Well, I finally picked something. Huzzah! Now I can move on with my life, now that indecision is out of the way. I’m going to explain my thought process a bit in choosing this one, which has been known to fry the brains of many friends, so consider yourself warned.
I’ve been trying to pick out a motherboard again, and I came to a few decisions and realizations. For one, I just need a simple replacement for the previous motherboard that totally crapped out on me, and I only want some basic playback features for standard-definition DVDs. I also was not going to settle for anything but an Nvidia video card, so that already eliminated a lot of possibilities. Basically I made a list of things I would like to have, and would use, right now, and then a list of things I would like to have sometime.
The list of things now was pretty simple and sweet: VGA (my TV has a port, I could use HDMI, but meh … who cares … then I’d have a free port that only a computer can use), 10/100 Ethernet, quiet, standard-def playback, IDE port and stereo sound (I never run stuff to my receiver, even when I could … besides that, I never watch movies on the HTPC, just TV shows). The list of stuff I would want for the next-gen one, the future-proof edition as I like to call it, has this list of stuff: VGA + DVI or HDMI, Gigabit and/or Wifi (I might use powerline networking too, haven’t decided yet), fanless CPU, HD capable playback — which means at least a GeForce 8300, and both optical and coaxial SPDIF, because I can never decide which one I want to use (starting to notice a pattern yet?).
I threw the whole fanless thing out the window, for one simple reason — I decided there’s no way for me to pick between which one I think I’m gonna like better, so I’ll just buy both. Heh, that’s one way to deal with indecision. Actually, there weren’t any fanless options except for the new Zotac ION-ITX boards, which just came out, and *nobody* has them in stock. So, I couldn’t really buy one even if I wanted to right now. Aside from that, though, I don’t like the idea of buying the very latest hardware, especially when it’s a new chipset thats just come out (Nvidia ION). Not that I don’t think it would be exactly what I would need, it’s just that when you factor in my luck with a new design, things tend to go south pretty often. I have the kiss of death when it comes to hardware.
So, I just did what I always do after weeks of research and comparison — I just kinda picked one at random that looked good, and could get here fast. Works for me! Actually, I’ve done a lot of looking at all the boards I was considering, so I’m pretty confident it will work out. Specifically, the one I got was a Zotac NF6301-D-E Mini-ITX. It’s not as powerful as similar stuff, and I could have gotten one with a lot less features, but I decided to at least make sure it has DVI on there, just in case. Compared to my must have in the future list, it’s obviously pretty barebones. I got a pretty low-powered CPU for it as well, an Intel Celeron 430 Conroe-L 1.8 GHz that only runs at 35W. That may seem way too under-powered, but consider that on my VIA Mini-ITX I’m already watching SD with (pretty much) no problems at 400 MHz. Whee! So, yah, I’m not worried about speed. For the fan, I got a Silverstone NT07-775, which is small enough to fit inside my case. I guess we’ll see how it works. I’m betting that the CPU will run slow enough and cool enough that it won’t generate a lot of noise.
I should get all the parts by Tuesday, so I’ll know by then how it’s all gonna work out. :)