Building my perfect HTPC

Almost a year ago, I bought myself a Raspberry Pi with the idea to use it as a HTPC. Streaming all my movies and TV-shows in full-HD would theoretically be possible, the fact that a Raspberry Pi uses not more than 5 watts on full load made it even more cool. After months of experimenting with several XBMC-images, compiling my own versions and re-imaging the SD-card over and over again, I got my perfect HTPC up and running smoothly.

It was running a slightly customized version of RaspBMC with some extra packages installed like Apache, MySQL, Transmission, my own automatic downloadscript and a VPN-server. I agree it was maybe a bit too much for such a small computer. To make it all a bit workable I had to overclock and overvolt my Raspberry Pi slightly. The highest clock I could reach was just over 1Ghz where XBMC could play HD-movies fine over wifi, so I was happy.

Running XBMC was one thing, but then there was Apache, MySQL and Transmission. Those were completely unusable when XBMC was running or vice versa. It’s quite logical that all that software dropped performance because a Raspberry Pi has only 265MB of RAM and it isn’t designed to do that kind of work, but it was nice to see that it’s capable to do it, albeit rather slowly. I used it like that for almost two months, but then I got sick of it and started looking for something else. Something faster.

My requirements

  • Play full HD movies over network, preferably over wifi
  • Really low power consumption (Max 20 watts on full load, less than 10 watts idle)
  • Should run Linux, with hardware accelerated video decode
  • Completely silent i.e. no spinning fans or hard disks
  • Nice appearance, slick black case. Preferably 43cm width
  • Easy to use and uncrashable

The hardware

Like every computer enthusiast, I have a lot of hardware from previous electronics which I, of course, wanted to reuse for my new HTPC.

  • Kingston SSDnow V+100 96GB

It ain’t much, but it saved me some money. This is what I bought:

  • Zotac Fusion-itx WiFi
  • 60 Watt PicoPSU and accompanying low power adapter
  • PulseEight CEC-adapter

The motherboard has an integrated AMD APU which makes decoding HD movies a peace of cake. With the PicoPSU I avoid as much as possible power loss, which is inherent to big power supplies and finally the CEC-adapter lets me control my entire HTPC with the remote of my Sony LCD TV. As you can see, I’m missing a case. I’m waiting till the Streacom FC5WS EVO becomes available end November. It’s expensive as hell, but it’s just too nice.

All of this should be a nice start to build my perfect HTPC. Read the next parts to find out how I set the whole thing up.