Preferred Build 2: Affordable Micro ATX
The affordable build offers more space than the teeny tiny mini-ITX, but without the expense associated with building a capable machine in such a small form factor. We believe this build offers the best balance between performance, efficiency and cost in a home theatre PC without taking up too much room.
MotherboardFirst Choice: Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H
UK Pricing: £66.54 (Inc. VAT)
US Pricing: $78.99 (ex. Tax)
We've stepped up from the mini-ITX 780G and are still using the same chipset for our micro ATX motherboard choice as well. For just over £65, this Gigabyte motherboard includes the improved SB700 southbridge, a full PCI-Express x16 slot and additional peripheral slots, SATA ports and USB 2.0 sockets on the rear I/O.
We initially looked at this board a year ago 780G first launched
and since then I have used it in my personal HTPC until now. I've tried all sorts of software and video with it and found it to be a rock solid reliable motherboard with a very reasonable price tag. What's more, even though the Gigabyte board is limited to 95W CPUs using the 45W one we recommended below that should provide plenty of overhead for overclocking if need be.
AMD Athlon X2 4850e
UK Pricing: £49.20 (Inc. VAT)
US Pricing: $58.99 (ex. Tax)
The Athlon X2 4850e makes it into our micro-ATX build as well because it's a great CPU for home theatre usage. It's the "Q6600" of the home theatre world in our books because, month after month, we keep recommending it because of its exceptional performance per watt and low price.
Clock for clock, Intel’s Core microarchitecture is much faster than the old K8 architecture this CPU is based on, but that's not to say AMD's processors are inadequate for today's computing tasks - quite the opposite in fact, because this machine is more than capable of handling even the most intense bitrates during Blu-ray playback.
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 buyer's guide, this 4GB kit of Corsair memory will perfectly complement the components we've chosen above. 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.
UK Pricing: £109.99 (Inc. VAT)
US Pricing: $169.50 (ex. Tax)
This is a very tough, and personal choice because everyone has their own sense of style and are naturally limited by what the wife/girlfriend will let them buy for the living room.
We chose the Antec fusion because it looks like it belongs amongst the other A/V hardware, it's reasonably cheap and comes with both a remote control and VFD display too! There are plenty of alternatives out there, but in the cost:feature ratio, we reckon the Antec has it nailed.