3 Intel NUC and it has played everything I've thrown at it. Its really small, it can fit in the palm of my hand!

Yeah I saw those! Only thing I noticed (and I could be wrong on this) is that the base unit/processor itself looks to be ~$250, then you still need a USB wifi dongle, HDD/SSD, RAM, and apparently even a power cable.
 

theBAYsics

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Whoa, I had not heard of these things before. THAT's exactly what I'm looking for, a slim, sleek, inexpensive HTPC that can stream/playback 1080p anything. Thank you!

Which Revo model did you have? How did you like it?

it was a Revo 230. it was good for me at the time. it handled XBMC and my 1080rips just fine. i ended up selling it and building a custom rig.

it looks like this Revo model is the successor
 

mrkazador

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Yeah I saw those! Only thing I noticed (and I could be wrong on this) is that the base unit/processor itself looks to be ~$250, then you still need a USB wifi dongle, HDD/SSD, RAM, and apparently even a power cable.

I don't like using WiFi for streaming media so I use the Ethernet port. You definitely need the items you listed. Its a little expensive but its a great htpc if you need something tiny with some cpu power behind it.
 

Vengance_01

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See this budget build I came up with

 

Droogie128

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Crispin

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Be careful with E350 or Atom setups as Netflix and certain web streams can lag at 1080p. I bought a cheap Foxconn mini-ITX system with an E350 APU. It handles 1080p content like MKV or MP4 files just fine when there's a player that can decode in hardware. But some web players haven't coded for that yet. Those I have to leave windowed or set Netflix quality down a notch. Just FYI.
 

She loved E

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I'd recommend a NUC or Thin-MITX build. Either will support 1080p/streaming playback.

NUC will cost $500 once you buy an SSD, RAM and OS.

Thin-MITX (here's the mobo if you're not familiar with it: DQ77KB) can be done for the same price as a NUC if not less.

The biggest advantage of Thin ITX over regular ITX is the PSU is built into the mobo (in conjunction with a power brick) which means you can build in a much smaller space than regular ITX. Yeah its more expensive but if you want to go really small these are your two best options.
 

AMv8(1day)

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I'd wait and pickup a Haswell NUC when they drop most likely in the next month or two. They'll probably be using the 4X70R BGA "Iris Pro" chips with more than enough CPU & GPU umph to handle anything you need.
Just like the current model NUC's they won't be the bargin basement cheapest solution, but they will most likely be the smallest, most elegant solution.
Personally, if I went with an NUC "extra-freaking-tiny" HTPC, I'd go with a Haswell model, mSATA SSD, Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 mini PCIe WiFi/WiDi card, and 16GB of RAM for a RAMDisk.

If you wanted to really roll your own build and maybe save a few bucks, I would go with something like this:
CPU: i5 4570T
HSF: Gelid Silence I-Plus
Motherboard: DQ77KB successor in 8-series form
RAM: 16 GB (for RAMDisk duties) of LoVo (1.25v), preferably 1600MHz
SSD: 120 GB mSATA like the Mushkin Atlas Series but I'm not married to it.
WiFi/WiDi: Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260
Case: E-Q3i 1.98 Liters! (short of the NUC chassis and it's aftermarket alternatives, I have yet to find a smaller case)

If you were willing to go a little bigger for the sake of being able to squeeze in an optical drive, or to handle something like a CableCard tuner (InfiniTV4 or InfiniTV6), I'd go with basically the same build with a Wesena ITX6 and a BD-ROM drive.
 
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FnordMan

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If you were willing to go a little bigger for the sake of being able to squeeze in an optical drive, or to handle something like a CableCard tuner (InfiniTV4 or InfiniTV6), I'd go with basically the same build with a Wesena ITX6 and a BD-ROM drive.
Small note about CableCARD: They don't have to be internal. Silicon Dust has the HDHomerun Prime (3 or 6 tuner versions) which is network based and there's at least one usb based one out there. (Ceton has one, Hauppage may as well)
 

dhluke

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I just ordered a NUC for about 400 USD. I didn't have to order WiFi w/ Bluetooth card since I don't plan to use the WiFi, but why not, it wasn't that expensive. Also, I omitted the OS as I would go with a Linux /w XBMC such as OpenELEC or Ubuntu.

