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

Alternative Choices

Motherboard

Alternative Choice: Intel DG45FC
UK Pricing: £91.76 (Inc. VAT)
US Pricing:

The Intel DG45FC is a great little motherboard we've had running in our lab (trust us, the review is coming soon..ish) and the G45 chipset is very capable when it comes to video acceleration. It edges ahead of even AMD and Nvidia in our option, although it should never be gamed on - it just doesn't have the 3D rendering grunt..

It has both HDMI and DVI out, but no VGA for older TVs or projectors, but it does still have tons of SATA ports, passively cooled chipsets and it uses normal DDR2 DIMMs rather than "special" SO-DIMMs. The downside is that it only comes with a PCI-Express x1 slot, rather than a full x16. The choice of Intel motherboard does mean we need a new CPU and memory to accompany it though...

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

CPU

Alternative Choice: Intel Pentium Dual Core E5200
UK Pricing: £56.65 (Inc. VAT)
US Pricing: $72.99 (ex. Tax)

Our favourite E5200 from the monthly budget builds makes an appearance here too - it's very cheap, pretty nippy at 2.5GHz and super overclockable if you need more. Just as importantly very cool running - essentially making it a superb choice for a HTPC CPU.

Memory

Alternative Choice: Corsair XMS2 4GB kit (2x2GB) PC2-6400 CAS5
UK Pricing: £41.20 (Inc. VAT)
US Pricing: $54.99 (ex. Tax)

Mirrored right from our monthly full system buyer's guide, this 4GB kit of Corsair memory will perfectly match the Intel system, and although it's slightly more expensive than the SO-DIMMs recommended before it's also fractionally faster at CAS-5. This Corsair kit is fantastically priced at just £42, and is pre-fitted with XMS2 heatspreaders allowing you to push your memory that little bit faster if you wish. What's more, Corsair includes a lifetime warranty on its products, so there's that additional peace of mind if something goes wrong.

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

Case

Alternative Choice: Nexus Psile Mini-ITX Case & DVD Writer
UK Pricing: £205.85 (inc. VAT)
US Pricing: $251.24 (ex. Tax)

The Nexus Psile is an absolutely beautiful piece of engineering. It's a shame the hoojum Cubit 3's aren't being sold any more because they were just as cute and certainly cheaper, but the Psile is still a fantastic looking addition to any living room. It can take a full height graphics/PCI card, taller CPU cooler and 3.5" hard drive, but it's also monstrously expensive at over £200. In that respect, that's why it is our "would if we could" alternative choice.

Optical Drive

Alternative Choice: Panasonic CW8124 Slotload Slimline Combo CDRW/DVD
UK Pricing: £44.85 (Inc. VAT)
US Pricing: $39.00 (ex. Tax)

Due to the Psile case, we've limited ourselves to a slot loading DVD drive for our media playback, and we found one that plays DVDs (although for a writer, it's £10 more) for just £45 - not too bad at all, although it will require an adapter to connect to a normal SATA port that's an additional £14.38.

Hard Disk Drive

Alternative Choice: Samsung Spinpoint F1 1TB Hard Disk Drive
UK Pricing: £71.59 (Inc. VAT)
US Pricing: $99.99 (ex. Tax)

Because the Nexus Psile supports a full 3.5" hard drive we're going to stretch the alternative build go the whole hog. While 1.5/2TB drives command that price premium, getting 1TB of hard drive space for less than £75 is great value! The performance of the drive is one of the best there is too, easily beating older generation 10,000 RPM drives thanks to the huge data density on the three 334GB platters inside, all whilst running very quietly. With loads of space for potential media storage it also opens up the potential for hours of TV recording and a NAS box for the family (although we would advise additional backups).
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