The purpose of this build is to be used in the living room as an HTPC, first and foremost, but also be able to play PC games and emulators, so basically a full family entertainment device. My main priorities when picking the parts for this build was to balance performance with cost and temperature / noise. I didn't want a loud gaming powerhouse (I have a 780 SLI rig in my office for that, LOL). I have the whole thing set up to boot directly into Kodi (XBMC) and from there can go into Netflix, Steam Big Picture, IHeart Radio, stream movies, TV shows, and music from my server, or into emulators. The whole thing is entirely controlled using a wireless Xbox 360 controller, no mouse or keyboard (had to be 100% wife compatible). Setting all of that up took waaaay longer than actually building the system, LOL.
CASE - Very happy with the ML07. It has the same internal set up as the Raven RVZ01 but I chose the ML07 because I thought the looks of it go better in a home theater type set up. It was also $50 cheaper than the RVZ01. It doesn't come with any fans or dust filters like the RVZ01 does but I was planning on using different fans any way and dust filters can choke the fans making them run faster and louder (plus I clean my electronics frequently).
Building in it was easier than I thought it would be, but everything has to be assembled in the correct order or you will have difficulties. I forgot to plug in some of the front panel connections until everything was almost in and it was a pain trying to do it afterwards. Also test everthing before putting it in, because you can't swap out anything without it being a major hassle once the build is completed. But overall for the amount of stuff that goes into such a small, nice looking case it was reletively easy to build in.
- Also want to point out, the graphics card I had for this build is much larger than the recommended specs for this case but it fit just fine, only problem was that the bracket used to hold the card in place wouldn't entirely fit, but I helped hold the bracket in place using a couple of twist ties and that worked fine. FYI for those looking at this case or the RVZ01.
CPU - Since I was going M-ITX that pretty much meant Intel since AMD has very little to offer for M-ITX. Intel would have been the way to go regardless since I was concerned with heat/noise and wanted strong single core performance for emulators. With what I needed in mind (and with what was on sale at Microcenter, HaHa) I was choosing between the Pentium G3258, i3-4370, and the i5 4690K.
Chose the i3 over the Pentuim mainly because of wanting to be able to play my controller friendly Steam games on this system and with some new games not even booting up (and ones that do stuttering badly) with a dual core I felt the i3 was a better choice (yes, I know an i3 is a dual core, but Hyper Threading does make a difference in new games coming out). Plus the Pentium needs to be overclocked quite a bit to be relevent and that brings in the heat/noise issue.
I chose it over the i5 because I felt the i5 wasn't worth the extra money (around $70) and extra heat/noise. I wasn't going to be overclocking in this build so the K chip didn't bring anything to the table. I felt the i3-4370 at 3.8 GHz would be perfect for running emulators (and it is, works fantastic) and wouldn't bottleneck my mid range graphics card running on a 60hz 1080p TV. So far I'm very happy with it and feel it is a good fit for this system.
CPU COOLER - Cools well and is very quiet, very happy with it. You have to use low profile ram and set it a certain way on the motherboard to keep it from interfering with one of the RAM slots (see picture) but it works well and is very quiet.
MOTHERBOARD - Microcenter didn't have much selection of M-ITX boards, I didn't need an expensive "gaming" or a Z97 overclocking board but didn't want something dangerously cheap either. The Asrock board was a good value and they make good boards so chose it. I didn't need the built in wireless but it's there just in case. I got it so cheap due to a Microcenter bundle with the i3-4370. So far so good.
MEMORY - I just chose the cheapest 2 x 4GB, low profile RAM from a reputable company I could find at the time.
STORAGE - No question I was going for an SSD in this build, you want an HTPC to boot up and be ready to use ASAP. Also SSDs are quiet. The MX100 isn't the fastest but it's a great performer for the money and I trust Crucial SSDs. The system boots up about as fast as my TV does. The WD 500G HDD is where I put Steam and my Steam games (I had it lying around the house, hence the no cost) while everything else went on the SSD. The system is very fast and snappy. May swap out the HDD for another SSD in future, but for now it isn't as noisy as I thought so it may stay.
VIDEO CARD - I was looking for something midrange since the system was going to be hooked up to my 1080p 60hz Plasma so it didn't need to push high rez or lots of frames (I have already a main gaming rig (http://pcpartpicker.com/b/GBkLrH) and I was watching cost). I was looking in the R9 280 or GTX 760 range when I found the HIS 7950 on EBay (7950 = R9 280) for $93. It was from an OEM dealer who was selling them new, so wasn't a used mining card. I read that this card was one of the quitest and coolest running 7950's so I pulled the trigger. I also felt that the blower style cooler would work well in the small case. I am very happy, it IS very, very quiet for a mid range card (much quiter than either of my 780's), you can only hear it if you put your ear up to the case, even when gaming. And it stays fairly cool, especially considering the small case sitting inside an entertainment center.
POWER SUPPLY - Not much choice when you have to get an SFF power supply, it's almost Silverstone or nothing. I went cheap and didn't get the modular version and I feared I would regret it went it came time to build but I ended up using every available cord anyway and didn't have any problem with it in the build. Cable management kinda is what is in this case anyway.
FANS - I wanted quiet but I also didn't want to spend as much on fans as I did on my processor or graphics card. The Be Quiet! Pure Wings fit the bill. Basically the same fans as the more expensive Silent Wings just that they don't come with the rubber mounting system. They work well, they do make very little noise and the sound they do make, even when ramped up, is a pleasent one, not annoying at all. I would recommend them in any HTPC or quiet build.
Thanks for reading all that (those that did, LOL) but wanted to give my impressions to help those considering a similar build or choosing between different parts (I know looking around here helped me). Overall the entire family is enjoying the system whether we are watching movies, I'm teaching the kids about old school on the Atari or NES emulator, or playing Shadow of Mordor, etc.