My New HTPC

I finally got my hard drive replacement yesterday and reinstalled Vista and now my living room setup is semi-complete. I’m still missing a few key items which I’ll be getting along the way which include a small coffee table, a better TV stand, a HDTV tuner card, a bluetooth keyboard and mouse set, and a surround sound system.

Anyways, let’s talk about my HTPC. It’s made up of the following components:

Motherboard
Abit IL9 Pro Motherboard – $85
CPU
Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 CPU – $204
Case
Lian Li PC-C30A Case – $130
Graphics Card
Asus EAX1600PRO SILENT Radeon X1600PRO 256MB – $93
Memory
2x Kingston 1GB DDR2 DDR2 667 RAM – $136
Hard Drive
Western Digital 500GB SATA – $140
Optical Drive
NEC ND-3550A 16X DVD Burner – $29*
Power Supply
Ultra V Series 500W – $0
Input Devices
Remote Control and Receiver for Media Center – $25
Remote Keyboard for Media Center – $45
Cables
HDMI DVI Cable – 10ft – $5.74
3.5mm Stereo Plug/2 RCA Plug cable – 6ft – $1.25
UPS
APC BX 1500 Battery Back-UPS – $100

The final total comes up to be $994. Most of these items were purchased out of state (via Newegg), so there wasn’t any sales tax and most of them had free shipping.

I originally had purchased a Seagate 7200.10 500GB SATA hard drive with perpendicular recording, but the drive was rather noisy, especially when writing, so I swapped it out and replaced it with the Western Digital 500GB SATA drive which people have commented on to be quiet, and indeed is.

*I also swapped DVD burners between my main machine which had the NEC ND-3550A (or 3540A) which is very quiet, but no longer carried by Newegg. I had gotten the NEC 7170A-0B 18X DVD Burner, hoping that since it’s still NEC, it’d be nice and quiet like their previous models, but boy was I wrong. Apparently this drive is actually manufactured by Optiarc, a joint company formed by Sony and NEC. I’ve tried tools like CD Bremse and Nero CD-DVD Speed as recommended by those at CDFreaks.com, but neither worked. Someone also suggested AnyDVD, but I have yet to try it. What these tools are suppose to do is set the drive to run at a slower speed, so it can never goes into high speed mode (i.e. 18X), because who really needs 18X when watching a DVD. I’ve tried flashing the drive, but the tools don’t seem to be able to control it. On the contrary, both were able to control my ancient NEC ND-3550A.

Here are some pictures of while I was building the HTPC:
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Installing Vista was a breeze, a lot easier than I had expected after hearing “horror” stories. Though then again, I was installing it on a clean machine and had been warned what hardware was compatible and what were causing problems (apparently nVidia Vista drivers are still iffy). After updating drivers and running the performance test, I hit 4.3 and the limiting factor was my graphics card. 4.3’s already an really good score, so I wasn’t too worried.

My next problem as I realized was there wasn’t a easy way for me to connect my HTPC to the existing network and internet. Derek and I had spent something walking up and down my stairs trying to figure out the best way. At first I thought I would just get a wireless bridge and use 802.11g to talk wirelessly. However, with all the HD content that I’ll soon be accumulating, having gigabit would be nice. So I ended up pulling a long cable from my switch to my new HTPC. I purchased a bunch of these cable hooks from Lowes and hammered them around my stair frame. I also didn’t have a ladder, so I used my plastic table as a platform to stand on.

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I’ve also rearranged the couches so that I have more living room space to actually put something in between the couch and the TV. The main reason being that I was setting up StepMania with my USB dance pads and they didn’t really fit in the old configuration. Now that I pushed the sofas back, I have a lot more space and can actually fit a coffee table or maybe even an exercise bike. What’s neat is also there’s 2 front USB ports on my Lian Li case and that’s perfect for 2 DDR dance mats.

Our company store today just announced that the Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000 was available. Derek and I have been looking at the Logitech diNovo Edge. However, I wonder when the Wireless Entertainment Desktop 8000 will be released.

Here’s some pictures of my semi-final TV setup with my so pretty Vizio 47″ 1080p LCD HDTV:
final tv setupfinal tv setupfinal tv setupfinal tv setup

Remember, each picture also has a FULL SIZE.

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