Archive for the ‘Classes’ Category

‘Build Your Own PC Workshop’ – Teacher Needed

January 27, 2010

Afternoon folks, we’re delighted to bring you news that we’re looking for some new blood at Komplett as we expand our ‘Build Your Own PC’ classes into full workshops. We’re looking for a teacher for the workshops and are hoping to talk to individuals who are knowledgeable in the areas of computer components and assembly, and who can successfully impart critical parts of this knowledge to complete newbies in the space of a few short hours.

Can you teach novices how to build their own PC? If so, we wanna hear from you.

The workshops will take place during weekends, with a possibility for evening work during the week. Also, candidates will be expected to demonstrate a high theoretical knowledge of and practical abilities in handling computer components prior to employment.

If you think you’d be interested in imparting your PC wisdom you can apply via jobs.ie now.

If you’d be interested in attending our Build your own PC workshop, you can register here: Build your own PC classes. Visit http://www.komplettblog.ie/events/ for location and dates.

Advertisements

Sub-€500 PC Competition Build

January 20, 2010

In December, we ran a competition on Boards.ie to see who could build us the most impressive PC without going over a budget of €500. When I asked if we could do an example post, Ryan had boasted before his first attempt that he could “easily” fit in a copy of Windows, but after several builds not quite affording a hard drive, he gave up on it.

Still, that wasn’t enough to deter Boards.ie member, and eventual competition winner, Orcrist666. As we’ve said above, the whole point of the competition was to build a PC for under €500, but this one goes a bit above and beyond…

We’ll take it from the top…

Power Supply:

Since this is a build that’s being put together on an absolutely minimal budget, it’s not going to be using a phenomenal amount of power.

Click through to see our page for the AXP power supply 🙂

Not using too much power means not having to spend a tremendous amount on a high wattage power supply. Orcrist666’s build uses a fairly simple 500W AXP power supply, which has been well reviewed by just about everyone who has bought it. It’s a little noisy at times, but overall it’s a solid piece of kit.

Considering the fact that the AXP Power Supply ATX weighs in at just €34.86, it’s not a bad old deal at all. A solid base for a budget machine.

(more…)

Komplett Launches Teen Safe Computing Initiative In Conjunction With ChildWatch.ie

November 9, 2009

From the pen of Aaron McKenna, Country Manager of Komplett Ireland.

Komplett is today launching a major initiative aimed at teenage internet users. In conjunction with ChildWatch.ie, the authors of a recent Barnardos report entitled “Three Hazards – Child Protection In The Electronic Age”, Komplett is bringing free seminars on internet threats and safety to secondary schools in Ireland.

We’re also delivering a leaflet with helpful advice into our PC and notebook orders and are making information available online as well. But the real crux of the campaign is the seminars, where we’re sitting down in front of teens in Transition Year and above and giving them a balanced and audience sensitive discussion on the topic of illegal activity on the internet relation children and the threats to teenagers.

These dangers range from cyber bullying by peers through use of web and mobile phone cams, identity theft and the rather more serious aspects of internet predators. (If you don’t think that that’s a serious threat, we would point you here to the most recent example of why we feel it is.)

(more…)

Build Your Own – Gaming PC

August 12, 2009

When we asked people what they wanted to see next in our Build Your Own series, one of the responses we got from a surprising number of people was that they’d like to see a Build Your Own Gaming PC article that kept to a reasonable budget.

Building Your Own - Because not all gaming machines need to look like this...

Building Your Own - Because not all gaming machines need to look like this...

With that in mind, I asked Denis from our RMA department what he’d use to build a gaming machine that stayed as close as possible to a €1000 price limit. Actually, I first asked for a €100 limit, which was just confusing, but once we’d hashed out the typos we were ready to go. This is going to be a fairly straightforward article; we’ll list the parts we recommend and give some impression, where necessary, of why we’ve chosen them.

