2009 HTPC Build

After discovering the convenience of streaming my modest collection of movies through Donna’s XPS M1330’s HDMI connection, the decision was inevitably made to build my first HTPC. It will take time obviously due to other priorities and the availability of spare cash but I know for a fact that it will be fun. Firstly I know nothing about building a HTPC but I’m guessing it’s no different to building a gaming pc, I just need to decide on the components to suit my needs and not to mention my budget. The goal is to come up with a HTPC that will stream movies, music, view photos, occasionally browse the net and record FTA programs if the need ever arises. I have set myself a budget of $1000 and as of this moment I feel that this might be enough but it is more than likely I’m going to need more than that.

So let’s begin, the basic components I’m going to need are listed below but bear in mind this list will change a number of times during this project. I’m hoping to have it completed by the end of August which is the time when hopefully our housing expenses are a little bit clearer.

  1. HTPC Case with Remote
  2. GPU with native HDMI
  3. Power Supply
  4. Sound Card
  5. Wireless Card
  6. HDD (1 TeraByte or 2 TeraByte)
  7. Operating System (Linux or Windows?)
  8. Keyboard & Mouse
  9. CPU
  10. Memory (RAM)
  11. Motherboard

For those that might be reading this blog entry, please consider the fact that this is not a tutorial as such but more of a work log from a HTPC newbie, I’ll try to document each purchase and each decision I make regarding a component so that it may provide you with some sort of idea when building your very own HTPC.

Let’s take a quick step back and let me specify what I’m actually going to use this HTPC for and how I have imagined it to be set up in my lounge room. This media center pc will be connected to a Samsung 50″ PS50B850 plasma and a Sony Muteki 7.2 channel surround sound sytem, however I haven’t fully worked out the exact configuration whether I’m going to connect the HTPC through the Muteki and make use of it’s HDMI pass through functionality or just plug straight into the TV via HDMI and then use a fibre optic cable to connect via AUX/SAT on the Muteki. Ideally I would like to use less cables than what I have to considering these cables don’t come cheap at all. Anyways I can worry about that in 8-12 weeks time when it;’s completely built. Unless of course it makes an impact with my choice of hardware.

Moving on…

HTPC Cases

Selecting the case that will house the components of choice, is just as important as the parts that are going in it. I think this is a pretty safe piece of the puzzle to start of with, others may disagree but hey I’m a newbie I have an allowance to make mistakes.  So what are my choices?

It is hard to go past the number of cases available from Thermaltake, some are just ridiculously expensive and others just fit the budget but lacks that certain “bling” that you want for something that is going to sit majesctically inside the entertainment unit. Unfortunately HTPC cases are quite bulky which means shelves may have to adjusted inside the entertainment unit just to accomodate it. Our recently purchased entertainment unit from Harvey Norman is not your standard 2.0 metre wide, we opted for a 1.8 metre unit which would allow me to sit the two subs and two floor standing speakers side by side.

The DH-102 is an awesome case with an awesomely big price tag to go with it ($519 AUD), while it packs the features and a simply stunning 7″ LCD touch screen interface, I simply could not justify the price. Even the mainstream model DH-101 @ $300 is still too much. So the search continued until I laid eyes on the Lian Li PC-C37.

Lian Li PC-C37/PC-C36 – these two cases came to my attention after searching OCAU & Whirlpool but as rare as a coconut in Antartica. There is a $100 difference between the two models, with the C36 model shipped with a 300W PSU and support for 2 x full sized PCI/PCI-E cards while the PC-C37 only supports low profile cards. As you can see this directly impacts the choice of GPU that I have to make later on in the build. Doesn’t get easier does it? In the looks department the Lian-Li certainly fits well to what I have in mind. It is less than 10cm in height and will blend in well with the rest of the hardware in the entertainment unit. Numerous reviews have praised the ventilation on this case which is important when it comes to confined spaces. This case is clean, very elegant and comes in as the top candidate for my htpc case list.

I’ll continue this once I’ve managed to locate and purchased one…Stay Tuned!

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