How to select components to build a powerful home entertainment hub/PC

Choice of processor:

Browse the Intel website to see what’s current. It is always best to check to avoid becoming obsolete in a short time. About every 18 months, Intel introduces a new generation of processors. You always get much better performance at roughly the same price as the previous generation of processors. You can find a processor selection tool and specifications about their processors on the Intel website.

You will most likely not need the top-of-the-line model of the current generation for normal household computers. For this application I choose the 2nd generation Intel Core i5 2500k. This one has integrated Intel HD graphics, so with the right motherboard you don’t have to fork out extra cash to buy a discrete graphics card.

Intel’s boxed processors usually come with a suitable heatsink to keep the processor cool, but always check the specs to be sure. For cooler and quieter operation, you should opt for a commercially available heatsink, but only do so if you’re sure you’re going to choose one.

The key specs are also available when you source the component (in this case from Newegg.com).

When choosing a motherboard, you need to know and match the processor socket (in this case LGA1155) and the supported memory type (in this case DDR3-1066/1333). These are important for fit and function.

Choosing a motherboard:

I’m a big fan of Intel’s products because of the high reliability over the years. So naturally I choose a motherboard made by Intel. The choice fell on the desktop board DH67BL Media Series. Visit Intel’s website for more information. It supports the LGA1155 socket, DDR3-1066/1333 memory and has both HDMI and DVI connectors.

Other important motherboard specifications you need to know:

Number of storage locations: 4×240 pins. You need to know this along with the memory standard (DDR3) when choosing memory.

Supported storage devices: 3x SATA 3 Gb/s and 2x SATA 6 Gb/s. This determines the supported hard drives and BD-ROMs. SATA 6Gb/s is the new standard, but backward compatible with SATA 3Gb/s.

LAN Speed: 10/100/1000Mbps This determines your maximum Ethernet connection speed on a wired network.

Form Factor: Micro-ATX (9.6″ x 9.6″). This is the physical size of the board and is important when choosing a case. The smaller micro-ATX boards fit most media center cases, while the larger ATX form factors might not.

Select memory:

As mentioned above, we need DDR3-1066 or DDR3-1333 240 pin memory modules to be compatible with the processor and motherboard. We choose 2x of the Kingston 4GB 240-pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10600) desktop memory model KVR1333D3N9/4G for a total of 8GB. Storage prices vary wildly and are cheap as of this writing, so take advantage of the price. The board can hold up to 4 modules, but 2x4GB is sufficient for our applications.

Selection of hard disk(s):

Hard drive prices nearly tripled in October and November 2011 due to component shortages due to the weather in Thailand. Prices are expected to stay high for a couple of quarters. Since hard drives used to be very cheap, the system here was built with two hard drives. The first is a 320GB drive that is used to load the operating system and any other programs to be used on the system. The second 2TB drive is for recorded television and can hold approximately 300 hours of HDTV.

In general, the more read/write heads you have, the better the performance.

I’ve recently switched to western digital green or blue hard drives because I had one on sale and found it to be much quieter than the Seagate I was used to.

The main drive specifications that affect fit and function are SATA speed and physical size.

SATA 6Gb/s describes data transfer speed and is the new standard for desktop computing. The chosen motherboard supports two SATA 6Gb/s, so make sure you connect these to the 6Gb connectors on the motherboard to get the best performance.

The physical size of the drive is referred to as a 3.5 inch internal drive. This information is important when choosing your computer case. The selected case contains two internal 3.5-inch drives.

Choosing an optical drive (Blu-ray/CD/DVD-ROM):

Today’s optical drives typically have SATA transfer speeds of 3 Gb/s. The physical size for desktop computers is described as a 5.25″ internal drive, and they fit into a chassis with a 5.25″ external drive bay. The case specifies the bay as external because it gives you access to open the drive compartment.

Additional software such as Power DVD is required to play Blu-ray discs. Some drives come with this software. I have found that most internet shops are vague about whether the software is included or not. The Samsung included in the table above came with software.

