I've been running a Home Theatre PC for a for few years using a fairly low power laptop-CPU on a Micro ATX motherboard in a smallish case; but I've never been able to get the suspend & resume working satisfactorily, and with a few recent reliability issues, concluded that it was time to upgrade to something more recent.
I wanted a standalone system that could run as a Plex media server, with enough storage to hold my media library on a disk inside the unit (rather than a separate NAS, or USB drive - to increase power efficiency). I do maintain my media library along with everything else on a DROBO - but this is attached to my main system via USB, so not on all of the time. I sync the two via a local AeroFS sync when both are on.
I plan to hook this directly to the TV via HDMI, so can play any video naively; or use the same system to access TV streaming & catch-up services (so I felt that a PC with VPN service was the simplest solution - rather than a more dedicated system). I also wanted a Windows based system to be able to run SportTracks & OMB's ANT+ live recording plugin to hook to my elliptical bike's cadence sensor and HRM strap.
Yes - I could have run Plex on a NAS and used a simpler local box for streaming to the TV, but the hassle of ensuring it has enough grunt for transcoding, updating Plex and the loss of a local client for SportTracks dropped that idea. I also considered the OpenElec distribution with Plex media server plugin as a pretty good solution, but with no way of running SportTracks locally, I moved on without stopping.
In terms of a power-optimal box that could run Windows + Plex, and have enough space I went for the latest 5th Gen Broadwell Intel® Core™ i3 processor (15W TDP), in one of the super compact NUC (Next Unit of Computing) boxes, just announced at CES 2015. These come with CPU soldered to the motherboard, integrated wireless, Mini HDMI & Mini DisplayPort, and a built in infrared sensor to receive signals from my Logitech Harmony. I went with the taller of the 2 to provide enough space for both a M.2 SSD and a 9.5mm 2.5" SSD, because I'd prefer a self-contained system rather than external storage.
So without further ado… I've just ordered the following
- Intel NUC5i3RYH - an i3 should be more than enough, and the larger of these 2 tiny boxes have enough space for both a M.2 SSD and a 9.5mm 2.5" SSD
- 4Gb Crucial DDR3L SODIMM - could have gone for 2x4Gb, but again I think 4Gb will be plenty
- 128 Gb Crucial M550 M2 SSD for boot and OS - 64Gb is tight for Windows, so bumped this up to 128Gb
- 2Tb Seagate Spinpoint M9T - plenty of room for my media library
Stop back in a few weeks, and hopefully I'll have it up and running.