Why use a remote when I can use a keyboard and mouse?
July 27, 2009 2:22 PM   Subscribe

Help me build a media PC for my home entertainment unit.

Basically, all I want is the ability to watch ripped movies/TV shows, play music, and watch Youtube on my TV.

The box will also function as my DVD/BluRay player.

TV capture isn't an issue, because we've cancelled cable, since you can pretty much watch whatever you want online nowadays.

Here's what I've come up with so far. Any further recomendations or tweaks would be welcome.

All prices are in CAD.


CPU: Intel Dual Core E6300 Socket LGA775, $99

BluRay Drive: LG CH08LS10 BLACK 8XBD READ/ 16X DVD-RW BURNER, $130

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-EG45M-DS2H Socket 775 Intel G45 $135

Hardrive: Western Digital Caviar Green (WD10EADS) 1000GB SATA 3 Gb/s 32MB (OEM) $90

Then whatever RAM I can afford. Anybody think I'm paying too much for what I plan on getting? Any cheaper alternatives without sacrificing performance? Is it worth making the switch to BluRay right now?
posted by consummate dilettante to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You could save a bit of money by going AMD instead of Intel. You could get away with a bargain-basement computer if you're only planning on running standard-def video, but for Blu-Ray at 1080 you're going to need something a lot heftier. The Intel mobo appears to have Intel video builtin, which I'm not sure supports DXVA, which you're probably going to want for 1080. You could just get a cheap addon card for $50. 720p should be no problem, even without acceleration.
posted by neckro23 at 3:12 PM on July 27, 2009

In case you actually want to know why one would use a remote instead of a keyboard and mouse, first there's WAF and second, sitting on the couch when you want to just surf and have to juggle a mouse on one knee and keyboard on another is far from ideal.

However, if you've gone all the way in and set up a HTPC with HTPC software, then doing things like searching youtube and netflix (streaming) is annoying with "just a remote" to having a small wireless keyboard laying around comes in handy.
posted by Brian Puccio at 3:21 PM on July 27, 2009

You're overpaying for the motherboard/cpu. I'm going to disagree with neckro23 in saying that you don't need that much CPU power to play 1080p. My E4300 (1.8ghz) plays 1080p video just fine. My current HTPC runs on a E5200. I would definitely get a dedicated video card, if you don't need the 3D accel, you can find those for under $50 USD.

You can get a decent CPU and motherboard for around $100 USD, not sure what deals can be found in Canada.

Here's a E6300 and mobo for $109 USD
posted by wongcorgi at 3:33 PM on July 27, 2009

Agree with neckro23 in addition to personal experience. A year ago I was on the same boat as you, trying to ditch cable. I went with the AMD route, using this motherboard and a 45w AMD processor (4050e - or 5050e here). It seems underpowered, but this is where the mobo chipset shines. It played 1080p movies on a 47" without any hiccups just using the onboard video. With that all of my needs are met. That was a year ago, so maybe a newer chipset can bring better performance. A 790X maybe?
posted by aseno at 3:44 PM on July 27, 2009

I usually pimp something like this when asked this question: Acer Aspire AX1300. It's a fairly powerful machine with HDMI out, in a half-height Mini(?) ATX case, 14"x10"x4", for $350US. I've got an older model, the AX1200.

Add a wireless keyboard & mouse, and I'd recommend a Windows Media Center IR receiver and remote for higher WAF - the computer comes with Vista Home Premium (and a free Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade, as with any PC you buy these days) and hence Windows Media Center software.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 4:26 PM on July 27, 2009

Response by poster: Yeah... I had a feeling I could get it fer less.

The only thing is I really like the case I'm looking at. It'll fit in nicely with the rest of my components, and has built in IR.
posted by consummate dilettante at 4:39 PM on July 27, 2009

Best answer: When I was doing this in March, I found this guide to be quite helpful.

If you get a 5050e like aseno suggests, make sure you get an ATI based motherboard as he says. An NVIDIA GeForce 8200 or 8300 based motherboard won't cut it. You'll need a discrete video card if you go that route. I tried this very thing. Here's what I ended up with: 5050e, ASUS M3N78 PRO (GeForce 8300) motherboard, 4 GB RAM by G.SKILL, LG Blu-ray player (6X, 8X was not out then), SeaSonic S12 II 380W PSU, Samsung Spinpoint F1 HD130UJ 1TB 7200 RPM HDD, and ASUS EN9500GT (GeForce 9500 GT) 512 MB video card. I may very well end up with the HDD you mention as a second HDD in my system.

I have the ADESSO WKB-3000UB wireless keyboard. It's not great but it is fine for my limited use. It was also much cheaper than the Logitech alternative. The remote I have is the Firefly Mini, which came with BeyondTV. I don't love it or hate it. I use it because it works well with BeyondTV. Actually, I guess I should say I use the Logitech Harmony 550 (refurb) to reduce the number of remotes I need from 3 to 1. Again, I don't love it or hate it. It's worked fine for me so far.

I should also note that I still have cable and use my HTPC as a DVR also, so our uses aren't exactly the same.

There was just a thread on the pros and cons of doing Blu-ray on an HTPC. It can be quite time consuming to get everything set up how you want it. This, of course, depends on how picky you are. I found the software options for playing Blu-ray to be lacking. I wanted it to function like a standalone Blu-ray player would, but I eventually gave up and bought a standalone player. It was less time spent and less hassle that way.

Sorry, I don't mean to be all negative. I think you will be fine if you have the patience to set it up and are willing to live with a few tradeoffs. Since you mention using a mouse and keyboard in your title, I assume you don't mind having to use a mouse and keyboard, which would be one tradeoff. There's also audio issues, but I don't know the details because it was not a big deal to me. You'll probably also want to keep tabs on driver and firmware updates depending on any issues you are having.

The advantages of the HTPC route I noticed personally are 1) the playback software (usually) gives you more control, 2) the hardware is faster, and 3) you can rip BDs to hard disk. The posts in the aforementioned thread probably said some of the things I've said better, but this is my take.

Good luck.

Also, WAF, I had to Google it. I need a girlfriend.
posted by mathlete at 6:40 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks mathlete. That's a great resource.

Thanks everyone else for that matter. More suggestions are welcome.

I've an old XBOX running XBMC, and a friend has just told me that the new releases support 720p, and there are some scripts that can handle watching Youtube, etc...

If anyone has anything to say about XBMC, I'm all ears.
posted by consummate dilettante at 8:28 PM on July 27, 2009

>If anyone has anything to say about XBMC, I'm all ears.

XBMC may support 720p, but I don't think your xbox will. Also, the youtube script seems to be broken as often as it is fixed... but then maybe I'm just saying that because I tried (and failed) to get it to work last week...
posted by pompomtom at 10:01 PM on July 27, 2009

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