It's been 4 years since I last built a full new Home PC and in that time only a few parts have needed upgrading. I bought an extra hard drive when I ran out of space ont he original 120Gb one. I replaced my PAL Hauppauge TV tuner card with an NTSC one when I moved from New Zealand to USA. And I replaced the Leadtek NVidia GeForce4 Ti 4200 with a Fanless Gigabyte NVidia 7600GS when I got sick of XP MCE 2005 complaining that it isn't supported (which of course it wasn't) and I wanted to run Flight Simulator X. My budget for this was around $US1,200.
Here's my new machine parts list:
Abit IL-90MV with HDMI out and Intel Mobile CPU support. This is the only MB with those two features right now.
Antec Fusion Media Center Case with 430 Watt Antec PSU
Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 Merom 2Ghz with 4Mb Cache, this is a 35W mobile CPU
Corsair XMS2 TWIN2X2048-6400C4 DDR2 800Mhz 4-4-4-12 (I originally bought VS2GBKIT667D2 and had S3 resume compatibility problems with the MB)
Pioneer DVD Drive DVR-111D
Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-500 dual tuner cable card
Here's what I like about it:
Silent or close enough for me - I have to put my ear to the side of the case to hear it. I'm not a believer in oversized heatsinks, heat pipes or liquid cooling when a low power CPU and slow fans can acheive the same level of silence. The significantly quiet parts of this system compared to my old machine are the low power CPU, the sub 1000 RPM fans in the case, the 3 section case for airflow, and the super quiet Hard Drive with silicon grommets. When idle SpeedFan shows the CPU at 25C, HDD at 31C and Case at 29C and I haven't yet seen any temp go above 35C. It's winter so 19C in my house.
Nice looking case that matches my other AV gear with no compromise. Okay it's not a gaming machine due to the Intel 945GT graphics but it's got the performance for any kind of audio / video and even making home movies. We have the other machine for games.
So fast. Core 2 duo with 4Mb of 2nd level cache and that Western Digital drive are awesome. PassMark PerformanceTest says it's way faster than my work Toshiba Tecra M3 particularly the HDD and the CPU.
All the IO I need and none of the IO I don't need. It's got HDMI with audio for the TV and SP/DIF for my receiver amp. It doesn't have parallel or serial ports.
Not perfect yet:
Not much expansion in the MB. I'm sure they could fit a PCIe x16 slot and two more DRAM slots in there. I don't know why they have a PCIe x1 slot in there, who knows what those are for?
The BIOS also does not (yet) support overclocking the CPU. That's okay - I bought this for a media center not a lab machine.
The Intel 945GT graphics chipset is tricky to tune. My screen overscans the display by about 5% and I would really like to set custom timings for the video out to account for this. It doesn't matter for media center viewing, however it isn't ideal.
Still waiting for an ATSC HD tuner that's supported by Media Center for those local cable TV channels.
Oh, the VFD screen on the Antec Fusion case is a little small. But it shows Media Center activity and it's fun to watch when you're close enough.
Inside the case you can see my wiring and you can see the three spaces in the case.