Last Updated: August 1, 2007
Many people don't realize how easy it is to put together a computer system from parts. In fact, many systems that users build can outperform purchased desktop computer systems. The biggest challenge of putting together a computer system is typically finding what parts to buy. That is where this guide comes in.
Analysts had been predicting that computers would become a staple of the living room entertainment system. It wasn't until the past year that this has really become possible thanks to the introduction of HDTV. Now a PC can sit in a media center and act as a computing hub as well as video and audio. These systems are known as home theater PCs or HTPCs. This guide was put together as a a template for those looking to put together a computer to do all these tasks.
Remember that this is just a guide of recommended products. There are many alternative components available that will perform just as well. In addition to the name of the item, a link is included for price comparison shopping for the components.
The HTPC PC Components
- Case – Silverstone Lascala LC20
This full size case is designed to blend in with home theater equipment and provides plenty of space for all of the components to be installed.
- Power Supply – Antec Phantom 500W
With noise such an important factor for a HTPC, the Antec fanless 500W power supply is perfect for such a project.
- Motherboard – ASUS P5K-V
This motherboard offers an excellent choice for a HTPC that can fit a standard ATX motherboard thanks to its Intel G33 chipset and passive component cooling.
- Processor – Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
With HD video streams and multiple video sources, the lower cost quad core processor can really help out with the multitasking in a HTPC.
- Memory – Mushkin PC2-6400 2GB DDR2 Kit
Even though most systems will run smoothly with a single GB of memory, the 2GB kit provides better performance with tasks such as video compression.
- Video Card – Sapphire Radeon HD 2600 XT
Since video is the primary purpose of a HTPC, the video card of choice is the new Radeon HD 2600 XT thanks to its ability to offload high definition video decoding from the CPU. About the only drawback is the lack of an HDMI connector on the current crop of cards.
- Audio Card – Auzentech X-Meridian 7.1
The X-Merdian 7.1 card features Dolby Digital Direct so that it can output 5.1 audio over a standard SPD/IF digital connector for a compatible amplifier or speakers.
- Capture Card (Digital) – AverMedia MTVPEMCER
This PCI-Express x1 card supports both analog and digital HDTV broadcast signals. It also comes with an USB infrared blaster to control cable and satellite receivers.
- CD/DVD – Lite-On LH-20A1S 20x DVD+/-RW Dual Layer
Even though BluRay and HD-DVD drives are available, the prices are still too high. This drive is a realiable low cost model that is great for playback and burning of CDs or DVDs.
- Hard Drive – Samsung SpinPoint T 500GB SATA
Sure, there are larger drives on the market but for the price, the Samsung drive offers lots of space and very little noise. You can always install two if you need more space for video.
- Operating System – Windows Vista Home Premium
Vista Home premium adds in all of the multimedia features once found in the XP Media Center Edition to this new OS.
What Else is Needed
This list of components will make up the heart of the computer system, but it still needs a few parts. Since the system will be use in a living room environment, a wireless keyboard and mouse would probably be the best best for using it from your couch. A good place to start is to check out the About PC Peripherals site. The system is also best hooked up to a high definition TV monitor. So, if you are in the market for a HDTV as well, check out the About TV and Video site.
Putting it All Together
Of course, once you have all the parts, the computer system will have to be assembled and installed. Tutorials on the various steps required to install the parts together into the computer system can be found in one of two ways. I have available a 5-day E-mail Newsletter Course that puts the steps in a logical order or you can just dive right into the individual Tutorials themselves.