The PC for the living room

With the advent of Tivo and Replay TV a few years back there is a strong market for devices that can record television shows when you’re not at home watching them. It’s seems to make sense. Americans now are working hard and with more hours then ever before. Who has time for television? Well, I do, but not as much as before. The personal computer market is picking up the slack and is giving Tivo some good competition.

There are tons of PVR (Personal Video Recorders) that can be attached to the PC making it a Media Center. The Media Center can record tv shows, has tv guide features, and even display some PC features onto the TV like showing downloaded videos, music, and pictures which is where Tivo falls short. You can count me as one of those consumers who fell into the PVR mix. I didn’t get a Tivo. I built a PC just dedicated for my TV. Some would say its totally a waste of a PC, but i beg to differ.

Here are the specs:

SFF PC: SB86i from Shuttle
CPU: Intel 540 P4 (3.2 GHz)
RAM: 1Gig PC3200
HD: 300 Gig WD (Adding another 300 Gig HD)
PVR: Hauppauge MCE 500 dual tuner
Media Drive: Plextor DVD RW 716A

It totalled out to be about $1,500. That’s a pretty expensive device just for watching TV. What can you say, I’m a geek. What really started my urge to build this was the TV show CSI. It’s an awesome show, and I kept missing the shows everyday. I hate watching a show in the middle of it. It ruins the suspense and the value of it’s endings. With my Media Center I can record every show. With my dual tuner I can record two shows at once if needed. I also have a large collection of DVDs. Making a digital back up of them is a logical idea since most of the damage done to DVD are during the process of taking and putting the DVDs back in it’s case. I was able to store a majority of my DVDs onto my HD so watching a movie is as simple as a push of a button on the remote. All my music is backed up as well, so my TV can act as a jukebox.

What makes a Media Center a ‘Media Center’ is the software you use to put everything together. I use Microsoft’s Media Center Edition 2005 which is the most popular and easy to use. But there are other comercial software that are similar and some provide even more options and better functions. I’m totally happy with my Media Center and after a month and a half of using it, I can’t imagine not having one.

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