17Via Mini-ITX 2 LogoDual-Tuner Mini-ITX Build?

After discussions on a recent article I wondered if it is possible to build a set-top box sized HTPC with dual-tuner cards inside.  To achieve set-top box size means going Mini-ITX, but with the release of a range of Mini ITX AMD Fusion boards this is the easy part.  Mini-ITX normally only includes 1 expansion slot, so to include 2 tuners requires a creative solution.


I found a range of appropriately sized Mini-ITX cases with 2 horizontal expansion slots and a dual PCI-E riser card.  In theory is should be possible to fit all of these parts together to produce the desired result, however, it doesn’t look straightforward.  The riser is not a flexible riser and requires a vertical slot to mount in.  This may or may not be possible in the low-profile case, it certainly wont be possible with the full-height bracket attached.  The next issue is attaching the 2 tuner cards (with low profile brackets) securely to the case – which is optimised for full-height cards!  Finally, I don’t know if there is space at the side of the case for the riser sockets that the tuner card plug into.

Despite these issues, it looks like it could probably be cobbled together with some gaffatape and cable ties.  I will keep looking as there may be more suitable cases and or a flexible dual pci-e riser (that splits 1 x16 slot to 2 slots)

-Update-

I have now found a better riser card.  However the site offering it warns that “Use for motherboard with chipset that supports bifurcation”.  I have no idea if Fusion boards support “bifurcation” – but as there are microATX boards with several PCI-E slots, I am hoping it does.

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17 Comments

gravatarRod Dines

Just thought I’d let you know…and thanks for helping to point me in the right direction to solve this issue for myself.

The Intel S1200KP Mini-ITX server motherboard supports i3 (dual cores) and XEON E3’s (quad cores) with either ECC or normal RAM so it can be used for cost effective HTPC and it has the C206 chipset which supports PCI-E bifurcation..

See page 7 of this document http://download.intel.com/design/intarch/papers/326336.pdf

So this should work fine with the ARC1-PELY423-XX from http://www.ameri-rack.com

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gravatarRobert Fitzgerald

Hello

I have been looking for a PCI-e splitter for some time now, I have seen the quad splitter that your first picture is of but the cost of these is very high so I don’t think I will go down that route (although it would be perfect for my custom case), I am looking at the ones by Ameri-Rack and I have contacted them to ask about the bifurcation thing, I can’t seem to find any mention of it on any motherboards I have looked at, none say they do support it and none say that they don’t so I’m not sure, I have asked AmeriRack though to provide some information on this if they can. My current HTPC is a custom build consisting of two HP Slimline S3000 cases bolted together for extra space and dual power supplies to run the extra drives, they look neat and stylish too. The standard HP board has two PCIe slots and I would like to use one for a graphics card and split the other one for a sata controller and a TV Tuner.

I am also looking to purchase one of the Asus Fusion boards that you have posted a picture of too for a new HTPC to replace my current one when I can afford it.

Keep us updated if you get chance to try any of these solutions! 🙂

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gravatarRobert Fitzgerald

Just had a reply from Ameri-Rack:

“1) $45/ea plus shipping $10(by USPS First-class air mail, 7-10 days to arrive)
2) You can see the bifurcation from the block diagram of the board if there is any. I don’t see the chipset on the desk top board will support bifurcation which happened on most of the server boards.”

So from what they are saying it looks like only server board will support it 🙁 so I think the only option for our situation would be the expensive one from Amfeltec 🙁 won’t be happening in my case then due to the price of it. If you have any success with any others let me know I would be interested to hear about them.

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gravatarJon Scaife

Excellent info Robert – thanks!
I’m not sure that its true that only server boards will support bifurcation. Various sites seem to imply that some of the new Sandy Bridge chipsets support bifurcation. In these cases it seems that bifurcation is taken to mean the possibility of intelligently switching between 2 PCIe 8x slots and 1 PCIe 16x.
Have a look at Something Awful forum thread, Intel doc on Scribd.com and Tech Report for example.
Assuming the higher end Sandy Bridge chipsets DO support bifurcation, the only remaining question (which I can’t answer at present) is “Does the E350 chipset support bifurcation too?” I might get a splitter in the near future as I have a Z68 chipset system I can try it in, as well as the E35M1-M Pro HTPC. When I sort this I’ll post an update – probably around Easter time. Cheers

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gravatarRobert Fitzgerald

Thats great information thanks for that. I was tempted to buy one to see if it would work but but for me the price is a bit high for a risk of something that might not work. Let me know how it goes if you do try it. Is there a way to be notified by email when you reply to this?

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gravatarJon Scaife

No problem, I’ll do that.
Good question – I don’t think there is at present no, but its a good idea which I’ll put on my to-do list. You can subscribe to the comments RSS and you can subscribe to new posts by email, but i haven’t implemented a way to get reply notifications by email. I’ll see what I can do. In the meantime I’ll make a note to e-mail you “manually” when I get a splitter.
Cheers

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gravatarJon Scaife

I’ve now implemented e-mail subscriptions to comments. I’ve also taken the liberty of subscribing you to this thread, so hopefully you’ll get an e-mail about this reply?

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gravatarRobert Fitzgerald

Thanks for the email subscription I will keep an eye out for these in the future. 🙂

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gravatarJon Scaife

Cheers for the information Mike. You’re right, its not the right card for the UK, but I’m sure your suggestion will be really useful to people in other parts of the world so thanks for the suggestion.
I also had in mind the possibility of having 1 tuner card and 1 other PCI-E card (e.g. GPU or high end soundcard) – for which a riser would be the only option with mini-ITX.

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gravatarMike

I know I’m a little (or a lot) late to the party, but why not use a Hauppauge 2250 card? It’s a single slot dual ATSC/QAM tuner and FM radio tuner that can also be used in a low profile setup?

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gravatarBen

where did you find that new riser card? the one that expands 1 PCI-e into 2?? Link please. 🙂

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gravatarLouis Mustill

Did you figure out if the single to dual riser worked with a fusion board, i'd love to know?

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gravatarJon Scaife

I'm afraid I haven't tried. I've got a list of things I want to get to experiment with, but time and financial pressures have put various projects on hold until late autumn. If you decide to give it a try anyway please let us know how it goes. Otherwise keep an eye on this thread – I'll update it when I finally get chance to try them out

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gravatarSimonty

Those risers look neat. And, in general, of course gaffa tape and cable ties will be involved…

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