Which Intel CPU

Sep 22, 2015
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#1
Hi guys/gals,

I'm looking to build a fanless HTPC that is for audio/video playback (not 4k video) and basic internetting (youtube and light occasional browsing).

The goals are small, silent, fluid 1080p video and the less heat the better.

I'm aiming for no video card, just integrated Intel graphics.
So I bring the question to you guys b/c I figure you're experts around here... which CPU should I aim for that can walk-all over great quality 1080p video files that I'll rip from blu-ray and store on a home server. I tend to get carried away always buying more power than I'll ever use, on the other hand my last & current HTPC is a piece of Dell under-powered garbage that sounds like a low-powered blow dryer when any video is on screen.

Any pointers on which CPU(s) I should be thinking about would be much appreciated. Thanks
 
Dec 10, 2005
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#2
At a curiosity, how far away is this pc going to be from the viewer? Depending on the distance, you may be able to get away with just using the stock cooler. I have this setup (see post #8 for the latest iteration). It has 2 quiet fans for exhaust on the side and the stock Pentium G3240 cooler. The only time it is audible from ~3 feet is when the machine first starts (the CPU cooler momentarily spins up to full speed before slowing) or if there are no other noises present. I've had no problems with this Intel setup playing HD streaming video, blu-ray, or other htpc functions.

For processors, you could easily get away with a Pentium series or Core i3. They may not be the fastest for encoding movies (compared with a higher end processor), but they'll play back everything fine, are low power, and don't cost too much.

Edit:
I should specify, the only ripping I've done with this machine is ripping DVDs to .mkv (I haven't really done any re-encoding).
 
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Charlie98

Diamond Member
Nov 6, 2011
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#3
For general streaming you can't beat a Pentium, and even using the stock Intel heatsink shouldn't be a problem. If you want to over-spec, bump up to an i3...

I went from a Pentium G620 to an i3 in my HTPC and I really don't see a difference... the Pentium was fine.

Don't be afraid of a GPU, either. Many of the new tech GPUs have a silent mode where the fan doesn't spin up unless the temps hit a certain point. Up until last month, I had my GTX560Ti 448... a pretty hot card... in my HTPC, but I stacked the fan profile to idle until it hit 60C... which it will never do in HTPC duty. Fan noise was never a problem... but I also have a good case.

If you are really looking for a fanless HTPC, I would pick something like a Pentium G3450... skip the 'T' versions... and a reasonable mobo (you didn't specify what mobo form you were aiming at.) I would leave the option open for a GPU at a later date... in case you ever go up to 4K, or something new comes around the corner that requires some GPU horsepower.

EDIT: I'm not sure if you are ripping BD on this machine, if you are... you are going to have to make a decision. Encoding/transcoding requires some CPU horsepower, a Pentium is not adequate, an i3 barely. It takes my i5 over an hour sometimes to rip a BD movie to MP4... all the while running at 100%
 
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Sep 22, 2015
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#4
Interesting, thank you very much for the CPU info!

The distance is about 6-7 feet from couch to HTPC so I suppose I could consider some ultra quiet fans but I really think I want absolute silence so I'm intrinsically afraid of a fan-based design, or even a spinning HDD, which is where a small SSD and network storage come in.
 

Charlie98

Diamond Member
Nov 6, 2011
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#5
Interesting, thank you very much for the CPU info!

The distance is about 6-7 feet from couch to HTPC so I suppose I could consider some ultra quiet fans but I really think I want absolute silence so I'm intrinsically afraid of a fan-based design, or even a spinning HDD, which is where a small SSD and network storage come in.
What kind of case are you considering? A traditional HTPC case, or would a PC case (tower) do?
 
Sep 22, 2015
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#6
What kind of case are you considering? A traditional HTPC case, or would a PC case (tower) do?
I have been daydreaming about a fanless streacom case http://www.streacom.com/products/

...however when I look at my IKEA tv case with shelves that aren't more than 8" high I wonder if a passive cooling will work in such a confined space.
 

