Home Theater PC baseline

Here’s a little Home Theater PC (HTPC) baseline system I whipped up on newegg. It’s more or less exactly what I have:



The core specs are nForce2, 512mb DDR, 160gb HDD, Athlon 1700+.

The CoolerMaster case is very, very nice. Extremely spouse and living room friendly.

I did throw in some key HTPC items that are kinda specific to Windows XP MCE, such as the remote and the avermedia OEM card. If you want a more generic system, replace the avermedia card with the Hauppage PVR/250-350 cards.

The reason these TV cards cost from $100-$150 is because they do MPEG-2 encoding in hardware, and offload that (massive) processing load from your CPU. Some of the cheaper “TV” cards work, but it’s all software. I don’t recommend that approach until 3.0ghz hyperthreaded CPUs drop to the $50 level the current Athlon 1700+ is at…

You kind of neglected to include an operating system there, Wumpus… XP Media Edition isn’t available stand-alone, is it?

I can heartily recommend the ATI All-in-Wonder cards as well. That’s what I use in my video recorder PC. Even though it only provides an “assist” to the CPU in MPEG2 recording, it does a stellar job with my old Athlon 1800+ motherboard.

You can get XP Media Center Edition from a MSDN subscription. That’s the only legal way, and that’s how I got it (through work). I still think XP MCE is the best alternative out there right now; it’s a shame MS is being so hard-line about making this version of the OS OEM-only.

XP MCE isn’t the only game in town, though. There are also a bunch of free and non-free alternatives, listed in this thread:


Also, I can’t recommend software-only (Eg, ATI, and cheap “TV” cards) video encoding solutions. They aren’t practical for Tivo functions like simultaneous recording and playback, or any kind of background activity.