Build Your Own Silent HTPC – Blu-ray, HD DVD and HDTV Combined

Despite the best marketing efforts of all the companies involved, high definition video and TV somehow don’t seem to be getting off the ground here in Europe. A closer look reveals that this is not a result of a disinterested audience. Instead, it is the content and hardware industries that are creating most of the obstacles for themselves. It’s high time Tom’s Hardware did something about the situation and took matters into our own hands. Our goal is to build the definitive multimedia PC - a functional yet affordable system that will show the hamstrung industry how the wind blows. Anyone should be able to build the all-rounder we are assembling in this article. And maybe, just maybe, the industry will take our design as an example and finally shed its protectionist thinking.

This is what we want our HTPC to do:

  • Play back Blu-ray discs as well as HD DVDs from a single optical drive
  • Play back high definition television (HDTV) in any European country, including pay TV channels
  • Run near silent or at least quietly (fan noise should not be louder than the operating noise of the hard drive or the optical drive)
  • Play back Full-HD content (1920 x 1080) via the HDMI interface with HDCP copy protection and audio
  • Play back video streams over the home network
  • Play back all of the most important media formats such as MPEG-4/H.264, VC-1, MPEG-2/DVD, WMV (Windows Media Player), MP4, MOV (Apple Quicktime), Flash (SWF, FLV), DivX, Matroska, Ogg Vorbis, MP3, AAC, etc
  • Record HDTV to the hard drive with the option of burning to DVD later
  • Offer access to all important functions through the remote control without the need for a keyboard
  • Wake up and go to sleep using the remote control
  • Wake up from sleep mode for pre-programmed recordings
  • Consume less than 4 Watts of power in power save mode
  • Look good in the living room – we want an aesthetically pleasing HTPC enclosure that doesn’t need ugly external modules such as a USB infrared sensor or a USB smartcard reader for Pay TV. Instead: Full integration right on the faceplate

In this first part, we choose the hardware for our project and tally up the bill. Our extensive image gallery also show you how to build your own all-round HTPC following our lead. In the second part, we will cover the installation and configuration of the software.