Last Friday we officially launched our new Mini-ITX motherboards featuring the latest 7 series platform from Intel; the GIGABYTE H77N-WIFI and Z77N-WIFI. The feature set on these boards is fairly well targeted towards Home Theater PCs with special specifications like Intel Wireless Display 2.0, Dual HDMI ports and Dual LAN. Intel Wi-Di is especially attractive as it lets you broadcast either a cloned or extended desktop to any compatible HDTV or display – wirelessly of course. This means you can more easily broadcast media content to around the home. It’s pretty cool.
In order to explore our new Mini-ITX form factor boards we put together an example of exactly what kind of compact HTPC system could be built. After some debate and deliberation, these are the components we selected:
- Motherboard: Gigabyte H77N-WIFI
- Processor: Intel Core i3 3225
- Cooler: Intel Standard Boxed
- Memory: Kinston DDR3 8GB
- SSD: Micron C300
- Hard drive: Hitachi 3TB 7200RPM
- CD-ROM drive: Liteon Blueray
- Chassis: Thermaltake SD101 chassis (inc. 180 watt PSU)
For a system that may well be left on for extended periods of time, we decided to opt for an Intel Core i3 3225 which is the only the Intel Ivy Bridge model that currently combines the top end HD4000 Graphics core with a lower 55 watt TDP. Tailor made for a HTPC. Likewise, we opted for the H77 Mini-ITX variety, being more suited to a locked processor.
The chassis from Thermaltake deserves a special mention. The Thermaltake SD101 is a forthcoming model (should arrive in PC markets sometime next month) that really shows off Mini-ITX for the compact form factor that it is. It is also one of relatively few Mini-ITX designs that features real front panel USB 3.0 support, something I consider an absolute must.
However the SD101, despite being pretty damn small, can still house both 3.5” and 2.5” drives plus a full sized optical drive. Again, that’s pretty impressive. We went for a 128GB Micron C300 SSD, Hitachi 3TB 7,200rpm drive and a Liteon Bluray. Throw in 8GB of Kingston DDR3, and your done…
Here are a few shots of the rig during assembly to whet your appetite. check out the Core i3 3225 CPU and memory being installed:
Getting into a Mini-ITX chassis isn’t always as obvious as it might seem. A certain amount of space efficiency in the design is necessary if it’s going to house all those drives.
Installing the board can be a little tricky, but as you can see it’s soon nice and snug in there.
Here you can see the drives being screwed the tray. The SSD just gets attached to the outside of the tray. The cabling was simple and easy, with each of the power cables designed to be the exact length that you need.
The Blueray drive get house in its own aperture that sits atop the two sides of the chassis.
Slide the chassis side panels in place, screw them in, attach rubber feet and Wi-Fi antena…and you’re ready to install your OS of choice.
Hopefully we’ll have a video to show you in the next few days showcasing Intel Wi-Di among other things. There’s also talk of a Mini-ITX gaming PC. Until then…