TV tuner cards:

I have two “AVerMedia AVerTVHD Duet – PCTV Tuner (A188 – White Box) – OEM” in my system. The most important thing you need to know is the interface type, which is a PCI Express x1 interface. This was described in Article 2. The selected Intel mainboard offers space for two such expansion slots.

This setup provides four available tuners for recording or watching one channel simultaneously while recording three others.

Choosing a computer case:

To make your entertainment hub look like another audio device, you need to select an enclosure from the HTPC/Media Center category. To avoid the hassle of having to select a suitable power supply for the case, I chose a case with a built-in 500 W power supply. “APEVIA Black SECC Steel / Aluminum X-MASTER-BK/500 ATX Media Center / HTPC Case”.

It’s important to make sure you have adequate wattage. Since we don’t use additional graphics cards, 350W to 500W is usually more than sufficient. Feel free to choose a case you like more aesthetically.

It is also important to ensure that your chosen motherboard will fit in the case. The Micro-ATX motherboard fits most cases.

We are using two 3.5″ hard drives and one 5.25″ Blu-ray player, so the case must have at least two 3.5″ drive bays and one 5.25″ external drive bay.

What bothers me when buying a case is that the fan type or fan noise is almost never specified. You don’t really know what you’re going to get until you put it together. Luckily, fans are cheap and you can replace them if the noise level is too high for you.

Fan noise depends on the design, speed and air flow. The lower the specified noise level in dBA, the quieter it should be. A variable-speed fan controls speed based on the temperature inside the case, so it only spins as fast as it needs to, keeping noise to a minimum.

Wireless keyboard and wireless remote control:

I particularly like the “nMEDIAPC HTPCKB-B Black 2.4GHz RF Wireless Streamlined Keyboard with Trackball & Remote Combo Set” because a trackball mouse is built into the PC remote control. This enables easy operation of the media player. I rarely use the keyboard, but when I do, the built-in trackball mouse comes in handy too. No surface is required to operate the mouse.

Selection of the operating system:

Windows 7 Home Premium and higher comes with Windows Media Center, which manages your tuner cards and recorded TV.

I chose Windows 7 Professional because it allows you to use Remote Desktop to log on to the PC remotely. So I log into the media PC with my laptop to do more demanding tasks.

Note that the selected Windows 7 operating system is the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) version. This means, among other things, that there is no technical software support from Microsoft, but it is significantly cheaper.

I never have the need to call Microsoft for tech support. If there’s a problem, chances are someone else has already found it, so do a Google search.

Alltogether:

As mentioned earlier, this article is mainly about choosing components for your Media PC. Your component manual will walk you through the steps required to assemble the various components. If you need additional help, you can do a simple Google search for “how to build my own pc”.

Don’t forget to connect the switches and jacks on the front panel.

Once everything is connected, you can turn on your new PC.

If everything goes well, you will see a start-up screen after switching it on. Consult the motherboard manual to make any adjustments to the BIOS settings if necessary. The default settings should work with no changes, but it’s always a good idea to read this section of the guide to see what’s available.

The next step would be to insert the Windows DVD and follow the installation instructions. Make sure you are connected to your network and have an internet connection. Windows installation takes about an hour. If prompted, choose to download and install Windows updates automatically. Updates will likely take another hour depending on how many there are.

Firmware and driver updates:

These updates are typically provided to fix bugs and improve device functionality. In most cases, the system should work properly without these updates. However, if you’re having functionality issues, it’s always a good idea to visit the manufacturer’s website and install any updates that are available.

For Intel motherboards, Intel device drivers are available from Intel’s Network Connections (LAN), Graphics, Chipset, and Audio Devices download site.

Please visit us at 1o1connections.com for more articles on My Connected Home.

Thanks to Oswald Skeete | #select #components #build #powerful #home #entertainment #hubPC

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