The Best Components for a Home Theater PC or Media Center

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Choosing a Computer’s Brain:

Check out the Intel homepage to get up to date. Checking is always recommended to prevent rapid obsolescence. Intel typically releases a new generation of chips every 18 months. Every new generation of processors offers much-improved performance for roughly the same price as its predecessor. Intel’s website features a processor selector tool and detailed processor information.

You probably don’t need the latest and greatest computing technology for typical home use. The Intel Core i5 2500k, from the second generation, is the one I’ll be using for my program. This includes integrated Intel HD graphics, so if you have the correct motherboard, you won’t need to buy a separate graphics card, saving you money.

Intel’s boxed processors often have a suitable heat sink to cool the processor, but you should double-check the specifications. If you desire quieter and cooler operation, a retail heat sink could be the way to go, but only if you know what you’re doing.

When you purchase the component (in this case, from Newegg.com), you will also have access to the primary specifications.

Selecting a motherboard requires knowledge of the CPU socket (LGA1155) and the memory type (DDR3-1066/1333) used. These are necessary for a comfortable and practical fit.

Finding the Right Motherboard:

Intel’s products have consistently impressed me with their dependability. Naturally, I’ll go with a motherboard made by Intel. The DH67BL Media Series motherboard was used for this PC. Again, you may get more information at Intel’s website. It has a DDR3-1066/1333 memory socket, an HDMI port, and a DVI port.

You should also be aware of the following vital motherboard specifications:

Four 240-pin memory slots are available. This and the memory standard (DDR3) are essential information.

Supported storage media include two SATA 6Gb/s drives and three SATA 3Gb/s drives. This specifies which hard drives and BD-ROMs can be used. Newer SATA 6Gb/s drives are compatible with older SATA 3Gb/s drives.

Connectivity on a local area network can be 10/100/1000 Mbps. This is how fast your wired Ethernet connection can go.

Micro ATX (9.6″ x 9.6″) is the form factor. When selecting a housing, this is the board’s actual dimensions. Micro ATX boards are compatible with most Media Center cases, but ATX boards may be too large.

Selecting Reminiscence

As previously indicated, the processor and motherboard must be compatible with DDR3-1066 or DDR3-1333 240-pin memory modules. We went with an 8GB total capacity, so we bought two kits of Kingston’s 4GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) Desktop Memory Model KVR1333D3N9/4G. Please take advantage of the low price of memory at the time of this writing, as it will likely go up. The board supports up to four modules, but we only need two (2x4GB).

Picking Out a Storage Device(s):

Due to a shortage of components caused by the weather in Thailand, hard drive prices nearly tripled between October and November of 2011. The current price level will likely persist for at least two quarters. In the past, when hard drives were far less expensive, this setup used two hard disks. The first is a 320GB drive that stores the system’s operating system and other software. A second 2TB drive has been set aside to record as much high-definition television as possible.

The more Read/Write heads a drive has, the faster it will operate.

Western Digital’s green and blue hard drives are far quieter than the Seagates I had been using, so I recently made the switch.

The SATA speed and the size of the disks are the most critical characteristics for compatibility and performance.

The term “SATA 6Gb/s” indicates the data transfer rate, which is the current norm for desktop computers. If you want to get the most out of your new motherboard, you should hook up the two SATA 6Gb/s drives to the 6Gb ports on the board.

The drive is classified as a 3.5″ internal drive due to its physical dimensions. When shopping for a computer case; this is a crucial requirement. The chosen enclosure is compatible with two internal 3.5″ drives.

Choosing a Blu-ray, CD, or DVD ROM optical drive:

The standard transfer rate for modern optical disks is 3Gb/s through SATA. The internal hard drive of a desktop computer is said to be 5.25″ in height, and it can be accommodated in a bay that is also 5.25″ in width. The bay is considered external since it allows you to remove the drive tray from outside the case.

Blu-ray discs need special software to be played, such as Power DVD. This program is included with some drives. In my experience, most online retailers are evasive regarding whether or not the software is included in the purchase price. The Samsung in the table above was preloaded with applications.

