Few weeks back, during the week of Black Friday, I was thinking of buying an Xbox to play video games on my HDTV. I have a Nintendo Wii but there’s only so much you can do with it. Not that I don’t enjoy playing games on it. I do. However, the type of games you can play is very limited. So, why did I buy the Wii? Well, it is fun to play on it against my girlfriend. But, the tech enthusiast in me wants to do more with it. First, I looked online to see if I can get it to play DVDs. It can with some messing around, basically illegally, but I didn’t risk voiding the warranty so dismissed the idea. So now I wanted a DVD player or perhaps a Blu Ray player, and also a gaming console to add value to my HDTV. I looked online for the prices. While the Xbox was going at around $199 (without Kinect) during that time, the decent Blu ray players were about $60 and above, a combined investment of over $250. Is it worth it? I thought and then I got an idea about a system that can do all of what an Xbox can do and what a Blu ray player can do, that is, play games and movies including Netflix. Then I thought what if I have a computer connected to my HDTV that does all of it? And that was the beginning of the building of HTPC or Home Theater PC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_theater_PC).
I first wanted to use my laptop and some kinda wireless video adapter to stream content to my HDTV. Wireless because I didn’t want the hassle of connecting my laptop to the HDTV every time I wanted to watch a movie. Wireless video is a great idea and with an investment of about $80 or so I can wirelessly stream video to my HDTV. However, my laptop is not a powerhorse and probably not built for playing games and watching Blu ray movies and the thought of adding RAM, a graphics card and a Blu Ray drive to my laptop didn’t excite me a bit. So, I dismissed the idea of HTPC until one day my girlfriend told me she has no use for her old PC. I had recently given my Lenovo laptop to her when I bought my HP laptop and so she had been using that a lot instead of her old computer. Immediately, my mind starting running reviving the old HTPC idea, “Man I can do a lot with this PC!”. An Intel Pentium Dual Core 2.0Ghz, 2GB RAM – I took it home – joyous.
The first plan was to increase the performance of the system. First, I knew the processor was capable enough but I wanted to upgrade the RAM to atleast 4GB. Second, I didn’t want to upgrade the Hard disk as I already had a 2TB and a 1TB external hard disk where I stored all my content. I could easily attach those to the system and access the content. However, there was an issue the system had only 1 USB2.0 port and that too was in the front. Therefore, I wanted to add a USB2.0 or perhaps a USB3.0 PCI card to be able to connect my external hard disks and access content faster. Third, I wanted to be able to play decent games and watch Blu Ray movies but using the onboard graphics chip was something I wasn’t very keen on doing. So, I needed a dedicated graphics card. Fourth, add a Blu Ray drive to the system to be able to read Blu Ray discs. There were also upgrades I thought about but dismissed as not necessary. For example, Wifi connectivity. I thought Wired connection would perhaps be faster than the Wifi and reliable too. Also, I wasn’t looking for a TV Tuner at this time as I had a Cable connection already. “Maybe in future but not now”.
So, there it was, in my mind a crude plan and a representation of what I wanted. If I put it on paper, I wanted a system as shown in the picture below.
If I could get this set up it would be amazing!