So, since University I’ve been a fan of silent computing and a stickler for wasting power. When I first heard about the ION chipset I thought that both my goals may come together in one package and early reviews seems positive, results I can now back up.
In the picture (right) you will see my “old” Media Centre, a 2.3GHz AMD dual core running on a 780G chipset, HDMI out and only one fan which was quiet at best. It runs at about 40Watts while watching TV and slightly higher for HD content. The only problem is that the 90Watt PSU tends to crap out at 100% CPU. I figured it could be put to better use in a desktop machine and lo! An excuse to buy a Zotac ION board, revive an old project and gain a new desktop PC at the same time.
The picture above also shows the Zotac ION board (Atom N230, fanless, 2GB RAM) along with a 160GB hard disc and BD-ROM drive. I figured for £50 quid Blu-Ray was a no brainer! It’s currently running without a case because all the parts had been delivered, I’m impatient and I’m no stranger to a computer running outside of a case as you can see from my Home Server prototype! (left)
The Zotac is currently in the same plastic chassis the Home Server used, it seemed a waste not to use it and keeps the board a little safer until its new case is complete. I’ve put the Zotac through its paces this weekend watching and recording TV, listening to music and watching a number of BluRay discs. So far I’m very impressed.
I installed the Windows 7 RC operating system because, well, why the hell not? It installed in no time at all and after 20 minutes for the OS and a little longer for the latest drivers the system rating to the right was run. Now, 2.2 isn’t great however the processor in this board (Atom N230) isn’t the important thing here, the GPU is going to be doing almost all the work. Something it does very well.
At 4.2 and 5.1 the graphics scored a lot higher than my previous media centre which topped out at 3.2 and 3.4. Plugging the new machine into a power meter I discovered it runs at 30~35 Watts regardless of what you throw at it, live TV and BluRay included. I have even got hibernation to work under Media Centre which I gave up on previously.
Many years ago I built the first incarnation of the Jukebox based on a project on Mini-ITX.com where someone made a similar machine for listening to music and where I purchased my Mini-ITX boards from.
The picture to the left shows the case as it currently exists, awaiting an upgrade. I’m planning on getting the lightstrips shining for the first time in a few years and hiding the remote receiver in there too along with the BD-ROM drive. The nasty silver case underneath is an old case recently returned that will house the old Media Centre guts, after a good clean. I think the Jukebox will be easier than cleaning the old case, years of dust await me though worth the work.
It’s been a while since I’ve got my hands dirty with such a project and longer still since I’ve done any electronics work. The LED lightstrips and PIC based power button to use IR codes to bring the machine out of hibernation should keep me busy for a while and hopefully a lot of fun too.
Stay tuned for more.