I’ve decided to drop cable / satellite, and create a DVR that will record programming from over the air. This first entry is just going to outline the what I wanted out of the DVR and what equipment I purchased and why. The main intention is for a DVR, and not a gaming system. In the chance that I did decide I want to go that route, I tried to purchase equipment so that I would only need to purchase a video card to allow it to play games.
- Quiet. Should not be audible when watching tv
- Stream online content
- DVR over the air content
- Stream shows and movies from home file server (NFS or Samba)
- Should be able to play multiple containers and formats (xvid, divx, mkv, H.264)
- No keyboard and mouse should be required for use
- Case: nMEDIAPC HTPC 1000B
- Power Supply: SeaSonic S12II 430B 430W
- Motherboard: ASUS M4A785TD-M EVO
- Processor: AMD Athlon II X2 250 Regor 3.0GHz
- Memory: CORSAIR XMS3 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 (PC3 10666)
- Hard Drive: Seagate SV35.5 ST31000525SV 1TB
- Tuner: Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 Media Center Kit
Note: I also purchased the LCD that goes along with the case, but after having used it, I would not have purchased it. It is too difficult to read at a distance and it is poorly made. I thought it would be cool to have showing time and what was playing and recording, but I have to get up close to the tv to see it.
nMEDIAPC HTPC 1000B
I was looking for a good case that would fit my media center stand. This case had the identical shape of my current audio receiver and even matched it’s dimensions perfectly. There is a front panel on the front that hides one IEEE 1394 port, one e-SATA port, two HD Audio ports, one SDHC 2.0 Card Reader and three USB 2.0 ports. It does not come with a power supply. You can buy an optional lcd for the front, but as I mentioned before, I would skip on purchasing it. A Micro ATX will fit in it. It has 1 5.25″ Drive Bays and 4 3.5″ Drive Bays, but you will only probably be able to use 2 out of the 4 3.5″ Drive Bays due to things getting to tight and reducing air flow. It has 2 60mm Fans in the back and 1 90mm Fan on the side which are very quiet. I’m very pleased with this case and would highly recommend to others.
SeaSonic S12II 430B 430W
This power supply is enough power for what I need. It’s also very quiet and has excellent reviews. Unfortunately, it is not modular, but I had no problem bundling up the extra cables and putting them in one of the empty 3.5″ drive bays.
ASUS M4A785TD-M EVO
This seems to be a good motherboard. The reasons that I purchased this one in particular is that it is a Micro ATX form, allows for DDR3 memory, has both a PCI Express 2.0 x16 and PCI Express x1 slots, has a integrated ATI Radeon HD 4200 GPU with 128MB DDR3 1333 memory, has a HDMI output, and a S/PDIF Out optical out.
The reason that I wanted both a PCI Express 2.0 x16 and a PCI Express x1 slot is for the tuner card and a future video card upgrade if I choose to upgrade it to a gaming system. The HDMI out is self explanatory and I really wanted a S/PDIF optical out so that I could hook it up to my receiver.
I wanted a motherboard with the integrated ATI Radeon HD 4200 so that I could offload the video decoding of the H.264 to the video card from the CPU. With this video card, I can watch every mkv that I have with no stuttering and very little cpu usage. I also don’t have to worry about the additional heat and fan sound from having a video card in the machine, and also the price of having to buy a video card.
The only downside to this motherboard is the bios settings. It’s hard to get it just right to get in there and the bios menu leaves a lot of wanting. It does horrible for setting boot sequence since if you want to boot from usb, a bootable usb needs to be in there to set it to boot from it in the order and it only works for that particular device. Luckily, you only need to mess around with the menu once.
AMD Athlon II X2 250 Regor 3.0GHz
I bought this cpu for two reason: 1) 65 watt tdp and 2) price per performance.
I could have bought a much nicer processor that runs cooler and faster, but then it would have increased the cost of the dvr quiet a lot. This is a dual core processor, for when I’m running multiple things at once, which every computer is doing anymore. It handles everything wonderfully and without stutter. It’s also powerful enough for doing the tv re-encoding and if I want to use it for playing video games in the future. The 65 watt tdp means that it uses less power and runs cooler. The fan that comes with it is very quiet also.
CORSAIR XMS3 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 (PC3 10666)
Since DDR3 is dropping in price and is getting close to the cost of DDR2, I decided to go the faster route and get DDR3. There is no special reason I bought the CORSAIR, it was just on a very good sale when I found it. I decided to go with 4 gigs, because I planned on having multiple programs running at the same time and heard that if I wanted to run Boxee, that it was a memory hog.
Seagate SV35.5 ST31000525SV 1TB
I figured a one tb drive would be more than enough to use as a dvr, since I wouldn’t be storing anymore besides recorded tv shows on it. I made sure to stick with a drive that is 7200 RPM, even though the green drives (5400 RPM) run cooler and with less power consumption. In my mind, recording two shows at once while watching another show would probably tax a 5400 drive a little too much and have some stuttering. This drive had good reviews and was designed to be used for security cameras, which matches very closely to what I’m going to be using it for. In use, this drive is super quiet and I have no complaints with it at all. Beyond that, the reason I picked this one out of the other recommended DVR drives is that it was on sale.
Hauppauge WinTV-HVR-2250 Media Center Kit
I chose this card after viewing my friends DVR that had it in there. It just has wonderful picture. That card fits a PCI-Express x1 slot. The card is a dual tuner, which means you can either watch 1 show and record another or record two shows at once. The “Media Center Kit” edition comes with a remote and ir receiver.