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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gravatarMike

Nev­er mind my last com­ment. I just real­ized that card won’t work in the UK.

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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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