Asus P5Q Deluxe, P45, Socket-775:
Seeing as a system is always built around the mainboard, it’s where I tend to start when I outline a build. Naturally, if you want to deviate from our recommendations (which is where the fun of a DIY machine generally comes from) then you’ll have to make sure it’s compatible with all of the other bits and pieces.

Motherboard

There’s not too much to say about a board on its own, apart from the fact that it’s got support for Crossfire, should you decide to go that route. It can be a bit of a headache to get everything set up and working correctly, but once you have it up and running nicely, a decent Crossfire setup is something you can really take pride in.

You can check out the Asus P5Q Deluxe here. If you hit the page you can see that it’s won a raft of awards and Editor’s Choice picks, which is always good to see 🙂 It’ll set you back €137.50.

(more…)

Building A Home Theatre PC For The Complete Beginner, Part III: OS and HTPC Software

May 26, 2009

In the second part of our series on building your own HTPC, we talked in some detail about installing your components in a way that’d keep all the whole affair as quiet as possible. In this part we will look at installing your operating system to get the best out of your new setup. If you haven’t read any of this, you can find the very first part here.

You have a few options here depending on your own personal preferences. We did take the time to tinker with a few different options so we could offer some advice on each of the different OS situations you might encounter. We tried out three different options in the form of Windows Vista, Windows 7 (RC) and Linux (Ubuntu).

For our media centre software we’re running with XBMC (that is, Xbox Media Centre). The biggest reasons for making this choice were that fact that it’s open source on both Windows and Linux OS and it boasts the pleasant bonus of having a rake of pretty skins/themes to choose from. Normally the number of skinning options won’t be a pronounced part of a reasonable person’s OS decision-making process; but in the case of a HTPC, you’ll want the whole affair to be as smooth, seamless and personalised as possible.

We’re going to go right ahead and advise against running with a Linux installation. This is mainly because of the fairly awkward fact that that, once XMBC was installed, there were some pronounced sound issues that caused a crop of problems. This meant the whole affair required more and more tweaking just to get things rolling. In short, it just wasn’t conducive to the kind of easy-living situation you’d like to find yourself in with a HTPC. So we went ahead with a Windows installation; there was more support and an easier experience overall.

Next we ran with an install of Windows 7. It’s important to note that install process is identical to the installation of Windows Vista and XP. Make sure you have a product key and a ready supply of patience ready when installing a new operating system and keep a close eye on all the on-screen instructions.

 

Installing the OS – Windows 7 RC

We chose windows 7 RC for this build as it’s relatively stable and due for release soon enough; however this section will be much the same if you’re installing Windows Vista.

 htpc_1

Step one of the installation is the usual – primary options, keyboard and language.

 2

Once you’ve selected your install language you’re ready to move on to actually installing the OS itself.

3

If you’ve been building your HTPC from scratch, you’d do best to format the whole hard drive. After this has been completed, select “New” (as highlighted above). In Windows 7, the system will partition the hard drive as required for its system and leave the rest as normal HDD space to be used as usual. You can see this from the above screenshot.

 

 4

After the hard drive options have been selected windows will begin the long and tedious business of actually installing itself. At this point you’re faced with a choice; you can either watch the install, or go get yourself a cup of tea or coffee even a quick beer. Windows should happily continue to install as normal without further intervention.

 5

Windows has now completed its install. At this stage you may enter any username and PC name you desire and then click next

 6

As Windows 7 has detected a network it will ask what type of network it is. It is best in this situation to select Home network as it will allow network permissions to be set with the click of a button.

 7

By the time you’ve seen this screen you’ll know that all is well and your desktop will be prepared for its first use.

 8

After the installation this is what you’ll see as your standard desktop and layout. Since this is Windows 7 you’ll notice that a few things are different. However, the layout will roughly be the same in Windows Vista.

 

Installing XBMC

9

We chose XBMC due for many reasons, one reason that stuck out was that it plays virtually all formats without any major issues and is very flexible and (above all) very skinable. There are plenty of themes etc. out there for those interested.

 10

In order to obtain XBMC, you need to point your browser to www.xbmc.org and follow the download instructions for Windows. Above is a screenshot of the downloaded installer. Once downloaded, click Run as highlighted in the image above.

