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Scratch Build – In Progress Project "Parents": Mini-ITX HTPC inside Silverstone LC-08 Nano-ITX case [11/June]

Discussion in 'Project Logs' started by yogev_ezra, 8 May 2011.

  1. yogev_ezra

    yogev_ezra Green Gadgets Ltd

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    Background: My parents are in need of HTPC system for watching DVD movies and satellite TV, browsing internet and playing “Solitaire”. Before that, they used a standalone satellite receiver and standalone DVD player, both connected to Samsung LA26B450 26" LCD television. A few months ago, the receiver broke, and a few weeks later, the DVD player. We checked the possibility to repair them and found out that the cost is so high that it's cheaper to buy new ones. The prices are about $150 for new satellite receiver, and about $40 for new DVD player.

    Since they complained for a long time already that they do not have a DVD recorder at hand to burn movies for their friends, and got only one computer at home when they sometimes need two (like father wants to play "Solitaire" and mother - to surf the internet at the same time :worried:), we decided that it's a good opportunity that I will build them a custom HTPC rather than buying a new receiver and a new DVD player. This would both save some space and make the TV stand look a bin cleaner, and allow them to use the system as the second computer when needed. Also, hopefully the HTPC components will be more durable than standalone receiver/player.

    Requirements:
    1) Integrated Satellite receiver
    2) Able to run Windows 7 Professional
    3) HDMI output (or at least DVI-D, but HDMI is much preferred), that is able to provide 1366x768 pixels (the maximum HDMI resolution for Samsung LA26B450)
    4) Integrated CD/DVD player/recorder
    5) Support for (at least) one 2.5" SSD
    6) Fanless system is much preferred (if possible)
    7) Optional BlueTooth support (to connect Bluetooth keyboard/mouse)
    8) Able to play HD video and flash video smoothly
    9) Chassis size - as small as possible, horizontal (HTPC) style
    10) Low power consumption (will run 24/7)

    I took all the requirements and started to search for possible solution. I decided to start with the motherboard since that is the major component that dictates most of the other components. The motherboard was surprisingly easy - it turned out I have a spare Zotac NM10-A-E Mini-ITX motherboard ($105 at Newegg, although I originally bought it for $180) that answers most of the needs exactly :thumb:

    [​IMG]

    a) Mini-ITX size allows relatively small build
    b) Fanless cooling solution with heatsink allows potentially fanless HTPC (but only if I find fanless chassis and fanless power supply)
    c) Intel Atom D510 offers below 30W total idle power consumption, while still having enough grunt to run Windows 7, browse internet and play non-HD movies
    d) Native HDMI output with maximum supported resolution coincidentally exactly as Samsung TV - 1366x768 pixels - no need for additional video card
    e) Two SATA ports to support HDD/SSD + CD/DVD
    f) One PCIe x1 port and two miniPCIe ports - allow connecting satellite receiver card and bluetooth card. The second miniPCIe port can be used to install BroadCom BCM70015 HD accelerator card, to solve the requirement that the Zotac board is lacking in, namely smooth HD video / flash playback.

    The PCIe x1 port on the motherboard guided the satellite receiver selection: I chose TBS-6921 PCIe DVB-S2 card. At $120 (eBay), with bundled half-height bracket, IR remote controller, blind scan option and Linux drivers support (just in case!!!) it seemed like a solid deal.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    When I had selected the board and the satellite card, now it was time to start searching for the chassis, as all other components are standard and/or small enough to fit any chassis. This is what gave me headache for the last 2 months :wallbash: In 2 words "Mission Impossible" :sigh:

    I found a lot of Mini-ITX cases able to fit the Zotac board, PCIe card, CD/DVD and everything else - the problem is that they have the size of car battery and weigh almost the same. :miffed: The spare place they have inside is enough to accommodate twice the number of components I need. In short - too big, unnecessarily big, will probably even not fit the TV stand, and no way I am buying one of those. Most of them also have internal 220V @ 250W PSU and thus are not fanless. Example - Lian Li PC-Q09. BTW, if someone knows smaller cases that would do the work, I will appreciate the tip ;)

    When looking at smaller cases, I got another problem - they are able to fit either PCIe card OR CD/DVD, but not both. Only 2-3 cases I found were able to fit both, but I would have to change the motherboard to active fan cooling (otherwise the DVD will always get fried by the heat emitting from the CPU), but I want to avoid fans as much as possible - this is our company specialization, after all! :D Even if I do use active cooling, my parents probably won't like the design, as those cases look too industrial for HTPC - example Travla C138.

