I elected to go for a motherboard and CPU combination that would balance performance against budget and provide all the functionality I need for the MythTV HTPC build. Having scoured around the Internet and read numerous reviews, the best I came across was the ASRock H77M board combined with an Intel i3-3225 3.30GHz Ivy Bridge CPU
The motherboard fitted the bill perfectly - I was after high quality audio for DVD playback, and also HDMI output for the video. Both are provided with this board. The feature list is quite extensive for an inexpensive motherboard.
- 7.1 channel HD audio
- 2 SATA3 slots
- 4 USB3 slots
- 10 USB2 slots
In addition, there are a number of technologies bundled into the firmware to improve the overall experience. Time will tell whether they can be used within the Mythbuntu operating system.
- Intel Rapid Start Technology - brings the device up quickly from a 'deep' sleep
- Intel Smart Response - Accelerates system response by putting frequently used blocks of data on a SSD
- Dehumidifier - the computer will power on automatically dehumidify the system after entering S4/S5 state
- Digi Power - Unlike traditional motherboards that use analog power, this motherboard uses a next generation digital PWM (Pulse-Width Modulation) design, which provides CPU Vcore voltage more efficiently and smoothly, so that the stability and lifespan of the motherboard is greatly enhanced.
- On/Off Play Technology - Even when the system is powered off (in ACPI S5 mode), On/Off Play Technology still allows users to enjoy the great audio experience from the portable audio devices through the PC speaker.
A big decision was to whether to purchase a mid range i5 Ivy Bridge processor or an entry level i3 Ivy Bridge. The Core i3 processors are the first dual-core Ivy Bridge chips for desktop PCs. The Core i3s have HyperThreading enabled and appear as quad-core CPUs. You do get a lot for your money with the Core i3s. For an affordable allround PC these are nice CPUs. The 3225 was chosen for its built-in graphics capability. This chip really stands out because it combines the relatively fast GPU (the HD 4000) from the more expensive Core i5 3570 and Core i7 3770K with the affordability of the Core i3s. Furthermore, the HD 4000 capability is more than enough to cope with any of the rigours of a HTPC. Job done!
I was a little concerned when it came to purchasing the CPU fan since despite the Antec Fusion case dimensions, most CPU fans won't clear the case lid. Obviously my desire was to avoid an interference fit and the Scythe Kozutie looked good. It is ultra low profile with an abundance of cooling fans and copper pipes so it also looks the part. Assembling the fan was fiddly and the diagrams on the single instruction sheet were barely adequate. A piece of advice - don't even bother with the written instructions on the side, just pretend you are 12 again and assembling an Airfix model plane. Once you get your head around the exploded diagrams you should be ok.
Technical specifications: Air flow rate: 42.2 m³/h · Fan dimensions: 80 x 80 x10 mm · Fan speed: 3300 rpm · Heatsink dimensions: 110 x 103 x40 mm · Heatsink material: Steel plate · PC base: Intel® 775, Intel® 1156, Intel® 1155, Intel® 1366, AMD AM2, AMD AM2+, AMD AM3, AMD AM3+, AMD FM1 · Type of bearing: Plain bearing
A very early decision was to populate the machine with 8GB of high speed RAM. It felt to me that 8GB will provide the headroom for high performance without breaking the bank. The Corsair Vengeance LP memory chips are built for high performance systems with extra large CPU coolers and small form-factor builds which seemed ideal. The specification being:
- Speed rating: PC3-12800 (1600MHz)
- SPD speed: 1333MHz
- SPD latency: 9-9-9-24