11

You’ll be presented with a completely normal install screen, if you wish to install XBMC you click Next. Obviously enough.

 12

You can blindly click next throughout the whole install process without any worry, we used all default settings.

On your first run of XBMC you’ll be greeted by the screen shown above. This is a very clean and simple layout and many will prefer it to some of the other options. However the end user has endless options and one of them is themes. We used a theme called Aeon, which we’ll show you in more detail shortly.

15

Shown above is the Videos screen.

 16

There’s also a nice music screen.

Adding folders that contain media

Adding media folders is nice and easy too.  In order for XBMC to see media, you need to add a source. The source can be local, or shared on a network drive or another PC connected to your home network – which means you’re not limited to internal storage on your nice, quiet HTPC box.

 17

This is just what the “add source” button looks like.

 18

As you can see we have a variety of options, we can browse for files on local disks and add folders, or on a network share. We selected Windows network share for this example to add some folders from a PC connected to the same network as our box.

 19

You can see from the above that once we had selected the Windows network share that we’re presented with a list of PCs on the network that we can connect to and browse for media that we might want to add.

Note that you might well find PCs on your network that aren’t sharing by default. You will be prompted for a username and password for a machine in order to allow your HTPC to connect to it.

In our case the media shared on each PC is viewable by any PC connected to the network for example purposes.

 20

Above is an example of some of the media to be found on a machine. In this case we are viewing the “Movies” folder of a machine on our local network.

 21

Above is a quick example of how the share path would look before we click on OK. Since we’ll want to browse all the shares from this PC rather than just the Movies folder, we have selected the root folder of the shared PC.

Once all that’s done you will need to do the same for any other media you wish to add to XBMC. Remember that the media is on a network share in this example, so the host PC would still need to be on, as the media is being streamed from the networked PC to XBMC. It seems obvious now, but it’s the biggest reason for “half my movies are GONE!” syndrome.

We like the standard interface a lot, but we wanted to highlight another interface that will turn your HTPC into something a little different and (depending on personal tastes) perhaps more attractive.

Before we begin, the theme can be downloaded from www.aeonproject.com

Below is some screenshots of the interface.

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

If you have any questions or are just looking for more information about the project and interface in general then feel free to ask us on our Boards.ie forum, or follow us on Twitter or on Facebook.

If you already have computer components that you would like to add to your PC, why not register for and bring them along with you to one of our Build your own PC classes and we’d be happy to show you how to do it! Visit http://www.komplettblog.ie/events/ for location and dates.

Alienware vs Komplett.ie, May 2009 Edition

May 22, 2009

We’ve gone ahead and done a comparison with Alienware for the first time since Christmas of last year, with some fascinating results outlined below from two builds: The first, a high-range gaming PC and the second an uber-high gaming PC with Core i7 and the works in it.

The savings on offer by shopping with us and building it yourself are massive. And did we mention that we do a free build your own PC class for anyone interested in finding out how to do it themselves? Or we can pass you on to reputable people who will build the machine for you, for a far smaller fee than the €350 – €1,000+ Alienware will charge you for. And yes, we have a 1-year warranty on everything too.

We’ve attached the below table as a PDF for easier reading.

