HTPC Hardware

Jan 03 2012

News - A 1.5 inch Thick HTPC from Tranquil PC

Hopefully this new years news is a sign of things to come. Tranquil PC has recently announced a new HTPC design, the  MMC-12 Media Center. The system measures in at just 1.5 inches thick and packing a core i3 processor, 4 gigs of ram, 80 GB hard drive, running Windows 7 home premium.

Not a bad package if you ask me, nice hardware, just powerful enough over other Atom based systems and the form factor is just perfect. The cost for this all roughly $1,000 US. We will just have to wait for further reviews to make a final decision but for now this is one sweet looking small form factor system.

We haven't heard from Britain's own Tranquil PC in a hot minute, but the company's storming into the new year with a machine that's easy to overlook. In a good way. The MMC-12 Media Center measures just 1.5-inches thick, enabling it to be slid into (or under) just about any A/V rack. £649 (right around $1,000) nets you a Core i3 processor, 4GB of DDR3 memory (plus another open RAM slot), an admittedly paltry 80GB mSATA hard drive, CD / DVD burner, Windows 7 Home Premium and an HDMI port. You'll also get a pair of USB 3.0 ports, two underwhelming (and bound to be unloved) USB 2.0 sockets, a gigabit Ethernet jack, DVI socket and an aluminum enclosure. The company recommends that you connect a couple of your favorite USB TV tuners for maximum enjoyment, and in case you're wondering, Blu-ray drives and international shipping is available.

Engadget HD

Dec 31 2011

News - ASRock A75M-ITX Motherboard Reviewed


ASRock has been a solid supporter of AMD CPUs over the last couple of years as evidenced by their high-end Fatality-branded motherboards. ASRock has also been a solid supporter of the Mini-ITX format. The A75M-ITX brings AMD and Mini-ITX together in one compact package. The lack of overclocking support shouldn't be much of an issue for anyone looking for an HTPC kit, and AMD has arguably done a better job of supporting newer technologies such as USB 3.0 and SATA3 than Intel. I like the inclusion of MKV playback testing. Given the growing popularity of the format, I hope we will see more reviews including MKV playback results, particularly for integrated graphics.

Today we are going to look at the ASRock A75M-ITX motherboard which is aimed at the small-form-factor market. As its name suggests, the motherboard is Mini-ITX which makes it ideal to use within a compact HTPC.

We can also deduce from the product name that this particular motherboard features AMD’s A75 Fusion Controller Hub, meaning it supports the latest USB3.0 and SATA-600 interfaces.


Dec 28 2011

News - Fractal Design Arc Midi Case Reviewed

It's only been a week since John posted his review of the Fractal Design Arc Midi case, but if you are looking for a second opinion, our friends over at Legit Reviews have posted a review of their own. They seem to have picked up on many of the same pros and cons that John focused in on. They also make a particularly apt comparison to the Corsair Carbide 400R, as both companies seem to be making some smart decision about how to deliver value without compromising build quality.

The Fractal Design Midi Tower (FD-CA-ARC-BL) claims to make its own niche in the PC builders' world. The merging of cooling options, high performance, and Fractal's known minimalistic looks makes this an elegant piece. The case comes in black with a nice brushed metallic look. 

Legit Reviews

Dec 24 2011

News - Zotac Z68ITX-B-E WiFi Supreme Motherboard Reviewed

Zotac X68ITX-B-EZotac makes a number of mini-ITX motherboards and has established a reputation for stacking a lot features on their little boards. They make two different Z68 Mini-ITX boards, the Z68ITX-A-E, for which we saw a review a while back, and the Z68ITX-B-E. The Z68ITX-B-E adds a couple of different features, in particular the built-in discrete Nvidia Geforce GT430 GPU. Intel has made great strides with their integrated graphics performance, but the GT430 is still a nice step up for those looking for some extra graphics horsepower. It's also a nice option to have for those looking to utilize LAV CUVID as their decoder.

Today we are going to take a look at a motherboard that is perfect for a small form factor or media center application.  The board is the Zotac Z68-ITX WiFi Supreme and it features support for second generation Intel Core processors, discrete NvidiaGeForce GT 430 graphics processor, support for DDR3 memory, USB 3.0, SATA 6GB/s support and of course built-in WiFi. 


Dec 24 2011

News - Seagate Barracuda 3TB Reviewed

Seagate BarracudaWhen Seagate launched their new 1TB-per-platter hard drives back in early November, Seagate also announced that they were doing away with the sub-7200 rpm Barracuda Green hard drive line. Their point at the time was that their high areal density drives could achieve comparable noise levels and power consumption levels even while running at 7200 rpm, negating the need for the Barracuda Green line. It might be hard to justify the price of a 3TB hard drive until the hard drive shortage eases, but it sounds like Seagate's new drives do deliver the goods. Given that these new drives appear to perform particularly well with large files, I certainly like the idea of adding 7200 rpm hard drives to my server without sacrificing more than a couple of decibels.

The Seagate Barracuda 3TB hard drive beat out all 7200 RPM models in our overall performance index, topped only by the 10,000 RPM WD VelociRaptor 600GB. It excelled mainly in the file copy and application sections, particularly in tests that dealt with larger files making it ideal for transferring bulk data like high definition video, image files, etc. 

