Paul Andrew

Technical Product Manager for Office 365 at Microsoft

New Windows Media Center (XP MCE) PC Build

New Windows Media Center (XP MCE) PC Build

  • Comments 5

It's been 4 years since I last built a full new Home PC and in that time only a few parts have needed upgrading. I bought an extra hard drive when I ran out of space ont he original 120Gb one. I replaced my PAL Hauppauge TV tuner card with an NTSC one when I moved from New Zealand to USA. And I replaced the Leadtek NVidia GeForce4 Ti 4200 with a Fanless Gigabyte NVidia 7600GS when I got sick of XP MCE 2005 complaining that it isn't supported (which of course it wasn't) and I wanted to run Flight Simulator X. My budget for this was around $US1,200.

MCEPC1

Here's my new machine parts list:

Here's what I like about it:

  • Silent or close enough for me - I have to put my ear to the side of the case to hear it. I'm not a believer in oversized heatsinks, heat pipes or liquid cooling when a low power CPU and slow fans can acheive the same level of silence. The significantly quiet parts of this system compared to my old machine are the low power CPU, the sub 1000 RPM fans in the case, the 3 section case for airflow, and the super quiet Hard Drive with silicon grommets. When idle SpeedFan shows the CPU at 25C, HDD at 31C and Case at 29C and I haven't yet seen any temp go above 35C. It's winter so 19C in my house.
  • Nice looking case that matches my other AV gear with no compromise. Okay it's not a gaming machine due to the Intel 945GT graphics but it's got the performance for any kind of audio / video and even making home movies. We have the other machine for games.
  • So fast. Core 2 duo with 4Mb of 2nd level cache and that Western Digital drive are awesome. PassMark PerformanceTest says it's way faster than my work Toshiba Tecra M3 particularly the HDD and the CPU.
  • All the IO I need and none of the IO I don't need. It's got HDMI with audio for the TV and SP/DIF for my receiver amp. It doesn't have parallel or serial ports.

Not perfect yet:

  • Not much expansion in the MB. I'm sure they could fit a PCIe x16 slot and two more DRAM slots in there. I don't know why they have a PCIe x1 slot in there, who knows what those are for?
  • Some debugging of the BIOS is still required. I had to swap out the original Corsair ValueRAM that I bought even though the MB and RAM manufacturers said it was compatible and extensive testing with MemTest86 proved it was not faulty. I swapped to Corsair recommended RAM.
  • The BIOS also does not (yet) support overclocking the CPU. That's okay - I bought this for a media center not a lab machine.
  • The Intel 945GT graphics chipset is tricky to tune. My screen overscans the display by about 5% and I would really like to set custom timings for the video out to account for this. It doesn't matter for media center viewing, however it isn't ideal.
  • Still waiting for an ATSC HD tuner that's supported by Media Center for those local cable TV channels.
  • Oh, the VFD screen on the Antec Fusion case is a little small. But it shows Media Center activity and it's fun to watch when you're close enough.

MCEPC2 

Inside the case you can see my wiring and you can see the three spaces in the case.

  • It's been 4 years since I last built a full new Home PC and in that time only a few parts have needed

  • umm very nice. Do you have any/many DivX/Xvid videos? If so do they play easily? (thinking setup here)

    Is it easy enough to use TV resolutions/formats with that card? you mentioned it was overscanning a little. Which TV are you using? 720p?

    Have you found the HDMI connection reliable?

    Riki

  • Hey nice to see you're still at it :) Last week I rebuilt my machine with Vista and it's been a very pleasing experience so far, most of all I was impressed with being able to set it up with a single disc! It already knew how to handle my PVR500 and most of the other components. Only issue I had was of course that we still don't have a supported EPG down here in little old NZ. Oh well, one of these days eh :)

  • Hi Riki,

    My Panasonic is ED which is a little older than HD. When I bought it it looked great in the store and it still does. It has much better colour depth when watching HD channels than SD channels. And I can't see the dots so I'm okay not replacing it with more resolution just yet.

    HDMI is digital. It just works. I don't know what the max transmission length is but you can purchase 11m cables on amazon.com

    Hi Adam,

    Great to hear from you and cool that Vista is working well for you. But pretty sad about that EPG thing.

    Paul

  • I've been running Windows Vista on my TV media center for a few months now. Just after I did the initial

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