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  1. Member
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    I have an opportunity to get an ex-lease ultra small form factor Lenovo M90 at reasonably cheap good price. It's a Core i5-box with 4GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive, that comes with Windows 7 Pro and a DVD writer. I'm planning to fit it with an inexpensive low-profile graphics card to add HDMI output and sound. I will probably use a Sapphire HD6450 (with 1G DDR3, DVI+ HDMI output) for this.

    I'm primarily wanting to use it for some playback (with Kodi) and capturing HD video from my STB using an external Hauppauge HD PVR2 and HDCP stripper (both of which I already have), and control it with a wireless keyboard (which I also have). I will possibly also use a USB terrestrial tuner I have lying around somewhere as well.

    I am attracted to it because it's small enough to fit in my entertainment cabinet under the TV, very energy efficient, and apparently very quiet. The small 320GB drive doesn't concern me much, as it's networked to a NAS that has 18 TB of storage, and can be expanded up to 36TB before all the bays are filled. So, other than recent captures and temporary recordings, I'm not planning to store much on it. Plus, if I had to add some local storage, I have a spare 1TB USB portable drive lying around.

    I haven't played with a HTPC before. I know it's an older machine with a Clarkdale chip. My question is, with the above graphics card, should it be sufficient to:
    - capture HD using the Hauppauge capture box;
    - record TV using a USB tuner;
    - enable captures to be accessed over the network (ie by networked media players in other rooms)

    (also, any other views from anyone with experience of this model would be more than welcome).

    Thanks
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  2. I use a i3 4130T based pc as an HTPC. Along with a Hauppauge HD PVR2 (and HDCP stripper) to make permanent recordings of Cablecard sources played on the same computer. You probably don't even need a graphics card. The integrated HD 4400 on my system works fine (HDMI to splitter to HDTV). If you can run audio separately you can use a DVI to HDMI cable.
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  3. Banned
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    Indeed, you do not need the latest and fastest hardware for a HTPC.

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  4. Mod Neophyte Super Moderator redwudz's Avatar
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    If the PC uses half height cards that can be a limiting factor for card selection.

    And since you aren't planning to really use the 320GB internal drive, you might consider replacing it with a 120GB SSD drive.
    They are at a good price point of about $60US at present.
    120GB is a good size for a boot drive that doesn't have many installed programs and will improve start up times.
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  5. Member
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    It can be hard to find a replacement power supply for a very small pre-built PC, if you need one. The only option may be the manufacturer's own part.
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  6. Yeah, I forgot to mention that our HTPC has a 60 GB SSD as the boot drive and records to an old 500 GB hard drive. It has no problem recording 3 shows at the same time from the HD Homerun Prime (an ethernet based Cablecard tuner), or watching one show (recorded or live) and recording two others.
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  7. Member
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    Thanks guys, most helpful.

    The PC is very tiny and the power supply is an external brick as a consequence. It looks like it's the same across a whole range of their units, and as Lenovo is a pretty big manufacturer I'm assuming it would be easy to order one off them if the worst came to the worst.

    Regarding the SSD, I will stick with the drive in it initially. I do want some local storage for recordings and, until I'm confident it does all I want and I'm actually using it, I don't want to spend more than I have to. I can always add one later.

    The Sapphire is a low profile card, so it should work. I think I do need it. Firstly, my TV doesn't have a display port connector, so the adaptor I would need is almost the same price. Secondly, I want to make sure I get sound as well as picture over the connector. Thirdly, I'm aware that the older Clarkdale integrated graphics units both had problems with getting some frame rates exact (notably 24p), and reportedly struggle with 1080i.

    I think if the unit I was offered is still available, I will pick it up.

    Apart from my earlier list, the only other thing I might want to do is integrate Comskip somehow, to make recorded broadcast TV actually watchable.
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  8. Originally Posted by Chopmeister View Post
    the only other thing I might want to do is integrate Comskip somehow, to make recorded broadcast TV actually watchable.
    Windows Media Center skips forward 30 second with each FF press, backward 7 seconds with each RW. So it's pretty easy to skip commercials.
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  9. Member
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    Originally Posted by Chopmeister View Post
    Thanks guys, most helpful.

    The PC is very tiny and the power supply is an external brick as a consequence. It looks like it's the same across a whole range of their units, and as Lenovo is a pretty big manufacturer I'm assuming it would be easy to order one off them if the worst came to the worst.

    Regarding the SSD, I will stick with the drive in it initially. I do want some local storage for recordings and, until I'm confident it does all I want and I'm actually using it, I don't want to spend more than I have to. I can always add one later.

    The Sapphire is a low profile card, so it should work. I think I do need it. Firstly, my TV doesn't have a display port connector, so the adaptor I would need is almost the same price. Secondly, I want to make sure I get sound as well as picture over the connector. Thirdly, I'm aware that the older Clarkdale integrated graphics units both had problems with getting some frame rates exact (notably 24p), and reportedly struggle with 1080i.

