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Topic # 150486 24-Jul-2014 12:45
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GZ member MEESHAM mentioned a fanless barebones computer that he bought in from AliExpress in this forum:  http://www.geekzone.co.nz/forums.asp?forumid=50&topicid=147440 

I had been considering an HTPC for a while to replace an ACRyan Playon!HD in the living room.

I ended up ordering one of the above from AliExpress to try out as an HTPC. I put a Kingston mSATA SSD into it plus a 750Gb 2.5" SATA HDD that I happened to have spare. For RAM I ordered a 4Gb Kingston SODIMM KVR13S9S8/4. The machine has been running for 3 weeks with zero issues and the chassis gets just warm enough to feel nice on the hands when coming in from the cold, even when the CPU is being worked reasonably hard.

The machine has been running with Windows 7 for a fortnight no with no issues other than a missing USB3 driver that I was unable to locate (I've only just emailed the vendor asking for these - they responded within 4 hours with this link). It runs KMTTG and checks both of my TiVo PVRs hourly for recordings over 72 hours old (i.e. stuff that I have decided not to delete immediately), downloads the metadata, downloads the recording, decodes the recording, then transcodes it to a smaller format (all on the SSD to reduce HDD fragmentation). After the files have been on the SSD for 4 hours, they get moved to the HDD where I later manually file them into a couple of different folders.

XBMC provides the front end, and I've been using a Logitech K400 Wireless Keyboard with Touchpad to operate this, though I have ordered two remotes to try out (Remote 1 and Remote 2) using eBay that should arrive any day now.

I also ordered a slot in DVD drive from TradeMe as I don't think a slim tray-load external USB DVD drive would last long with the kids using it.  It's a little bit of a pain that the slot load drive doesn;t have an Eject button, but I hope to be able to remap a remote control button as an eject button.

I have a Raspberry Pi that will be used play streamed media on a second TV in the house.  This was originally going to be the main media server, but it was just a little too slow for this purpose and I decided that I wanted to be able to run the occasional Windows app.  I've used the uPNP-enabled GoodPlayer on our iPad to stream media from the XMBC, though the wireless in the first generation iPad is a bit slow for quality streaming of 720p content.

Will post more this weekend once I've had a tinker with the remotes.




"4 wheels move the body.  2 wheels move the soul."

“Don't believe anything you read on the net. Except this. Well, including this, I suppose.” Douglas Adams

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  Reply # 1095819 25-Jul-2014 19:19
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Sounds brilliant, thanks for posting.

Couple of questions..

How are you mounting the hard drives and slot in drive?  I dont see any mounting points in the photos on the listing.  
How do you find it handles XBMC, is it very smooth?  What skin are you running?
Also, if you dont mind my asking, how much has it run you landed so far?

Cheers
Alex

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  Reply # 1095877 25-Jul-2014 20:52
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I hope you don't mind me intruding on your thread, but, in a similar vein, I brought the i3 version of this from that site (here). I was considering the Celeron one, however I thought the hd4000 was worth the premium over the Celeron. It only has 1 Lan port and no sd card slots but I'm only using it for a Mediaportal client.

I've had this a couple of weeks and have been very impressed with it. I wouldn't recommend keeping the installed version of Windows (non ssd optimised, dell slic version with who knows what else installed), however, it was easy to get everything reinstalled (UEIF bios).

The (AMI) bios has a LOT of options (although, some of them should probably not be there, eg, sata 4 when there are only 2 sata channels).

The ram was PC3-12800 which I was quite impressed by. On my one, you can't wake up from USB, so, I just leave it on 24/7.

Total cost was ~$330NZD including DHL shipping.

Dead silent and does not get too hot. Something to consider though, mine came with a ES processor. It looks like there is a new batch of machines with different processors available. It's a bit of a risk buying things like this (support / warranty etc), however it's worked out for me so far.

Some of the older model intel NUCs are cheap at the moment on Amazon so it's probably worth looking into those as well.







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  Reply # 1095911 25-Jul-2014 22:55
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loryda: Sounds brilliant, thanks for posting.

Couple of questions..

How are you mounting the hard drives and slot in drive?  I dont see any mounting points in the photos on the listing.  
How do you find it handles XBMC, is it very smooth?  What skin are you running?
Also, if you dont mind my asking, how much has it run you landed so far?

Cheers
Alex

The mSATA is a card that attached to the motherboard.  Picture a laptop RAM module but with the connector on the short edge.
The photos on the web site do not show the bracket for a 2.5" drive that goes into the 'spare space' inside the chassis in the bottom photos.  Unscrew the bracket, attach the 2.5" drive and cables, screw the bracket back in, screw the side cover back onto the case.

It runs XBMC beautifully.  I'm just using the default skin.  So far only I have played with it....  have been waiting for the remotes to arrive before letting the wife and kids loose on it.

Costs:  NZ$180 for the computer, $70 for the RAM, $130 for the 120Gb mSATA SSD (this was a luxury item and not required), the 750Gb 2.5" hard drive was something I had spare.  The $50 slot-load DVD drive is an external USB model (there is a link in my original post) so it sits on top of the PC.  The two remotes were $20 and $25.

I've just pulled the two remotes out and had a 2 minute play each.  The HP Media Centre remote feels solid (high quality) and seemed to install fine (automatically loaded drivers for the receiver) but I could not get it to do anything.  The double-sided remote feels a bit cheap but the 'air mouse' worked surprisingly well.  I'll post more when I get to have a further play.




"4 wheels move the body.  2 wheels move the soul."

“Don't believe anything you read on the net. Except this. Well, including this, I suppose.” Douglas Adams



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  Reply # 1095912 25-Jul-2014 23:05
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dolsen: I hope you don't mind me intruding on your thread, but, in a similar vein, I brought the i3 version of this from that site (here). I was considering the Celeron one, however I thought the hd4000 was worth the premium over the Celeron. It only has 1 Lan port and no sd card slots but I'm only using it for a Mediaportal client.

Nice one.  I hadn't seen that you could order them with RAM and SSD preinstalled.

I am really happy with the performance of the dual core celeron, though your i3 might have a longer useful lifetime being a bit gruntier.

I completely agree about the risk of buying from China, though it is not much less than buying from Amazon as the return shipping is often not worthwhile.  Of my 7 direct from China purchases I have had only one not work out the first time.  The wrong product was shipped.  They shipped the correct product (a $50 item) and did not want the wrong part back.  :)




"4 wheels move the body.  2 wheels move the soul."

“Don't believe anything you read on the net. Except this. Well, including this, I suppose.” Douglas Adams

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  Reply # 1095916 25-Jul-2014 23:41
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Nice review, I was going to ask you in the other thread what HTPC software you were using. I also use XBMC (on Linux) and was thinking of getting another one of these for the bedroom.

The one small annoyance (and I mean small) about these units is the motherboard is mounted upside down, meaning the USB and ethernet ports are upside down - it's not a big deal to me but if you're constantly plugging devices in it could trip you up the first few times :)

Yes buying from China is not without risk but Aliexpress seems to reduce the risk quite a bit, just make sure you read the seller's conditions - some of them will only replace/refund if you return the item, others have more lenient conditions. The money stays in escrow until you receive the item and will automatically cancel and refund your money if the item isn't shipped within a certain time period. So far I've bought this PC and 4 Hikvision CCTV cameras from Aliexpress (5 items from 4 sellers), I've only had a problem with one of the sellers where he couldn't ship the item in time, he asked me to extend it for a couple of days (which I did) and it was then posted within the extended time period (ended up taking 20 days all up). I've had much worse dealings on eBay.

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