I know there was a reason I liked Polk Audio. This M. Polk guy and I see things the same way. A lot of what he says in this article might seem like heresy to many of you... but I have been trying to realize this dream with off the shelf parts for some time now.
This is my first incarnation of a HTPC, and my two main concerns were: Low Noise and Low Costs. Iíll list itís components and what I paid, then Iíll mention what changes I hope to make and why:
Enermax EG301P-VB 300Watt Power supply $33 @ newegg.com
Intel Celeron 1.7GHz &
Shuttle MV24N Motherboard $99 @ fryís electronics
Zalman 6500B CPU Cooler (Dead slient) $30
256MB PC2100 RAM $34 @ Best Buy
Western Digital WD800JB 80GB $99 @ Circuit City
Lite-On LTD-163BK $35
SB Audigy OEM $50
ATI 8500DV All-In-Wonder $165 @ newegg.com
I feel I paid a premium to keep things quiet. The DVD drive only makes noise when seeking a CD-ROM; the power supply has the quietest fan (1) I have ever heard in a PS; and the Zalman not only keeps things cool, but the fan that hangs over the CPU spins at like 1800rpm, which I cannot hear at all. Costs were much higher than I would have liked. My goal was $500, and I think after the case, I was around $700. Let me tell you though, this machine is worth every penny. I have a TIVO-like functionality; I can play games that I enjoy (Madden 2k3, Atari and Sega Emulators); I can store my entire CD collection on the HD; I watch DVDs through component out (via ATI adapter) and it rivals the best output Iíve seen on any commercial player.
I run XP pro. I record audio using mp3s, at 192bit rate. For most of my music, thatís acceptable. For my Jazz, Classical, and ambient music, Iíve been using Microsoftís mathematically lossless codec found in WMP 9. The music is pumped over a digital coax line to my HK 310 receiver.
I use an USB IR receiver made by Streamzap to interface with my Sony Commander 2100 controller. I can do most of what I need to do without a keyboard and mouse. Thus, my entire home theater is composed of a TV, my HTPC, my receiver, and 5.1 speakers.
Find a sound card other than the Audigy. I feel it falls short in a few waysÖ maybe an Audigy 2, maybe an M-Audio card.
DVD-Burner. So I wont have to go out and get another hard drive. 80GB is not enoughÖ what if I want to record a season of something?
I love the ATI card, but sadly, itís the only thing making noise (GPU fan). Iíve been considering getting a fan-less Radeon 9000, then get a dedicated PVR card (like one from Hauppage.) with hardware encoding.
This is very brief; I could outline this project for pages. Yes, there were a ton of little issues. Yes, a Celeron is sufficient processing power (and very cool as well). I selected every component for a good reason as I spent months contemplating before I bought. My HTPC is now four months old.
I just wanted to see if anyone else has tried this here. (Mr. Polk, go ahead and just login as someone else and reply about this :) ).
Iíd be happy to help someone else do this, or answer any questions.
This dream is near!