My new HTPC
I bought a 46" Sony Bravia V-series LCD television a few months back. The TV is awesome but my old media center XBOX really let the TV down. The XBOX can be modded to output NTSC widescreen but the output quality is really blury and color faded when compared to the output quality of a PC when hooked up the the TV's VGA input.
I had temporary hooked the TV up to a PC set up as a media center but because of the noise plus the negative aesthetic qualities of having a standard mini-tower PC next to the TV I decided to build an entirely new HTPC.
The components were:
- Case: SilverStone Lascala SST-L16MCR
I had originally looked at the Zalman HD160 all aluminium case (I love all-alumium cases!) but it was twice the price and the volume knob was too small, flimsy and cheap. At $650, the Zalman case (without a PSU) would have cost almost as much as an XBOX 360!
I wanted a case that looked like a HiFi amp rather than a computer. The case needed a VFD or LCD display, a volume and front accessible USB, FireWire and audio ports as well as an inbuilt set of memory card readers. Be sure to get the LC16MCR not the LC16MC if you want the memory card readers.
The VFS on the case is an iMON and comes with a remote with an inbuilt IR mouse. The VFD display works well in Vista including the spectrum analyzer which I wasn't sure would work at all. You have to enable the "Stereo Mixer" recording device in Vista and use that as the source. I'm glad the motherboard I got came with an onboard sound card with a stereomix recording channel.
I'm very happy with the case. It turned out to be a great choice.
- CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 6420
I didn't need a grunty processor and this one had the right price/performance qualities. The processor needed to be dual core (increases responsiveness) but had to run cool. The Core 2 Duo idles around 23 degrees with the cooler I got.
- Cooler: Thermalright Si-128
Choosing a cooler took a long time. I wanted to get a cooler with as quiet a fan as possible. The SI-128 comes with no fan as you get to choose your own).The Zalman 9000 has an inbuilt fan so it would not have been easy to replace the fan.
The other big issue was that the cooler had to fit in the case. Most quiet or fanless coolers are 15cm or higher which would have been a couple of cm too high for the case (that's really saying something since the LCM16 is a really big case). I was pleasently suprised when I found that the SI-128 cools the processor to 23 degrees using only the system case fans for airflow. I didn't need to buy a fan to clip ontop of the cooler so the cooler is 100% silent.
- Motherboard: Gigabyte GS-965P-DS3P
I was originally going to go for the Asus P5B-E but they're EOL and I couldn't find anyone who had any stock. I don't regret ending up with the DS3P as it's an excellent motherboard. The only thing that worried me was that it only has 2 PCI slots (but has 4 extra PCIe slots). The PCIe slots would be great if I could find any non-graphics PCIe devices in NZ!
The things I really looked out for in a motherboard were: Passively cooled chipset, Optical SPDIF audio out, FireWire support, RAID support.
- Memory: 2xApacer 1GB DDR6400 800Mhz memory
Nothing fancy but the memory does come with heatspreaders.
- Video Card: Asus 7300GT
An excellent video card (only $120 NZD). Fast enough to run the Vista Aero interface and play videos without a glitch. Older cards like the FX5200 will struggle with full screen video if you have the 3D Aero interface turned on. The card uses passive cooling so there's no noisy fan.
- TV Tuner: A Leadtek PVR2000.
Just a TV tuner I already had. I plan on getting a card based on the ATI Theatre 550 chipset as I hear the picture quality is better.
- Optical Drive: ASUS 18X DVDRW with Lightscribe
Around $65 NZD and works
extremely well. This drive is a short profile drive which means it won't take up as much case room as normal sized bigger drives. The drive, like most optical drives is noisy when it first starts spinning but it's very quiet while running.
- Power Supply: SilenX 450W power supply
A quiet power supply (not perfectly silent) but not bad.
- Case Fans: 4 SilenX 80mm Fans
I use SpeedFan to software control the fan speeds so they run almost silent.
- Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium
Not as expensive if you buy an OEM copy (about $170). Vista Media Center is one of the best products Microsoft have released.
If only those people buying mySky could see what an HTPC could do :-)
I'm will be posting photos in the next few weeks..