Cheap Media Center PC

Trancerii

Active Member
Hi guys,

Can you please give me some advice on creating a cheap media center PC. I want something I can play HD content to my 1080p LCD TV (Sony W Series).

I dont want to play games on it, I would want to install windows media center, and play HD movies from it. Im not even interested in being able to record TV programs to the TV, I just want to output HD Content to the TV.

I figured it would be a better option than buying something like a Heilos X3000 as you can play more files types like H264, and should be more furture proof.

Is it possible to build one of these cheaply, for about £200-£300 or something?
 

Br0ken

Member
Heylo,

I'm in the process of building one too - well converting my current desktop into one.

Just a few questions;

- Will the pc be networked with other computers/laptops?
- HD Content being content played from a harddrive right?
- Will you need to output sound from the pc? If so, in what form? stereo? 5.1? 7.1?
- You'll need to buy a remote too - you can buy a OEM package, includes the MCE05 software and remote.
- Will it be in the same room as your tv? If so, you'll probably want to keep it very quiet in operation, so you'll need to look into the 'quiet' products such as harddrives, case fans, gfx card coolers and cpu coolers, dvd drives. You can pretty much get away with passively cooling everything, and since you wont be doing anything but outputting video i think you'll be ok.
- If you're buying a gfx card make sure its compatible with MCE05 first!

So yeh, theres a start with a few questions and things to think about, answer that and we can suggest some products perhaps.
 

Trancerii

Active Member
Heylo,

I'm in the process of building one too - well converting my current desktop into one.

Just a few questions;

- Will the pc be networked with other computers/laptops?
- HD Content being content played from a harddrive right?
- Will you need to output sound from the pc? If so, in what form? stereo? 5.1? 7.1?
- You'll need to buy a remote too - you can buy a OEM package, includes the MCE05 software and remote.
- Will it be in the same room as your tv? If so, you'll probably want to keep it very quiet in operation, so you'll need to look into the 'quiet' products such as harddrives, case fans, gfx card coolers and cpu coolers, dvd drives. You can pretty much get away with passively cooling everything, and since you wont be doing anything but outputting video i think you'll be ok.
- If you're buying a gfx card make sure its compatible with MCE05 first!

So yeh, theres a start with a few questions and things to think about, answer that and we can suggest some products perhaps.
Thanks for the reply. Here are the answers:

- Will the pc be networked with other computers/laptops? I'll probably get a wirelss card for it so I can transfer files from upstairs/downstairs PC's

- HD Content being content played from a harddrive right? From the HDD or DVD Drive.

- Will you need to output sound from the pc? If so, in what form? stereo? 5.1? 7.1? I am planning to get a 5.1 surround system at some point soon, does that mean i;d still need a seperate amplifier, or just connect the 5.1 speakers straight to the PC?


- You'll need to buy a remote too - you can buy a OEM package, includes the MCE05 software and remote. - these dont cost much do they?

- Will it be in the same room as your tv? If so, you'll probably want to keep it very quiet in operation, so you'll need to look into the 'quiet' products such as harddrives, case fans, gfx card coolers and cpu coolers, dvd drives. You can pretty much get away with passively cooling everything, and since you wont be doing anything but outputting video i think you'll be ok. - Yeah, same room as the TV, so I spose it would need to be fairly quiet.

- If you're buying a gfx card make sure its compatible with MCE05 first! - Wont all cards these days do this? Even a Nvidia 6200 or something?
 

Br0ken

Member
Thought i'd add some numbering in :)

1) Ok cool, you aware you'll need a w/less card. Any standard card will suffice can get these relatively cheap - my personal opinion is stay away from Netgear, their software sucks big time.

2) Theres are many ways to connect a pc to a sound system. depends on the speakers and your sound card. See this link for an example of one way: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/mediacenter/using/setup/surroundsound.mspx

3) Haven't seen prices lately but I imagine around £80ish - at least it'll be legit. And i've seen vouchers to get free upgrade to Vista next year with XP Pro and Home software, not sure if that applies to MCE though.

4) Yeh pretty much all new gfx cards would work, just wasn't sure if you're building by buying parts and from spare parts (which is was i'm doing).

Another thing is RAM, i'd suggest 1gb worth. And i like Intel better than AMD so i'd probably buy a 2.0ghz cpu, a small form factor mobo and a minicase. Don't really want the box to look like a pc!
 

Trancerii

Active Member
Thought i'd add some numbering in :)

1) Ok cool, you aware you'll need a w/less card. Any standard card will suffice can get these relatively cheap - my personal opinion is stay away from Netgear, their software sucks big time.

2) Theres are many ways to connect a pc to a sound system. depends on the speakers and your sound card. See this link for an example of one way: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/mediacenter/using/setup/surroundsound.mspx

3) Haven't seen prices lately but I imagine around £80ish - at least it'll be legit. And i've seen vouchers to get free upgrade to Vista next year with XP Pro and Home software, not sure if that applies to MCE though.

4) Yeh pretty much all new gfx cards would work, just wasn't sure if you're building by buying parts and from spare parts (which is was i'm doing).

Another thing is RAM, i'd suggest 1gb worth. And i like Intel better than AMD so i'd probably buy a 2.0ghz cpu, a small form factor mobo and a minicase. Don't really want the box to look like a pc!
Do you have any idea of what case your going for? and how much do you think its going to cost you to build your PC?
 

Br0ken

Member
Well perks of being a nerd is that you have computer gear lying around so ive pretty much got everything, probably buy some quiet fans - about £22ish for 2.

As for the case, i'm using an old mini ATX tower for the time being til i decide on what i really want. Theres a thread in the topic about an Aopen case, its a pretty nice case with a cool VFD that many dont have. I think the OP spent about £500ish but I think he didn't need to pay that much.

Its possible to build a htpc for under £300 but the biggest gripe would probably be that you'll have to sacrifice the case i'm afraid.
 

blingo

Novice Member
http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/ProductInfo.asp?WebProductID=212709

This is a case i ordered looks nice, and supports ATX motherboards. Got this because i didnt want micro ATX board.

My spec for media center is going to be

AMD 64 3200+ 2.0ghz have it running at 2.3ghz

2gb Corsair XMS ram got some in another machine which doesnt need it :D

80gb SATA got few about.

X800XL or X1800XT got these to spare but i dont think X1800XT will fit in the case its a long card and i got a Artic cooler on it.

10/100/1000 network card which is onboard so got full link speed to my 1gbps switch which will connect to media server.

coax and optical out are both on the motherboard.

Running Win XP pro which i get from work :D

Basically stuff around put together only thing paid for is the case, dvd rom , and wireless keyboard / mouse.

But all the things bought wouldn't come to alot and can easily play 1080p have done few test.

Without Media Player Classic or CoreAVC on a amd 64 3200+ its not possible to play 1080p

Running VLC player its not possible to watch 1080p have tried it with few trailers from apple site, Quicktime does worse then VLC.
 

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