Alienware – Komplett Comparison May 2009

Components Aurora AMD “Value and Performance” Comparison Alienware Komplett Saving
Processor AMD Phenom X4 9950 Black Edition €145.00
Case Alienware P2 / Antec Nine Hundred €95.00
Power Supply 750 Watt €109.00
Graphics Card Radeon HD 4870 X2 €429.00
RAM 2GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz €33.00
Motherboard MSI 790FX-GD70, 790FX+SB750 €165.00
Operating System Windows Vista® Home Premium 32-bit with Service Pack 1 €204.99
Hard Drive Samsung SpinPoint F1 1TB €79.00
DVD Drive 20X Dual Layer DVD±RW/CD-RW Writer €20.90
Sound Card N/A €0.00
Total System €1,632.90 €1,280.89 €352.01
Monitor 22″ Dell UltraSharp 2208WFP / 22″ Samsung Syncmaster T220 €188.00
Keyboard Logitech Classic (included) / Microsoft Wired Keyboard 500 €13.96
Mouse Logitech MX 518 €37.00
Total Including Accessories €2,015.68 €1,519.85 €495.83
Components Area-51 X-58 Intel Core i7 “Benchmark Destroyer” Comparison Alienware Komplett Saving
Processor Intel Core i7-940 €529.00
Case Alienware P2 / Antec Nine Hundred €95.00
Power Supply 750 Watt €109.00
Graphics Card Dual 896MB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 €438.00
RAM 3GB DDR3 SDRAM at 1066MHz €81.00
Motherboard Asus P6T Deluxe V2, X58, Socket-1366 €252.00
Operating System Windows Vista® Home Premium 64-bit with Service Pack 1 €112.00
Hard Drive Samsung SpinPoint F1 1TB €79.00
DVD Drive 20X Dual Layer DVD±RW/CD-RW Writer €20.90
Sound Card N/A €0.00
Total System €2,577.02 €1,715.90 €861.12
Monitor 24″ Dell UltraSharp 2408WFP / Samsung 24″ LCD Syncmaster T240HD €355.00
Keyboard Logitech G15 Gaming Keyboard €75.00
Mouse Logitech G9 Laser Gaming Mouse €49.90
Total Including Accessories €3,343.68 €2,195.80 €1,147.88

Registration For Free Build Your Own PC Classes

May 11, 2009

Komplett offers up a free build your own PC class in our Dublin office on Saturday’s, taught by our labs manager Shelton Romhanyi (who used to work as a labs manager for Tom’s Hardware Guide and has forgotten more about tech than most of us know); and we’re opening for registration of the following dates:

May 23rd, June 6th, June 20th, July 18th and August 1st.

If you’re interested in attending then please email business.ie@komplett.com and let us know which dates you’d be open to attending, and we’ll try and fit you in. It’s a first come, first served basis; but we keep in touch with everyone who shows an interest to keep them informed of upcoming dates.

The classes are small, usually around 5 people, takes about two hours (sometimes more, depending on the Q&A) and involve a show-and-tell by Shelton, a hands-on tutorial where everyone can get their hands on some kit; and finally a questions and answers session throughout. All you need to bring is a pen and paper, but if you’d like we can incorporate your machine into the class if you have some parts you’d like to upgrade it with. Entirely up to you!

Building A Home Theatre PC For The Complete Beginner, Part II: Cooling

May 6, 2009

In the second part of our series on building your own Home Theatre PC, we’ll be concentrating on the all important aspect of cooling, with a bit of a look at keeping the whole affair quiet enough that you won’t need to crank your volume to hear your movie over the fans.

The main aim here is to keep the whole rig as quiet as possible even under stress. Naturally, there’ll be some noise just from air movement through the body of the PC. You’d notice it in a dead silent room, but under normal circumstances the noise from the PC shouldn’t be enough to disturb the normal atmosphere of the living room.

In our previous article we made sure to take some additional care in choosing our hardware that we’d save some trouble when it came to both cooling and quietness of the finished PC.

When discussing graphics, we deliberately opted for a fanless video card. This alone will lead to a great deal less noise, as most video cards will have smaller fans attached, which adds to the overall sound-efficiency of the setup.

However, there was leeway for people to make their own choices when it came to video cards, and the vast majority of cards on the market do have an onboard fan. It should be noted that these fans will generally be controllable by software, which you can use to reduce extra noise, though naturally you won’t get it to be quite as quiet as a card with no fan at all.

Now that that’s out of the way, we can move on to the issue of the CPU. We opted to use an Intel processor, if only because the Intel option ran a significant amount cooler than the AMD offering. There are plenty of aftermarket coolers on that can be fitted to give a bit of extra cooling to your CPU and have the bonus of being a little quieter overall. The stock cooler on our Intel did a good job cooling the CPU, but the noise generated was considerable, and that was before taking into account the efficiency of the heatsink. For our HTPC build we chose the following Zalman cooler to add a little extra cooling and keep the noise down.

