There’s a new PC in the house

A couple of weeks ago I came home to discover that I couldn’t access any of my media. My music, photos, and movies were all offline. They all reside on a Drobo that’s connected to a Shuttle PC running Windows 7, so I went to check it out. Someone probably turned it off by mistake, right?

At first glance, it’s definitely off. The power button doesn’t seem to have any effect. Is it plugged in? Yes. Is the surge protector on? Yes. Hmm. So I disconnected everything, carried it over to the nearest table, and removed the case.

Are computers supposed to smell like smoke?

This computer was 3-4 years old, rocking a Pentium dual-core with 2GB of RAM. It was slow when I bought it, but it was designed for low power-draw and silence – and it did that very well until the end.

Rather than try and figure out what component had committed suicide and replace it, I decided it was time to start over. I already had a great HTPC case sitting idle in my A/V rack – an Antec Fusion Remote Max.

Intel had just officially introduced their new Ivy Bridge line. I spent a couple of days shopping, reading reviews, and making up my mind. Here’s what I came up with:

In each case, there was a particular reason that I chose that component.

  • Motherboard: I’ve been using Asus motherboards for 20 years, so it was only a question of which Asus Z77 motherboard for me. The P8Z77-V is the least expensive model with an Intel Gigabit NIC instead of a Realtek one.
  • CPU: The i5-3570K is the lowest end of the Ivy Bridge CPUs with the new 4000HD integrated graphics. Since this machine is primarily a server and not used for gaming, I wanted to give that a shot. If it’s enough for my needs that’ll save money, keep the noise down, and dramatically reduce the power draw of the system.
  • RAM: This particular pair of DDR3 will run at 1600MHz with decent timing (8-8-8-24) while needing only 1.5V to drive it. A nice all-around set of specs for only a few dollars more than the cheap stuff.

Last weekend I got everything assembled and burned it in (Memtest86+ & Prime95). It’s connected through my receiver to my 61″ TV over HDMI. A few benchmarks show it’s actually much faster than I expected it to be. Most importantly my Drobo is back online – and oh, how I missed those 4TB of storage when they were gone.