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Any HTPC builders here?

syntax42syntax42 Columbus, OHPosts: 1,315Member Uncommon

I'm looking into building a computer similar to a HTPC.  I don't need as much processing power as an average desktop CPU can provide, but I can't settle for an Intel Atom or Celeron.  Using as a benchmark, I would say 800 is the absolute lowest I could go on the CPU score.

I really want a fanless CPU heatsink system, but I don't want to pay more than $200 for the motherboard and processor.  I'm aiming for about a 25W TDP to achieve that.  The problem I'm running into is the lack of availability for consumers at that level.


The closest match to what I could use was here:

I would use that, but it appears to have too many issues with the chipset and IRQs.  The system I'm building needs to be stable.


After a day of researching this, I'm coming to the conclusion that the best CPU I could buy to meet my goals is the i3-3220T, but availability on that is very limited.  In addition, going fanless is not going to keep the build in the budget I'm looking for.


Also, I have to buy from a reputable web site.  I've had too many bad experiences with small-time sellers.


If anyone could help, I would appreciate it.


  • QuizzicalQuizzical Posts: 14,844Member Uncommon

    What are you going to use it for?

    Are you trying to make the entire system fanless, or just the CPU heatsink?  And if the latter, why?

    An upcoming AMD Kabini system might be exactly what you're looking for, as it's an SoC (only one chip to cool) with a 1.5 GHz quad core in 15 W or a dual core probably clocked around there in a TDP of 9 W.  You could easily do either of those with a fanless setup, but 25 W is quite a bit if you want to go fanless.  Even fanless heatsinks commonly assume that you'll get some case airflow blowing on the heatsink.

  • miguksarammiguksaram Fort Meade, MDPosts: 826Member Uncommon

    The following forum is devoted to the HTPC and might be a better place to seek such advice.

    Not that there aren't those on this site that can't provide input but most people who seek hardware advice here are typically looking for something that pertains more towards a gaming PC or peripherals rather than a HTPC specifically.


  • syntax42syntax42 Columbus, OHPosts: 1,315Member Uncommon

    Thanks.  I'll try on


    The system is intended to become a firewall for a small business with 10-25 users.  From what I've read, the only system requirement is a 1.0 GHz CPU for that range of users.  I know a lot of other things affect that, which is why I want to use something slightly better than most Atom CPUs.  With the right CPU, the firewall should last 5+ years before the company needs something better.


    I wanted a fanless CPU cooler to avoid that as a point of failure.  I can install dual case fans and not worry about both dying at the same time.

  • RidelynnRidelynn Fresno, CAPosts: 4,233Member Uncommon

    When you get this small, you may be better off buying something pre-built.

    A firewall appliance will likely be cheaper, and have dedicated firmware support, for what your looking for.

    Most larger commercial routers (not the Linksys/Netgear type) will have this capability, and many are Atom (or near equivalent) CPUs.

    Even going with something like a commercial NAS - many of these have faster Marvell or Atom CPUs, and while their primary purpose is storage, they can run appliance software and many times that includes firewalls and/or routing.

    If you are trying to do the homebrew linux firewall - they work fine, no problem with that, but if your building a dedicated system for that, then any standard PC with a pair of NICs is fine: going SFF/HTPC is going to add to the cost rather than making it cheaper.

    You may also want to consider running your firewall appliance as a virtual machine on an existing server: then it wouldn't take up any additional physical space at all, and works just the same.

  • syntax42syntax42 Columbus, OHPosts: 1,315Member Uncommon

    I completed the entire build for $309.  The CPU I ended up with was a Core i3-3220T.  The motherboard was a MSI MicroATX.


    I know a real appliance would have been better, but my employer is cost-cutting on everything.  I did see some Sonic Wall appliances for $300, but licenses for features we intend to use would push the cost well over $1000.  Those licenses would also be recurring fees.

    We use a residential-grade router right now and I have been trying to convince them to upgrade to something with real security.  At the same time, the firewall software gives the company (really just me) more control over the network's bandwidth and content.  Users complain about the VOIP phones often and complain about slow internet speeds.  I know it is due to people accessing web sites that are not work-related and using a lot of bandwidth.  The firwall software's controls will let me reserve bandwidth for the VOIP system.


    I had considered the Atom processor.  The best models may have worked for the size of the network we have now.  However, I think the Core i3 I chose will perform quite well for a very long time for this company.

    Virtualization is a somewhat new concept to me in that I have never attempted it.  For a firewall, I would never consider virtualization.  If it were a service that isn't related to security, I would probably try to implement virtualization.


    In case anyone is curious, the software I chose for the firewall is Endian Community.  The interface is probably the best I have seen and it packs in more features than most other free firewalls.

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