A few years ago I built a system that was just meant for office work purposes. Since then though, I decided to upgrade that system while reusing some parts like the PSU, Case, Storage Devices and such. As a result, I had no more use for the CPU, Motherboard, and RAM, so I just stored it away for a while. Now that I have an entertainment center and a separate computer room, I decided I wanted to have a system with media capabilities.
I first started off with a Raspberry Pi 3 for fun and it was good enough for playing movies and TV shows in 1080p. However, I still felt it was slow and not as responsive compared to using applications on my desktop (obviously). Also, I figure I'd like to try other little projects with the Pi. Then, I came up with the idea of reusing my old AMD mini-ITX parts to build an HTPC.
The first thing I've done was to research small mini-ITX cases. Bare in mind, I live in Canada, so not many products are available compared to the US, and at a reasonable price on top of that. This part was kind of frustrating because there are very, very few cases that are designed without needing a PCI-e card as well as having a reasonable PSU. Of course there are cases that are not too thick, but again you can tell they designed it to fit a PCI-e card because they're so long. I know that there are other cases that are very thin and small enough where you can have an external PSU, but I found out that those cases require a special kind of form called thin mini-ITX.
So after hours of research, I settled on the Inwin Chopin. It has few, but mostly positive reviews, a reasonable integrated 80+ Bronze PSU, and the size seemed perfect for me. I also figured that I'm not going to be storing much data in the media center for the time being, so I settled on a small capacity SSD. If I decide to store some stuff later, then I'll get a HDD, probably 2TB (It's good that this case has another 2.5" drive mount)
The experience to build within this case has been mostly positive. I will say that you will need to plan ahead on how you'll route your wires. Being that this is a very crammed case, you'll have to put in a bit more effort compared to mid-towers. However, it actually wasn't extremely difficult and I wouldn't mind building this case again. The quality of the Chopin itself is superb in my opinion. It's extremely sturdy, very easy to open and it looks very sleek. I haven't really encountered any sharp edges and I could see that the quality of the metal and paint job is good. I also like the aluminum u-shaped piece on the case, makes it look very nice.
As for the cooler, it was one of the few quality units available that was low profile and it just...JUST fits on the motherboard. Mounting it was fine, however, it does slightly push against my RAM as you can see in one of my photos. I've read that people had this particular issue with this motherboard and mounting the NH-L9a. If you have this setup, really the only way to prevent this is buying RAM without the heatsinks (or remove them if you want, but I think that voids warranty). Overall though, it's actually not too bad and I don't think it will cause any problems.
Installing the OS was a breeze, however, seeing that I want to use this as an HTPC, I want to be able to use it casually without a keyboard. So folks, keep note: I was trying to boot up my PC without the keyboard, but it never made it passed the POST phase until it detected one. At first, I tried looking in the BIOS to see if there was an option to turn off auto-detection or something similar, but there was nothing. Seeing that this board hasn't been used in a while, I knew the BIOS was never updated. So of course, I updated the BIOS to the latest version and VOILA!, posted without needing to tweak any BIOS settings. I was relieved, now I just need my gamepad.
Overall, the system seems to be stable despite the fact that there's only a CPU fan and PSU fan (the PSU, by the way, is very quiet, I'm pleased). It doesn't seem to get too hot. Although not a valid testing method, I didn't bother to check the temperatures yet, but after watching a movie and rebooting to the BIOS in short time, I saw the CPU was around 55 C, so it seems the Noctua is doing its job.
As for a future project, I might turn this into a sort of console, as I kind of like having a small PC with the TV. I'm excited about the Ryzen APUs that are supposed to come out this year, so I'll see how they turn before making that decision.