Biostar NM70I-1037U

I have finally found my replacement for my old, broken E-350 HTPC. I tried the AM1 platform with the Athlon 5350 but support was lacking so I returned it. This time I went with the Intel 1037U Celeron and so far I’m pleased with the results.

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It’s a nice motherboard design. It has more than I want for my HTPC; plenty of SATA ports, 3 types of video output ports (VGA, DVI, and HDMI), full-sized ram slots and a PCI-E slot.

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The position of the ram slots are different from the 2 AMD (E-350 and AM1) configuration. This motherboard has it on the side instead of towards the front. With this configuration, it gives me more room to plug in my pico psu and route the cables more easily.

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The CPU and heatsink of the 1037U is as short as the AMD E-350. I can move my hard drive tray on all available configurations.

I installed Ubuntu 14.04 LTS with XBMC 12.3. I used a full OS instead of XBMCbuntu just in case I needed the machine to do something else later on. There are 2 users on the machine, one is mine with admin privileges, the other is for the HTPC with standard permissions. It also has no password and auto login. Once logged in, XBMC is the start up app that runs. It’s a nice setup and fast with the SSD. Here is a list of the hardware I am using.

I also posted a video on Youtube.

M350 and HTPC build round 2

If you checked out the last post about my HTPC adventure, I was using a Raidmax tower that uses a 300W PSU. It’s a nice little tower but the fan on the PSU was just too loud for my taste. So I kept looking and finally found a case that may have what I’m looking for. It’s the M350. I don’t even know who makes it but from the videos I’ve seen on Youtube and articles I’ve read online, it looks great. This case seems to be the smallest I’ve seen for an mini-ITX motherboard. I also had to get a picopsu. I chose to get a 90W picopsu and AC adapter. So far it’s been running great. The first test I did was with an Asus USB-N13 wireless adapter. It didn’t turn out too well setting up Windows Media Center with media from a NAS box. Connecting through the ethernet gigabit network improved the performance. Overall, I’m happy with the outcome. Here is a video I posted on Youtube and some pics I took.

M350 with MSI E350IS-E45

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I wanted to show the size difference between the M350 case and an iPad2.

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I wanted to show the size difference between the M350 case and an iPad2.

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Picopsu 90W

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I wanted to show the area where the USB front panel cable could get in the way of the picopsu cables. This is the case for my motherboard but it could be different in other motherboards where the PSU pins are located elsewhere (like above the CPU).

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The picopsu isn’t sitting in there properly in this picture but I figured it out. On the video above I explained what I found.

My first attempt at an HTPC

I’ve been messing around with the AMD E350 platform for a few months now and have been trying out VMWare and Freenas on it. The results were impressive. Don’t underestimate the E350, it can do some lifting. I then got curious with HTPC. I was able to use my existing hardware. I also had spare parts if needed. The only thing I bought was a small tower. So here’s the build.

So for less than $200 (before taxes), you can build yourself a nice HTPC. I didn’t include an optical drive in the price since I won’t be using it to play media. All of my media is streamed from my NAS server. It has a VGA, DVI, and HDMI port already built in. It also has a gigabit ethernet port. The SSD is somewhat of an overkill but currently the prices for SSD drives are a lot more appealing than traditional platter HDD. I have been able to play 1080i videos at 24FPS.

The PC runs well and responsive. It can handle the default and AEON skins just fine. There have been some lag on the interface when video is playing in the background, but understandable with the CPU capabilities. The only thing I don’t like with this setup is the tower. The PSU fan is a bit loud for an HTPC. I may look for another one that’s quieter. For a $40 tower with 300W PSU, I can’t complain and should’ve expected that. You just have to wait for deals. The idle temps float around 45-50° C. While playing a movie file located on the local hard drive, the temps go up 5° C. CPU usage aren’t bad either. Idle is at around 30-40%. During video playback it can get around 60%. There were times that it hit 100% but only a few seconds.

I may be getting rid of the MSI E350 and looking to upgrade it with an Intel i3 2100. We’ll see how prices change once the Ivy Bridge CPUs are in the market. Here are some pics I took.

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