Best Atx Or Full Tower Case For Air Flow How To Select Components To Build a Powerful Home Entertainment Hub/PC

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How To Select Components To Build a Powerful Home Entertainment Hub/PC

Choosing a processor:

Browse around the Intel website to understand what’s current. It is always best to check in order to avoid abnormality in a short period of time. About every 18 months, Intel introduces a new generation of processors. You always get much better performance for the same price than the previous generation of processors. A processor selection tool and specifications on their processors can be found on the Intel website.

You probably won’t need a current-generation flagship for most general home computing. For this application, I’m going with the 2nd Generation Intel Core i5 2500k. It has Intel HD graphics built in, so with the right motherboard, you won’t need to spend extra money to buy a separate graphics card.

Intel’s boxed processors usually come with a proper heat sink that cools the processor, but always check the specifications to be sure. For cool and quiet operation, you may want to choose a retail heat sink, but only do so if you are confident about choosing one.

Important specifications will also be available when you source the component (on, in this case).

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

Choosing a motherboard:

I am a big fan of Intel products because of the high reliability over the years. So naturally, I’m choosing an Intel made motherboard. The desktop board DH67BL media series was chosen. Again, check Intel’s website for details. It supports LGA1155 socket, DDR3-1066/1333 memory and has both HDMI and DVI connections.

Other important specifications on motherboards you will need to know:

Number of Memory Slots: 4×240 Pins. You will need to know this, along with the memory standard (DDR3), when choosing memory.

Storage devices supported: 3x SATA 3Gb/s and 2x SATA 6Gb/s. It determines the supported hard drive and BD-ROM. SATA 6Gb/s is the new standard but is backward compatible with SATA 3Gb/s.

LAN speed: 10/100/1000 Mbps. It determines your maximum Ethernet connection speed in 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. Smaller micro ATX boards will fit into most media center style cases while the larger ATX form factor may not.

Memory selection:

As mentioned above, we need a DDR3-1066 or DDR3-1333 240 pin memory module 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 grand total of 8GB. Memory prices vary greatly, and they are cheap as of this writing, so take advantage of the price. The board can support up to 4 modules, but 2x4GB is sufficient for our applications.

Selecting a hard drive:

During October and November of 2011, hard drive prices nearly tripled due to a partial shortage as a result of the weather in Thailand. Prices are expected to remain high for a few quarters. Previously, because hard drives were really cheap, the system 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 use on the system. Another 2TB drive is dedicated to recorded TV and can hold around 300 hours of HDTV.

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

I recently switched to a Western Digital green or blue hard drive because I got one on sale and found it to be much quieter than the Seagate I was used to.

Key drive characteristics that affect fit and function are SATA speed and physical size.

SATA defines 6Gb/s data transfer speeds and is the new standard for desktop computing. The chosen motherboard supports two SATA 6Gb/s, so make sure to connect them to the 6Gb connection on the motherboard for the best performance.

The physical size of the drive is specified as a 3.5-inch internal drive. This specification is important when choosing your computer case. The optional case holds two 3.5″ internal drives.

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

Today’s optical drives typically have SATA 3Gb/s transfer speeds. The physical size for desktop computers is defined as a 5.25″ internal drive, and they fit into a case that has an external 5.25″ drive bay. Case B is described as external because it gives you access to open the drive tray.

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

TV Tuner Card:

I have two “AVerMedia AVerTVHD Duet – PCTV Tuner (A188 – White Box) – OEM” in my system. The main thing you need to know is the interface type, which is the PCI-Express x1 interface. This is described in Article 2. The selected Intel motherboard accommodates two such expansion slots.

This setup gives four available tuners for simultaneous recording or watching one channel while three others are recording.

Choose a computer case:

To make your entertainment center look like just another piece of audio equipment, you’ll need to choose a case from the HTPC/media center category. To avoid the hassle of choosing a power supply to fit the case, I chose a case with a built in 500W power supply. “APEVIA Black SECC Steel / Aluminum X-MASTER-BK / 500 ATX Media Center / HTPC Case”.

It is important to make sure that you have enough wattage power supply. Since we are not using any additional graphics card, 350W to 500W will usually be more than enough. Feel free to choose a case that is more aesthetically pleasing to you.

It is also important to make sure that the motherboard you choose fits in the case. A Micro-ATX motherboard will be suitable in most cases.

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

One thing that bugs me when buying a case is that the fan type or fan noise is hardly ever specified. You don’t know what you’re going to get until you put it together. Fortunately, fans are cheap and you can replace them if the noise level is too much for you.

Fan noise depends on design, rotation speed, and airflow. The noise level specified in dBA is low, quiet it should be. A variable speed fan will control the temperature inside the case based on speed, so it will only rotate at high speed, keeping noise to a minimum.

Wireless keyboard and wireless remote:

I especially like the “nMEDIAPC HTPCKB-B Black 2.4GHz RF Wireless Streamline Keyboard with Trackball and Remote Combo Set” because a trackball mouse is built into the PC remote control. This makes the operation of the media player easier. I hardly ever use a keyboard, but when I do, the built-in trackball mouse comes in handy. No surface is required to operate the mouse.

Operating system selection:

Windows 7 Home Premium and above come with Windows Media Center that manages your tuner card and recorded TV.

I chose Windows 7 Professional because it allows you to use Remote Desktop to log into a PC remotely. This way, using my laptop, I log into MediaPC to do more work.

Note that the selected Windows 7 OS is the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) version. Among other things, this means that there is no technical software support offered by Microsoft, but it is very cheap.

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

Putting it all together:

As mentioned earlier, this article is mainly about choosing components to build your media PC. Your component manual will guide you through the steps required to assemble the various parts. If you need additional help, you can do a simple Google search for ‘how to build your own PC’.

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

Once everything is connected you are now ready to activate your new PC.

If everything goes well, you’ll see a boot-up screen when you power on. Refer to the motherboard manual to configure the BIOS settings if needed. The default settings should work without any changes, but it’s always a good idea to read this section of the manual to see what’s available.

The next step is to insert the Windows DVD and follow the installation instructions. Make sure you are plugged into your network and have an internet connection. Windows installation will take about an hour. When prompted, select Download and install Windows Update automatically. Updates may take several hours, depending on how many they are.

Firmware and Driver Updates:

These updates are usually provided to fix bugs and improve the performance of the device. In most cases, the system should work fine without these updates, however, if you are experiencing performance issues, it is always a good idea to check the manufacturer’s website and install available updates.

For Intel motherboards, Intel device drivers are available on Intel’s download site for network connections (LAN), graphics, chipset, and audio devices.

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