Anyways, the NUC is quite small and no noise, it's perfect. One thing I don't understand, I have seen several people buying the NUC with 16GB RAM, why?! Is it to load all the damn thumbnails? I don't see the point in having so much RAM for a HTPC, besides the fact that you can have 16GB...
 

AMv8(1day)

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I just ordered a NUC for about 400 USD. I didn't have to order WiFi w/ Bluetooth card since I don't plan to use the WiFi, but why not, it wasn't that expensive. Also, I omitted the OS as I would go with a Linux /w XBMC such as OpenELEC or Ubuntu.

Anyways, the NUC is quite small and no noise, it's perfect. One thing I don't understand, I have seen several people buying the NUC with 16GB RAM, why?! Is it to load all the damn thumbnails? I don't see the point in having so much RAM for a HTPC, besides the fact that you can have 16GB...

RAMDisk? RAM is so cheap, why not? I use a 26GB RAMDisk in my current HTPC for Live TV Buffer, recording buffer, etc.
 

AMv8(1day)

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Alright, for all those that think the intel NUC's are small (0.509 Liters), check out the new BRIX models that Gigabyte just announced.
0.368 Liters of tiny, USB 3.0, goodness!
Hopefully they will get on the ball about updating to Haswell soon.
 

Ruoh

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A Roku 3 with Plex will do everything you've mentioned.
 

dan87

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err, not really.

The Roku will not play HD audio or 3D video and is probably limited by video bitrate so it won't play full MKV BD rips.
 

Ruoh

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err, not really.

The Roku will not play HD audio or 3D video and is probably limited by video bitrate so it won't play full MKV BD rips.

Not sure about the 3D, haven't tried. It WILL however play full BD rips. At least, using MakeMKV, and playing with the 20Mb/s option.
 

Ruoh

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Does it play, or bitstream the HD audio track?

As of March 29th, it has support (via transcoding) of all audio formats (Except HD Audio) to 5.1 AC3 passthrough.

I wouldn't discount it as an option though.
 

AMv8(1day)

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A quick LINK for the full breakdown of the Gigabyte BRIX specs. I think it would be a pretty awesome HTPC, although I don't fully trust Ivy Bridge GPU for all HTPC duties. Personally I'm hoping for a Haswell replacement soon. Then I'm definitely picking one up. Even thinking about making it a multi-monitor hide away PC for home office use where space is a premium.

Edit:
Aaaaand here we are LINK sneak peak at Haswell AND Kabini versions of Gigabytes BRIX.
 
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spencers

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A quick LINK for the full breakdown of the Gigabyte BRIX specs. I think it would be a pretty awesome HTPC, although I don't fully trust Ivy Bridge GPU for all HTPC duties. Personally I'm hoping for a Haswell replacement soon. Then I'm definitely picking one up. Even thinking about making it a multi-monitor hide away PC for home office use where space is a premium.

Edit:
Aaaaand here we are LINK sneak peak at Haswell AND Kabini versions of Gigabytes BRIX.

Wow, thats a nice little kit! Kinda like a rebranded NUC, but with better options
 

AMv8(1day)

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Wow, thats a nice little kit! Kinda like a rebranded NUC, but with better options

Pretty much, the addition of two USB 3.0 ports are the big win for me. Technically, with a couple DisplayLink DL-3900 compatible USB Display adaptors, you could power a sweet 6 screen desktop. Not for gaming of course, but for productivity, document editing, stock trading, etc.
Hell, you could build yourself an awesome digital picture wall with a bunch of cheapy IPS displays and mount the machine right behind the monitors or embed it in the wall. It wouldn't be tough to hide something like this.
 

The Lurker

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A quick LINK for the full breakdown of the Gigabyte BRIX specs. I think it would be a pretty awesome HTPC, although I don't fully trust Ivy Bridge GPU for all HTPC duties. Personally I'm hoping for a Haswell replacement soon. Then I'm definitely picking one up. Even thinking about making it a multi-monitor hide away PC for home office use where space is a premium.

Edit:
Aaaaand here we are LINK sneak peak at Haswell AND Kabini versions of Gigabytes BRIX.

What kind of disk space does it offer?
 

AMv8(1day)

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What kind of disk space does it offer?

Currently Mushkin has a 480 GB mSATA drive if you are up for paying crazy prices for unecessary storage. Networked storage would most likely serve you best for media storage in this instance.
 
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