Gigabyte Brix GB-BXA8-5545
- AMD Richland A8-5545M (1,7 GHz quadcore, 2,7 GHz turbo)
- Kingston 2 GB DDR3L 1333 MHz SO-DIMM
- AMD Radeon HD 8510 GPU
- Plextor PX-64M5M 64GB mSATA SSD
- 4x USB 3.0
- mini Displayport & HDMI out
Word of warning: The Brix lineup (apparently much like Intel's NUCs) only accepts DDR3L, which operates at 1,35V. Regular DDR3 RAM sticks (operating at 1,5V) will prevent them from booting.
Unlike my previous HTPC, this box is running OpenELEC from the get-go. OpenELEC has matured over the years and now also offers the possibility to e.g. back up your settings from the GUI (it still doesn't hurt though to have a full backup handy yourself). Also, with XBMC rechristened to Kodi, this will be the first Kodi release. As with the previous HTPC, I took out the WLAN card, since I won't be using it (or Bluetooth).
HDMI audio works fine, and so does hardware accelerated playback (thank you VDPAU). What I thought were graphical glitches turned out to be the effects of the 'zoom' settings in Kodi's menu - a black band around the homescreen interface or a translucent band around fullscreen video (you can see how that looks here). So I can happily report this setup works 100%.
With a MySQL database, all I needed to do was re-add my sources in Kodi, set their content, cancel the scan when prompted, and then point Kodi to the MySQL database. Since from 13.0 (Gotham) on, there's also support for sharing artwork, you don't need to take care of that either. You might, for ease of mind, want to export your library first (preferably to multiple sources) in case something goes wrong with the upgrade.
Media are streamed over NFS from the same server hosting the MySQL database.
Power consumption (Kodi/OpenELEC)
The power envelope seems very similar to the Zotac AD10's. A few values measured with a Voltcraft Energy Logger 4000, a consumer device generally regarded as being pretty reliable (although that gets more problematic at the lower end of the power consumption spectrum). The WLAN/Bluetooth mini PCI-E card has been removed since I do not need it (streaming is done over LAN). Values were as follows, with Kodi 14.0 RC1 and Aeon Nox 5.x.
- Kodi home screen: ~14-15,5W
- Screen saver active (simple black screen): ~14W
- Scrolling through media (display mode: low list): ~23-25W
- 1080p VC-1 playback Elephant's Dream: ~17,5W
- 720p h.264 playback: ~16W
- Standby: ~2-3W Might be a measurement error, but electronic devices should comply with the sub 1W standby directive the EU issued).
It is a bit disappointing to see this system actually consume more than the AD10, although, in all fairness, the AD10 came with a bottom shelf APU (the E-350), and the A8-554M is a higher end mobile APU. Still, with a newer process (from 40 nm to 32 nm), a more recent architecture, and solid state storage, you'd expect considerably lower power consumption, especially idle (where Intel even under Linux goes sub-10W with Haswell). I had expected more from this.
The fan noise is barely audible. If you are watching a movie or listening to music, there is no way you will notice it, even at lower volume.
I hoped to replicate the setup on my former HTPC, but alas. Already on the AD10, it became clear that any kernel more recent than 3.11 has problems with Radeon HDMI audio on the command line. I could easily stick with 3.11 on the E-350 hardware, so that wasn't really a showstopper, but the Richland APU seems a bit too recent for this kernel. I've tried 3.12 and the latest 3.16 kernel Debian Jessie comes with, but despite everything looking all right, there's no sound over HDMI whatsoever. Testing Manjaro showed sound through the GUI (e.g. YouTube in the browser) was a walk in the park, but MPD on the very same installation would stay silent.
So for now, I am waiting to see if some UNIX wizard can help me, and I'm keeping the AD10 on the side in case I'd need to recycle it as a dedicated MPD server. I'd rather have one device, but if that's what it takes...Updated: 2014-12-14