 Zalman Cooler

Product CPU Summary
Zalman CNPS8700 LED CPU Cooler   Socket 775 Copper heatsink with 110mm Fan

 

The above fan consists of a copper heatsink with 0.2mm copper fins for better heat dissipation. Copper is an ideal conductor and is considerably better than the likes of aluminium. The better the conductor, the more efficient our heatsink will be overall.

In addition the heatsink’s fan is a 110mm fan, which will move a far greater volume of air with less noise overall. Zalman also provides a manual fan controller to adjust the fan speed.

You can grab the Zalman cooler, here.

 OCZ Freeze

Product Summary
OCZ Freeze Extreme Thermal Compound Silver based thermal paste for excellent conductivity

 

A heatsink is only as good as the thermal compound used when installing it on a CPU. We chose the OCZ range of thermal paste based on good reviews and reliability.

Given the nature of our HTPC, we may want to reduce the fan’s speed to a crawl (to cut down on noise) and under those circumstances we’d want to have a good, reliable compound that can easily conduct the heat away from the CPU to our copper heatsink without a bottleneck that could cause a build up of heat.

Although you won’t use the whole tube, it’s best to keep the rest of it for future use or, who knows, you may impress a friend enough with your HTPC setup that the rest will come in handy for them.

Once we have the compound and our heatsink installed, we can look at other areas of cooling.

You can grab some OCZ Freeze Extreme, here. At €9 for three grams it’s less expensive than most per gram purchases.

 

Case Fans

Generally case fans come in two flavours, either 80mm or 120mm. While they’ll get the job done, there’s something to be said for getting a different fan to cut down on the overall noise.

Generally the bigger the fan, the more quiet it will be, with the benefit of better airflow.

 AKASA Amber Series

One of the best-reviewed case fans going is the AKASA Amber Series Ultra quiet Fan 120mm. At 18db this is a impressively unobtrusive fan and we heavily recommend installing these to reduce overall noise from the case. The only real issue we have from this fan is its amber LEDs, which (depending on the placement of your HTPC) could be just a little distracting, especially for dramas. That said, who builds a HTPC to watch dramas? We thought not…

You can grab the Akasa Amber 120mm, here.

 Zalman 80mm Fan

This was a bit of a late pick, but it does qualify by virtue of its quietness. We’re hesitant to use the pun “sleeper hit” but not hesitant enough that we wouldn’t write it.

There’s nothing too fancy here, but it does have a sleeve bearing operation and silicone pins, which mean there’s no vibration transferred to the case. These fans are certainly worth consideration if you’re serious about silencing the whole machine.

You can snag the Zalman, here.

 

Noise Dampening Material 

nexus

For the longest time, we had serious doubts about the efficacy of noise dampening materials, but they contribute a surprising amount when used in the right conditions. That said, dampening will reduce noise a slight bit in a PC even if you haven’t done your homework, but in our case we think this is a total preference pick. If you still find that the PC has some noise levels to it, you could do far worse than investing some cash in noise dampening material and some time in a bit of research into how best to use it.

The Nexus Damptek consists of 3 sheets of 40cm x 50cm hard foam adhesive material, which is reportedly enough for 2 midi towers… again, if you have a friend bowled over by your HTPC build you can always pass the surplus their way, we’re sure it’ll be appreciated.

You can grab a bundle of Damptek here.

 

In the next part of our series on building your own home theatre PC we’ll be looking at the OS options. You should subscribe to our RSS feed or visit us on Facebook where we’ll be keeping our followers up to date on the blog.

Building A Home Theatre PC For The Complete Beginner

April 23, 2009

In part one of our series on building your own media centre PC we’ll be dealing mostly with hardware choices because, let’s face it, it’s the first thing most people will be doing first… This series will hopefully arm you with the basic knowledge required to go out there and build your own. If you need any help you can drop us a comment here or pop over to Komplett on boards.ie

 

What is a HTPC and why should I bother?

