HTPC client upgrade
Well, I caught the upgrade bug thanks to Brent. Actually, I’ve been thinking about upgrading my client home theater PC (HTPC) for awhile now. It served me well considering I built it with mostly spare parts (Sempron 2400+, 512MB RAM, etc), and it ran HDTV pretty nicely thanks to the nvidia 6600 video card. However, I always felt it could do more like produce a better picture and playback HD-DVDs, using my Xbox HD-DVD drive without firing up the aircraft carrier (A.K.A. the Xbox 360). So, after much research I purchased the following components:
- Motherboard: Abit KN9 SLI
- passively cooled chipset
- nothing that blocks the installation of my video card, which has a huge heatsink
- onboard S/PDIF digital optical audio
- CPU: AMD X2 4400+ (Brisbane core)
- $200 from Fry’s bundled with the Abit motherboard
- 65nm energy efficient core
- CPU Cooler: Arctic Cooling Alpine 64
- $9 from SVC (will call pickup)
- 92mm fan
- Larger than it looks in pictures
- Cheap, effective cooler
- Dead silent plugged directly into motherboard (no speed fan controller).
- Memory: 2 x 1GB Transcend JETRAM
- One of the best kept secrets and only $82 from Newegg
- I’m using Transcend RAM in my MacBook Pro, which is why I knew to trust this deal.
- I figure I’m “Vista-ready” with 2GB
- Video card: MSI 8600GTS (model NX8600GTS-T2D256EZ-HD)
- $180 from ZipZoomFly since Newegg ran out. Now $160 at ZZF!
- Fanless card with large heatsink on its backside
- I wanted extra horsepower, so I could use Beyond TV’s “3Dacellerated” mode (transparent UI overlays). Otherwise a 8500GT (> $100) would have sufficed since the nvidia 8500 and 8600 cards have support for 100% acceleration of H.264 video. However, seems like most HD movies are still encoded in VC1, which still takes a good amount of processing power.
- DVD Software: PowerDVD Ultra 7.3
Components already installed and re-used:
- Case: Silverstone LC10 (silver)
- Power Supply: Seasonic S12 380W
- Hard Drive: Samsung SpinPoint 160GB
- DVD Drive: Samsung DVD-ROM
- Operating System: Windows XP MCE (no messing with Vista yet)
Once all the components arrived I ripped out the guts of my client PC and quickly installed all the bright and shinny new parts. Everything installed fairly smoothly with the exception of a bit of cable management issues due to the layout of the case. I crossed my fingers, turned it on, the PC started up, and I heard nothing but silence. In the words of Johnny Drama, “VICTORY!”. I then installed XP MCE, all the proper system updates, Beyond TV Link, Beyond Media, AnyDVD HD, and PowerDVD Ultra. The text is unbelievably crisp and clear, and everything is playing back silky smooth. I couldn’t be happier with this upgrade. Here’s a photo of the finished product:
Here’s a photo of the beautiful guide overlay I’m finally able to get with my 8600GTS:
Full set of photos can be found on Zooomr.
Filed under: Beyond TV, HTPC | 3 Comments