I’ve just become a Media Centre junkie!

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.


6 thoughts on “I’ve just become a Media Centre junkie!

  1. Brett Chapman

    get onto eBay and find the Microsoft MCE remote.. shouldn’t cost more than $80 and will be all you need. The bonus is that it is a learning remote and has a button to switch off the TV. Most of the branded ones don’t have it and I have found it is something you cannot do without…

  2. trentini

    Don’t screw around with the remotes – just go get a Logitech Harmony. Powerful, simple(ish) to set up – they just work. The Harmony One looks to be a good choice if you can wait; if not the 880 is great and CPL has them for about $300.

    Of course, I’d have also recommended you go down the MythTV path instead of Media Center and I’d have suggested a Japanese TV (Samsung or Sony) instead of Soniq but I guess it’s too late now, eh? 😉

  3. Geoff Appleby

    *nos* hell yeah Matty! I’ve got the 880, and it’s awesome.

    Well…mostly awesome. It’s getting a little old, and my kids have dropped it a few times. As a result, it takes a little bit of effort to get it to charge when you sit it on the charger. A few thumps and things is required. 🙂

  4. Jon Harris

    That is one hell of a beefy HTPC box. I purchased minemid last year and it was the best $1200 I ever spent. Have it hooked up to my 40″ Samsung LCD and it does everything!! Music, movies, dvd’s, tv shows and of course that old thing called tv.

    Have fun getting epg’s working here in aus, but there is a way to get it to work on Vista’s MCE. Have a look at http://www.epgstream.net

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