View Full Version : PC based home entertainment system

Mohammad Al-Sahaf
13-06-2003, 03:21 PM
Have just read an interesting 2-part article in Australian PC (May & June 2003) on building a pc based home entertainment system for playing MP3s, watching DVDs, recording TV, web surfing etc.
In this article they discuss using a VIA EPIA M9000 Mini ITX Motherboard in a stylish slimline desktop case hooked up to a large tv, 5.1 speakers and a Hi-Fi receiver.
The M9000 mo/bo has onboard video withS-video and AV out, MPEG decoding; 5.1 surround sound plus usb/Firewire ports.
The article suggested adding 256 or 512MB RAM, a slimline notebook-style DVD drive and a 20-40GB notebook hard drive (for size and quietness reasons).
Also suggested cordless keyboard/mouse, TV tuner card and PC remote (eg: Pinnacle PROTV pacakge) features to top the system off.
The idea quite took my fancy as an interesting alternative to the lounge standard setup of Huge TV, DVD player and home cinema system (receiver and speakers).
A rough pricing of the hardware (from NZ computer resellers) put the cost at $1300 approx which compares favourably with a new home cinema/dvd/hifi set up.
But I had thought of converting my old Celeron system (500MHz/512MB SD-RAM/40GB HDD/FIC socket 370 mo/bo) to do the same job at 2/3 the cost.
Would just add a DVD drive, sound card (Creative sounblaster Live! 5.1), video card and either a tv tuner card (eg: Leadtek TV2000XP TV tuner) or a Pinnacle PCTV Pro kit with remote).
Am presuming I wouldn't need both the Pinnacle PCTV Pro and the Leadtek TV2000XP Tv tuner card -- is that correct?!?
Some thoughts:
1: Would the Celeron (given the other specs) have enough grunt for the task?
2: What do you techno-geeks out there in "PressF1 land" think of the idea?
3: What about software requirements?
In Windows -- WMP9 or Musicmatch for Mp3s
WinDVD or PowerDVD for DVD playback
WMP9 or Div-X Playa for DivX playback
Utilities such as uICE and DVD Genie
Or Linux --- XMMS for MP3/Audio playback
Xine for DVD & Div-X playback
Realplayer 8.0 for media centre (if desired)

Await your responses with interest.


13-06-2003, 03:34 PM
> 1: Would the Celeron (given the other specs) have
> enough grunt for the task?

Yup, should be fine :-) What OS out of curiosity?

> 2: What do you techno-geeks out there in "PressF1
> land" think of the idea?

Go for it! Ive sorta done the same, only its my Personal PC I keep in my room until I can afford another... which will be a games PC, and my current AMD 1700+ with TV-Tuner/Capture Card, GeForce 4 MX 440SE-T (AGP 4x) w/TV-O (RCA and S-Video), Creative SB!Live 5.1 Channel Soundcard, and DVD Player (Dont forget to buy DVD Region-Free from dvdidle.com) gets moved into the living room if we're going to have a DVD through the TV, or perhaps borrow a projector.. Its great fun!

> 3: What about software requirements?

You'll need:
DVD Playback software (If you're using Windows, get DVD Region-Free too!) which should come with your DVD Player (Power DVD 4 XP is probably best on market). If it doesnt come with any, certain DVD's like the Spider-Man DVD will have software for playback!
Your TV-Tuner/Capture card will include all the software you need for it...

> In Windows -- WMP9 or Musicmatch for Mp3s

WinAmp 2.91 would be my recommendation, but otherwise I'd say go WMP9.. Others here can vouch for MusicMatch though, so personal Preference I guess

> WinDVD or PowerDVD for DVD

PowerDVD XP 4 would be best!

> WMP9 or Div-X Playa for DivX

DivX Playa will give better performance than WMP9.. Im not sure why, but its slightly noticable on my AMD1700 + so it may be more noticable on your PC?!

> Utilities such as uICE and DVD Genie

Dunno what either are, but all you'll need is DVD Region-Free (If DVD Genie is what I think it is!)

> Or Linux --- XMMS for MP3/Audio playback

Yup, cant beat XMMS

> Xine for DVD & Div-X playback

Yeah.. or VideoLAN Client is good.. supposedly MPlayer does just as well!

