Monday, December 13, 2010

My First HTPC Build Experience…

I decided that it’s time to build my first Home Theatre PC (HTPC).  I’ve built my own PCs in the past for development and such but now was the time to build an HTPC.  This HTPC Guide helped a lot in determine specs.

I had two big dilemmas: Intel Vs. AMD and SSD vs. SATA drive.

I chose AMD purely based on cost (as you’ll see below).  I decided I could get a much bigger bang for my buck going with AMD.

SSD vs. SATA drive – I decided that SSD was still expensive and I wanted to keep this build to a small financial footprint so I went with the SATA drive.

I decided upon this build:

Case nMEDIAPC HTPC 5000B $54.99
Power Supply COOLER MASTER Elite 460 $29.99 + $1.99 Shipping
Blu-Ray Player LITE-ON Black 4X BD-ROM $39.99
Motherboard MSI 785GM-P45 mATX Motherboard $20.00 – $20.00 MIR (bundle deal with Processor)
CPU AMD Athlon II X4 640 3.0GHz Processor $95.99
Hard Drive Samsung HD103SJ Spinpoint F3 Hard Drive – 1 TB, 7200RPM, 32 MB, SATA-3G $59.99
RAM Corsair 4GB DDR3 RAM – PC10666 $69.99 – $20 MIR
Wireless Keyboard/Mouse Gearhead Wireless Desktop | KB3750W $39.99
  Sata Cable 18” $4.99

Total (After Rebates)


*Note:  Prices are subject to change as I ordered some of the components on Black Friday.

Since I had a copy of Windows 7 64 bit Ultimate that I’ll be using as my OS.  I setup a 60GB partition and installed Win 7 using a USB Flash Drive since I was short a SATA cable (which I got later).  The installation went smooth, the only hiccup was making sure you change your boot drive to your hard drive after the first reboot or the system will read from the Flash Drive and want to setup Windows again.  After I setup the OS, I connected it to my Samsung 52” television via the onboard HDMI, everything went without a hitch!

I installed XBMC Camelot (version 9.11) and learned a couple gotchas with XBMC:

1.  Do not install XBMC using Remote Desktop, it needs to be installed on the box directly. 

2.  XBMC will not open in an RDC session, you’ll need to be directly on the box to open it.

3.  If you are using IMDB as your scraper and using XBMC Camelot, you’ll need to update your IMDB xml file (XBMC\system\scrapers\video) to this one.  If you don’t update, your movie titles will not show in the library.

I’ve had this build running for the last few days and it’s quiet.  The loudest component seems to be the optical drive which I don’t use that much so I’m fine with it.  It will not disturb my movie watching!  I’m also on the lookout for a better input device to replace the wireless desktop I have.  I love the smaller keyboard but the separate mouse is cumbersome for navigation when you’re sitting on the couch.

For now, I’ve decided not to put in a TV tuner card due to my television viewing habits.  I can expand that later if I see there’s a need for it but for now I wanted a good, inexpensive system.

Overall, it was great experience and I’m going to enjoy watching what I want to watch, when I want to watch it!