Monday, August 1, 2011


Credit where credit is due
I didn't exactly know where to start out so I used a great post by Jon Schneider that discussed alot of his own choices for a HTPC. So thanks, Jon, for letting me look like I know what I'm talking about!

I finally ended out buying a Roku player, and in between me buying it off of and receiving it, they released Roku 2. Needless to say, I was not thrilled. Plus, add on to the fact that I did end out trying the Roku for a little while before discovering the next generation was out, and I found it to be kind of sluggish. I would comment on how it ran with Netflix, but it was having major issues with my wifi as well.

After I filed for an RMA, I decided to think about whether or not I wanted a Roku after all. After a bit of research, here are my conclusions for what I see as worthy of me buying:
  • Roku: Cheap. Great if all you want to do is watch things from your services like Netflix or Amazon VOD.
  • Boxee: Mid expensive. Great if you want to stream services but also have alot of local media you want to play, or want full access to the web on your set top box.
  • HTPC: More expensive. Great if you want to customize everything and want it to be able to do.....well, whatever you want it to do.
I went with Roku at first because all I wanted was to watch movies. Now, however, I'm reconsidering and thinking of going with the HTPC route.

In order of priority:
  • Play streaming services, primarily Netflix, Amazon VOD, Pandora, Hulu Plus, and Jupiter Broadcasting.
    Unfortunately, this means running Windows for Netflix, and I'm going to opt for Windows XP since it's lighter and I have several extra copies of it laying around.
  • Be very small. I realize getting it to Roku or Boxee size is impossible, but the smaller, the better.
    We just got a "set top" box from Comcast that "makes the [original] Xbox look small", as my brother put it. The thing is a beast.
  • Play retro games on emulators. I'm hoping up to N64, and also "Metal Slug 4" for the NeoGeo emu.
  • Play movies and shows via DVD and Blu-Ray. Basically just means it needs a Blu-Ray drive (something Boxee and Roku don't have).
  • Play other games. Definitely not hoping for Steam (although maybe just a few like Audiosurf), more along the lines of Battle for Wesnoth. Nothing too graphically intensive...that's what my PC is for!
  • Be low power. *coughAtomProcessorcough*
  • Maybe act as a DVR? I've never really used a DVR so this is still a toss up. But it would add to the awesomeness.
  • Eventually act as a home server, if/when I want it to. Hopefully through virtualization.
  • Run quietly. *coughAtomProcessorcough*

I'm taking a bit of a different path than Jon. He got a great machine that packs a bit of a punch, but it's a little larger than I want and I don't want to play modern games like he does. So instead of going with microATX, I went with miniITX.

MOBO+CPU+WIFI: Zotac IONITX-A-U - $164.99 ($189.99 - $25 MIR)
  • It's an Atom processor (plus a massive heatsink) which means that it will run very cool. Not quote fanless when doing 1080p, but close.
  • Handles 1080p great, according to Newegg reviews
  • Crap ton of ports. Ethernet, USB 3, eSATA all are bonuses.
  • 240pin memory, which is easier to come by, IMO.
    (If I upgrade my PC before I build this, I can use hand-me-down memory).
  • Comes with a 90w PSU.
  • Built in 802.11n
  • 4 eggs / 135 reviews on Newegg
RAMCrucial 2GBx1 CT25664AA667 - $22.98
  • Cheap
  • 2GB should be good to run XP, and if I start out with just one stick, I can add more later.
  • 5 eggs / 51 reviews on Newegg

CASE: hec ITX200A - $49.99
  • Uh, I like the looks. It's nice and sleek and doesn't scream "Hey I'm a PC".
  • Comes with 200W PSU, though I'm planning on using a DC to ATX converter to make it more silent.
  • 4 eggs / 20 reviews on Newegg

HDD: Western Digital 2 TB Caviar Green WD20EARS - $72.99
  • I adore WD drives. Very good record from my experience, and I currently run two Blacks in my PC.
  • Greens are supposed to use less power, which is ideal for this build. The slower speed shouldn't be too much of a factor. And $60 for 1TB is magical. I did spring the extra $12 for the 2TB.
  • 3 eggs / 1,291 reviews on Newegg
BD: LG CT10N Slim SATA - $79.99
  • I was unaware that I'd need a slim, but it's alright, other than they are a but more expensive. I've had nothing but good experiences with LG.
  • 5 stars / 2 reviews on Amazon
TV TUNER: Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-850 - $49.99
  • Suggested by Jon, and I have no experience with these so I trust his judgment.
  • A bit pricey, but one of the few I could find that did 1080i.
  • Still a toss up.
  • 4 eggs / 52 reviews
There are a bunch of different options. It mostly depends on what style I want.
Lenovo Multimedia Remote - $42.57
  • Trackball
  • Good for holding one handed
  •  3.5 stars / 133 reviews
Rii Mini Wireless Keyboard RT-MWK01$33.12
  • Touchpad
  • Horizontal; two handed
  • 3.5 stars / 363 reviews
CE Compass Touchpad - $32.95
  • Multi touch touchpad
  • Vertical, but fat; two handed
  •  4.5 stars / 10 reviews
Boxee Remote - $39.99
  • Easily one or two handed
  • 4 stars / 21 reviews

HDMI: 2M - $2.08
  • 4.5 stars / 4,125 reviews

OS: Microsoft Windows XP - $89.99 $0
  • I already have several Windows XP licenses that I'm not using, so that helps save some money.
S&H: - $14.55
  • As per tradition, I split it over several sites to get the best deal.
  • $9.56 on TigerDirect
  • $4.99 on Amazon

TOTAL: $490.68

To compare with Jon's quickly, we're actually very equal on almost everything -he saved by not having to buy a case, I saved by not having to buy an OS- the Optical Drive is what killed me. But still, we both kept it under $500 and are actually within a Lincoln of each other.

I haven't looked much into the software yet other than Boxee, XBMC or Moovidia. Pretty excited about it.

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