My New Toy: Windows Media Centre
I've had an old warhorse of a machine serving my media needs for some years and now I am moving house and will be moving back to Freeview so I thought I would build a new Media Centre machine based around Vista Ultimate. To that end I've sourced and thrown together the following parts;
Silverstone ML02 Micro-ATX case
Gigabyte 780G Series Motherboard
AMD 4600 AM2+ Processor
2GB DDR2 RAM
500GB Seagate HDD
The ultimate aim of this system is to view HD content, the motherboard I am using has HDMI onboard and those onboard graphics are capable of DX10 which is nice. The HDMI port also supports HDCP which will allow me to upgrade the DVD-ROM drive to a Blu-ray drive at some point in the future, an easy choice now the format debate is over. The motherboard also supports PCI-E which I will be filling with the Blackgold 6-in-1 Tuner card, on a sinle card you get dual analogue, digital terestrial and digital sattelite and as Freesat (www.freesat.co.uk) has just been released in the UK with the promise of free HD content from the BBC, ITV,
Channel 4 and a few others this choice is a no brainer.
Update: Channel 4 HD will be BSkyB only, no news on Freesat yet though likely it will move over at some point.
So far I've only played some HD content freely available online, a few trailers for example and a program released under Creative Commons whose name eludes me but the picture quality is astounding, definetly the way forward! It has to be said, with the new interface and improved hardware spec the addition I am most happy with is the remote. Until now I have been using a wireless keyboard, somewhat unwieldy to say the least, and being able to use a remote is a blessing. It also plays ball quite happily with my Home Server.
The last thing to note is the power requirements of this new machine. The board and processor I chose are based on mobile technology, to that end they are quite efficient devices. I borrowed a power meter from a friend of mine to test the power usage and while watching HD content from the hard disc it used a mere 60 Watts. Considering that most standard lightbulbs in the UK are of a similar rating and a less entertaining to watch I would say this is a hell of a result. The tuner card should add around 9 Watts to this however I will be replacing the hard disk with a WD Green Power disk that runs at 7 Watts so that should even things out quite nicely.
More news as I play around with it more.