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It may be me, or the place I live (Italy), but it seems pretty hard to get a build or a prebuilt nettop or a laptop that fits the need.

I need something

  • silent
  • able to playback all h.264 fullhd content without stuttering, and well (and not loosing the hw acceleration because of softsubs...)
  • silent
  • not ugly
  • silent
  • and (possibly) cheap.

I'm going the linux route, therefore i'm moving towards a cpu-based or nvida-integrated solution (i don't think ati hw accelerated playback - or the intel "hd" acceleration - is useable yet).

Ion nettop; it's either

  • the Acer Revo (but here it's incredibly pricey and it's hard to find the dualcore version) or
  • the Asrock Ion 330, that in the current version is rated "silent" at 26Db. 26. Sounds pretty noisy to me!!! the previous version was even worse. was this product really aimed at htpc market??
  • the Dell Zino - i think it's ATI based unfortunately.

Laptop:

  • correct me if I'm wrong: sub 600€/$ units are quite loud under full load (because of the tiny fans).
  • ULW laptops are indeed quite similar: tiniest fans => high pitched noise and the cpu still lacks power for non hd-accelerated video decoding

Handmade build:

  • little money can be saved with underpowered cpus, a low-midrange cpu would help in the case of non-hw-accelerated content
  • the cases are quite pricey
  • the PSU one has to get ranges between 100/150 €/$ minimum to keep the noise down
  • a low-mid build, all included, sums up to over 650 €/$ for a still-looking-ugly-unit, without the blu-ray drive.

Please help. What do you advise on this? ;)

Am I ignoring laptops too much, maybe? Are low-priced Acers that noisy/high pitched under full load?

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"dell zino - i think it's ati based unfortunately." you can get the Dell Zino with a fan-less ATI HD4350 w. 512 MB RAM, which is running circles around nVidia's ION. –  Molly7244 Dec 7 '09 at 0:56
    
i'm pretty sure the video card is much more powerful, but being limited to vdpau (xvba and va-api-xvba are lagging way behind vdpau, i could not find a testable xvba-enabled mplayer build!) ati cards are no-go. and that's a pity. –  Unknown Dec 12 '09 at 10:20

7 Answers 7

I am just finishing gathering parts for a Aspire Revo build. I am swapping the included drive for a 30GB SSD, and using a network share to access media.

I believe that the Revo with SSD will be totally quiet.

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please let me know how it performs and how loud (the fan ;) ) is, i'm quite interested in what you will find out ;) –  Unknown Dec 12 '09 at 10:22
    
waiting waiting waiting for the revo to actually ship –  Chris Dec 14 '09 at 20:12

For silence, the most important thing is to avoid any fan smaller than 120mm. This applies to all fans in the system. All smaller fans are noisy. The 40mm fans that come on many video cards and motherboard chipsets are particularly bad.

I find a lot of useful info on www.silentpcreview.com. I am not affiliated with that site; I have a homebuilt linux-based HTPC and a homebuilt system that I keep in my bedroom, so silence is important to me.

By the way, 26dB is extremely quiet! It sounds like a high number, but if it really is 26dB, you won't hear it unless you put your ear up against it.

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not the cheapest route, but purchase a SpeedStep based system and underclock it so the fans should never go on. Don't know much about the high def video aspect however.

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I got a nice ASRock ION machine. It can run high res videos and do most server processing. Since it uses the ION chipset I get accelerated 3d graphics in linux and I'm able to use the full features of XBMC. Also the machine has a DVI/HDMI out and Optical out. I'm quite happy with it. Its really quiet.

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Mac-mini all the way. Just get a dvi to hdmi cable and you are ready to go. I'd say you could get the previous generation model for $400-500 US.

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I know, it is not running linux (but rather a sort of BSD), but I have a mac mini for that in my living room connected to a 2.5 inch silent USB drive. This is silent and plays back all h264 content I have just great. And is has a high "Woman Acceptance Factor", which was necessary for my living room survival. Check out if minis are available refurbished or used at your place as well and if the inbuilt ram and harddisk is to small the upgrade it on your own. It is not that big of a problem - at least I had no problem with that after reading some upgrade advice on the internet. But be sure you buy one with a core 2 duo inside, I don't know if the others are fast enough.

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do you think that the core 2 duo version is capable of flawless 1080p playback? do you find it "dead" quiet? thank you again (and thanks to all of you) –  Unknown Dec 7 '09 at 8:02
    
I can not judge on 1080p playback - I have no full-HD capable content and screen to test. Regarding dead silent: Playback from HD (even the external 2.5 USB drive: Yes, from 1-2 meters away, it is dead silent. And with a DVD-Speed control program even DVD playback is silent. Playing games makes the fan speed up, but even that is acceptable in a living room. –  Thomas Dec 8 '09 at 11:02

In case you go the handmade route, look at

Note that water cooling your CPU and/or graphics card (ram maybe even? shrugs) will result in what is essentially a silent system but A: will cost a lot more and B: will be messier.

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