    The next thought was to produce the case exactly as I need at Green Gadgets factory, but the tooling cost is too high to justify making only one copy :nono:

    Finally, after a lot of Googling, I understood I was looking at wrong direction :D It is not possible to make a nice-looking small-sized HTPC with Mini-ITX chassis, but possible with Nano-ITX :idea: All you need is to use a dremel :dremel: It turned out that, same as some Mini-ITX cases are so big they can easily accommodate ATX motherboards, there is at least one Nano-ITX case big enough to fit a Mini-ITX motherboard :thumb:

    [​IMG]

    Here comes Silverstone LC-08 - a case designed for VIA Nano-ITX, but an AMD employee Ed Callway modded this chassis to fit AMD proof-of-concept Zacate/Fusion Mini-ITX board AND a slim DVD (actually Blue-Ray) disk drive, to showcase AMD Fusion products at CES 2011. He even provided some photos and explanation how he did the mod:

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    I checked and found this case for $100 at Amazon, a bit higher than I considered worth spending on chassis if I need to mod it, but still acceptable. So I thought - why not? I have a proof that it's possible (with right tools), let's try to see if I manage to do it (it's not as trivial as it sounds as I am not a modder myself, only system integrator and designer). Worst case I lose the $100 if I wreck the chassis. So I ordered the chassis on April 22nd, as well as slim CD/DVD writer and PCIe satellite receiver (hence the date in the topic title). I also had to order a PCIe riser and slim SATA power/data cable.

    I started receiving the orders 10 days ago, and till today I got almost everything besides the PCIe riser, so this allows me to start working on the chassis in the meanwhile. I will post my progress in this thread as I make it. Your comments are always welcome :thumb:
     
    Last edited: 11 Jun 2011
  2. yogev_ezra

    yogev_ezra Green Gadgets Ltd

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    So today I started modding the LC-08 case that I received.

    Interestingly, the case seems to have two options for the rear side (see photos below), that suit for different VIA Nano-ITX motherboards. Neither Amazon nor other sites where you can buy this case specify which of the back panels you are getting, and lack of this information can be really inconvenient for people who intend to fit the Nano-ITX board there.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Since I need to cut the rear side anyway in order to fit the standard Mini-ITX plate, I do not really care which one I get, but I hoped to receive the version with less holes (NOT the one Ed Callway used), because less holes means no unused holes after the cutting. Sadly, I got the same version as him, but it's not a big deal. After unpacking and removing the aluminum top cover, this is what I got:

    [​IMG]

    Next I unscrewed and removed the internal PSU - I will be using Pico-PSU in my build, and the place where factory PSU is installed right now, will be occupied by Mini-ITX board. Since I want to install BOTH the slim DVD drive, 2.5" SSD AND PCIe satellite card, I won't have space for the factory PSU behind the DVD drive as Ed Callway did.

    Next, I unscrewed the vertical metal plate that is installed to mount slim DVD - the plate has to be removed if I want to fit Mini-ITX board. Then I removed all the factory standoffs with pliers - none of them was fit for Mini-ITX mounting holes so they all had to be cut out:

    [​IMG]

    Now comes the hardest part - cut out the hole for standard Mini-ITX motherboard rear shield. As I mentioned earlier, I do not consider myself a modder at all :blush: I tried to use the dremel :dremel: first, as Ed did, but I just broke 2 disks - the metal barely noticed my trials. :sigh: Only the top cover and front cover are made from aluminum - all the rest is 1.0mm SECC, which is obviously much harder to cut (but also makes the case quality better). So I took an electric-powered metal saw with circular saw blade and tried to make the cut. Now it was so easy that I even did not manage to stop the saw in time and cut a bit extra :sigh: (you will see it on the photo below). But I hope I will be able to repair that later when I finish everything else. Anyone has a nice advice for a paste or something to repair that hole? For straightening the saw cuts, I used the dremel again:

    [​IMG]
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    After I installed the rear shield, I need to do some test mounting to know where to drill the holes for Mini-ITX motherboard standoffs. For the test mounting I used a broken Intel D510MO motherboard that I have, because I was afraid to break the Zotac board. I will install Zotac board only in the final build:

    [​IMG]
     
  3. yogev_ezra

    yogev_ezra Green Gadgets Ltd

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    Today I drilled 4 holes for Mini-ITX motherboard standoffs. The location for holes was marked using D510MO board, then I used a tap (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tap_and_die) to create screw threads in the holes, and finally screwed the standoffs.

    Then I mounted Zotac rear shield and installed the Zotac board for the first time. Now I finally see whether the other parts will fit or not. It looks like the factory front panel (power button and LEDs) will have to be replaced with smaller parts, otherwise the SATA cables cannot be installed (same work Ed Callway from AMD had to do, but in his project, the front panel interfered with the ATX cable). The Pico-PSU also seems to require a small cut in the front panel since sadly the wires going out of the PSU are at the "wrong" side :sigh:

    Anyway, this is how the project looks now. To the left of the board I have marked with pencil a location where the 2.5" SSD will be installed. Above it the satellite PCIe card will be mounted, and finally the slim DVD will be at the top. I am waiting for the PCIe riser and the slim SATA cable to arrive from China so I cannot continue.

    [​IMG]
     
  4. murtoz

    murtoz Busy procrastinating

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    This.

    Pretty much the same reason I built my parents a pc but it didn't rock as much as this one :)
    Will be watching.
     
