So this week I decided to dig into some savings and buy myself a few toys that I’ve been lusting after for quite a few years now. I went out and purchase myself a computer that I can use as a Media Centre PC, the rough spec of the device is:
- 4GB of RAM
- Quad Core Processor
- 8800GT Video Card with 512MB RAM
- 2 x 500GB Hard Disk Drives
- 2 x Leadtek WinFast 1000S DVB-T Capture Cards (internal)
- 22″ Screen
I got the screen so that I could configure the beasty whilst I figured out what kind of screen I could get in the living room. I could also go into detail about the exact mother board and video card, but to be honest I don’t really know or care, all I know is that the machine flys and I’m never going to have problems recording two programs to disk at once, or spewing out a nice hi resolution image across HDMI.
Getting the machine configured wasn’t uneventful though. I decided to go with Windows Vista for the Media Centre since that is the platform that I am most comfortable with. However the original MSI MEGA SKY 580 external capture device I had didn’t work – which is why I replaced it (I wanted to be able to record one channel and watch another anyway).
Once I finally got the TV stream coming through I found that channels two and ten were jumpy and the HD channels in general there as well. After some reading I went out and got myself a sub-$50 RF booster which simply made the problem go away – good, now for the TV.
Yesterday I went out shopping and looked around Dick Smith, The Good Guys and JB Hi-Fi. I wasn’t really sure what I was after other than the general advice that I should try and match the output resolution on the video card and the display to minimise scaling problems.
After looking at Plasma’s and LCD’s I decided to go for a 1920x1080i LCD at a 42″ size. The brand was SONIQ which from what I can tell is a JB Hi-Fi home brand, but I really couldn’t go past the price for that size and resolution. Time will tell whether I made the right decision.
The ultimate irony after setting all this up is that I will be away for a week and won’t be able to play with it (but I gave my house mates a crash course so hopefully they enjoy it as I set it up in the communal living area).
Now that I have it all working I’m thinking about where I want to go next getting myself set up for a digital lifestyle, on my list are:
- Getting an X-BOX to re-use the now available 22″ screen and also set it up as a media centre extender (for my bedroom).
- Get a home server up and running to provide remote access and disaster recovery capability.
- Get a proper media centre remote control. It looks like the good ones cost around $300 dollars, but after a few days of using a keyboard and mouse I realise that “the remote” is a desirable user experience.
Anyway – was a fun week/weekend getting all this set up, and I am looking forward to not missing the various TV-series that I like to watch whilst I am travelling.