Today is my wife’s last day in her current job and next week she’s starting a new career as a homeworker. I decided it wasn’t fair her sharing our Toshiba laptop, so I’ve given it to her as her dedicated machine and I’m now using the old laptop which previously had been struggling along as a media center in our bedroom.
The media center laptop never had enough power to play HD 1080p mkv or bluray rips stored on my Windows Home Server without some major stuttering, so I took the opportunity to build a new media center PC for the bedroom which would be powerful to play all file formats using Windows 7 Media Center. I wanted to keep the costs as low as possible as this machine will only be used as a W7MC machine, so I set myself the challenge of spending less than £200 (approx $300). I’ve also been inspired by Sean’s attempts to build a Windows 7 PC for his mother.
I was amazed how easy it was to do, even though I did go over the budget a bit by buying a sexy slim Antec Minuet PC case – even my wife was impressed when she saw it.
Because Windows 7 isn’t a resource hog, if you’re not planning on playing games then you don’t need a lot of powerful hardware. Here are the components that I purchased to go into my sexy new Windows Media Center PC:
I got a bit carried away with my case because the machine is going in the bedroom, so I didn’t want anything ugly so it would get my wife’s nod. I could have picked up decent looking cases for under £40, but in the end I purchased this super slim Antec Minuet case for £80, which is just over 30cm wide.
I chose a motherboard with a AMD 780G Chipset as these have good enough onboard sound and audio for a media center, so there’s no need for a separate soundcard or videocard which keeps the costs down. The Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics core is from the same processor family in the Radeon HD 2400 series that’s less than 2 years old – more than enough to play a few videos.
Most 780G motherboards also have good sound support. I ended up choosing an Asus M4A78-VM that has an inbuilt S/PDIF out socket, as well as DVI and HDMI connectors providing full AV connectivity. Total cost? £45