Silent PC Review

Dec 22 2011

News - AMD Radeon HD 7970 Reviewed

Radeon HD 7970

We don't usually pay much attention to high-end GPU releases here at Missing Remote. High-end GPUs are typically overkill for an HTPC unless your specific goal is to build a gaming-grade HTPC. However, the release of the AMD Radeon HD 7970 bears a little extra attention for a couple of reasons. The 7970 not only marks the introduction of a new line of GPUs from AMD, but also the first brand new GPU architecture, dubbed Graphics Core Next, from Nvidia or AMD in years. Even if they're just based on a silicon rev, new lines are interesting to take note of because it is only a matter of time before the line extends down into more HTPC-friendly cards, but as a new architecture, the 7970 is bringing along a host of new technologies that might end up being of value in HTPCs.

Assuming that AMD can refine their cooling system to reduce noise, the power optimizations in the GCN-based chips will be a welcome feature for HTPC enthusiasts. Also, AMD is focused on improving their parallel computer performance with GCN to better compete with Nvidia, a move that might pay dividends in transcoding and video-editing applications. Personally, I find the idea of separate audio streams for each video output fascinating. I could see building a multi-screen HTPC system where a secondary screen provides music control independent of the main screen. It's just unfortunate that we will likely end up waiting a while for GCN-based HTPC-centric GPUs as lower end Radeon HD 7xxx cards are expected to be rebranded 6xxx cards. 

While AMD and NVIDIA are consistently revising their GPU architectures, for the most part the changes they make are just that: revisions. It’s only once in a great while that a GPU architecture is thrown out entirely, which makes the arrival of a new architecture 


Dec 22 2011

News - Fractal Design Array R2 Case Reviewed

Fractal Design Array R2

We reviewed the Fractal Design Array R2 back in September and concluded that, despite lacking an optical drive bay, it was a fine HTPC and media server case, eliminating the need for a separate, stand-alone NAS. Of course, the Array R2 would make a fine NAS case in its own right, which is how the folks at LanOC approached the Array R2 in their review. I would still love to see one of these cases loaded up with drives, but it sounds like the LanOC guys were pleased with what they saw.

A case that almost prides itself on being simple has very little to mess things up or cause problems once everything is put together. I was very impressed with the total weight of the Array R2 with our full build inside coming in lighter than even our past shuttle builds! 


Dec 21 2011

News - TRENDnet 450Mbps Dual Band Wireless N HD Media Bridge Reviewed

Unfortunately, most of us do not have the luxury of a wired network at home, forcing us to rely on wireless networking. However, if your home theater stack includes networkable devices that do not support wireless or lack the wireless hardware to take full advantage of that hot new router you just bought, then a media bridge might be the most cost-effective way to upgrade or enable wireless networking for multiple devices at one time. These kinds of infrastructure devices are rarely exciting, but the TRENDnet 450Mbps Dual Band Wireless N HD Media Bridge looks to be on the speedy side.

The 450Mbps Dual Band Wireless N HD Media Bridge from TRENDnet is a high performance adapter and with its help we can connect to our local WiFi network (2.4Ghz or 5GHz) up to 4 devices at the same time (like a PS2, PS3, HTPC and a standalone media center). 


Dec 21 2011

News - Seagate Completes Purchase of Samsung's Hard Drive Business

Most of us were pretty quick to blame the recent round of hard drive warranty cuts on the flooding in Thailand, but we can probably blame reduced competition for future negative trends in the hard drive industry. Seagate has officially completed the purchase of Samsung's hard drive business that they began back in April. The Samsung name will not disappear immediately and we can expect to see Samsung exert some influence with their newfound stake in Seagate to push for more hybrid hard drives and increased R&D into SSDs. Unfortunately, we can also expect Western Digital to complete their purchase of Hitachi's hard drive business soon, and then we'll be left with just two major desktop hard drive manufacturers. At least when Seagate bought Maxtor in 2006, there was still hope that Hitachi could rehabilitate the Deskstar brand and that Samsung's growing market presence would prevent a duopoly in the hard drive industry.

Seagate and Sumsung

Seagate will get a cadre of Samsung managers and employees, and Samsung solid-stage storage for its hybrid drives, too. Meanwhile, Samsung gets a 9.6 percent ownership stake in Seagate, a good bit of cash, and supplies of Seagate hard drives for its computers. 

The Verge

Dec 20 2011

News - SilverStone Sugo SG08 Reviewed

SilverStone Sugo SG08

SilverStone's Sugo line of cases is all about trying to perfect the small form factor PC, and the Sugo SG08 is their latest stab at striking the perfect balance between minuscule footprint and powerhouse performance. The 180mm fan providing positive pressure flow sounds great, as does the space for a full-size video card, though I honestly can't look at these sort of mini-ITX cube cases without thinking about building a silent, low-power HTPC. I also like to see SilverStone leading the trend in adopting USB 3.0 ports up front.

An interesting feature of the SG08 is its ability to support video cards up to 12.2 inches long which is more than enough space for the GTX 580 we are showing here.  Once the card has been installed you can work on routing cables and finding the best path for everything.  


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