Home Theatre PCs are becoming more and more popular as computer components and storage get cheaper, not to mention the formats available and the increasing size of LCD TVs today. If you are at all technically inclined you’ll be familiar with the increasingly common practice of using a main PC or a laptop hooked up to a TV as a kind of stand-in DVD player, or to play that video your cousin gave you whose origins you’ve not investigated too rigorously…

So, this series is a multiple part guide that should assist you in building a media PC that you can safely set aside and dedicate to storing and playing whatever media you’ve accumulated without a machine being out of commission for the duration.

We’re working under the assumption that this PC will be primarily used for home entertainment purposes and will be situated under or at least relatively close to a TV. All this means is that the hardware selected needs to add up to a system that can happily play HD content at 1080p but, for budgetary reasons, won’t really cut it as a gaming machine.

We’ll start with the processor and build up from there. Usually we’d give some spiel about AMD and Intel, but for this build we’re content to go with an Intel due to a combination of its vast selection of processors and the fact that (as a rule) Intel’s tend to run a little cooler. Cooling and silencing the HTPC is no small job, and we’ll go into that in another part of this series.

 

Processor

The majority (if not all) of Intel’s current CPUs are dual core, while the “Q” models are quad core. Quad core would be a bit of overkill for a simple HTPC so we wouldn’t advise it unless you have plans for the PC to do some video editing or other particularly heavy CPU tasks in the future. For consistency’s sake we’ll be sticking with the dual core.

We’ve opted to run our HTPC on an E7400 dual core CPU. The primary reasons for this are the spec and our general experience of it as a stable, reliable processor.

Processor

Speed

L2 Cache

FSB speed

Intel E7400

2.8 GHZ

3 MB

1066 Mhz

Its stock speed is 2.6 GHz which is more than enough for a media PC and also leaves enough headroom that we won’t expect the system to be overloaded. Coupled with 3MBs of onboard level 2 (L2) cache there’s enough speed and efficiency to this CPU that it’ll perform most HTPC tasks without breaking a sweat.

Normally when you purchase any CPU you will also receive a “stock” cooler. This is a combination of a heatsink and a fan to reduce heat build up generated by the processor itself as it works You can choose to install the supplied heatsink, or install an alternative CPU cooler/heatsink combo that will (in many cases) prove more efficient and give a little extra security for overclocking, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Now that we have our CPU picked, we will move onto the major component in any system – The motherboard (also called mainboard or “mobo” depending on how nerdy your friends are).

 

Mainboard

We’ve chosen an LGA socket 775 processor, so now we have to pick a motherboard that will take an LGA775 CPU. While this all sounds nice and complicated, it’s not as confusing a process as it used to be.

Most Intel-friendly mainstream boards will be either LGA775 or the new LGA1366 socket type. LGA1366 is the new Core i7 standard and is very new. While Core i7 is faster, it’s still very new technology and isn’t something we’d consider installing in a media PC until LGA1366 becomes the standard for Intel.

Once we know what socket type we are looking at, our next choice is chipset. We have two choices of chipset manufactures in the mainstream market:

·        Intel

·        nVidia

These easy way to read this is in simple terms of model number – the higher the model number, the better it is. For simplicity’s sake, we’ve chosen an Intel P45 chipset. If you’re interested in choosing an nVidia chipset, we’d recommend something in the 780i to 790i range.

Back to our choice, we’re running with a Gigabyte P45 mainboard. You can find the specs for it below:

Make

Gigabyte

Model

GA-EP45-DS3L

Chipset

Intel P45

Ram type

DDR2

CPU socket

LGA 775

Max Bus speed

1066MHz

 

The simple reasons for choosing this board are its build quality and the specs that it offers.

The CPU’s max bus speed is 1066 MHz and, as you may have noticed, the max bus speed of the mainboard is also 1066MHz too. As the processor and the board’s max bus speeds match, there is no form of “bottleneck” caused by the mainboard. Our mainboard is also compatible with DDR2 (DDR meaning double data rate) RAM.

