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DIY HD HTPC Extravaganza - Part 3: Tuners, Graphics, & Putting It All Together

Introduction

Parts 1 and 2 of this series have surveyed a number of cases, motherboards, and quiet power supplies, as well as explored processor and memory options suitable for building a Home Theater PC. In this final installment, we'll be looking at options for HDTV-capable video output and a variety of standard TV and HDTV tuner cards. And since HTPCs have some unique control and display requirements, we'll also be exploring some options for those functions. Finally, we'll present the two systems we configured to see how our chosen components played together, both physically and as working systems.

Before we dive into Part 3, we'd like to reply to some questions raised in our Forumz discussion thread on this series. One reader wanted to know why we didn't use the MSI 915GM-FA4 since we weren't going to use the built-in video features of our chosen AOPen i915GMEm-HFS. In fact, we did use originally choose the MSI board, but substituted the AOpen board when we realized that the MSI board wasn't available in the U.S.

Another reader inquired as to the possibility of underclocking as a way to build a fanless HTPC. Our reaction to underclocking is that it's like buying a Ferrari and then only using it to drive to the corner store. But, personal preferences aside, underclocking can be harder to do than you may think, given roadblocks that Intel and some motherboard manufacturers have put into place. See our AthlonXP Underclocking for a Low-Power Fix for info on our experiments with an Athlon XP and Pentium 4. Silent PC Review is also a good source of info on underclocking.

Finally, as to our choice of a Pentium M vs. an Opteron 150 or 165 for the processor - neither Opteron was available while we were preparing this article. We are in touch with AMD about them, however, and will report on them in a future story.