Last year I sought out to consolidate many things in my office and media center.  I looked around and built a box very similar to QLink’s on the xbmc forums…

I ended up with a box based on the hp n36l micro server which has been the electonic staple of my house ever since.  It replaced my dvr, nas, htpc, and ftp/http server, just to name a few.

After talking with a client, he asked if I could build him something similar.  I wanted to build something better than what I had with more storage and more processing power.  I decided to make it nice and current, with an ivy bridge processor and z77 chipset.  In case anyone is interested I took more pictures than you probably care for.   I’ll start first with a parts list…

  • LIAN LI PC-Q08B Black Aluminum ITX Case
  • ASRock Z77E-ITX Motherboard
  • Seasonic M12II Bronze 620 Watt Power Supply
  • Intel Core i5-3450S Ivy Bridge Processor
  • Kingston HyperX Blu 2x4GB PC3-12800 RAM (KHX1600C9D3B1K2/8GX)
  • OCZ Agility 3 120GB SSD (AGT3-25SAT3-120G)
  • 4 x 3TB Seagate Barracuda HDD (ST3000DM001)
  • LITE-ON BD-ROM drive (iHOS104-06)
  • SIIG 2-Port SATA III PCI-Express Card (SC-SA0L11-S1)
  • Logitech K400 Wireless Keyboard with Touchpad
  • Pulse-Eight USB-CEC Adapter for remote control
  • Windows 7 Ultimate
  • XBMC 11.0 Eden
  • AnyDVD HD
  • Drive Bender

To start, the case was somewhat of an obvious choice for me.  I don’t know of another ITX case as small as this, that can fit as many drives.
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The power supply couldn’t be any more than 5.5 inches deep to fit in the case so the seasonic was a great choice.  I would have liked a fanless power supply but I couldn’t find one small enough.

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Next is the ASRock motherboard.  I originally wanted to get the Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe because it had some added features (namely bluetooth and dual-band wifi) but it wasn’t in stock anywhere when I was trying to do the build.  Those features could also be added by swapping the 2.4 ghz wifi card with something like an intel 6230 card.  When I started to assemble the case and saw how things were going to fit, I thought that the Asus wouldn’t fit anyway because of it’s power daughter board.  In hind site it should fit no problem but I did like not having to work around that daughter board with the ASRock.

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For the processor, really any ivy bridge chip was going to do but I was looking for at least an i5 since one of the servers tasks was going to be encoding.  I like to keep things on the low noise, low power end of things as much as possible for an always on device, so this processor fit the bill nicely.  It’s on the low end, for price and wattage (65 watts), of the ivy bridge i5 processors.  I would have loved to get something like the i7-3770T (it’s 44 watts) but it wasn’t in stock anywhere at the time and was too expensive anyway.

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Drives.  One of the things I like about this case and my home n36l is that they fit full size optical drives.  It just saves on cost and gives you more selection when you aren’t limited to compact drives.  It was also a welcome surprise that this case has a space between the optical bay and the 3.5 inch drive cage to screw in a 2.5 inch drive… in this instance, the SSD.  For the hard disk drives I actually purchased 4 external seagate drives from costco and pulled the sata drives from their enclosures.  It was about 50 bucks less per drive than I could find any 3TB internal.

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For the wireless keyboard I decided to go with logitech and this was an easily assessible option with a touchpad.  I have a KeySonic ACK-540RF+ for my house but I thought logitech’s unifying connection might be a bit more trouble free.

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Now, a note on the pci-express SATA card.  I originally purchased a HighPoint RocketRAID 640 card to attach all 4 Seagate drives.  This would have made it easier to route cables and all 4 drives would have been on SATA III.  The computer wouldn’t boot with that card installed.  I used another computer to flash the card with the non-RAID bios (didn’t need raid because I would be using Drive Bender) but it still wouldn’t post attached to the ASRock. I then ordered an IOCREST 2-Port SATA III card based on an ASM1061 chip and decided to just put the other 2 drives on the onboard SATA II ports.  The computer would get to the start of windows and then lock up with that card attached.  I then ordered a SIIG 2-Port SATA III card which I realized was based on the same chip (ASM1061) after I ordered it.  Luckily the SIIG card worked fine.

As far as video playback, the Intel HD graphics built into Ivy Bridge work great, with DXVA activating on everything that you would expect in XBMC and MPC-HC except for VC1.  This isn’t a problem though, since the processor can easily handle it without acceleration.  I’ll post an update once the USB-CEC arrives and I test it.  Here are some final pics.  The computer is ripping fast by the way.  From power button to windows desktop in about 20 seconds.  The add-on sata card bios slowed the boot a bit.

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