Building a cheap (and decent) home media PC

MediaPCFront

Objective: cheap, excellent sound quality, quiet, decent looking, cheap. One option is to go for the small form factor barebone pc which can be cheap (~S$160) but it will probably mean you have to use the onboard sound which is not going to satisfy my criteria for excellence in sound quality. The solution is to use standard form factor components housed in a compact casing.

Here’s the list of the components i have used and the estimated price (in S$):

MSI K8MM3-V Motherboard 100
AMD Sempron 2800+ CPU 50
512MB DDR RAM 30
WD 160GB Harddisk 80
Casing 60
HEC MiniQ 300 Power Supply 60
LG DVD Writer 50
Thermaltake Golden Orb 2 CPU Fan 50
ATI 9200SE Videocard 50
E-MU 0404 PCI Soundcard 140
Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop 2000 45
Total 715

Ok, i have to admit it may not be cheap afterall, but this meets the minimum requirement i have for a media PC. Here’s the reasoning behind the choice:

Motherboard, CPU, RAM and Harddisk Any low cost combination will do (CPU should be >1GHz). Use any existing ones you have or even try looking out for those that are being phased out
Casing Use a horizontal casing so you can load your DVDs like it’s a DVD player
Power Supply Usually the most noisy part of a PC, choose one that is sufficiently quiet
DVD Writer Although you only need to read DVDs on a media PC, DVD writers are so cheap you might as well pay a little more to get them. Go for a quiet one
CPU Fan Stock fans are too loud, replace it with an 18dB or lower one. Make sure it can fit into your casing as many CPU Fans are enormous in size!
Videocard A basic card with DVI output will do. Consider going for a fanless one so it won’t be an additional source of noise
Soundcard It pays to get a decent soundcard which will make a world of difference to the sound quality. Don’t use the onboard sound!
Wireless keyboard and mouse Use wireless keyboard and mouse so you can sit back, relax and control your media PC from your couch. Make sure the range is the length of your living room

Check out the innards of my media PC. Note how little space there is for placing a CPU Fan so do note down the measurements of the space available (including height) before you buy one! The small size of the power supply helps.

MediaPCBare  MediaPCTop

Stay tuned for my follow up posting on building a Hi-Fi!

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