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Advice requested on my HTPC build

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Tama-Chan

New Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2014
Hi everyone,

I’ve been meaning to rig up an HTPC for a while now. After much procrastinating about it, I’ve decided to really set myself to it.

I have a 50 inch 1080p TV to connect the HTPC to via HDMI for sound and picture - I do not have separate speakers or amplifier yet, and although I wouldn’t rule it out, it is not in my immediate plans.

Now, I have a fairly good idea of what I want the HTPC to be able to do:
  • Watch Blu-rays discs and DVDs (I have a fair number of physical disks at home)
  • Mount and watch ISOs of Blu-rays and DVDs
  • Play some music / radio (MP3s, Youtube, live radio streams, podcasts, etc)
  • Netflix / Amazon Prime movies and TV shows
  • Possibly serve as a backup storage. I have three 1TB disks, and one 3TB disk, and I haven’t decided yet if I want to put those in a separate NAS server, or in the HTPC. I want to keep my options open, so that means a mATX format (microITX and smaller are out of the way)
  • Occasional gaming: I want to be able to occasionally move the HTPC into another room, and be able to play some games (e.g. CounterStrike, Stalker, Civilization 5, Heroes of Might and Magic - nothing besides Stalker perhaps that seems wildly crazy in terms of GPU requirements)
  • Occasionally put a memory card from my camera and watch the photos on the TV

Nice extra:
  • Watch / record live TV. At least I want that door to be open in the future, even if I don’t do it now.
  • IR / Bluetooth / RF receiver for a remote. But I’m thinking I’ll use my phone / tablet as the primary way to control the HTPC.


I tend to keep my machines around for a long while, so I don’t mind overpowering it a little bit, so long as I’m not doing something crazy like quadrupling the cost of the machine, or having an uneven build where half the components are way overpowered, and half are way underpowered.

Here’s what I have in mind so far:

Case: Silverstone GD05B USB 3.0 Grandia HTPC Black Micro ATX Case (http://www.scan.co.uk/products/silverstone-gd05b-usb-30-grandia-htpc-micro-atx-black-w-o-psu)
Alternative:

I wanted the microATX form factor. I don’t need the fancy LCD display on the case - actually, that might be a distraction more than anything when watching movies.

Now, I’m a bit concerned that I’m limited to 70mm clearance for the CPU heatsink + fan with the GD05B because of the Blu-ray drive. But the Lian Li is quite a bit more money. Thoughts?


PSU: Seasonic SS-400FL2 400W 80+ (http://www.scan.co.uk/products/400w...tinum-full-modular-eps-12v-fanless-atx-silent)
Alternative choices:

Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s fanless (so quiet), and modular (so I can improve airflow in the case easily). Although I’ve heard some say that fanless was not necessarily best because of the reduced airflow; with the components I chose, is that likely to be a problem for either case?


CPU: Intel i5-4570S (http://www.ebuyer.com/467627-cpu-core-i5-4570s-2-90ghz-lga1150-box-bx80646i54570s)
Alternative choices:

I know AMD is supposed to have a better GPU in their APUs, but I figure the HD4600 in Haswell should be good enough for many games, and if I have a game that requires more, I might as well get a dedicated graphics card at that point. Plus Intel CPUs are supposed to run quite a bit cooler, which matters to me since I want quiet operation.


CPU cooler: Scythe SCBSK-2100 Big Shuriken 2 Rev.B Low Profile CPU Cooler (http://www.scan.co.uk/products/scyt...ts-2011-1366-1155-1156-775-fm1-am3plus-am3-am)

Given that I want to install a Blu-ray drive in the HTPC, I have a maximum of 70mm clearance for the CPU cooler for Silverstone. That restricts the choice of CPU coolers quite a bit.

With the Lian Li, I might be able to go with something else, such as the Noctua NH-C12P or Noctua NH-L12. Maybe that’d be better?


Motherboard: Asus Z87-K (http://www.scan.co.uk/products/asus...raid-pcie-30-(x16)-d-sub-(vga)-dvi-d-hdmi-atx)
Alternative choices:


Memory: Corsair Memory Vengeance Jet Black Low Profile 8GB DDR3 (http://www.scan.co.uk/products/8gb-...pc3-12800-(1600)-non-ecc-cas-9-9-9-24-xmp-15v)

Maybe 4GB would be enough?


