Thursday, 29 May 2008

Home Theatre PC (Components)

For a while now, I've been thinking about building my own Home Theatre PC (HTPC). I've got an unused Vista Ultimate license that I'd like to put to good use, and using it for a Media Centre fits the bill. While you can buy a prebuilt HTPC, but I thought it would be both fun and educational to build one from scratch.
There are a number of good resources when planning to build a HTPC, but I've found the most useful are:
After throwing around various combinations of parts I've come up with the following list:
CPU AMD Athlon X2 4850e
Case Antec Fusion 430 Silver (includes power supply)
Tuner Hauppauge HVR-2200
Fan Noctua NH-U9B Quad Heatpipe
Motherboard GA-MA78GM-S2H
RAM    Kingston (2x1G 800) KVR800D2N5K2/2G
Drive 1 3.5" HDD SATA-300 250GB 16MB Seagate
Drive 2 Western Digital 1TB (WD10EACS)
Keyboard Shintaro wireless
Remote Microsoft MCE Remote Control
DVD LG GGC-H20N/L Blu-ray/HD reader, DVD & CD writer
I posted this list to the forum (like a lot of others do) just to check it was reasonable.
The main criteria I've worked from are quiet operation (and hence 45W CPU) and provision for the future (high definition).
I made use of the Static Ice price comparisons to gauge what were good prices. If I lived in Sydney I'd probably buy most of the bits from IT Estate, however once you factor in shipping, the local retailers MATS Systems and MSY are pretty competitive.
I was originally planning to get the Pioneer BDC-S02, but opted for the cheaper (and in-stock) LG instead.
The other curious thing is that we've got a very old TV that used to belong to my parents - an early 1980's Philips model that only has an RF (aerial) socket. Not exactly what most home theatre systems are made of, but it works, and I'd prefer not to have to replace it before it completely dies!
So my plan is to use a cheap video card (a Gigabyte 8400GS 256MB GV-NX84G256HE) that unlike the onboard video has a TV-OUT socket, and use an RF Modulator to convert that to something the TV should like. If that fails, then maybe we'll just have to buy a new TV.
Once I've purchased all the components, I'll post an update on the build progress.


Anonymous said...

TV-Out with a RF Modulator! You are kidding right? You may as well just buy a VHS! You will need a new TV. Make sure its a full 1080p hd model (theres a lot of 768p crap still on the market) and you can connect it with the hdmi.

So get a graphics card that has dvi or hdmi output.

But that brings us to audio. You can only transmit up to 6.1 DTS-ES over a SPDIF connection, the newer higher bandwidth codecs (and multichannel pcm) require that the audio goes over HDMI too, so you might want to get a graphics card that has the ability to multiplex the audio into the HDMI stream (which is needed for HDCP too).

Just a couple of things to think about as far as future proofing goes.

David Gardiner said...

Mr Anonymous, you might be right. I did some experimenting with an old NVidia card that has a TV-OUT port and passing that into our VCR and then to another old TV.

Sadly, no success. I'm guessing the problem might be the refresh rate is too high for the old analogue TVs, and unless a separate RF modulator can compensate for this, that might be the end of my cost-saving plan:-(

I appreciate the comments about audio - though I'm not sure we really need super-duper audio - as long as we can hear something we'll be happy!