In Valid Logic

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Specs of my Media Center PC

Dan Hounshell was curious what the specs were on my Media Center PC, so I thought I'd go over it some.

My new box is absolutely rocking so far.  Overall, it has 4 tuners in it (2 standard cable, 2 HD), so we can essentially record up to 4 shows at once.  The main advantage is with the dual HD tuners, since we often times want to record two primetime dramas that are on at the same time (ie, wife likes Smallville, I like CSI, and CBS is funky in Sacramento where CSI is at 8 instead of 9).

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo T5500

After the older socket 478 Pentium 4 died, figured I should get a modern CPU.  I went with the T-series Core 2 Duo since it is the mobile series.  Uses about half the power as the desktop series, and is about the same price.  For Media Center, heat is more important than speed... it doesn't need a ton of power, and a dual core would fit nicely with Media Center.  The main thing is you want the PC quiet, so a mobile CPU will use far less power.

Motherboard: Asus N4L-VM DH

I always prefer Asus motherboards, and this is the "mobile on desktop" motherboard in Asus' offerings.  Overall, it is a very nice board.  Main pluses are passively cooled, mATX (fits smaller cases), integrated digital optical/coaxial outputs, 1x PCIe x16, 1x PCIe x1, and 2x PCI.  Only thing I don't like is the PCIe x1 is right next to the PCIe x16, so the two cards kind of rub against each other since the video card has a larger heatsink.

RAM: 2GB DDR2 (2x 1GB)

Nothing real big here.  Just using Kingston's Value series RAM.  I don't spend big bucks for top-end high-speed RAM.  Just get the regular stuff, from a name brand, and it works perfectly.

Video Card: GeForce 7600GS 256mb

This is kind of a mid-ranged video card.  Latest chipset, but not the one with all the bells and whistles.  Provides good power consumption with pretty good performance.  I went more on the side of consumption that performance.  Also, it is passively cooled.  This means less fans for less noise, though still need to pay attention to airflow in the case to ensure it isn't just sitting in dead air.

Standard Tuner: Huappauge WinTV-PVR-500MCE

This is a very nice dual-tuner PCI card.  With this card, you get two tuners in one, so you can record two things, or record one thing and watch another at the same time.  You can use two single-tuner cards, but with that you will be using more slots (on an mATX motherboard, don't have a lot of room for expansion) and using two cards will mean more power consumption, so more heat.  Very nice card, great quality, well recommended.

HD Tuner: Vbox Cat's Eye 164e

Similar to my standard tuner, this is the only dual-tuner HD card on the market.  It is my newest component (other than the stuff that died) since I wasn't content with just a single HD tuner.  I had one of Vbox's single HD tuner cards and liked it, and so far this one has been performing well (though the Vista drivers are still somewhat beta).  I definitely wanted two HD tuners as we watch a number of network dramas, and HD is just awesome.

Burner: Plextor DVD-R/+R/CD-RW Burner

Not sure exactly which model this is, but just a basic Plextor burner that I've had for a while.  Had a nice dual layer SATA Plextor burner in it a while ago and it died.  So bought my desktop a new dual layer burner and put the older single layer burner from my desktop in the Media Center PC.  It doesn't really need a dual layer, I don't burn much on it, mainly just play DVDs or CDs.  Probably hold out for a HD-DVD drive when they are actually reasonably priced.

Power Supply: Coolmax "EZ Wire" 400w

This is one component that may be upgraded next... if needed.  I don't need more power, and certainly don't need 400w, but it works well.  Coolmax isn't really one of the main name brands (in my opinion at least) but it seems to work ok so far.  One thing I do like that is being done on more and more power supplies is the modular cabling.  Instead of having that mess of unused cabling you need to tuck away somewhere, you only plug in the branches that you need, so you don't have that left over bundle.  Works great to cut down on the clutter.  Less clutter means cleaner layout and better airflow.

Case: OrigenAE H6 (Silver)

These days, you can go pretty crazy with HTPC cases, as they have ones with built in touchscreen LCD displays and such.  I don't really need anything like that.  I just want a simple case that will match style of my stereo receiver and not be an ugly beige PC case.  I am not a big fan of the SilverStone cases (my old one was a SilverStone, didn't care for it).  This case has a built in LCD (just a little character one, not the full color graphical ones) and an IR module.  The LCD works pretty good, but the IR is a little funky, and doesn't burst as well as the default MCE IR receiver, but overall the case is much better.  Pretty good hard drive mounts with rubber grommets, grommets on the fan by the hard drives, very light weight, well laid out.  Only complaints are would be nice if it has some rubber shims for the rear fans.  It didn't have a fan spot on the side opposite the hard drives, but I was able to cut out of a hole for a 80mm fan and add one there.  The case is very simple and has an appealing look though.  I like it.

Main thing I am still working on fleshing out is the system monitoring.  Just recently got the system how I want it, so just now moving over to concentrating on the software.  Also need to look into adding the ability to get fan reporting on the additional fans.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

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