Storage: Crucial 256GB M550 SSD (http://www.scan.co.uk/products/256g...lc-flash-read-550mb-s-write-500mb-s-90k-80k-i)
Alternative choices:


Blu-ray drive, hard drive: I already have.


Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?

Thanks!
 
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Joined
Dec 13, 2005
You might have a problem with the heatsink if you only have 70mm of clearance. They may not include the fan in that depth measurement, but 58mm plus 12mm is 70mm exactly. I don't know if your calculation leaves room for airflow, but that equals, well, none. Going with the Lian Li won't just allow more space, but you can probably also get a slightly quieter fan for the heatsink, or even going with one of the Noctuas.
 

cullam3n

Member
Joined
Apr 25, 2002
Location
San Antonio, TX
I have a Silverstone LC10-E which is 170mm in height, and a Noctua NH-L12 fits in there fine for me. If you find that the heatsink doesn't fit in yours, you can always remove the top fan (there is a 92mm fan underneath).

attachment.php


Note that mine is a full size case, you can see how packed it is... so prepare for that.

Some notes about your specs:

-A modular will definitely help out, so good choice on that. I had a Silverstone ST50F-P (fully modular 500w) in there previously, and it definitely made things easier. The CX500 I have in there is not, but thankfully I can tuck everything underneath that hard drive right there.

-CPU looks good, although you might be able to use an i3-4130T if you want to get a discrete graphics card with the purchase. Lower TDP and cheaper.

-If you aren't overclocking, don't bother with the Z87, go straight to the H87.

-Memory - Low profile memory isn't necessary (unless you get a good deal on it). If you are planning to run Windows and do some (light) gaming, I would go with 8GB. Personally Windows is the easiest option to watch Netflix/Amazon Prime, etc.

-If you go with an Intel mobo, all of them have support for a CIR header that allows you use remotes, like the MCE or Harmony remote. This way you can get an internal one and with some slight modification, have it part of the case. Examples from the Intelset website. Otherwise you can get a USB one like the Flirc.

-I use XBMC as my HTPC front end, and I use yatse on my android phone as a remote. Also with XBMC I can stream live TV from my HDHomerun connected to my OTA antenna (broadcast TV I think it's called in the UK).
 

Lvcoyote

Overclocked Moderator, Overclockers.com Lead Edito
Joined
Apr 10, 2002
Location
Omak, WA
I think your build screams an AMD Kaveri build. I'd also look into a mini-ITX form factor build. If you're not going to overclock at all, why waste money on an aftermarket CPU cooler? While the stock coolers quickly run out of thermal capacity when overclocking starts, for a stock setup they work fine.
 
Joined
Dec 13, 2005
I think your build screams an AMD Kaveri build. I'd also look into a mini-ITX form factor build. If you're not going to overclock at all, why waste money on an aftermarket CPU cooler? While the stock coolers quickly run out of thermal capacity when overclocking starts, for a stock setup they work fine.

Probably the same reason I tossed a 212+ in my NAS, which isn't just at stock speeds, it's a rinky-dink Sempron. I haven't used a stock heatsink in a while, but the few stock sinks I did were on the loud side, not HTPC material. A stock clocked CPU plus a good heatsink means you can use a slower, quieter fan and not have to worry about it.

Edit: Just felt like I should add, I haven't used an intel HSF, like at all, for as long as I can remember, especially not one of the S lines, so it could be quieter.
 
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OP
T

Tama-Chan

New Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2014
You might have a problem with the heatsink if you only have 70mm of clearance. They may not include the fan in that depth measurement, but 58mm plus 12mm is 70mm exactly. I don't know if your calculation leaves room for airflow, but that equals, well, none. Going with the Lian Li won't just allow more space, but you can probably also get a slightly quieter fan for the heatsink, or even going with one of the Noctuas.