  5. yogev_ezra

    yogev_ezra Green Gadgets Ltd

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    Thanks for the thumbs up ;) Glad to see at least one more person is in my position, so I am not alone :naughty:

    The cables have finally arrived a week ago, but I only had time to unpack and photograph them now. Here we have:
    1) Slim SATA DVD cable - 34cm
    2) SATA hard disk cable - 25cm
    3) PCIe x1 flexible riser ribbon - 14cm. I wanted shorter, but this is as short as I could find on eBay.
    4) Front panel power/HDD LEDs + power button (instead of the factory buttons that came with Silverstone chassis and are too big to fit with Mini-ITX motherboard).

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Theoroshia

    Theoroshia New Member

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    Are you sure that tuner card will work with your satellite provider? I use DirecTV, and last time I checked, no tuner card on the market worked with it. Could be wrong though, times change and there are different satellite providers these days as well.
     
  7. yogev_ezra

    yogev_ezra Green Gadgets Ltd

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    Yes, it works, I have already tested it without the Silverstone case.

    I was probably not so clear about Satellite; my parents are not using a Satellite provider (we have one like this in Israel, called "Yes" and of course this card will not work with their antenna, because they use different proprietary technology). My parents just have 2 Satellite dishes, one pointed at Hotbird satellite, and the other pointed at Israeli Amos satellite, able to receive any non-encrypted communication from them. Each dish has an LNB that gets a standard DVB-S signal, and the card is handling exactly that. Trying to be future-proof as much as possible, I got this card even with DVB-S2 support, so when Amos/Hotbird upgrade to DVB-S2, the card will still work.
     
  8. Theoroshia

    Theoroshia New Member

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    Ah, okay, just making sure. I went ahead and bought a Hauppage awhile back, and I didn't realize until too late that it was literally a $200 paper weight :/

    Anyway, good luck! Nano-ATX cases are frightening, considering I cut my hands up on full ATX towers on a daily basis :D
     
  9. yogev_ezra

    yogev_ezra Green Gadgets Ltd

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    eBay it? And at least in Israel you have 14 days to return any goods you bought if they do not work for you, and get the money back.

    Thanks, man! I am just amazed of how much space is wasted inside a regular case, so much that there is literally enough space in each case to fit boards of larger size than it was designed for :hehe: I did not go with mini-ITX case as explained in my first post just because they could fit ATX boards easily, and they took so much space that I was not sure the TV stand of my parents would handle them.

    Now all the functionality I need is nicely packed in a tight case, and I think I utilize about 85% of the inner space. This makes me very happy and my parents confident that their TV stand won't break.
     
  10. yogev_ezra

    yogev_ezra Green Gadgets Ltd

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    So today the project continued:

    1) I drilled 4 small holes in the bottom of the chassis for 2.5" disk mounting, then mounted the KingSpec 128GB SSD disk (it is the disk from the previous system that I built for my parents).

    2) I removed the PCI bracket from the Satellite card. Since the chassis does not have a PCI slot, I do not see any point in having a bracket - I would attach the card directly to the chassis using its own antenna screw and motherboard standoffs.

    3) I marked places for holes that need to be drilled in the chassis (red circles in the photo). Two holes in the bottom of the chassis that will be used to attach motherboard standoffs. The top part of the standoffs will be connected to the holes that the satellite card has for attaching PCI bracket. This will provide a supporting angle for the card. And 2 more holes on the side of the chassis - one for the antenna connector and the other for IR cable connector (this one I did not mark on the photo because you cannot see it here).

    [​IMG]

    4) I connected SATA data and power cables to the SSD

    5) I drilled the 4 holes from point #3, and attached the satellite card. Then I connected it to the motherboard PCIe x1 slot using the ribbon riser cable that I got from eBay (pictured on the cables photo).

    P.S. I also gave a name to the project, I called it Project "Parents" due to its intended usage :D This is because all projects that appeared on MOTM so far have a name, so if I want to get a chance to appear there, I think I need a name as well :idea:

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: 11 Jun 2011
  11. Theoroshia

    Theoroshia New Member

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    Wow, things already look at little cramped. I'm assuming you're throwing in a graphics card, I'm just wondering how it's going to fit? Unless the pictures are misleading, and there's a lot more room than I think :p

    Sub'd.
     
  12. yogev_ezra

    yogev_ezra Green Gadgets Ltd

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    The pictures are not misleading, but the GPU is integrated on board (GMA3150). It is enough for basic Office tasks, browsing internet and playing Solitaire.

    For watching HD movies, Flash and Youtube acceleration, I will install BroadCom BCM970015 mini-PCIe card (available for 50$ from LogicSupply).

    What I loved in this Zotac board is that it would allow me to utilize the potential in the best possible way:
    1) PCIe x1 slot for Satellite card
    2) One mini-PCIe slot for BroadCom HD accelerator card
    3) Second mini-PCIe slot for combo Wifi/Bluetooth card
    4) Built-in HDMI port with the maximum resolution exactly as the max. resolution of my parents' TV (1366x768).
    It really looks like this board was created specially for my parents' needs! :thumb:
     
  13. alasdair

    alasdair New Member

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    Tap

    Firstly, Great project.

    I've just managed to get hold of a CoolerMaster MC260 however have an ITX board so will probably need to so similar to you with the motherboard standoffs.

    What drillbit / tap setup did you use? Please bear in mind i have never tapped anything lol.

    Alasdair.
     

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