M350 Media Centre
Note: This tutorial is totally outdated. It has been left on this site for reference only.
With soaring electricity prices I decided to build a green media centre. The specs I want for this media centre are:
- Tiny case
- Low power comsumption processor
- Nvidia graphics processor
- 1TB storage
- Dual high definition tuners
- Bluetooth remote control/keyboard
- Nearly silent
Getting all the components to build this tiny media centre has been a bit difficult. Some of the parts I was able to find in Australia, other parts I had to get from China and other parts from the US.
The smallest case I could find was the M350 mini itx enclosure. This case allows air circulation by having holes all over, which makes it perfect for a silent system as no fans might be required.
It is hard to imagine how small this case is, so I decided to take a picture with a 375ml soft drink beside it.
There is an excellent review of this care here.
This motherboard has a dual-core Intel® Atom™ processor D525 which uses very little power. It also has an integrated next generation NVIDIA ION graphics processor.
1W @ OFF
2W @ Sleep
26W @ Idle
30W @ 1080p h.264 mkv
It has HDMI & DVI-D videooutputs, SPDIF output, analog audio output and 2 USB 3 ports, which makes it perfect for a media centre.
The only disadvantage I could find about this board is that it needs a fan. When I tried to use it fanless, temperature went up to the roof to arounf 80 degrees. I had to install a nearly silent fan on this system to cool it down. Now it runs around 45 degrees when playing a 1080p video.
To find more information about this board check the official site.
Click the following link to Make the Audio of the Asus AT5IONT-I MiniITX Motherboard work in Linux.
If you want to use a DVI to HDMI cable and you still want to get audio on that monitor, you might have to use a trick to disable the hdmi audio from the edid information of the monitor. This way the monitor will use analog input instead of the hdmi audio input that most likely will have no sound. Check the DVI to HDMI analog audio section.
To be able to build a mini media centre I had tu use a notebook hard drive. The good news is that some manufacturers have started to build notebook hard drives with capacities of up to 1TB like this Toshiba hard drive I'm using.
The other advantage of using notebook drives is the low power comsumption. This hard drive has a peak power consumption of 4.5 watts.
You can check the specs of this drive here.
I'm using dual HD tuners in a USB stick. This is one of the few tuners that has a dual tuner inside a USB stick. It would also fit inside the tiny case so it doesn't have to be kept outside the media centre.
More information about this tuner can be found here.
I decided to give it a try to this remote control from Deal Extreme.
Unfortunately, this remote didn't work properly on Linux.
Fortunately, there are a few tools out there that can make this remote control work perfectly on Linux.
I really don't understand why they keep adding the mouse functionality in these remotes. I find it completely useless. You can disable it by pressing the blue key (toggle).
In you want to integrate the Wireless Multimedia Infrared IR Remote Controller - Deal Extreme 34435 click here for the instructions.
I'd like the possibility of putting this media centre behind a tv or inside some furniture. Infrared remote controls require a direct visual link between the remote control and the remote control receiver. By using a bluetooth adaptor I can use a bluetooth remote control and a bluetooth keyboard to interact with the media centre without direct visual connection.
To connect the bluetooth and the USB tuner internally, I'm using a USB to motherboard headers connector. To be able to connect an external antenna to the case, I'm using a pal to f-connector adapter.
Putting it all together
The following pictures show how the whole media centre gets assembled.