Home Theatre PC - The Hardware07 May 2010
Just a reminder of what I was wanting for our HTPC:
- Low power
- Powerful enough to run KDE fully
- DVI and HDMI interfaces
- Decent on-board sound
- Plenty of USB slots
- Needs to visually go with our HiFi amp and Blu-Ray player
- Powerful enough graphics to support 1080p (or 720p if not possible)
The Case: Lian Li PC-C37
I started, perversely, with the case. Normally you would start with the cpu/mb, but I knew that, in order to get spouse approval, it had to look right. You can spend from £20 to £1000 on cases, and I dare say more. I wanted something that looked like a black HiFi separate, both in dimensions and styling. I would have thought that there would have been a considerable choice, but there really wasn’t, the only one I found was the Lian-Li PC-C37. It would seem to be a well made quality case, for about £100. I would have liked to have spent a little less, but really there was no choice whatsover.
Motherboard/CPU: Asrock A330ION
The Lian-Li PC-C37 takes both Mini-ITX and Micro-ATX motherboards. Well that’s just fine, given that my aim was a low power, silent and powerful PC, really the Intel Atom was the only choice and they invariably come in Mini-ITX motherboards. Well there is a vast array of Intel Atom motherboards on the market but, oddly enough, almost all of them had problems. Most of them only had 4 usb ports, which would be okay, just. Almost none of them had DVI, let alone HDMI. One motherboard stood out from the rest, the Asrock A330ION. Yes it’s the old Atom 330, but it allowed the faster DDR3 RAM, and the specification of the motherboard was fantastic, including:
- 2 x DDR3 DIMM slots (up to 4GB)
- Integrated NVIDIA® GeForce 9 Series
- DVI and HDMI
- 7.1 channel HD Audio
- Gigabit LAN
- 1 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot
- 4 x SATAII 3.0 Gb/s connectors + 2 e-SATA
- 4 rear USB plus support for upto 4 front USB
That feature set is almost unbelievable, (4+2 SATA!! 4+4 USB!! DDR3!!!) by the time I had read the specification, I barely cared about the price.
I also bought 2gb of compatible DDR3 RAM.
Well, as I said in my last post, we need to have DVB-T, and of course I have my Hauppauge Nova-T500 PCI card. Ah, but I have just bought a motherboard that only has PCI-Express; so a new card is required. I do hope my wife isn’t reading this. Anyway, I like Hauppauge products, and the HVR-2200 is the obvious PCI-Express low profile dual DVB-T tuner card. No decision to make really, other than should I pay twice the amount for the HVR-4400, which has satellite capability, err no, have to draw the line somewhere ;).
Well, we’re making a lower power device, so we need low-power drives. Two were recommended to me, the Seagate Barracuda LP Series and the Western Digital Caviar Green Series. Starting to get rather concerned about the money I have been spending, I decided to opt for a relatively low capacity of 500gb, but to go for two drives, so that I could configure a RAID1 array. For those that don’t know, a RAID1 array means that you have the same data on both drives, so that if you lose one drive, you don’t lose your data. In short, your data is mirrored to the two drives. This doesn’t replace backups, but it certainly saves a headache if you lose one of your drives.
It was suggested to me that I should use a
NAS for storage, but I don’t particularly want two machines on almost permanently. I already have an Icybox NAS, which I have stopped using after it ate two drives; so I don’t trust it and I don’t particularly want it. We’ll probably configure our HTPC to behave as a NAS as well as an HTPC.
All the hardware is now ordered, with the exception of the PSU, as I have one in my stores somewhere, hopefully it will be compatible! More tomorrow, when hopefully I will be starting the build.