9 Feb

HTPC 2010

Category:Hardware, Howto's, Review

I finally got off my lazy ass and ordered the parts for my HTPC. The build itself, is inspired by Anteuz’ build, which i had the pleasure of fiddling with last weekend. The build was very convincing visually, as well as performance-wise.

I’ll document the entire process of building, installing and configuring on this blog. The first part: The Buy

The Buy

The first task in any computer project is deciding what you want the build to do. I set some goals for this build:

  • Has to be visually appealing, and suitable for my livingroom (that means, slim, silent and black)
  • Has to be able to play 1080p media (and anything below that of course)
  • Has to be usable with a cordless keyboard & mouse and/or remote control
  • Has to be able to run Linux
  • Has to not cost me an arm and a leg!
  • Hast to have some form of expandability, say if i want a Bluray drive later!

Setting out with these goals in mind, the only reasonably priced hardware that does all this is based on the Nvidia ION chipset. The build Anteuz has is a:

  • Asus AT3N7A-I Motherboard
    • Atom 330 dual core processor
    • Nvidia ION chipset
    • Gbit Ethernet
    • 8GB RAM (DDR2) max.
    • DVI/VGA/HDMI/SPDIF etc. outputs
  • 2 x 1GB DDR2 RAM
  • Hard drive
  • Silverstone Lascala SST-LC19S-R with 120W passively cooled powersupply

I ended up ordering pretty much the same set:

  • Asus AT3N7A-I Motherboard (126€ @ Jimm’s Pc-Store)
  • 2 x 1GB DDR2 (800MHZ) (44€ @ Verkkokauppa)
  • Silverstone Lascala SST-LC19S-R (160€ @ Jimm’s Pc-Store)

But as for storage i ended up with a slightly different solution:

  • SATA -> Compact Flash adapter (22€ @ Verkkokauppa)
  • 4 or 8 GB Compact Flash card from Sandisk, the Extreme III model (with ~30MB/s read and write) (34 – 51 € @ Verkkokauppa and elsewhere)

What i’m going to be doing is, putting Ubuntu on the Compact Flash card (which is completely quiet, low power, and physically small). I don’t need a lot of space for Ubuntu, since it’ll be a barebones install, with the XBMC media center application on top, it’ll hardly take more than 2 GB.

I’m not going to store any media on the HTPC, but instead, stream it over the network from my fileserver. With Gbit Ethernet, i’ll be able to stream 1080p content with no problems. The network “backbone” is an HP Procurve 1400-8G, which has more than enough throughput and oomph for my small network.

The total price for the build is 386€ with the 4GB Sandisk Extreme III (add 20 bucks for the 8GB version). For less than 400€, i will therefore have a build that can stream HD media from my network.

A future expansion will be a slim blu-ray drive, which runs at around 150€ right now, which is not a bad price. The hardware is more than capable of playing blu-ray discs in their full 1080p,  surround sound glory. And that’s cheaper than a Playstation 3, which has no games anyway 🙂

Next up, when i get the parts: Pictures and The Build. After that, it’s time for The Install and then The Conclusion.

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