HTPC client upgrade

15May07

HTPC client upgradeHTPC client upgrade Hosted on Zooomr

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
    • $99 from Cyberlink
    • Playback of HD-DVDs. It also plays regular DVDs and Blu-ray disks.
    • Unfortunately, no integration with DVD Library, but I can use my Firefly remote with it to launch movies and control playback.

Components already installed and re-used:

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:

HTPC client in rackHTPC client in rack Hosted on Zooomr

Here’s a photo of the beautiful guide overlay I’m finally able to get with my 8600GTS:

Heroes on Beyond TV w/ guideHeroes on Beyond TV w/ guide Hosted on Zooomr

Full set of photos can be found on Zooomr.

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3 Responses to “HTPC client upgrade”

  1. 1 Gary

    Just wanted to ask you if your useing beyond tv why do you install MCE???

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  1. 1 SilverStone LC10 Silver Home Theater PC Reviews

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