Sunday, December 13, 2009

HTPC Build

Last year I decided it was time to update home theater pc. The old one was still on Windows XP with Windows Media Center 2005. The hardware was old and I wasn't really using it much any more, opting to use my cable box w/ much better high definition support.

So, I decided to do the build this time on my own, and I thought I'd detail it here for reference.

My requirements for the HTPC were:

  • High definition playback and recording (at least two shows at once)

  • A/V Component Form Factor for Case w/ built in IR Receiver

  • HDMI output to receiver/television

  • Blu-Ray Player

  • Energy Efficient

High definition playback and recording (at least two shows at once)

For the HD support, I opted to go with the SiliconDust HDHR-US HDHomeRun Networked Digital TV Tuner. I found that this setup (among the many I tried) was the easiest to setup in Windows Media Center. Additionally, you can use the broadcast signal throughout your house on any of your other PCs with VLC player or other software. This is a fantastic device, and they've got fantastic support.

A/V Component Form Factor for Case w/ built in IR Receiver

This was important to me because I didn't want a tower sitting around in my family room. Additionally, I didn't want any more cables that the kids would jack with, so IR receiver cables were not ideal. I chose the Antec case for the form factor and IR receiver, but was also pleased with it's cooling capabilities. One downside to this case is that the front display has very very poor contrast, making it difficult to read what's on there from 8' or more.

HDMI output to receiver/television

Again, less cables is better. Having the single HDMI out to the receiver, which is forwarded on to the television just makes everything simpler. When shopping for mother boards, I wanted to make sure they had this on board with a decent audio chipset. Asus has a great track record quality mother boards. Downside here is that at the time, there were no HDMI 1.3 mother boards, so audio formats like Dolby True-HD and DTS-HD aren't supported. Looks like you can find HDMI 1.3 capable mother boards now.

Blu-Ray Player

Might as well, right? Internal Blu-Ray players only run $50-$60 more than other optical drives. I opted not to get a DVD writer here because I rarely do any DVD writing, and if I did, I'd do it from my laptop and not my HTPC.

Energy Efficient

There's a few energy efficient aspects to this PC. First, the motherboard itself supports intelligent standby, which goes bare minimum power until the remote is used or a show needs to be recorded. Second, the chassis and CPU fan speeds are controlled by the motherboard. Third, I installed a 2.5" notebook hard drive for the OS drive, which is far less power hungry than a standard 3.5" disk.

So, that's the giddy-up. Happy to field any questions/comments on your own experiences.

Parts List

Total: 1257.84 + Tax + Shipping


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

I'm interested in seeing a photo. Sounds great.

Jim Fiorato said...

Hey Ben

I've got a few pics my wife took to make fun of me with. They're here: