This is my second HTPC build. Besides playing video / audio media, I had a couple of other goals in mind: I wanted to be able to do heavier console emulation (ps1, ps2, dreamcast, xbox) and steam OS gaming / streaming, but keep the power consumption fairly low.
On my old HTPC (HotBox http://pcpartpicker.com/b/G7Cypg), I liked using Windows Server as my operating system because it comes pre-configured with remote desktop (as a feature anyway). Remoting into the HTPC, with an administrator account from another desktop or laptop, is ideal in my opinion for organizing media, installing software, or downloading files. Then I created an HTPC_user, with limited privileges, that the HTPC would autolog into. And for that user profile, I replaced windows explorer with XBMC, which it would open directly without showing the desktop. My reasons for this somewhat elaborate setup was due to my fully tweaked video settings. In order to get the best contrast and color out of the display, when XBMC is playing video, my Nvidia adapter would report to the display that it was playing video, which would cause the TV to switch to a mode with optimized settings for video playback. Then once the video ended, the adapter would report the change, so the display went back to another mode with sharper display settings, which makes viewing the desktop and reading text much easier. With each mode change there is a delay though, and the movie would already be playing before the TV "caught up" to use the movie settings, and this delay annoyed me. So, to finally wrap up this long story, Nvidia lets you set the content it reports to the display, at all times. Changing the content to video made the desktop a bit ugly to use directly, but removed the delay because the display no longer had to switch modes. And once I had the video settings the way I wanted, I had the HTPC boot directly into XBMC and did all other tasks remotely anyway.
This time I decided to change the OS to Windows 8.1 due to it's optimizations to run well on lesser hardware and getting desktop applications or drivers for the Windows Server operating systems got annoying. I still wanted my other arrangement: using remote desktop to manage the software and media. That was a little challenge to get set up to allow two different accounts to run at the same time. The link below helped me get there.
Remote desktop for windows 8.1: http://forums.mydigitallife.info/threads/49964-Artoo-s-Inter-Galactic-termsrv-dll-Patcher-Tool%99
After that, I've been working the last few months to get all the emulators configured and running via XBMC. Most are organized and working well, but work continues on the more obscure systems (Itellivision, ColecoVision). Steam was a slam dunk in XBMC by adding the Steam plugin. Transferring between the two with the xbox controller is perfect.
This build has been running pretty much 24/7 since May 2014 to November 2014 and has not had any hardware issues. Also, something important to note is the listed temps are while the HTPC has been running inside the closed entertainment center, which has little airflow for heat to exit. The listed temps might be 5 to 10 degrees lower if I moved it to an open area.
Salvaged parts (from HotBox):
- G.Skill 4GB
- OCZ Octane 256GB
- WD Green 4TB
- Plextor Blu-Ray
- Astro A50 headphones
These are some alternative parts I thought of, like if I didn't want to do console emulation, and wanted to reduce my power consumption even further (if going this route, you should also select a lower wattage power supply). Also listed a couple of interesting keyboard / mouse / remote gadgets that I might consider buying, if I get tired of the diNovo mini:
- i3 cpu - http://pcpartpicker.com/part/intel-cpu-bx80646i34130
- radeon video card - http://pcpartpicker.com/part/asus-video-card-r9270xdc2t2gd5
- keyboard / airmouse / remote - http://www.amazon.com/iPazzPort-2-4GHz-Wireless-Keyboard-Remote/dp/B006OW1J1M
- keyboard / touchpad / (shark with frickin') laser pointer! - http://www.amazon.com/FAVI-FE01-BL-Wireless-Keyboard-Touchpad/dp/B003UE52ME/ref=pd_cp_pc_1/178-9867748-3939024