- What are media centres?
- Key components of a media centre PC
- The case
- The TV tuner
- Input devices
- Media servers
- Media streamers
Key components of a media centre PC
Building your own media centre PC can be a dirty business, full of trial and error, and it's often best to leave it to the experts. There are a number of ready-made media centre PCs available, such as the HP Media Centre PCs. Typically, these packaged media centre PCs will run Windows Media Center Edition.
If you're planning to buy or build your own PC designed to go into a lounge room or entertainment room environment, there are a few key factors that you need to consider, above and beyond the regular PC considerations. You need to look at how the PC handles output to a TV set (unless you plan to plug it into a large LCD monitor or digital projector), how it looks with the rest of your entertainment gear, what kind of video and TV capture capabilities it has, how you will control it and what kind of software it will be running.
It's worth noting that handling digital media can be quite processor intensive, and you can never have too much hard disk space, so plan your PC specs accordingly.
Getting a computer case that fits into an entertainment environment can be one of the most challenging parts of building your own media centre PC. Nobody wants a beige box in their lounge room.
Fortunately, the choices have become much easier in recent years, with case vendors offering a range of good-looking designs. Of particular interest to media centre builders will be small-form factor cases, such as the barebones systems offered by Shuttle, MSI, Asus and other vendors. These cases are often discreet enough to fit into entertainment cabinets, look good and have covers to hide ugly DVD-ROM facings and the like.
Recently, some manufacturers, such as ASUS, have begun to incorporate cases with a DVD player form factor into their media centres, giving the PC a much more suitable look for the lounge room.