Atom-based Media Center: Part 1

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The Case

Before we get started, I should make very clear that mini-ITX cases are REALLY SMALL. You certainly won’t be converting this into a NAS box with half a dozen drives:

AthenaTech - Top-down view; front of case on bottom.

Here’s a close up of the inside of the case facing forward. The power supply is mounted just inside the front panel.

Inside the AthenaTech case.

And here’s another looking toward the back. You can see the stock 80mm fan with a plastic grill mounted at the very back:

Inside the AthenaTech case.

Other Notable Hardware

Logitech never ceases to amaze me with their products. The S520 wireless desktop I ordered for my mum not only looks cool, but Logitech INCLUDES NAME-BRAND BATTERIES. (To be fair, Anyware included Toshiba Carbon-Zinc batteries–we’ll see how well those work out.) Four whole batteries, two for each device, included in individual shrink-wrapped packets greeted me after I opened the box:

Why I love Logitech.

DLink’s DWL-140 adapter is awesome. It’s also tiny. Here, have a look for yourself:

DLink's unassuming adapter.

I know what you’re thinking. What is that weird mouse looking thing at the bottom of the picture? That, friends, is an extended. Simply plug it into a USB port, plug the wireless USB nice into the top USB slot, and place it wherever you get better reception.

NOTE: This extender might be important to you if you’re using more than 3 USB devices. The DWL-140 is really wide. One of the bottom-most USB connectors on the Intel D945GCLF2D sits right next to the VGA connector. You can’t plug the DWL-140 into this slot, so using this particular NIC renders 1 out of 4 slots inaccessible unless you use the extender.

The Motherboard

I have a few shots of the motherboard. I’m sorry I didn’t take more of the unboxing process. I was rather excited about getting this built so I could see my mother’s reaction when she realized she could play Mahjong downstairs on her television.

This first shot shows a picture of the DRAM carton (foreground, left) and the motherboard (background, right) with the DIMM installed.

The motherboard, memory installed.

Motherboard closeup shot, memory in foreground:

Motherboard close-up.

And lastly, here’s an oblique view of the motherboard with the AthenaTech case (plus the Intel IO shield installed–the AthenaTech case comes with no IO shield) in the background:

Motherboard, oblique.

Let’s install the motherboard.

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2 Responses to “Atom-based Media Center: Part 1”

  • Grimblast writes:

    Took me awhile to get around to reading this but very informative! Your shopping list of hardware and the picture examples were a lot better than some of the sites I read on the topic of mythtv type boxes and hardware. It helps to have visual examples and it’s too bad a lot of pages dont seem to be very creative in that sense. I look forward to seeing the next part about the software.

    I’ve started saving up to get some of the hardware so this way I can start building sooner rather than later.

  • Benjamin writes:

    One thing I think I didn’t stress much in the article is that the Intel 945-based boards are a little under powered (or feel that way). The NVIDIA Ion systems might be a bit more appropriate, but I haven’t found one that has a decent expansion option! I’m hoping this will change. All things considered, though, the Atom 330 + i945 is a pretty decent mix for a basic HTPC. It probably won’t do HD well and flash movies are a little jerky (maybe it’s just the Youtube videos–some of them are pretty awful quality-wise).

    If you want something a little more powerful, there’s a lot of mini-ATX boards out there that support Core 2 systems–I even found one by SuperMicro that’s based on the Atom. Though, one thing about the Core boxes–they can’t beat the Atom when it comes to power consumption. I think the processor idles at about 8 watts.

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