Thanks, that makes sense! Now that I re-read the specs, it looks like the 58mm is just for the heatsink. So that means that it's going to be really difficult to find a cooler that fits in the Silverstone GD05 case if I install a Blu-ray drive - the Big Scythe Shuriken is already very low profile as it is. The other recommended low-profile heatsink on SPCR (the Nexus LOW 7000: http://www.silentpcreview.com/article976-page5.html) is also 70mm tall (and not even sure that includes the fan).

Does that mean that people who use that Silverstone case just chose to forgo the Blu-ray / DVD drive altogether?
 
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Tama-Chan

New Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2014
I have a Silverstone LC10-E which is 170mm in height, and a Noctua NH-L12 fits in there fine for me. If you find that the heatsink doesn't fit in yours, you can always remove the top fan (there is a 92mm fan underneath).

Does your setup include an ODD in the 5.25” bay? It looks like it does, but I’m not 100% sure. If not, do you think it would fit? The CPU heatsink seems awfully close… or is that just me?

Note that mine is a full size case, you can see how packed it is... so prepare for that.

Indeed. Note though that I plan on putting all the storage (bar the SSD for the OS) in a separate machine, for space, noise, and heat concerns. Also, I’d rather run a Linux distribution on the file / media server (Ubuntu, or perhaps something specialized like FreeNAS or NAS4Free); I’m not quite confident on the reliability of RAID or unRAID solutions on Windows, and I don’t feel like forking extra money for another Windows licence.

I haven’t sorted out some practical details yet, such as whether I can set up the fileserver to wake on LAN to save on the energy consumption (since both the HTPC and the fileserver will be idle the majority of the time, but I don’t want to have to power them on manually every time I want to watch something). But I thought that this arrangement would give me some breathing space in the HTPC, since I would have just one ODD, one SSD, and no extension cards to begin with (and in the long run, it would probably be at most a tuner card and a dedicated graphics card).

Some notes about your specs:

-A modular will definitely help out, so good choice on that. I had a Silverstone ST50F-P (fully modular 500w) in there previously, and it definitely made things easier. The CX500 I have in there is not, but thankfully I can tuck everything underneath that hard drive right there.

I’ve been told that since the Seasonic SS-400FL2 is fanless, that might be an issue with airflow. If I went with the Lian Li or the bigger Silverstone case that you used, would you agree that this might be an issue?

-CPU looks good, although you might be able to use an i3-4130T if you want to get a discrete graphics card with the purchase. Lower TDP and cheaper.

Yeah, I’m not dead set there. But let’s say that most of my games are not going to be very demanding on the GPU, so I feel like I should be able to do (almost) everything with the integrated graphics. So I wanted to go with a CPU with better integrated graphics (the HD4600 for Intel). I’d like to add a graphics card only if absolutely necessary, since that means more power, more noise, and more heat.

-If you aren't overclocking, don't bother with the Z87, go straight to the H87.

-Memory - Low profile memory isn't necessary (unless you get a good deal on it). If you are planning to run Windows and do some (light) gaming, I would go with 8GB. Personally Windows is the easiest option to watch Netflix/Amazon Prime, etc.

Yeah, for the motherboard, the Z87 and H87 were almost identically priced, so I figured “why not?”. But I don’t think I’ll ever use the overclocking abilities (I don’t think overclocking anything makes any sense in a HTPC actually - if anything, underclocking would be what I’m after).

And yes for Windows - I don’t really have much of a choice really, since I want to support Blu-ray playing without having to fiddle with the setup on a regular basis (I don’t know how good Blu-ray support is on Linux, but last I remember, you at least had to keep a file of known decryption keys up to date?).

-If you go with an Intel mobo, all of them have support for a CIR header that allows you use remotes, like the MCE or Harmony remote. This way you can get an internal one and with some slight modification, have it part of the case. Examples from the Intelset website. Otherwise you can get a USB one like the Flirc.

I was thinking about that precisely - I was actually lamenting that so few cases come with an integrated IR receiver (except on the very high end, but they are very expensive - £300+).

Now, how complicated would the modifications be to make the IR receiver part of the case? I don’t really have much in the way of tools or experience when it comes to case modding. Another concern is that I plan on having the HTPC below the TV stand, and the line of sight would be obstructed by a coffee table in between the couch and TV stand. In which case I think I’d have to go for an external USB one.

