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How to Build a Home Theatre PC (HTPC) Media Centre System

We've had our new High Definition (HD) Ready TV for almost 3 years now, and with HD broadcasts only recently becoming available at long last I've been starting to look at the latest equipment commercially available in the normal electrical retailers.

I really don't want to subscribe to Sky+ as we don't really watch that much TV to warrant the additional costs. Indeed I hear all the time from friends that they cannot continue to afford the Sky subscriptions for the standard channel packages, let alone the HD channel packages.

Freesat PVR + Blu-Ray HTPC System Specification

So lately I've been looking around to see what equipment is available to enable me to at long last make use of my 37inch HD-ready LCD TV and Sony 5.1 Dolby surround-sound system, but without breaking the bank.

What I'm discovering is that to get a piece of kit that gives me everything I want is practically impossible to find at the moment.

I want a system with:-

  • FreeSat / FTA / Freeview channels to make use of BBC-HD, ITV-HD and the various other FTA channels gradually becoming available.
  • PVR for recording.
  • Dual Digital Freeview TV / Satellite channel reception to enable recording of one channel while watching another.
  • Full EPG capability.
  • Music and Movie playback in all formats.
  • Internet connectivity for media downloads.
  • BluRay / HD-DVD playback and standard DVD writing.
  • Standard DVD Upscaling to near HD quality.
  • Looks good and is quiet in the living room.

Now it seems the only way to get all this in one system is to build your own home theatre or media centre system, and while Microsoft makes their Media Centre versions of the the XP and Vista operating systems, there are still various issues with their ability to support some of the latest HD PCI cards and decode High Definition broadcasts,

HTPC Media Centre Software

Instead it seems that there are two popular pieces of software to control it all. These are MediaPortal or GB-PVR.

Home Theatre PC Build Resources

There are several AV forums available, in particular www.avforums.com seems the most highly recommended, but in addition I have a friend who has recently built his own Freesat HD Home Theatre PC (HTPC) System and recorded the progress as he went, and which I am now considering doing the same.

His blog covers the several different stages of the HTPC Home Theatre PC System build:-

The blog explains some of the issues that were overcome but in all it now provides a useful modular and upgradable HTPC system which is future-proof.

Also I can recommend av4home.co.uk who supply all sorts of useful extras for Home Theatre equipment, HDMI cables, cable management systems, wall-mount brackets, and various other cool stuff, at excellent prices. Check them out before you go buying certain things from the normal retail outlets like Currys, Comet, etc, which mark-up their prices considerably.

There are many excellent resources available on Google.com, simply perform a search for "home theatre pc" or "media centre pc" and you will find plenty of useful information.

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