Let’s Build: A Kabini HTPC

Isn’t Mini-ITX great?

Kabini HTPC (9 of 10) blur

In the past decade a genre of video game walk through-s dubbed Let’s Play videos has become rather popular. In these videos you watch someone play through a video game while making jokes and commenting about it. Considering how successful and easy to produce Let’s Play-style videos are I’ve been a bit puzzled that we don’t see more use of the the Let’s Play format outside of the video game blogging world. That said we going to give it a go in part one of this one part series we’re calling Let’s Build.

I’m sure you all remember our desktop Kabini review from back in April. We were given a mini-ITX version of the AM1 platform to review. At the time we stuck it in a gigantic full-ATX case, but after I finished writing that review I decided that our desktop Kabini sample needed a more suitable home. Luckily a guy who claimed to be an Amazon employee on Craigslist had a ~$20 ITX case for sale not too far from our orbital review lab.  Apparently this fellow was so awe-struck by the power of his new Amazon FireTV that he no longer needed a HTPC so he was parting it out and selling the pieces off. Lucky for everyone reading this sentence I was first in line to buy his HEC ITX200B HTPC case.

Kabini HTPC (3 of 10)

As cases go this one is decidedly cheap and cheerful, but when picking out a case for a set of core components that in total cost only a shade over $100 it seems logical to pick out a low-cost case as well. As with most low-cost cases cable management was not a priority in the design of this unit. Couple that with size constrains of the ITX form-factor and you have a recipe for a messy, poorly ventilated system. To the ITX200B’s credit though it does offer top, side, and rear air vents to try to remedy the air flow issue.

Kabini HTPC (2 of 10)

The power supply that came built into this case is rated by the manufacturer at 200 Watts. Based on its diminutive size I’d agree with that rating and although it has yet to give me any trouble it displays all the outward signs of awfulness usually associated with cheap, built-in, power supplies.

Kabini HTPC (5 of 10)

We popped in our ITX motherboard and went to work wiring up all the case headers and power cables. This is what I’d call a jungle of wires. That said nothing’s caught on fire yet, and the temperatures seem okay.

Kabini HTPC (4 of 10)

For the sake of air flow and expedience I’ve opted to go without an I/O shield on the back panel of this case. There’s always been a debate about the need for I/O shield and at least in this case I think not having one is the wisest choice considering the air flow restrictions inside this build.

Kabini HTPC (7 of 10)

This case didn’t come with any way to mount a 2.5 inch drive and we opted not to use the CD/DVD drive bracket. This left us with little choice other than to just drop an SSD in there and hope the jungle of cables would keep it relatively protected.

Kabini HTPC (6 of 10)

Here on the front panel you can see where the slim DVD drive would have gone had we opted to install it. You can also see the front-facing eSATA, USB, and audio ports.

Kabini HTPC (8 of 10)

With everything in and the case all buttoned up you can see that the rear panel actually looks pretty clean. Thanks to the AM1 platform there’s a multitude of display options to choose from on this PC and more than enough USB ports to plug-in a WiFi card, mouse, and keyboard.

Kabini HTPC (10 of 10)

This is the final product. A Kabini HTPC fully built and sitting beside our Comcast cable box. For a total cost of about $300 I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. Sure it’s not the prettiest or the fastest or the coolest or the quietest HTPC ever. But it’s not sinfully ugly or snail slow or volcano hot or banshee loud and it is the best Youtube/Netflix box I’ve ever attached to my TV. Perhaps buying an Xbone or PS4 or maybe even a Chromecast would have been a more expedient decision. But anything’s better than using the TV’s built-in apps and I’m happy that I can put this little Kabini to good use.S|A

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Thomas Ryan is a freelance technology writer and photographer from Seattle, living in Austin. You can also find his work on SemiAccurate and PCWorld. He has a BA in Geography from the University of Washington with a minor in Urban Design and Planning and specializes in geospatial data science. If you have a hardware performance question or an interesting data set Thomas has you covered.