Since I'm upgrading our home network and media center, I thought I would put out the information I have found for others to use.

First off media centers are changing. Take a look at DVR's, they already have hard drives and digital inputs, outputs and a scaled down version of Microsoft Media Center OS. Even the non-DVR boxes are the same without the hard drive. The only problem with these boxes is they do not have a control input to change channels, resolutions etc. However some have IEEE 1394 ports which may be used for custom control via programming. I will have to research this. It would be nice to make a program that sets the time and channel to record from the media center much like the boxes do now, however there would be no need to swap over to the cable/sat box to do it. Also kill the DVR and save money.

So why not build something that performs better, is scalable and upgradable. My specs were:
-large storage
-fast sub-system
-fast processing
-good graphics processing
-nice case that fits in with everything else
-quiet and clean
-integrates with existing components (DVD, Carver stack, TV's, etc)

I started with the bus and motherboard. Most cases want uATX boards so that limits the choices. I went with a ASUS P5Q LGA 775 Intel P45 ATX Intel Motherboard. I shopped around and got it from Amazon for $130.
It supports Intel Core 2 LGA 775 chips, has a 1600Mhz front side bus (the side RAM uses - Read important), supports 16GB RAM (Note XP users are limited to 4), Server users are limited to GOBS. 6 SATA-2 ports for drives (3Gb/sec THAT'S 37.5 Megabytes per second)), 1394's, USB's, etc. It has the Intel G45 Express chipset which has dual outputs. One is HDMI the other is DVI/VGA. This is one of the few boards I've seen with HDMI outputs. The board is easily over clocked if base speeds are not fast enough. NOTE: requires special chip coolers. I'm starting with the base speeds and determine from there.

The CPU is an Intel E8400 wolfdale 3.0 Ghz 64 bit chip about $180 from just about everywhere. I got DDR2 SDRAM 1033Mhz configured 2-2 Gb chips that can be clocked up to 1600Mhz. About $40 after rebate.
RAM - I think I got it from

The drives are Seagate ST3500320AS (500GB SATA-2) about $80 at Best Buy. I'm using 3 since movie storage is space expensive. I'm thinking of adding a RAM SATA-2 drive as the boot drive to speed life along. I'm waiting for the prices to come down before testing them out. I do have a 4 GB thumb drive with XP Pro on it and the puter boots in a heart beat. And this is at USB 2.0 specs (480 Mb/sec). Imagine 3Gb/sec boot speeds. Yep Gigs/sec vs Megs/sec.

So far we have the guts, now we need a case. I'm thinking about the Bach or Mozart series which looks nice. They have others which are more expensive.

I also upgraded our network to a Gigabit LAN so I can use the workstation and transfer data to the media center faster as well as manage the media center remotely. Farbeit for me to get out of my chair and walk into the living room. I can also watch movies, TV or any other input on the work station from the media center.

In general all equipment is 2nd to 3rd generation old which means the technology may be a year or more old and the prices are very reasonable. All meet or exceed general A/V specs and multimedia PC specs. I'm not sure if a PC SATA DVD will compete with something like a Sony upscaling DVD player which makes input switchablity important so long as the PC's HDMI and DVI outouts does not degrade the signal. I will know after testing. It is also possible that a higher grade dedicate PCIe graphice card may be needed.

Since everything is basically digital these days, having a digital center only makes sense. Otherwise we have to rely on others to provide functionality and service. AND think of the BLING factor.

I will give reviews when the parts get in and it is built and tested. Also, if anyone is interested in how to build something like this, it's not hard and I will be willing to help anyone out.

Da Taz<---Can you program your house alarm system or surf Donzi dot net while watching a slideshow from the office or living room.? Soon I will be able to.