Building Silent 1080p Full HD Media Center HTPC. Part 2.

Here it a long awaited part 2 of our recommended hardware for building your own silent Full HD Media Center computer. As described in part 1 of this post, to all hardware I will use a three point scale:

  • 2 – it may be really disturbing in some cases
  • 1 – it is more silent than 2 🙂
  • 0 – component is totally silent

Components that will be in our setup are: motherboard + cpu, storage, computer chassis, psu, remote control, CD/DVD/Blue Ray player, TV Tuner and operating system. In this part we will recommend you best motherboard and storage. So here are our recommendations.

Motherboard

As you may have noticed you are reading a blog about Mini-ITX solutions. So it won’t be a big surprise that I will recommend ad Mini-ITX motherboard. It is compact and consume very low energy. So it will not use much place next to your TV and will be energy efficient when working 24h/day.

  1. Asus AT3N7A-I is motherboard we would recommend the most as it is the easiest to expand ION powered Mini-ITX form factor board. Unfortunately with original fan it will get 2 points as for noise.
  2. ZOTAC ION-ITX-A is great motherboards with powerful dual core Intel Atom and integrated fanless PSU. Unfortunately it has a big CPU fan so it gets 1 point as for noise (60mm – more quiet than 40mm on Asus).
  3. ZOTAC ION-ITX-C just like previous one has integrated PSU and fanless CPU! Unfortunately it is only one core Atom but it is totally noiseless! So it get 0 points as for noise!

All recommended motherboards are powered by NVIDIA ION chipset to make sure that it will be capable to easily play 1080p full hd video without any CPU usage!

Storage

Now it is time for storage. Noise level depends mainly from money you want to spend per gigabyte. You may choose from three kinds of technology. It may be 3.5″ hdd that is cheapest and generate most noise, 2.5″ hdd that generates much less noise but is more expensive and the last completely noiseless solution are SSD (flash disk drives). The last one are of course the most expensive. So here are recommendations:

  1. Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1.5 TB SATA 32 MB Cache Hard Drive ST31500341AS – cheapest choice. Cost is $0.06666/GB. Get 2 points as for noise.
  2. Hitachi 500GB Travelstar SATA 7200 RPM HD20500IDK/7K – more expensive but much more quiet. Cost about $0.17/GB. Get 1 point as for noise.
  3. Intel 80 GB X25M Mainstream SATA II Solid State Drive (SSD) SSDSA2MH080G2R5 – most expensive but totally noiseless! Cost about $2.82/GB. 0 points as for noise!

It looks that best (noiseless solution) will be most expensive. So you have to decide how much do you want do spend. Moreover if you would decide for the cheapest 3.5″ you will be able to buy as huge disk as 1,5TB. That will be really needed in your htpc to store full hd movies. You must decide here if you want silent or useful media center.

More recommendations will be posted in part 3. So make sure you subscribe to our blog to be notified about updates (check top right sidebar for subscription options). See you soon!

7 Responses to “Building Silent 1080p Full HD Media Center HTPC. Part 2.”


  • I am looking at the ZOTAC ION-ITX-A for building my HTPC. You rate it a one for noise, I was wondering what would this compare to the PS3. It would give me something to compare it to with your scale.

    • I have been using PS3 only in some noisy room. So it is hard to say. But comparing it to XBOXZOTAC motherboard is very quiet. It is 60mm fan so it is better than smallest one 40mm on ASUS. If you want something very silent you should consider fanless ZOTAC ITX C.

  • Cant say much about Atom motherboards as I like multipurpose equipment, not just htpc limited, but my last Zotac 9300 ITX WiFi build (dreaded version 1 bios) has been working flawlessly & without a glitch for over a year inside a Travia C-138.

    I chose a $350 Corsair SATA II 3.0Gb/s 128 GB Performance Series Internal Solid State Drive (CMFSSD-128GBG2D) due to its huge buffer & high performance Samsung controller. My AVLinux (LXDE) Core2Duo E8400 system boots in 18 seconds flat.

    I understand there is a new Corsair NOVA SSD series that supports TRIM and drops the price 30$ (not a difference for me as when write performance degraqdes (if it ever does) I load a Gparted Live CD Linux & perform a secure erase via HDPARM.

    No more HDDs, nor Windows or GAtes around here…

  • I appreciate the information. I’m looking at building a HTPC using Windows 7 as my OS so I am not sure if the Dual Atom would be ideal without feeling too sluggish with the Media Center. I am looking forward to your future blogs on this topic.

    • If you are not going to use it as a machine to play games – dual core atom is really enough for your media center (mostly due of NVIDIA ION chipset).

  • Alex Chamberlain

    I’m probably going to build 2 computers over the next year; one attached to the TV and a server.

    The one attached to the TV should be completely silent… SSD etc…
    The server can be more noisy, but doesn’t need the graphics capabilities… 1.5TB HDDs galore…

    I was thinking about a MythTV backend with XBMC frontend. What do you think?

    Also, I’ve got a ZOTAC ITX-A, it is quiet and if you have something playing (BBC iPlayer – I’m British…), I can’t remember ever thinking I can hear that fan going…

    Would the Zotac ITX-A be capable of recording TV and serving files at the same time? What about if I asked it to run a firewall as well?

    • MythTV with XBMC is a good choice. You may check for Freevo as an alternative as well.

      Zotac ITX-A is capable to do all thing you are writing about at once. Recording TV (best with hardware encoder) use really a little of the CPU – if you are not reencoding it in real time and cpu usage for serving files/firewall in my home server is totally invisible.

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