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Media Center PC Buying Guide, Part 2

For The Best Home Theater Systems

Media Center PC: build a home theater PC by reviewing, and using, information about the best home theater systems, best computer speakers and best media players. Then use a step-by-step guide to build your own system.

Let's continue with the Media Center PC buying guide:

Sound Card

A sound card is an optional component for this build.

The Gigabyte motherboard has built-in 8 channel sound that does a pretty decent job, especially considering that most of your sound will be processed through your home theater receiver. That said, if you do a lot of sound processing and want full control over your sound, look into the SoundBlaster X-Fi Extreme. This is a PCI-e card that delivers 118 db quality audio for all 7.1 channels.

Video Card

What you decide to use your HTPC for will determine if you need a video card or not. The Gigabyte motherboard I chose has a built-in video processor, so you will not need a video card for playback of High Definition movies, etc.

However, if you are planning to do any type of gaming on your Media Center PC, you may want to consider adding a graphics card. If you want bang for your buck, check out the EVGA 512-P3-N861-AR GeForce 9600 GT 512MB card. It is HDCP ready, SLI ready, DirectX 10 compliant, and performs very well in today's games.

Optical Drive

You have a couple ways you can go here. If you want Blu-ray capability, which is recommended, you can choose to either go with a Writable Blu-ray drive, or read-only drive. What you choose is determined by how you want to use the system. What you choose will also determine the price.

You can currently pick up a Blu-ray read-only drive for around $130, while a writable drive will run you around $350. The choice is yours, I would go with the Lite-On Model DH-4O1S-08 DVD Drive. It does not burn Blu-ray, but will play it back nicely.

Keyboard / Mouse

To control your system, I would recommend a nice wireless keyboard / mouse combination. This will allow you to not only control audio/video playback, but also allow you to surf the web, email etc. The keyboard you go with will depend a bit on the range you need.

Bluetooth keyboards offer a greater range then normal wireless keyboards, but will also cost you a bit more. I would personally go with the Logitech DiNovo Edge 2 keyboard. It costs a bit more, but looks very sexy, and includes a touchpad which will eliminate the need for a mouse.

Remote Control

Another optional component is the remote control. You can achieve everything you need to do through the keyboard, so it's a matter of preference here.

If you are using Windows Media Center or Windows Vista, then the Microsoft A9O-00007 WinXP Media Center Infrared Remote Control will do a nice job of controlling your system and integrating seamlessly with your operating system. Keep in mind that some HTPC cases will come with a remote; the Silverstone recommended on this site does.

TV Tuner

Another optional component, a TV Tuner will allow you to watch and record analog programs through a NTSC tuner; watch and record over the air programming; and watch and record unencrypted signals, such as those found on basic cable channels. Keep in mind that premium cable channels are encrypted, and will not be able to be processed through a TV Tuner card.

Seeing as I am recommending Windows Media Center, I have to go with the AVerMedia AVerTV Combo PCIe ATSC/NTSC/QAM TV Tuner Card which is compatible with Windows, and also allows you to watch and record NTSC, ATSC and QAM signals.

Case Fans

The last thing I want to mention here for your Media Center PC is the case fans you use. Usually case fans that will come with your case are pretty noisy. I would highly recommend replacing them with a quiet fan such as Noctua. I use their fans in my main computer and have to say that they do a great job of pushing air through the case and keeping quiet at the same time.

When you build a home theater PC, you'll face lots of choices and decisions. Review the information on this site to build the best home theater systems; using the best computer speakers, best media players, receivers and other components. This detailed step-by-step guide to build your media system will help you build the system you want.

Additional Reading:

Return to Media Center PC, Part 1

Media Center Computer

Build a Home Theater PC

Home Theater PC

Return to Computer Guides

Return to Build Your Own Computer Home Page

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