I've started this thread to make a place to document the build as well as to solicit help from others. Hopefully it will serve as a source of help to others as well.
Currently I have a Samsung 50" DLP HDTV (the HL-P5063W) with the supplied stand for storing various audio equipment. I had tried using TIVO and found it lacking. Just this year Microsoft Windows XP Media Center 2005 - OEM became available (OEM was the key) at New Egg to anyone. Previously as a "garage builder" I had applied to Microsoft for a license but never got a reply. Microsoft XP Media Center 2005 had some great improvements that made it a good choice to replace TIVO. So, I had the operating system I needed to build an HTPC!
I started looking for a case to house the HTPC and I found the field kind of narrow. I wanted something that could look clean and stylish as well as something that could hold lots of 'goodies'. I wanted something black and aluminum and with stealthed drives. It absolutely couldn't look like a PC. After much research, I decided on the Ahanix D4 in black. (Ahanix website)
The specs that interested me were:
Case Type: ATX Desktop Important for room requirements
Color: Black Matched other components
Drive Bays: 5.25" x 2/0, 3.5" x 0/2 (external/internal) Will have 3 hard drivers and with a little modification, will work well
Expansion Slots: 7 Just enough!
Front Ports: 2 x USB2.0, 1 x IEEE1394 Always handy and the only concession to the "PC" look
Power Supply: AHANIX HTPC 350W I could have done without this, more on this later
Cooling System: 2 x 60mm rear fans Probably not enough
Motherboard Compatibility: mATX / Standard ATX (12" W x 10" D) Important for motherboard requirements
Dimensions: 7.13" x 17.13" x 16"(HxWxD) Fits in stereo cabinet
Features: Standard VFD Driver for Windows XP Media Center Edition, Pre-Installed Vacuum Florescent Display (VFD) All exactly what I wanted
OK, we got the case, now what is going to power this?
Well, I still had a brand new ASUS K8V SE Deluxe motherboard sitting in the box. It would do nicely. I also had an AMD Athlon 64 3200 Clawhammer. I really wanted this PC to be quiet, so I chose a ZALMAN CNPS7700-CU heatsink fan combination. It is an excellent heatsink for this purpose. If the motherboard were sitting any other way than horizontal, I'd perhaps had some worries, but this will sit flat, so it's 918g weight wasn't a concern. (The maximum weight for a cooler is specified as 450g for AMD Socket 754/939/940 so this is well over twice that!) The CNPS7700 is one of the few heatsink fan combinations on the market with a 120mm fan. Rated at 20 dBA in stealth, it is uniquely qualified for an HTPC.
For additional cooling, I chose a Zalman ZM-NB32J Northbridge Chipset Cooling Kit for the Northbridge to replace the stock passive cooler on the VIA K8T800 and attached the original small blue cooler from it to the VIA VT8237 chipset located just behind the AGP slot.
Now, the next thing was the PSU. As I stated above, the Ahanix D4 comes with a 350 W PSU, but is simply won't do for an AMD 64 board with all the extras I will have, so I chose a PSU with good 12 volt power, decent fan (to improve air movement) and I came up with the OCZ ModStream 450W PSU Model OCZ45012U.
The next area of concern was the hard drive. I wanted storage. This HTPC will store my music collection as well as record live TV. I wanted 3 separate drives. The main drive needed to be small, fast so I used a tried and true Western Digital Raptor 36.7GB SATA Hard Drive Model WD360GD. With a rotation speed of 10,000 rpm, it's not extremely quiet, but it is well suited for the job with a seek time of 5.2 ms. For storage I went for quiet and size combined with an eye on price. Two Seagate 200GB 7200RPM SATA Hard Drives Model ST3200822AS are among the most quiet available. With 400 GB storage, I won't be needing much else for some time. One thing to note is that both models of hard drive come with a 5 year warranty, most important!
Now, I needed some fast steady memory. I'm not planning on overclocking this, so nothing blazing needed here. pqi TURBO Series Dual Channel Platinum Kit 184-Pin 1GB(512MB x 2) DDR PC-3200 would do nicely.
Now, for the video card. I had an ATI RADEON 9800 XT 256MB in another case that I could switch out, so it seemed a logical choice. It's blazingly fast for what I'm going to do and, well I already had it!
One thing though, that video card was going to generate lots of heat, so I looked for alternatives to the stock heatsink fan assembly. I decided on the Arctic Cooling VGA Cooler ATI silencer 3. It was a snap to attach and now almost all of the heat generated by the videocard is pushed outside the case by an extremely quiet fan.
While we're on the video end of things, I needed TV tuners. Yes, I want 2 and Windows Media Center 2005 supports them, new for this version. I chose ATI PCI TV Tuner Box Model E-HOME WONDER They fit quite nicely in the little room left on the PCI slots. The Arctic Cooler takes up a PCI slot, the rear connectors for the Ahanix D4 takes another and the SPDIF out connector from the ASUS package took another.
For the optical drive, I decided on a Plextor 12X DVD+/-RW Drive, Black, Model PX-712SA/SW-BL. Yes, it won't show, but I chose it for it's speed and quiet. When I get to burning TV programs to DVD, it should do very well.
Last but not least, we need a way to work all this, right? I will still want to use all the functions of Windows XP, so I chose a Logitech Cordless Desktop MX for Bluetooth in black, of course. I also chose the MS Remote Control with Receiver for Microsoft Windows XP Media Center. I'm not sure how useful it will be, but for the wife I think it's something she will find easier than the keyboard/mouse combination.
Well, that about wraps it up for the purchasing part of the system Total cost? About $2350.00. That's a healthy hunk of change, let's hope this thing works, huh?
I hope you've enjoyed this so far. I'll post pics later as I get to installing everything. I won't bore you with the installation details too much, only the stuff I think is out of the ordinary.