    I think if the unit I was offered is still available, I will pick it up.

    Apart from my earlier list, the only other thing I might want to do is integrate Comskip somehow, to make recorded broadcast TV actually watchable.
    I looked at the tech specs for a Sappire Radeon 6450: http://www.sapphiretech.com/presentation/product/?cid=1&gid=3&sgid=1086&pid=1166&psn=&lid=1&leg=0# The recommendation was for a 400W PSU. Your power supply is 280W, and can't be upgraded. Note that the Sappire Radeon 6450 I linked to, like most of Sapphire's models for that chip, is passively cooled. Air circulation inside that case won't be good and the card will add to the heat. Is there room for the heat exchanger?

    The power brick is not the entire PSU. There are additional components inside the case.
    Last edited by usually_quiet; 8th May 2015 at 07:42.
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  10. Member
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    Thanks.

    This is confusing me - I'm not really a hardware guy.

    According to different reviews the Lenovo has a either a 130W or 280W power supply (so I will check with the vendor) and a peak power draw of 86W. The Sapphire has a maximum power draw of 15W(1). So I thought it would be slightly iffy if the PS is in fact 130W, but fine if it's 280W (86+15=101 Maximum, so I thought 280W should be plenty. Or am I missing something?

    1. Source on Sapphire Power consumption http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/Sapphire/HD_6450_Passive/25.html
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  11. The rating of a power supply is the total for all rails (3.3V, 5V, 12V, etc) and not all PSUs budget the same power to each rail. And a lot of cheap power supplies over-rate their power output by a factor of 2 or so. So manufacturers of add-in devices usually just spec a high value for the PSU to be on the safe side. If you're not gaming (the 3d portion of the GPU is the power hungry part) you probably won't have a problem.
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  12. Member
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    Originally Posted by Chopmeister View Post
    Thanks.

    This is confusing me - I'm not really a hardware guy.

    According to different reviews the Lenovo has a either a 130W or 280W power supply (so I will check with the vendor) and a peak power draw of 86W. The Sapphire has a maximum power draw of 15W(1). So I thought it would be slightly iffy if the PS is in fact 130W, but fine if it's 280W (86+15=101 Maximum, so I thought 280W should be plenty. Or am I missing something?

    1. Source on Sapphire Power consumption http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/Sapphire/HD_6450_Passive/25.html
    PSUs are often incapable of supplying anything near the rated wattage for an extended period of time, and graphics card manufacturers take that into account when recommending a minimum PSU wattage. That is why the recommended PSU is 400W or higher.

    I think you should check with the seller to find out which PSU the M90 has. After you mentioned the power brick, I was surprised that the specs listed a 280W PSU. 130W seems more typical for a PSU with a power brick than 280W. A couple of years ago I was thinking about building a mini-ITX system in a case that required using a picoPSU and power brick. The picoPSUs only went up to 160W. Maybe the 280W PSU is for a different version of the M90.

    [Edit]Looks like jagabo beat me to the explanation of why a 400W or higher PSU is recommended.
    Last edited by usually_quiet; 8th May 2015 at 21:04.
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  13. Member
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    Thanks.

    If I want the pricing, I will have to get it tomorrow.

    I have found a couple of reviews now that all put the consumption under full load at between 85-90W, and most reviews also place the Sapphire's peak draw at at 20-23W. So I will take the higher end as the maximum possible draw (113W). I will check with the vendor - based on the above advice, if the power brick really is 130W then I will give it a miss. However, if it's 280W, then I figure having a power supply rated at 2.5x what I think the maximum draw will be should be safe. In fact, anything over 150W will hopefully be enough margin.

    Plus I note that Lenovo themselves recommend an AMD 7450 graphics card, with a power draw of 25W, as suitable for all models of M90, which hopefully means that it can cope with the Sapphire: https://support.lenovo.com/us/en/documents/pd024088

    It's a very small PC (which is good), and it's not like I am going to hang a whole lot more power-sucking upgrades off it (internal drives etc), because I physically can't. The most it might get is a portable USB hard-drive and a USB tuner - both of which shouldn't do too much damage.
    Last edited by Chopmeister; 9th May 2015 at 01:49. Reason: Updated numbers
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  14. Member hydra3333's Avatar
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    good luck with finding a new small pcie tuner. please post back what you end up with, i'd be interested ...
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  15. Member
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    @hydra3333 - I'm not looking for a PCIE tuner. As noted in my posts, I already have a USB tuner and I was planning to use that.

    I have decided to let the unit go. The power supply was actually 150W and, based on what a few people have said here, I decided it was a bit too marginal.
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  16. An HTPC isn't likely to use anywhere near it's max rated power. Our i3 based HTPC runs at about 30 watts when watching HDTV . About 20 watts at idle. Of course, I intentionally picked low power components for that computer. When were were using a relatively power hungry dual core AMD CPU and a cheap graphics card we were seeing more like 60 watts. Only when doing CPU intensive work like video encoding will you see high power usage.
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