Completed my Home Theater PC build last night after I got my SATA Blu-ray drive, and installed Windows Vista and all the necessary software to turn it into a media center. Its currently off right now as I am watching the Villanova-UNC game. I’m sure a lot of people’s brackets got completely shat on by Michigan State’s victory over UConn earlier. Damn NCAA athletes don’t have any consideration for our betting pools and our over-analyzed predictions. Of course, the winner of your office pool will still be that person who put the least thought into their bracket and just randomly filled it out, probably the wife of your boss. Don’t worry, it’ll still be your boss collecting on the pool money. He’ll use it to buy himself one of those tacky digital picture frames that will feature a slideshow of all his ugly children, and you’ll have to compliment it every time you go to his office and see it.
It is really too bad CBS is covering these games, as I am noticing a distinct lack of Dick Vitale in the announcing (he only has a contract with ESPN and ABC). A college basketball just doesn’t have that same air of pageantry without his ridiculous voice and equally ridiculous comments about the game.
The face, voice, and occasional queen of NCAA College Basketball.
Anyways, after you’ve washed your eyeballs out with lye after seeing that image, it’s time to get back to my HTPC build.
Here is the Foxconn RS233 mini-ITX case taken apart to prepare for the guts of the computer. It has space for a 5.25″ drive and a 3.5″ drive, and two front USB ports and two audio ports. The assembly holding the 5.25″ drive is removeable, which is necessary in order to mount the 3.5″ drive underneath it and the motherboard itself as well.
Here is the FSP 150W power supply that came with the Foxconn case. It only has power connections for the motherboard and two SATA power connectors, which perfectly coincide with the two SATA connectors on the ZOTAC motherboard, so that really isn’t a limitation for my setup. The only limitation I see in the future is the lack of PCI-E connectors, as I won’t be able to take advantage of the ZOTAC motherboard’s full PCI-E x16 gen2 slot for a high-end GPU, as most of them require extra PCI-E connectors, without a power supply upgrade. Although seeing that my GTX 280 has a TDP of around 230W, trying to pair a card like that with this power supply in the first place would be idiotic, and would detonate the power supply in spectacular fashion and set my pants on fire. True story.
Take that hazardous area warning seriously. I didn’t and my pants have regretted it to this day.
Here is the Western Digital Caviar Black 1 terabyte 7200rpm Hard Drive I am using as this HTPC’s storage. It’s got enough space for a fuckton of Blu-Ray/DVD rips, h.264 video, music, and whatever else I can throw at it.
That’s a lot of storage for perfectly legal and non-pornographic media.
Mounting the HD into the 3.5″ “bay” in the case was a little strange. I put bay in quotes because its literally a little sheet of metal sticking out of the bottom of the case that just prevents the HD from shuffling around too much when you put the screws in. The screws in the case are also not aligned with the holes on the side of the HD correctly, unless if its by design to have the hard drive crooked like this:
I hope my files icons don’t slide to the left of the screen in Windows Explorer.
I then mounted the ZOTAC motherboard into the case. The power supply was removed and put back in during this process, to allow for more elbow room in putting the screws into the base through the motherboard.
That 80mm case fan lines up pretty well with the CPU’s HSF, which should help in keeping temperatures down in these cramped conditions. The PSU also has its own fan as well, so this completed build should have decent airflow. The loose wires in these tight quarters don’t help though.
The new Haruhi and Mikuru baseball/cheerleader Figmas make their appearance here, along with another view of the internals of the HTPC. Mikuru is cheering me on as I continue the build, while Haruhi is about to go to town on the computer with a bat and a baseball. You can also see the abundance of ports in the back of the PC. 6 USB ports here and the two in the front make for a total of 8 USB connections, and the HDMI can carry both audio and video to my TV.
Here is the LG Black 6X Blu-Ray/HD DVD-ROM and DVD Burner. This is the retail version and comes with a lite version of the Cyberlink PowerDVD player to play Blu-Ray or HD DVDs. Currently there are no free players for that, which is why I went with the retail version instead of the OEM, which would not have included the player software. The HD DVD player part is pretty worthless now as Sony finally got their shit together and pushed a successful format (unlike BetaMax, minidisc, UMD, etc), and they did it without even the support of the porn industry, who supported HD DVD (main reason why BetaMax failed). I’m sure you could do a complete case study on this and the changing tastes of the viewing public, as people have moved away from sneaking into brick-and-mortar porn stores, hiding their faces, and purchasing legitimately produced porn to watching free amateur videos online now. I guess people just aren’t interested in a well-directed and finely-acted film with high production values anymore while plowing through boxes of tissues and jars of vaseline in front of their monitors and TVs. I blame the lack of an Adult film category in the Academy Awards.
“Finish” watching porn twice as fast with the 6X Blu-ray read speed vs only 3X HD DVD.
Here is a top shot of the internals of the case with the Blu-ray drive mounted in the assembly and the assembly mounted in the case. And with all this talk of porn, I believe mounting is the proper term to use here.
I then plugged in the HDMI cable to the TV, the USB blue-tooth receiver for the wireless keyboard and mouse, and the power into the PSU, and crossed my fingers.
I then proceeded to install Windows Vista, and I don’t want to hear anything about my operating system choice. I like the shiny and transparent Aero interface. I’m a very shallow person.
1000 does not equal 1024, unlike what the hard drive companies would have you believe.
And here is a final shot of the completed machine, while it is on.
Amazingly, this does not have an LED light that turns on to tell you that it is off (unlike every other piece of electronics coming out nowadays).
I haven’t done too much performance testing yet. The CPU idles at around 40C and goes up to 55C under moderate load. Blu-Ray playback and video playback through Media Player Classic Homecinema seem fine too, no dropped frames, no sound issues over the HDMI. I ran the Windows Experience Index rating on the HTPC, and these were my results:
I will be doing some benchmark testing later next week and posting the results, but right now everything looks very promising. As I complete this, UNC just won their Final Four game. Now for the inevitable ESPN circle-jerk around these teams before the championship.