> Realplayer 8.0 for media centre
> 0 for media centre (if desired)

Naaaw... go with VLC, much better!

Hope this helps



BTW - If you have AGP, then the GF4 MX440SE-T from qmb.co.nz is a great buy!

Mohammad Al-Sahaf
13-06-2003, 04:39 PM
Thanks for the input -- considering using only Linux as the O/S (Mandrake 9.1) but still rather new at it.
Otherwise will go with Win 98SE or Win XP Home.
Somewhat concerned about Microsoft, DRM, the rabid attitudes of the "we're going under cause of piracy" Recording/Motion picture industries and their plans to possibly lock up 'illegal' audio/video files on hard drives that I read about somewhere recently.

You don't think that the Celeron CPU is past it -- I figure that with the RAM (512MB), the video card and the sound card it should be ok (your opinion)???

I am presuming that I will have to purchase a more modern Hi-Fi receiver to take advantage of the 5.1 channel sound offered via the Creative Soundblaster Live! soundcard -- saw it advertised for only $92 -- I paid $149 only 6-9 months ago for the same thing!

Your encouragement is much appreciated.

13-06-2003, 04:59 PM
The Celeron 500 is on the low side, with you needing at least a 30Mhz to play a DVD, but should suffice. If you need, you could always do a mobo/cpu upgrade later!

Im not sure if the TV-Capture/Tuner card you talk of has TV-Out which is why I suggested the nVidia card, as there is a utility in Linux called YaNC which assists in setting up TV-O for nVidia cards!

You'd want something more that a TV-Tuner to play the odd game on anyway, surely?

If you dont have 'illegal' audio/video files on your HDD, then you shouldnt be worried about whatever the RIAA and whoever else comes up with, but then again, I cant talk.. ;-)

I use RedHat 9 and it works great for all my media serving etc.

The RAM is more than enough... although Mandrake will utilise it all!
Sound Card is great...

You never mentioned a graphics card except the TV-Tuner card I believe? Did you have anything in mind or were you just going to go with that?

I bought my SB!Live card for approx $70 Incl. GST.



Mohammad Al-Sahaf
13-06-2003, 05:38 PM
Graphics card wise, I was just considering a GE-Force MX400 or 440 which may double up a bit on the TV tuner card's capabilities but I'll accept that.
I have a GE-Force 2 MX400 in my '(sort of)dedicated' gaming machine so I might put that into the Celeron for this home entertainment project and treat my self to something racier for my gaming machine (if I can afford it!).
Hooked on startergy games such as C&C Generals/Age of Mythology.
Just purchased Rise of Nations which is a fantastic game but the online support/matching is crap!
Anyway I digress ... Yeah I agree, the Celeron 500 is a little on the light side but it'll do -- contemplating a CPU/motherboard update later on by which time Ill probably be struggling to find a mo/bo to support/utilise my SD-RAM!

13-06-2003, 06:15 PM
Read this (http://www.gideontech.com/guides/htpc/) ... you should look at some of the tips in this system.

I'm planning on building something similar myself.


Mohammad Al-Sahaf
13-06-2003, 06:47 PM
Thnaks for the link -- really useful.
Much appreciated!
Wouldn't you just love a modded case like that!
Or one like this

Just to expensive for me though.


13-06-2003, 06:52 PM
Yeah, I like the link because they considered other applications such as DivX, mp3, etc... The point it raised also about how the Audigy resampled it's audio has put me off SoundBlaster for my next soundcard.

Anyway, good points to consider... and yes, the Thermaltake Xaser is all good too! ;)


Mohammad Al-Sahaf
13-06-2003, 07:01 PM
Yeah I'm not too thrilled about picking a creative sound card now either -- was eying up the soundblaster Live 5.1 for about $95 but it looks like I'll have to set my sights a little higher after reading that link!


13-06-2003, 07:44 PM
Hercules Gametheatre XP 7.1 is what you would be after ;)

Mohammad Al-Sahaf
27-06-2003, 02:20 PM
Can you get Hercules Gametheatre sound cards in NZ?
Every PC supplier website I've been to generally only offer Creative or Genius soundcards.