Hi All,

Well, I finally built my shiney new HTPC and have lived with it for a while so I thought I would share my experiences..

Hardware:

I built the box on the specs I layed out in my previous post with only a few differences.

The ATI x600 wasn't in stock at Ascent when I placed my order, so the lovely chaps there upgraded me to a x700 free of chrarge. Yummy.

I ended up using my Creative 5.1 digital card instead of the onboard as it had SPDIF out (the SPDIF option on the MB was unfortunately an optional extra).

Cooling and Noise:

The base box when built was relatively quiet, with most of the noice coming from the fan on the ATI x700. A quick visit to Quiet PC NZ garnered me a Zalman ZM80A-HP Silent Heatpipe Video Card Heatsink. What a difference it made! Unfortunately the main noise comes from the rear cooling fans due to the way the MB pulses the voltage to control the speed (an annoying ticking sound). Next time I have a few spare pennies and can be bothered removing it from the rack I will add a couple of decent fan controllers. Apart from that it runs nice and quiet.

Connections:

With a bit of tweaking, the SPDIF out from the Creative works really well (only some AC3 AVIs don't seem to decode correctly - maybe something to do with my AC3 filter setup?? I only seem to get a PCM digital stream). Sounds great overall. TV signal is coming from the output from my TCL digital decoder - nice and clean on the FTA channels.

Video into the telly is where things are not quite ideal, but still pretty good. After much fiddling I got the s-video running from my ATI into one of the SCART inputs on the telly. Running at 720x4something to get as close as I can to widescreen over s-video (anything higher tends to mean screen scrolling - s-video just does not seem to handle high res very well). Would love to go direct from DVI to RGB, but it seems that is not an option unless you want to make some custom cables. I tried running through a vga to rgb converter box, but quality ended up being worse than direct s-video.

Software:

After much faffing about, I decided to go with Media Portal. After lots of configuration, swearing, tweaking, reinstalling and forum reading I managed to get everything working. Interface is great, TV looks fantastic and all the timeshifting, recording etc works as advertised. The EPG uses a file I create using Revens xmlTVNZ. A bit scared about what happens if he decides to head off on his big OE. But that is a story for another post.

The iMon Pad remote and VFD work very well with Media Portal, and there is very little I can't control with it.

Overall:

Well, it took a while to get this far, and I am sure I will be tweaking (breaking) it many more times. However, having all of my music, movies, tv, photos, radio etc at my fingertips in one place is fantastic. I love it, and the wife is warming up to it.

Wish list:

It would be nice to have all of the TCL channels available on the HTPC rather than just the FTA - it would remove the need to have to keep switching back to the decoder so the wife can watch Food TV.

Universal NZ EPG.. want want want...

HDTV - need to win me some lotto so I can get a decent LCD or plasma so I can run a decent resolution through HDMI.

Child proof av rack and remote storage :)

Overall I would give the thing a 7 out of 10. Still much room for improvement given some time and money.