Charlie98

Diamond Member
Nov 6, 2011
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#7
There is no reason why you can get some premium fans and just run them at a lower RPM. You don't have to have a wind tunnel going through a case, just enough movement to allow natural convection to work.

Are you planning on encoding with this machine or the server?
 
Sep 22, 2015
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#8
I'll be encoding on a desktop workstation & then transferring to a small home server. This HTPC will read/stream from that server. So this HTPC doesn't need storage or too much CPU muscle (I think), however I would like a smooth UI experience and smooth playback.

I suppose I could be open to a small case with enough room for a blu-ray drive, SSD, small motherboard and some very very quiet fans. The last thing I want to do is build out a fanless HTPC that overheats because it is inside a piece of furniture with insufficient ventilation/air movement.
 

TuSpockShakur

Senior member
May 28, 2014
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#9

Zodiark1593

Platinum Member
Oct 21, 2012
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#10
I wonder if a Compute Stick might do the job. Local storage is, obviously, lacking, but streaming purposes, anything h.264 should play without issue.
 

Charlie98

Diamond Member
Nov 6, 2011
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#11
I'll be encoding on a desktop workstation & then transferring to a small home server. This HTPC will read/stream from that server. So this HTPC doesn't need storage or too much CPU muscle (I think), however I would like a smooth UI experience and smooth playback.

I suppose I could be open to a small case with enough room for a blu-ray drive, SSD, small motherboard and some very very quiet fans. The last thing I want to do is build out a fanless HTPC that overheats because it is inside a piece of furniture with insufficient ventilation/air movement.
Sounds good. And maybe I'm behind the curve on the newer chipsets, I know they operate at much lower wattage than even 2 or 3 gens ago, and certainly they won't be taxed in a simple streaming role.... but I still would be concerned about heat buildup in a semi-enclosed environment.

For what you are wanting to do, the suggestions from Brain and Charlie are overkill. An embedded Braswell motherboard and a cheap SSD will more than do what you want with a minimal power draw.
That 4-core Pentium board looks pretty nice... and you may be correct about overkill. Drop that into a case with a quiet, low-RPM fan and you may have a winner.
 
Sep 22, 2015
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#12
hey thanks for all this great info.
I'm gonna take a look at it now.
 
Dec 10, 2005
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#13
For what you are wanting to do, the suggestions from Brain and Charlie are overkill. An embedded Braswell motherboard and a cheap SSD will more than do what you want with a minimal power draw.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157620&ignorebbr=1

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157626&ignorebbr=1

Here is a well ventilated Mini ITX case that would be dead silent.

http://www.amazon.com/Antec-ISK110-VESA-Mini-ITX-Case/dp/B0064LWISQ
I didn't think of embedded systems. I guess they've advanced a bit since I last upgraded (which was my summer of 2014 for the HTPC with the Pentium Haswell) or built from the ground up.
 

LoveMachine

Senior member
May 8, 2012
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#14
Since you already have a workstation/server setup, a Chromebox will do you fine. It's tiny, quiet, and pulls maybe 9 watts for demanding video application, it's a sleek design, and it's cheap. I have both a Celeron and i3 unit. The i3 does run interlaced MPEG2 content (recorded live TV from a PVR service) a bit better, but even the wee Celeron handles high bitrate 1080p MKVs without any issues at all. It takes a bit of hacking ( see this ), but you can run a Linux build of your choice like KodiBuntu with no cost for an OS, or even throw Windows on it.
 
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Engineer

Elite Member
Oct 9, 1999
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#15
Interesting, thank you very much for the CPU info!

The distance is about 6-7 feet from couch to HTPC so I suppose I could consider some ultra quiet fans but I really think I want absolute silence so I'm intrinsically afraid of a fan-based design, or even a spinning HDD, which is where a small SSD and network storage come in.
I'm using a Core I3-4130T with stock fan and with the ultra quiet motherboard setting, it runs at 450-550 RPM's. I can't hear it when right next to it much less several feet away and I absolutely can't stand fan noise, AT ALL.

Stays under 35C at all loads. No complaints!!!
 

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