By now, we have everything pretty much matched up in our system, but there is one last vital component needed in every system we’ve not got to – a nice block RAM.

 

Memory

All computers, regardless of purpose, require some form of memory so that the system can actually manage to get through tasks. You can think of RAM as a kind of short-term memory within your PC. Pretty much in the same way you would write a number down on your hand over the phone. It is a form of data that you can quickly refer back to without having to take time to remember it off by heart.

There are 3 types of memory on the market for consumers.

·        DDR

·        DDR2

·        DDR3

As you can probably guess, each one outdoes the previous type of memory. In any system you were purchasing to build today, you’d be unlikely to use DDR memory. This is primarily due to the fact that it’s generally considered outdated and is still on sale only to facilitate people looking to upgrade their old machines for the relatively brief window before they’ll be replaced.

DDR2 and DDR3 are far more common, with DDR3 becoming the future standard for motherboards especially in the core i7 range. But as our mainboard is DDR2, we’ll be looking at that specification and various types of DDR2 RAM available for our motherboard.

When purchasing memory, it’s best to find the type you need before considering how much you require and what speed you require also. In our previous mention of the bus speed of the mainboard and the CPU we mentioned that both have a max of 1066MHz. This is going to come into play when selecting our memory. Memory will always be advertised as its module bandwidth or its peak transfer capacity.

To simplify things here is a quick comparison chart of the most common DDR2 RAM on the market.

RAM

Data transfers per second

Bandwidth

PC2-3200

400

3200

PC2-5300

667

5333

PC2-6400

800

6400

PC2-8500

1066

8533

 

Bandwidth is calculated by taking transfers per second and multiplying by eight. This is because DDR2 memory modules transfer data on a bus that is 64 data bits wide, and since a byte comprises 8 bits, this equates to 8 bytes of data per transfer – hence 1066

So, combining the numbers we know as 1066 we will choose PC2-8500. There is faster PC2-9200 RAM, but our processor will limit this speed, so it’s not really worth dropping the extra cash on it.

Next we’ll be looking at how much memory we need. The more – the better, but there is one limitation.

 

32bit vs 64bit Operating Systems

In a 32bit operating system, we can only use up to a max of 3GB’s of memory, while a 64bit OS can see more beyond that. In the case of building a media PC, it’s best to install the maximum amount of memory that your OS can take and, as we’ll be running with a 32bit OS, we’ll need a max of 3GBs of memory. Most memory comes in matched kits, so we chose a kit of matched 2GB sticks from Corsair.

Since memory is cheap, there’s no real harm having the extra 1GB – just in case the OS gets a 64bit upgrade at some stage. As this kit leaves 2 free slots on the mainboard, this also allows for more memory to be added in the future, should you opt for an OS upgrade later.

Brand

Corsair

Speed

PC2-8500

Capacity

4gbs (2 sticks of matched 2GB sticks)

 

Now that we have the vital components selected it’s time to move on to easier things to choose.

Power supply

Your system is only as good and efficient as the power with which it’s supplied. We’ve chosen a modular PSU from Corsair to supply our needs and, since the whole affair is modular, we can remove cables we don’t need – keeping the inside of the case uncluttered makes it easier to keep everything cool.

As our system will not demand a lot of power from the PSU to supply its components, we decided on a 450watt PSU

You’ll find the PSU’s specifications below.

Brand

Corsair

Wattage

450

Type

Modular

Feature

120mm Fan

 

Graphics

This will always be a bit of a tricky choice; we need a graphics card with enough power for our needs, but not so much that it would be wasted. Our main objective is to have smooth 1080p High definition playback to a TV and the graphics card will do the bulk of the work in providing that.

One of the main things we looked out for was a card with HDMI and HDCP, the latter is a form of copy protection to allow you to display any copyrighted material on your display.

