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Do-It-Yourself Guide: Building a Home Theatre PC / HTPC

Do-It-Yourself Guide: Building a Home Theatre PC / HTPC - PCSTATS
Abstract: Computers are a perfect fit for the entertainment room, and building a home theatre PC is not more difficult than assembling a standard system - as long as you have the right components for the task.
Filed under: Beginners Guides Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: PCSTATS Jan 20 2006   Mike Dowler  
Home > Reviews > Beginners Guides > PCSTATS DIY Guide

Choosing The Video Card

Now let's get to the real meat of any HTPC, the video card and TV-tuner solution(s). Depending on your HTPC needs, this is probably the area that will vary the most. You could go for an all-inclusive tuner and videocard solution like ATI's All-In-Wonder series, or you could opt for discrete video and TV-tuner cards.

As far as the video card goes, what you get depends on the options you go for. Obviously you will need TV-out, and having a card with VIVO (Video-In/Video-Out) features will increase the flexibility of the HTPC greatly. Most newer videocards from nVidia and ATI support HDTV resolution too, but keep an eye on the spec sheets to be certain. Finding a videocard with a quiet fan is also essential. The previous couple of generations of video cards from ATI and nVidia were often surprisingly loud, though current models are much quieter, thankfully.

Whether you should bother getting a high-end gaming card or not depends both on your habits and your TV. If you have a conventional CRT or rear projection television, the maximum usable resolution of the computer display is going to be around 800x600 so there is little point in getting an ultra-fast card. On the other hand, LCD and DLP HDTV screens make beautiful computer displays, and often show 1280x720 or more perfectly. These televisions mesh much better with a high-end card.

For our purposes, we chose the ASUS Extreme AX 600XT card. It's a mid-level videocard based on the ATI Radeon X600 XT chipset and sports both VIVO and HDTV-out, a fairly quiet fan and enough gaming performance to do justice to any kind of TV. Even better, the card ships with a separate component output cable.

Choosing a TV-tuner card

This is one area where you should definitely go for the latest and greatest. Each new generation of TV-tuners has added features and improved visual quality. Newer tuners also integrate with multimedia software allowing you to use your PC as a PVR (Personal Video Recorder) recording TV directly to your hard drive. In our view, this is one of the essential functions of an HTPC and is a must have.

For this PCSTATS Do-It-Yourself Guide, we're going with one of the best TV-tuner we've yet seen thus far; Powercolor's Theatre 550 Pro based on the ATI Theatre 550 Pro chipset. It provides the features we are looking for as well as excellent image quality and perfect frame rates. The only thing it does not do is support HDTV, which is a feature you may want to take into consideration depending on your home entertainment system.

Now that we have all the necessary ingredients for a quality HTPC, let's start fitting them together, step-by-step.

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Contents of Article: PCSTATS DIY Guide
 Pg 1.  Do-It-Yourself Guide: Building a Home Theatre PC / HTPC
 Pg 2.  Ingredients for a Good HTPC
 Pg 3.  — Choosing The Video Card
 Pg 4.  Installing the processor
 Pg 5.  Installing the CPU - Continued
 Pg 6.  Installing the heatsink
 Pg 7.  Installing the DDR Memory
 Pg 8.  Installing hard drives and optical drives
 Pg 9.  Connecting data cables
 Pg 10.  Installing the video card and tv tuner
 Pg 11.  Identifying and connecting the rear ports
 Pg 12.  Connecting the computer to the TV
 Pg 13.  Connecting the Television signal to the TV-tuner
 Pg 14.  Tweaking Windows XP for TV display

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