Also, it’d be great if I could wake the HTPC from sleep with the remote; but will that be possible with a USB IR receiver? Inteset also mentions something about “selling a new Receiver that will Wake from S5 and have the ability to be extended outside of the computer case. It will also operate on virtually any motherboard”, which sounds great, but it’s not available yet.

Do I have other options there to accomplish what I want to do (RF receivers? Bluetooth dongle? Wifi wake-on-LAN with the magic packet issued from a tablet? other?).

-I use XBMC as my HTPC front end, and I use yatse on my android phone as a remote. Also with XBMC I can stream live TV from my HDHomerun connected to my OTA antenna (broadcast TV I think it's called in the UK).

Yes, same idea for the phone / tablet as a remote.

As for the HDHomerun, why did you chose to go that route rather than installing a Tuner card? Was it just to make the setup easier? Or are there other practical considerations? Are there also limitations?


Thanks for your very detailed answer!
 
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Tama-Chan

New Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2014
I think your build screams an AMD Kaveri build. I'd also look into a mini-ITX form factor build. If you're not going to overclock at all, why waste money on an aftermarket CPU cooler? While the stock coolers quickly run out of thermal capacity when overclocking starts, for a stock setup they work fine.

I thought about that, but I don't think the Kaveri APUs are available yet (at least not in the UK, apart from the 95W TDP on the high-end, which is too high for what I want to do).

Probably the same reason I tossed a 212+ in my NAS, which isn't just at stock speeds, it's a rinky-dink Sempron. I haven't used a stock heatsink in a while, but the few stock sinks I did were on the loud side, not HTPC material. A stock clocked CPU plus a good heatsink means you can use a slower, quieter fan and not have to worry about it.

Edit: Just felt like I should add, I haven't used an intel HSF, like at all, for as long as I can remember, especially not one of the S lines, so it could be quieter.

Yep. The choice of an aftermarket CPU cooler and the decision to go with micro-ATX rather than mini-ITX both come from the same place: to be able to have a very quiet HTPC in the living-room.
 
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cullam3n

Member
Joined
Apr 25, 2002
Location
San Antonio, TX
Does your setup include an ODD in the 5.25” bay? It looks like it does, but I’m not 100% sure. If not, do you think it would fit? The CPU heatsink seems awfully close… or is that just me?

Yes there is an optical drive. You can see it to the right of the rightmost RAM stick. It is a little tight, so there's a right angle SATA connector there. This case is a little deeper than yours though.

Indeed. Note though that I plan on putting all the storage (bar the SSD for the OS) in a separate machine, for space, noise, and heat concerns. Also, I’d rather run a Linux distribution on the file / media server (Ubuntu, or perhaps something specialized like FreeNAS or NAS4Free); I’m not quite confident on the reliability of RAID or unRAID solutions on Windows, and I don’t feel like forking extra money for another Windows licence.

Good choice! I run a file server off Debian. I have two PCs under my TV: the first is my HTPC (see sig) which runs XBMC on Ubuntu with just a 60GB SSD. The other that I posted a picture of runs a 500GB SSHD with Win7 and it's what I use mainly to play PC games that work great with a controller. I use Steam Big Picture mode with a wireless X360 controller. Truthfully in your setup you could combine them into one box. You could use a 256GB SSD for OS + a few games, and then 1-2TB storage for live TV recordings if you are going to connect that locally, while having all of your media on a NAS somewhere else.

I haven’t sorted out some practical details yet, such as whether I can set up the fileserver to wake on LAN to save on the energy consumption (since both the HTPC and the fileserver will be idle the majority of the time, but I don’t want to have to power them on manually every time I want to watch something). But I thought that this arrangement would give me some breathing space in the HTPC, since I would have just one ODD, one SSD, and no extension cards to begin with (and in the long run, it would probably be at most a tuner card and a dedicated graphics card).

Both of my PCs sleep when not in use. With my HTPC I send a WOL packet with yatse to wake it up. I can also wake it up from an off position. You can have the NAS do that as well; there's a function in XBMC where you can send a WOL to your NAS to wake it up before you start playing a video.

