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How To Build a Budget Media Center PC and HD-DVR: Page 4 of 6

Introduction By Matt Whitlock

Choosing the Hardware (cont.)

Power Supply - Antec EA-380D

Antec EarthWatts EA-380D

There are dozens of ultra budget power supplies out there, but don't be fooled. There's budget, then there's just cheap. The problem with cheap is durability and efficiency; save now, but expect to spend more in energy or replacing it in a year or two. Fortunately, Antec's EA-380D is my go to low-cost power supply. It's good quality, 80-plus bronze certified, and on sale every time I look.

Optical Drive - Asus DRW-24B1ST DVD Recorder

There isn't enough budget for Blu-Ray in this build, but we'll still want to stick a DVD burner in here for a few reasons. The most obvious reason is to play DVDs and CDs, but a few other things you can take advantage of is Media Center's ability to burn DVDs from TV recordings, rip discs to the hard drive, etc. It's also less than $20, so there's little reason not to.

Tuner - Depends on what you need

One of the key components that separates a PC from a Media Center PC is the tuner, and it's also one area you can spend a little or a lot. For this build we're going dual-tuner so we can watch one thing while recording another, or record two things at once. Tuner's can either be internal or external.

  • Internal tuners are more reliable, usually better performing when changing channels, (usually) easier to set up, etc. For an OTA/ClearQAM build, I'd go with the AVerMedia AVerTVHD Duet PCTV (above left) tuner. At 80 bucks, it's a good deal for a two tuner card.
  • External tuners can be USB based (good for laptops) or Ethernet. Ethernet one's can be available to any PC on the network, which is advantageous in some situations. The cons are they can be slower to tune channels and unreliable if the network is slow or bogged down. For a budget external tuner, I'd go with the HDHomeRun DUAL (not shown). It's $120 normally, but it does go on sale from time to time.
  • CableCARD - If you're going to continue with digital cable services, you'll need a tuner that supports CableCARD... and there aren't many. The original and best selling card, the Ceton Infini-TV 4 (above middle) sports four tuners and CableCARD for less than $200. For those on a tighter budget build, Hauppauge's WinTV-DCR-2650 Dual Tuner (above right) is $130 and connects via USB.

Remote - Rosewill RRC-126

Your PC isn't a home theater device until you can control it with a remote. Remotes controls are kind of personal, so get whichever one you like so long as it is an actual MCE remote (with the green button). For this build, I'm going with this one: Rosewill RRC-126 Windows 7 Media Center Remote for $20 on sale.

About the Author

Matt Whitlock's picture

Matt Whitlock is online director and technical editor for ChannelProSMB.com.

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