OK, I’ve settled on a few parts, not much left to decide on.

First up is the hard drive. I chose one of the new Samsung Spinpoint drives in a 320GB capacity. Available at newegg for about $90, the full model name is Samsung SpinPoint T Series HD321KJ 320GB. This was a tough choice as the Western Digital has one (WD3200KS) at almost the same price point, and there are 400GB and 500GB choices for not *that* much more.

For the geeks (like me) this model has 3 short-stroked 167GB platters, has a 16mb cache, uses the SATA 3GB/s interface, and uses just 6.5W at idle and 9.5W during seeks. Samsung has built a rep as having quiet, low power drives and this is no different. Performance is pretty decent too. I got this info from the good folks over at www.silentpcreview.com and www.storagereview.com. Their articles and forums have been invaluable.

For normal people, what this means is the drive is big and quiet.

Next up in the tough choice category was the motherboard. I finally settled on the DFI RS482 INFINITY. The positives were onboard video with S-Video and DVI out, onboard sound supporting digital in/out (most only had digital out), FireWire support, and a passively cooled chipset. Passive means no fans, and no fans means no noise. The size is microATX so that means I can use a smaller case. It supports the lovely AMD Athlon 64 3200+ which was a really easy choice with it’s low power consumption, good performance. I can also use the memory from my current desktop to run this so I don’t need to spend any money there.

For the case, I really deliberated long and hard over it. I was looking at several high-end cases that were built specifically for HTPCs… Naaahhhh, let me just get a cheapo case. I found one for $30 *with* a power supply. Needless to say I don’t trust the power supply so I purchased another one. A Dynapower 300W piece. I only need 300W (and that may even be overkill) since there just isn’t much to draw power here.

To top it off I added a Zalman CPU cooler (big fan to quietly cool off the processor), Microsoft XP Media Center edition and a Media Center remote.

All together its just over $450 in parts that I ordered. If you count about $100 in memory and about $60 for the TV card that I used from my desktop, this outfit would have cost around $650 normally. If I had gotten a real nice case the cost would have been even higher. Could I have used less expensive pieces? Ummm. Maybe. But not really.

If I wanted to go really budget I could have used a less featured motherboard (save maybe $40), then used a low-end video card and not worried about having digital output for surround speakers. I could have saved maybe a little bit on the CPU with a Sempron instead of Athlon (save $20), but that would leave less computing power to compress videos in a timely manner (say overnight) so I can either take to work, or just take up less room on the hard drive. I could have also chosen a smaller hard drive (save $40) but then that means you have to delete shows more often or store less music on there. I could have used less RAM and saved about $50. I could have chosen Windows XP Home instead of the Media Center Edition, and just done a little more tweaking to get working right and save $20. And lastly I could have not ordered the Zalman CPU cooler and made due with just a little bit more noise (save $30). So altogether I could have saved about $200 with a few compromises.

On the flip side, things I would do to make this even better would be to get a better case that would actually look like a part of your AV setup and fit right into your shelf system (add another $100). I would get a professional series sound card (add $125). I would have chosen a Intel dual-core option instead of single-core AMD (add $150 for CPU and another $20 for motherboard). And i would look into HDTV (not sure, but it sounds pricey). So that would have brought me another $400+ which would be right around $1000 total. So in the end I think this was a good compromise and will serve me well.

Details are comin gsoon as the parts should arrive this week and I will assemble next week.