Cards with TV tuners:

A pair of “AVerMedia AVerTVHD Duet – PCTV Tuner (A188 – White Box) – OEM” is installed on my computer. The PCI-Express x1 interface is the most essential specification to learn. This was defined in section 2. The preferred Intel motherboard has two of these expansion slots available.

This configuration has four tuners, allowing you to record four shows simultaneously or watch one while recording the other three.

Finding the Right Computer Housing:

Choose a chassis from the HTPC/Media Center section if you want your media center to blend in with your other stereo components. I opted for a case with a 500W power supply so I wouldn’t have to worry about finding a suitable power supply separately. Title: “APEVIA Black SECC Steel / Aluminum X-MASTER-BK/500 ATX Media Center / HTPC Case”

Having a power source with enough wattage is crucial. There is no need for anything more than 350W to 500W because we are not using any external graphics cards. If you want a different example, you are welcome to do so.

Verify that the motherboard you’ve chosen will fit into the casing. Most cases will accommodate the Micro-ATX motherboard.

The case must have at least two 3.5″ drive bays and one 5.25″ external drive bay; we employ two 3.5″ hard drives and a 5.25″ Blu-ray player.

When looking to purchase a case, I’ve noticed that information on the fan type or fan noise rarely exists. Until you assemble it, you have no idea what you’re getting. Thankfully, fans are inexpensive and easily replaced if the noise level becomes intolerable.

The volume generated by a fan is influenced by its construction, rotation speed, and airflow. It should be quieter if the dBA number is lower. A variable-speed fan adjusts its rotational rate based on the internal temperature of the casing, so it only spins as quickly as it needs to.

Remote control and wireless keyboard:

I appreciate the “nMEDIAPC HTPCKB-B Black 2.4GHz RF Wireless Streamlined Keyboard with Track Ball & Remote Combo Set” because it includes both a keyboard and a remote for your PC, complete with a trackball mouse. Because of this, using the media player is a breeze. Even though I rarely use the keyboard, the trackball mouse is helpful when I do. The mouse may be used in the air without a flat surface.

Picking a Computer OS:

Windows Media Center, included in Windows 7 Home Premium and later, controls your TV tuner cards and stored shows.

Because of its compatibility with Remote Desktop, Windows 7 Professional was my OS of choice. This allows me to do more intensive work on the media PC from my laptop.

The version of Windows 7 that you have chosen is the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) version. This, among other things, implies that you won’t receive Microsoft’s technical software support, but you’ll save a ton of money.

I have never needed to get in touch with Microsoft’s help desk. Search on Google to see if anyone else has had this issue; chances are they have.

Concluding, then:

Choosing the correct parts for your Media PC build is the primary focus of this essay. The relevant component’s manual contains instructions for putting everything together. Do a search on Google like “how to build my PC” if you need more information.

Remember to plug in the front panel’s connectors and switches.

Now that everything is wired and connected, you may power on your new computer.

Once you turn the power on, you should get a boot-up screen if everything is set up correctly. If you need to change the BIOS, check the motherboard documentation for instructions. While you probably won’t need to make any changes to the default settings, you should check this section of the manual to see your options.

Insert the Windows DVD and run the setup program as instructed. Make sure you’re connected to your network and online. The time required to set up Windows is approximately one hour. Choose “Automatically download and install updates for Windows” when prompted. That process could take another hour, depending on how many updates there are.

Upgrades to the firmware and drivers:

The primary goals of these upgrades are bug fixes and enhanced functionality for the device. However, if you are having operational issues, it is always a good idea to check the manufacturer’s website and install any updates that may be available.

Drivers for Intel’s LAN, graphics, chipset, and audio devices can be found on the company’s official motherboard download page.

If you’re interested in reading additional My Connected Home-related content, you can find it at 1o1connections.com.

Oswald Skeete – Author. Over twenty years with Intel Corporation, designing and implementing machinery and procedures for CPU production. Expertise with both software and hardware aspects of computers. Two U.S. patents were issued; many more are in the works.

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