Building a Cheap Media Centre
I've been asked a couple of times what it would cost of build a media centre PC/HTPC like mine (once people have seen it they love it), as you can see in my most recent write-up the answer can be 'quite a lot.' So I've been investigating cheaper options.
My HTPC consists of:
|Silverstone LC17 Case||£65.67|
|Silverstone ST30NF Fanless PSU||£71.09|
|Gigabyte MA78GM-S2H Motherboard||£67.98|
|2*1Gb Crucial Ballistix DDR2 PC2-8500 RAM||£26.70|
|AMD Athlon 64 X2 5050e CPU||£52.83|
|Scythe Mini Ninja CPU Cooler||£36.09|
|2*Western Digital Caviar Green 1TB||£79.41/£77.04|
|Pioneer DVR-116DBK DVD Recorder||£20.64|
|Microsoft MCE 2005 Remote and IR receiver||£19.96|
|Microsoft IR Media Keyboard||£23.48|
|Hauppauge Nova T 500 Dual Tuner||£49.99|
|Other stuff (case fans, fan controllers, etc)||£15.84|
|Windows Vista Home Premium Upgrade||£65.52|
I have left out the £37 for AnyDVD as unnecessary and the prices don't include any postage I might have paid.
That's a fairly pricey build (cheaper than some I've seen, and probably cheaper/better than a bought model).
A Cheaper Alternative
So I've been hunting around for a cheaper set of components. Some have come down since I bought them, some have gone up, but by trawling the forums and various online PC parts stores, here's my suggestions:
|Antec NSK 2480 Case with PSU||£84.98 (Ebuyer)|
|ASROCK A780GM-LE Motherboard||£50 (Ebuyer)|
|2*1Gb DDR2 PC5300 RAM||£16.98 (Dabs)|
|AMD Athlon 64 X2 5050e CPU||£45.62 (Scan)|
|Western Digital 500GB Caviar Green||£39.68 (Scan)|
|LG GH22NS40 22x SATA||£16.43 (Scan)|
|Nexos Wireless Multimedia Keyboard with TouchPad||£24.99 (Ebuyer)|
|Hauppauge Nova TD 500 Dual Tuner|
with IR sensor and remote
This doesn't include any postage costs.
For that you should get a reasonably low power machine, capable of 1080p playback (you can add a Blu-ray drive should you wish) and with capacity to be upgraded later. It uses onboard sound (5.1) and graphics (HDMI).
Some alternatives were the Antec Minuet 350 case (£79.98 from Ebuyer), but it only supports half-height cards I think, which rules out the TV tuner, and it's not as well designed as the 2480. I have left out a CPU cooler, the CPU will come with one, it's fairly quiet from what I understand as the CPU is low power, possibly an after-market one may be needed (for example, Arctic Cooling Freezer 64 LP, £13.77 from Scan). I haven't included OS, at the moment I would load Windows 7 release candidate on it for free (until July 2010), otherwise you're looking at £60-90 more for Vista. Obviously any parts you can reuse help the cause.
In the future it may be the likes of a dual-core Atom with Nvidia ION will do the job, although I'm still not convinced they're quite up to the job of acting as a full PVR (most don't have the PCI slots for expansion and I'm not too keen on the USB tuners).