I’ve been told that since the Seasonic SS-400FL2 is fanless, that might be an issue with airflow. If I went with the Lian Li or the bigger Silverstone case that you used, would you agree that this might be an issue?

Possibly, but as long as you got airflow it may not be an issue.

Yeah, I’m not dead set there. But let’s say that most of my games are not going to be very demanding on the GPU, so I feel like I should be able to do (almost) everything with the integrated graphics. So I wanted to go with a CPU with better integrated graphics (the HD4600 for Intel). I’d like to add a graphics card only if absolutely necessary, since that means more power, more noise, and more heat.

Makes sense. You may have to lower the resolution down from 1080p depending on the game you are playing. Worst case scenario, a GTX 650 Ti Slim (single slot card, decent length) or other models of the GTX 650 Ti (double slot but super short PCB) would probably be the highest you would want to go. In my picture that's a GTX 650 Ti BOOST, and I use a GT 620 in my HTPC. Side note: my ultrabook actually has a GT 620, and I've played Warframe and Borderlands 2 on it on medium-ish settings ok.

Yeah, for the motherboard, the Z87 and H87 were almost identically priced, so I figured “why not?”. But I don’t think I’ll ever use the overclocking abilities (I don’t think overclocking anything makes any sense in a HTPC actually - if anything, underclocking would be what I’m after).

If it's the same price, can't argue there.

And yes for Windows - I don’t really have much of a choice really, since I want to support Blu-ray playing without having to fiddle with the setup on a regular basis (I don’t know how good Blu-ray support is on Linux, but last I remember, you at least had to keep a file of known decryption keys up to date?).
It's come a little farther than that, but yes Windows is easier. I do believe you still have to purchase some sort of software to play Blu-rays though. On Linux, you can actually use MakeMKV to remove the DRM and then start its built-in uPnP server, and then stream the playback via uPnP. Which now that I'm thinking about it, you probably could do in Windows as well, although the actual blu-ray software may be a better option.

I was thinking about that precisely - I was actually lamenting that so few cases come with an integrated IR receiver (except on the very high end, but they are very expensive - £300+).

Now, how complicated would the modifications be to make the IR receiver part of the case? I don’t really have much in the way of tools or experience when it comes to case modding. Another concern is that I plan on having the HTPC below the TV stand, and the line of sight would be obstructed by a coffee table in between the couch and TV stand. In which case I think I’d have to go for an external USB one.

Not that hard; typically you just need a peephole for the IR sensor. Use a drill bit in the front somewhere, and then fix the PCB behind it and make sure the sensor is visible in the hole. But if you don't want to do that, you can use an external one via USB like the ones available from Inteset or Flirc as linked previously. Also exteral ones like the Flirc don't need a direct line of sight per se; plenty of people have them plugged in at the rear and they can communicate just fine with the remote. If you have wooden doors or something blocking it however, probably won't work there.

Also, it’d be great if I could wake the HTPC from sleep with the remote; but will that be possible with a USB IR receiver? Inteset also mentions something about “selling a new Receiver that will Wake from S5 and have the ability to be extended outside of the computer case. It will also operate on virtually any motherboard”, which sounds great, but it’s not available yet.

Do I have other options there to accomplish what I want to do (RF receivers? Bluetooth dongle? Wifi wake-on-LAN with the magic packet issued from a tablet? other?).

Like I said there are plenty of WOL programs you can use, not really an issue.

Yes, same idea for the phone / tablet as a remote.

As for the HDHomerun, why did you chose to go that route rather than installing a Tuner card? Was it just to make the setup easier? Or are there other practical considerations? Are there also limitations?


Thanks for your very detailed answer!

I have two HTPCs, one for the bedroom and another for the living room. I went with the HDHomerun Dual because it was cheap (newest one has more tuners and cablecard support) and worked for OTA. If I got a internal tuner I could have used that as well. I have a VM on one my servers that runs Server 2008 R2, and I have Argus TV has the backend running on that. Both my XBMCs use the PVR addon to stream from Argus TV. With two tuners, I can have both playing live TV simultaneously. It actually worked out for me because I have my antenna in my bedroom since I get the best reception there, so the HDHomerun is right next to it, and then I just plugged into the network switch I have in the bedroom.

