Description

This originally started off as a simple OTA DVR/DVD player/internet video machine back in 2010 using an Athlon II X2-based system. The prices on the left were the Summer 2014 prices I paid during the overhaul I gave the system. Even though it is a little dated, I figured others might be interested in builds with this case.

The system still serves most of its original purpose - Blu-ray playing with PowerDVD 12 Ultra, Windows 10's Netflix app, and Kodi to handle my ripped DVD library. I think Kodi can handle my live antenna TV stuff too, but I don't really watch much OTA anymore, so I haven't really looked into getting my TV tuner back into operation (though, I can say, it worked great under Windows 7 with WMC). As far as performance, it's been doing a stellar job in its Haswell iteration.

Overall, the system is pretty quiet, even with the stock heatsink. The only time you really hear it is when it first boots up, and the CPU fan momentarily spins to its maximum or if the room is quiet and you're within 2-3' (you can hear the gentle hum of the HSF). I had used a Scythe Big Shuriken in the past, but during the overhaul process, I must have lost the clips to take it from AMD to Intel, but it wasn't much of a loss, since that particular HSF is kind of a pain to mount.

The ML03B is a great budget HTPC case. It's pretty easy to work inside of with some patience. Some important things to watch out for: optical drives and PSU lengths are important. You can go a bit more on the drive length than is stated in the manual, but as you can see in the pictures, it's a tight fit. If you use a modular supply, you could have trouble due to the protruding connections. Of course, a fixed wire supply can also be a challenge because of the routing and limited space. I found routing the 24-pin connector under the 3.5" drive works quite well, as drive sits on this plastic shelf, making it a natural hinge and restriction for cabling. It's also a lot easier if you can route some stuff under the board. A note on the board: if you go mATX, it's a bit easier to work inside of if you use the smaller mATX boards (eg: missing a PCI slot and having only 2 RAM slots) - you're limited in expansion, but it makes cabling a lot easier.

In the pictures, it's sitting in an Ikea Mosjo. The HTPC protroduces about an inch from the stand due to the cables in the rear.

I have a more detailed review of my original build here along with its 2014 update: anandtech_forum_thread


Update (4-27-2016): I found some measurements in the manual about max lengths: Power supplies shouldn't exceed 140mm (the Antec supply is ~138mm) and optical drives are not supposed to be longer than 170mm. The iHOS104-08 is ~185mm, so their a bit conservative on the optical drive lengths. As you might be able to tell from the pictures, I had to use right-angle connectors to get the optical drive plugged in.

Since I took pictures the other day (to make this), I realized I should get back into my HTPC a bit more, so I started to rip some TV shows I have on DVD to mkvs. Of course, a tv show with 110 episodes @ ~45 minutes each will take up some space, alongside the movies I've already ripped. So I snagged a WD Blue 3TB drive Newegg had pretty cheap to install in the case in the remaining drive slot. Perhaps I'll spruce up the cable management a bit more while I'm in there and toss another 80mm fan in there since I have some my recently retired desktop.

It also looks like I can get my Hauppauge TV tuner working with NextPVR and Kodi. I haven't tested that out yet, but it's on my to-do list. I'll post an update if it works out.


5-1-2016: The last image is from the installation of the WD 3TB Blue. There is a 3.5" bay under the optical drive. I had originally put the SSD there, as I had stuffed cables into the 2.5" bay between the PSU and the back of the drive cage. So I moved the SSD, put the extra cables alongside the PCI slots, and put the 3TB Blue drive in the appropriate spot. I also scavenged another Enermax UC-8EB fan from my old desktop and installed that next to the front-side fan.

Part Reviews

CPU

Great budget CPU. It's handled all the videos I've thrown at it pretty flawlessly. No problems with Blu-ray playback and the associated software.

Motherboard

A solid, cheap board for my HTPC. It's been quite reliable. Unfortunately, there is only one SYSFAN header. I also had issues installing both Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 from DVDs in UEFI-only mode (though, I eventually got it to work with a USB install of Windows 10)

Storage

Simple SSD. If you can find it cheap and you're looking to build a simple system, this could easily suffice for an OS/programs drive (such as a basic video-serving HTPC)

Storage

A solid and reliable drive. Still going strong in its 5th year of operation.

Case

A great budget HTPC case. A pretty good amount of space inside. Note that you'll need half-height cards and half-height brackets. Also be aware of PSU and optical drive lengths. You can exceed the manual's specs a little, but it'll be a tight fit with right-angle connectors. A modular PSU could be a good choice here, but that could have issues with the optical drive if the connectors stick out too much.

Power Supply

Great, quiet power supply for a low-power system. Full wiring can be a pain, but nothing a few zip ties and patience can't handle.

Wireless Network Adapter

This is a decent wireless card if you want 5GHz N access. In Windows 10, I had to manually choose the driver (Ralink), as the default one only allowed me to see 2.4GHz networks. There must be a few different iterations of this card running around. The big thing for me was the fact that this is a half-height card and comes with a half-height bracket.

Case Fan

Quiet, reliable fans. I've used them in a few builds. The blades being able to pop out is a nice touch, as it makes them easier to clean. Note that they are 3-pin.

Keyboard

A decent HTPC keyboard. The trackball acts a little funky sometimes, but that could be because it's getting old (going on 6 years now) and the wireless seems a little range limited, especially when the transmitter is placed in the rear of the computer.

I broke the USB receiver once because I had it plugged into a front USB and the case protrudes and inch or so from the media stand, but IOGEAR was great, even after the warranty had likely expired - they sent me a new receiver for free.

Comments

  • 39 months ago
  • 3 points

+1 for Futurama DVD sets.

Nice HTPC as well!

  • 39 months ago
  • 3 points

Suggested this in another HTPC build and seems you could use one as well. Flirc usb dongle. http://www.amazon.com/FLIRC-FL-09028-Universal-Receiver-Components/dp/B00BB0ETW8. Turns any IR remote signals into keyboard commands.

Do you have the tv tuner recording QAM/NTSC broadcasts through the Kodis PVR? Cause that sir would be a job well done. Only criticism would be the confluence skin, just personal opinion, but I despise the layout.

  • 39 months ago
  • 1 point

I honestly haven't tried to get the tv tuner to work in Kodi yet. Because of where I live now (compared to when I first assembled this machine), my OTA signal from my indoor antenna isn't so great - it gets momentarily interrupted whenever a heavy vehicle drives by. I'll probably try to get it working one day (if I ever feel a strong desire to start watching OTA tv again).

As for the skin, I used to use another one, but I reinstalled Windows 10 the other day, so it was back at its default.

Thanks for the suggestion though on the dongle. I don't think it would work so well in my situation, just because the computer is near the floor and I've got some stuff in the way. Plus, the wireless keyboard works pretty well.

  • 39 months ago
  • 2 points

That Antec PSU is very good. Also it's funny to see a Samsung HDD lol.

+1

  • 39 months ago
  • 3 points

Yeah, I guess it kind of is weird to see a mechanical Samsung drive. It just happened to be the cheapest 1TB back in 11/2010 - it's still going strong today.

  • 39 months ago
  • 1 point

Oh, nice!!

  • 36 months ago
  • 0 points

try to tidy up your cables a bit.

  • 35 months ago
  • 1 point

No thanks. It's sufficiently "tidy" considering what it could have been. I have a non-modular supply coupled with a full case. There isn't much room to shove cables out of the way or tie stuff down much more than it already is.

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