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  Project:     Build Your Own Home Theatre PC Part 1  
  Author:     Hi-TEK
  Date:     August 19th, 2004

Introduction:

The SFF (Small Form Factor) market has been revitalized with a surge of all-inclusive mini PC systems marketed by companies such as ACorp, AMS, Biostar, Hush Technologies, MSI, Shuttle, Soltek, and VIA. SFF type PC's have a great advantage of minimizing desktop space requirements and at the same time bundle all the essentials required to assemble a complete system. While the popularity of these types of systems continues to grow there is of course the associated cost factor. For the DIY type market, there is a wide variety of off the shelf parts that can be assembled together to create a Home Theatre PC System. A Home Theatre PC or HTPC in its basic form is an ordinary personal computer married with a high definition capable television, video projector or monitor. The advantage of a HTPC system is the ability deliver better picture quality than an ordinary store bought DVD player as well as the ability to host a wide variety of multi-purpose multimedia applications. Most HTPC's have been designed to fit desktop and slim line cases utilizing smaller motherboard form factors such as mATX, Flex ATX and the new ITX. The focus of this article will be to document the construction of my own personal HTPC system. This article does not intend to be an all-inclusive guide to HTPC's since there are better sources available online. Instead, Part 1 of this guide will provide information on the construction phase and Part 2 will inform you on what applications I will be using to control and automate my HTPC system.

History:

My first experience in building my own HTPC system happened two years ago when I worked on an ATC-600 Aluminum Desktop Case. In the article I addressed some cooling issues as well as modified the case to add in a few cosmetic changes. The end result was a system that worked well for its time but was very under powered what I needed for a complete multimedia solution. This year I planned to completely build a brand new system but focus less on the aesthetic portion and more on hardware requirements. The overall goal was to work with a limited budget and at the same time re-use any components that I had collected from various upgraded PC's in my office. One of my biggest tasks would be to convert my rather large CD collection over to digital media which would mean that storage requirements would be top priority. I created a list of what hardware that I would be able to recycle and what components would need to be purchased.

SilverStone Lascala SST-LC03 HTPC Case - Key Features:
SilverStone Lascala SST-LC03 HTPC Case: Manufactured by SilverStone Technology
Dimensions: 425mm (W) x 160.5mm (H) x 412mm (D)
Weight: 7 kg
M/B Type: ATX and mATX formats
Material: Aluminum Front Panel 1.0 SECC Body
Drive Bay: 6 (5.25" x 2 (External), 3.5" x 2 (External), 3.5" x 2 (Internal)
Fans: 1 x 60mm fan attached back panel (rear exhaust)
Expansion Slots: 7 pcs
Color: Silver or Black
Special Features: Dual standard USB ports IEEE1394 and Audio

System Specifications:
MSI KT3 Ultra2 Motherboard Socket (Socket 462)
AMD Athlon XP 1800+ CPU
Vantec VA4-C7040 Aeroflow CPU Heatsink
2 x 512 MB Kingmax PC4000 DDR RAM
1 x Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 80GB HD
1 x Samsung SP1203N 120GB HD
MyHD MDP-100 HDTV Tuner Card
ASUS V9520/TD 128MB Video Card AGP 8X TV-O Video Card
D-Link 530TX NIC
Sound Blaster Audigy Sound Card
Antec 400W PSU
LG GCC-8525B CD-RW (52x32x52 CDRW)
LiteOn SOHW-1213S 12x DVD-Dual Writer
Logitech Cordless MX Dual Wireless Keyboard & Mouse
 

SilverStone Lascala SST-LC01 HTPC Case
Click image for larger view
SilverStone Lascala SST-LC01 HTPC Case
Click image for larger view
 

The first step in the process of building this system would be to select a suitable HTPC enclosure. Case selection is rather subjective and just about everyone will give you an opinion on the type of enclosure to use. Budget consumers can minimize costs by using anything from a standard desktop case, mid-tower or server case. For those individuals who consider themselves HTPC purists, there are HTPC style enclosures that have been designed to resemble the look and feel of stereo or home theatre equipment. I spent the few weeks reading various reviews and frequenting excellent resources such as the AVS Forums and HTPC News. For this particular project, I turned to the good folks at SilverStone Technology who kindly provided their latest HTPC style case; the Lascala SST-LC03. The Lascala SST-LC03 HTPC Case arrived in a standard double-walled corrugated box with a decorative SilverStone logo located on all sides. The packaging inside the box was adequate with the case sealed in protected plastic with two pieces of polystyrene located on the left and right hand sides.

SilverStone Lascala SST-LC01 HTPC Case
Click image for larger view
SilverStone Lascala SST-LC01 HTPC Case
Click image for larger view
 
My first impressions of the SilverStone Lascala SST-LC03 HTPC Case after removing the packaging were extremely positive. Out of the box the case speaks volumes in terms of aesthetics and craftsmanship rivalling the SST-LC01 case that I reviewed last year. The SST-LC03 measures 425mm (W) x 160.5mm (H) x 412mm (D) and supports all mATX and Full ATX motherboard formats. The entire exterior has been painted with a jet black show car finish with the main focus on the front bezel design which has been accented with brushed aluminum highlights. By default the case does not ship with a PSU but can be purchased as a separate add-on option. Also included in the packaging were a small reference manual, USB, Audio and Firewire pin-out sheet and a package of motherboard standoffs and mounting screws.
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