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Liam McLennan hackingon.net
For a while I have been thinking about building a media center PC but I could not bring myself to purchase a new machine just for home theatre. Then it occurred to me that I already have a server that runs constantly - why not use it for media center as well?

I began with a fresh install of Vista Ultimate since it includes media center. The first problem I encountered was that Vista does not support my old AGP graphics card. When building a home theatre PC (HTPC) two important considerations are noise and power consumption. So when chosing a new video card I wanted a passively cooled solution to minimize power use and noise.
Geforce 6200I settled on a Geforce 6200, because I could get an AGP version and because it was passively cooled. This turned out to be a bad decision as the 6200 is not sufficient for Vista media center. It works but the performance is not what I would like, and it is completely incapable of handling the new HD digital channels.

The server that I converted to a HTPC is based on an AMD Athlon 64 3000 with 2g of RAM. This was also insufficient. The CPU usage varies between 30%-60% resulting in occassional pausing and stuttering that ruins the HTPC experience. I have overclocked the chip 10% (from 1.8Ghz - 2Ghz) but it is too little too late.

For the digital TV tuner I went with the Leadtek Winfast DTV2000H because they are well reviewed, cheap and readily available. Installing the drivers was a pain but other than that I think it is a good card and the compatability with Vista Media Center seems to be excellent.

Overall I am happy with the system. It works, even if it is a little noisy (PSU) and a little underpowered. My favourite feature of HTPC is the easy access to my digital music collection, and that function at least works perfectly.  If I was to do it again I would use a higher spec machine, or the older XP Media Center. Total cost for the upgrade was around $250.00.


Posted on Monday, May 12, 2008 3:22 AM | Back to top

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