Our choice for this build is the nVidia 9500GT with 1GB of its own dedicated memory. This card also boasts a passive cooler, which will allow for a quieter PC. Again, we’ll go into more detail on silent hardware in another part of this series.

Storage

This is pretty simple. Most hard drives you’ll see on sale will be SATA. In all desktop installations you will choose internal 3.5” hard drives. In our install we begin with a 500GB hard drive. There is also a wealth of options to add more space as and when you need it. Naturally, if you think you’ll need it you could always start with the installation of a 1TB hard drive instead. Just keep in mind; the more space you add the more you’ll lose if the whole edifice comes tumbling down at some stage.

Connecting external hard drives is a simple option if you need additional storage in the future without cracking open the case and muddling around inside.

 

HTPC Case

This is where cosmetics and personal taste come into it. There’s plenty of choice out there for people looking for HTPC cases, however you don’t necessarily have to use a HTPC case to have a HTPC. That said, we think most will agree that it’s a fair shout nicer to have a HTPC that fits in well with your TV and doesn’t look like a conventional PC tower.

A lot of manufactures do make the cases in desktop form factor rather than a tower and either include optional remote controls, LCD displays hidden drive bays/expansion slots etc. so you won’t be stuck with something entirely unpalatable in the living room.

Our choice of HTPC case in this build was the NOX Media IMON HTPS.

The biggest reasons for this choice, over so many other cases, are that it has ample room inside for our components, looks sleek, has two drive bays for DVD/BLU-RAY drives and includes a remote control, not to mention the pretty feature of it hiding its front USB ports. Small touches like that really do add up in the long run.

 

Blu-ray/HD-DVD Drive

This was a pretty simple choice. We know that HD-DVD is a dead format compared to Blu-ray, however there are some great deals to be had on HD-DVD media across the internet… if you’re looking to pick things up on the cheap.

 We chose a Samsung Blu-ray/HD-DVD player that also doubles as a DVD burner too. It’s a very handy all-in-one player and burner that (compared to if you had to purchase the equivalent as an all in one unit like any other standard media player) would leave you with a fairly big hole in your pocket.

 

Next Up: Keeping Your HTPC Quiet

That’s all for now. In future parts we’ll be looking at keeping your HTPC as quiet as possible, installing and setting up a media-oriented OS and keeping the whole thing in line. You can subscribe to the RSS feed of this blog to be notified of the update.

Note: If you already have computer components that you would like to add to your PC, why not register for and bring them along with you to one of our Build your own PC classes and we’d be happy to show you how to do it! Visit http://www.komplettblog.ie/events/ for location and dates.

First Build Your Own PC Class Went Well

March 18, 2009

Sorry for the extended St. Patrick’s Day break. Our first Build Your Own PC Class on Saturday last went exceptionally well – Shelton Romhanyi, head of our testing lab and formerly labs manager of Tom’s Hardware Guide U.S., gave the class. It was his first time teaching a group of people, and I figure he learned a bit about giving a class as he taught his students about PC’s on the component level.

He started describing the different parts of the motherboard and what components go onto it, bit by bit, before discussing design and then giving the small class (5 people) a hands-on go taking apart and putting together a PC.

It’s really a confidence as well as a knowledge thing – really, the knowledge of how to build a PC is easy to attain (it’s like complicated, expensive lego.)

A real bonus to the class was the hands-on experience, because it’s one thing to be told “Press firmly on the RAM to insert it onto the motherboard”, it’s another thing to have 500 euro worth of kit sitting beneath you and being told that you have to apply enough pressure that you think you might snap the mobo, the RAM or something else in half. Do it once or twice on our test bed and get a feel for it and you’ll likely feel a lot happier doing it yourself when you get home.

The Q&A session, which most of the class was really, was another great bonus; and I don’t foresee any two classes being alike as people arrive in with different questions and levels of experience.

All in all a great success. I’m going to be taking a good look at how we can make this a sustainable class to keep driving forwards with, the demand for it has been really big.

Picture nicked from Adrian Weckler, Sunday Business Post writer who attended the class.