Home Theatre PC Buyer's Guide - Q1 2009

February 4, 2009 | 09:30

Tags: #1080p #2009 #720p #buyers #definition #efficient #guide #hd #high #home #htpc #low #power #theater #theatre #tv

Companies: #amd #bit-tech #intel


First Choice: Jou Jye NU-528i-B Mini-ITX Case 220W
UK Pricing: £67.85 (Inc. VAT)
US Pricing: N/A

Having talked to the mini-ITX store in the UK, the recommendation given by the experts is this little tiger. At £68, including a 220W PSU, it's great value and the guys at mini-ITX say it'll easily run an E8600 with a stock fan, and most of their office machines use it with an E7300 inside.

It's designed for use with an SSD or 2.5" hard drive, and has space for a half height PCI card and slimline optical drive. If you don't want an optical drive, this frees up space for a 3.5" drive instead - offering a far better capacity.

Home Theatre PC Buyer's Guide - Q1 2009 Super Small Mini-ITX - 2

CPU Cooler

First Choice Silverstone NT07 AM2 Low Profile Heatsink Fan
UK Pricing: £13.74 (Inc. VAT)
US Pricing: $19.99 (ex. Tax)

The other downside of the case is that it's exceptionally difficult to find a quiet, very low profile CPU cooler, but the Silverstone NT07 manages to fit this bill really very well. To the benefit of Silverstone's low profile cooler, the Athlon X2 4850e CPU is only 45W so doesn't require too much cooling, but it's not exactly noisy anyway: topping out at just 25dB. OK, that's not inaudible, but it's one of the quietest low profile coolers available and for £13 - damn cheap too!

Hard Disk Drive

First Choice: Western Digital 250GB 2500BEVS 2.5" 5,400RPM SATA HDD
UK Pricing: £42.95 (Inc. VAT)
US Pricing: $49.99 (ex. Tax)

2.5" hard drives are quieter, cooler and run at a much lower power than their 3.5" siblings and the Akasa case we recommended above is limited to using just one of them. In that case, if you're recording a lot of TV or storing a lot of files on the drive, approximately 200GB of free space (after OS and program installs) might not be enough so you may vouch for something larger, or more likely, undertake the eSATA option on the J&W Minix instead.

With that in mind, 250GB is enough splash storage for throwing stuff to watch on it locally, for downloads and for some recorded TV too - and while 5,400RPM isn't the fastest thing on earth, for £42 we think it's worth it. As for SSDs, we'd love to include one but 30GB is just too small unless it's pulling and sending all the media data over the network, and the more useful 60GB+ drives are still three times the price of the 250GB Western Digital 2500BEVS at £120 and upwards.

Optical Drive

First Choice: Samsung SN-S083A/BEBE DVD±RW SATA Notebook Rewriter Drive
UK Pricing: £21.79 (Inc. VAT)
US Pricing: $55.46 (ex. Tax)

We did promise this would be all Blu-ray capable, but considering the ginormous leap in price from £21.79 to £150, it's a very difficult justification unless you absolutely must have it. As it is, £26 for that Samsung drive that writes as well as reads DVDs might be too much of a bargain to pass up, but remember for both they require a mini-SATA to SATA adapter before they can be used in normal systems.
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