You're welcome :thup:
 
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T

Tama-Chan

New Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2014
And thanks again!

A few more questions:

1) I have been told that I might as well go for a regular CPU instead of an "S" version - it won't make a difference in heat dissipation in normal use, and the extra oomph might come in handy when playing more demanding games. What do you think?

2) Between the Lian Li PC-C60B and the Silverstone LC10-E, is there one you would particularly recommend over the other?

3) If I later add a discrete GPU card, one concern might be airflow. In that case, would it be more advisable to get a non-fanless PSU to increase the airflow? Basically, I'd rather get a fanless PSU if I can, but I wouldn't want to put myself in a situation where I'd have to replace it when upgrading the PC (adding a GPU, adding a tuner, etc).
 

cullam3n

Member
Joined
Apr 25, 2002
Location
San Antonio, TX
1. The S is the performance-optimized lifestyle which is the 65W-ish TDP version. You are thinking of the T, which is the power-optimized lifestyle (35-45W TDP). The S isn't really worth it, but the T might be. With a lower TDP you could be putting out less heat, and may runc ooler.

2. I really don't have any experience with anything other than the Lian-Li or the GD05... The Lian-Li is a full size case. The only Lian-Li I have is a PC-Q25 which has a nice build quality so I'm sure the PC-C60B is the same. I'm happy with my LC10-E, but as deep as the case is, it still can get cramped inside. One issue is if you have a motherboard with MOSFET heatsinks along the top, you won't be able to get a regular 80mm fan in the right side of the case (look right above my CPU heatsink in the pic). But with two 80mm fans you can put in the front and the two 80mm fans that come with the case on the back, airflow is decent. The PSU has a grill cutout so it gets its own air from the left side.

3. If your PSU faces outside the case, it's not going to affect the airflow in side the case. Seasonic has some other fanless models including a 460W if you are worried about not enough power (which you shouldn't). I can't imagine you are interested in putting in a beast of a card. Those GTX 650 Tis only have 1 PCI-E connector. If the case has the PSU facing inside, as long as you have some type of intake fan and an exhaust you should be fine.
 
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Tama-Chan

New Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2014
1. The S is the performance-optimized lifestyle which is the 65W-ish TDP version. You are thinking of the T, which is the power-optimized lifestyle (35-45W TDP). The S isn't really worth it, but the T might be. With a lower TDP you could be putting out less heat, and may runc ooler.

So actually, no, what I had been told is to get the regular version (i.e. neither the S, T, or K version) - because during normal HTPC use, the CPU will output much less than its TDP (which is sort of a ceiling on the CPU heat dissipation), and the performance difference between the normal version and the S version (and, to an even greater, the T version) could manifest itself when playing demanding games (where, undoubtedly, the fans would have to work the hardest, and might be audible). Therefore, might as well get the more powerful one.

I can buy that argument, although I have to wonder: what is the use case for the S and T versions of the CPU then? To put a cap on the heat dissipation so that you can choose a smaller / more quiet heatsink + fan (knowing that it can dissipate up to N watts quietly, where N might be something like 30W or 60W) while being confident that it won't endanger the CPU if there is a spike? If so, I might still have a good reason to go for the S or T version then.

3. If your PSU faces outside the case, it's not going to affect the airflow in side the case. Seasonic has some other fanless models including a 460W if you are worried about not enough power (which you shouldn't). I can't imagine you are interested in putting in a beast of a card. Those GTX 650 Tis only have 1 PCI-E connector. If the case has the PSU facing inside, as long as you have some type of intake fan and an exhaust you should be fine.

I'm definitely not worried about the lack of power :) If anything, I'd like to get a lower powered PSU so that I can get better efficiency out of it (since they reach peak efficiency at something like 50% - 75% load?). Ideally, I'd get a 250W or 300W PSU, but they don't seem to be easy to come by. It's either a much smaller PSU, like a 120W or 160W PicoPSU (which I've considered - the concept is interesting), or a regular one (and they seem to start at around 350W - 400W).