Honestly, how "easy" is it to build an HTPC - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 52 Old 07-01-2010, 12:38 PM - Thread Starter
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Well, I am stuck with trying to build my own HTPC since Okoro Media failed to come through on building me an HTPC (OMS-GX300) after waiting for 2 months with no progress.

Before you guys decide to flame me for paying such a premium for an HTPC in the first place please know that the more research I did about HTPC's the more I was lost/confused.

I am going to attmept to build my own HTPC by following renethx thread, but is it really easy to do? I have very basic skills overall about CPU's and I am still not sure if I could pull it off. Is there special tools/equipment needed?

Any tips/suggestons would be greatly appreciated.
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post #2 of 52 Old 07-01-2010, 12:53 PM
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you need a philips screwdriver unless the case is toolless. Thats how hard it is. If you have never built a computer I suggest finding a friend who can put it together to show you how its done. its not hard but you can fry your new equipment if you really screwed it up. I am sure there is a video somewhere though. I would just try youtube.
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post #3 of 52 Old 07-01-2010, 12:54 PM
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Building the PC is trivial, a screw driver and a grounding strap, a table to work on etc. Modern cases, motherboards, etc are all designed for easy assembly. Figure two to four hours to put all the hardware together.

Hard part is the software, drivers, options. Getting a HTPC to simple turn key operation, as in ready to hand the remote to your wife and walk away, can take a very long time.

OTOH I've only been putting computers together for few years, and doing systems work for a couple decades, so I may be way behind the curve and doing things extra stupid.

Best advice, pick a known good set of parts, and follow the recipe.
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post #4 of 52 Old 07-01-2010, 01:21 PM
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Not hard if you are willing to take a dive. I built my first about 10 years ago by using the method of "if the plug fits then plug it in". The four hardest parts about building a system in my opinion is:

1. Make sure you put the supplied spacers between the motherboard and case. (They come with the case).
2. Installing thermal paste if the supplied heatsink did not come with a heatpad. (most retail cpu's do)
3. Installing the case headers (power button, HDD LED's)
4. choosing the CD rom to boot first so you can install windows.

#1 and #2 are pretty much the only thing these days that will "easily" kill a computer. Also don't flip the 120/240 switch on the powersupply.
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post #5 of 52 Old 07-01-2010, 01:26 PM
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My advice? Well, Okoro may not have come through, but if you were willing to pay them, I'm assuming you're willing to pay someone else. Talk to S1Digital, they are great.

While building a PC, in theory, really is simple, there's lots of little small things, that can make you dead in the water, with fried components. The virtue of buying a pre-built PC, plugging it in and being sure it'll "just work", has a LOT of value.
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post #6 of 52 Old 07-01-2010, 02:06 PM
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somail thats good advice and those are the hardest things to figure out.

I put windows 7 on a flash drive so I can use that with any installs and it saves like 30 minutes or more over using the dvd. Really its so nice and usually the motherboard knows to boot that first somehow.
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post #7 of 52 Old 07-01-2010, 02:07 PM
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If you have no experience building PCs, then I would say unless you have a friend who can help and show you what to do, do not do it on your own. If everything goes well you'll be fine but if something doesn't work you're ****ed because with no prior experience troubleshooting will be nearly impossible.

Find someone on the forum who is local to come over and help, you'll provide pizza and beer.
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post #8 of 52 Old 07-01-2010, 02:14 PM
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yeah no kidding if I lived near you I would be more than happy to put it together. Its like a puzzle and I actually have fun building them.
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post #9 of 52 Old 07-01-2010, 02:21 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeford View Post

Building the PC is trivial, a screw driver and a grounding strap, a table to work on etc. Modern cases, motherboards, etc are all designed for easy assembly. Figure two to four hours to put all the hardware together.

Hard part is the software, drivers, options. Getting a HTPC to simple turn key operation, as in ready to hand the remote to your wife and walk away, can take a very long time.

OTOH I've only been putting computers together for few years, and doing systems work for a couple decades, so I may be way behind the curve and doing things extra stupid.

Best advice, pick a known good set of parts, and follow the recipe.

Quote:
Originally Posted by somail View Post

Not hard if you are willing to take a dive. I built my first about 10 years ago by using the method of "if the plug fits then plug it in". The four hardest parts about building a system in my opinion is:

1. Make sure you put the supplied spacers between the motherboard and case. (They come with the case).
2. Installing thermal paste if the supplied heatsink did not come with a heatpad. (most retail cpu's do)
3. Intalling the case headers (power button, HDD LED's)
4. chosing the CD rom to boot first so you can install windows.

#1 and #2 are pretty much the only thing these days that will "easily" kill a computer. Also don't flip the 120/240 switch on the powersupply.

Thanks guys for the very informative post. I greatly appreciate it!
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post #10 of 52 Old 07-01-2010, 02:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ogormask View Post

you need a philips screwdriver unless the case is toolless. Thats how hard it is. If you have never built a computer I suggest finding a friend who can put it together to show you how its done. its not hard but you can fry your new equipment if you really screwed it up. I am sure there is a video somewhere though. I would just try youtube.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Calcvictim View Post

If you have no experience building PCs, then I would say unless you have a friend who can help and show you what to do, do not do it on your own. If everything goes well you'll be fine but if something doesn't work you're ****ed because with no prior experience troubleshooting will be nearly impossible.

Find someone on the forum who is local to come over and help, you'll provide pizza and beer.

Thanks for the post guys..........now if I can only find someone local to help me with the build.
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post #11 of 52 Old 07-01-2010, 02:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kapone View Post

My advice? Well, Okoro may not have come through, but if you were willing to pay them, I'm assuming you're willing to pay someone else. Talk to S1Digital, they are great.

While building a PC, in theory, really is simple, there's lots of little small things, that can make you dead in the water, with fried components. The virtue of buying a pre-built PC, plugging it in and being sure it'll "just work", has a LOT of value.

Thanks for the referral.
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post #12 of 52 Old 07-01-2010, 04:41 PM
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Piecing the parts together is no problem, but what do want it or expect it to do?

"The purpose of diplomacy is to prolong a crisis." Spock, Mark of Gideon, TOS
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post #13 of 52 Old 07-01-2010, 04:50 PM
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Do it yourself and don't fear. Today's boards and plugs make it near impossible to get wrong and there are a lot fewer hardware incompatibilities than there used to be. I'd look at it as a fun weekend project.

Then again, I bought a Dell 580s, because I won't have to spend the afternoon putting a computer together.

One new nugget I found was the "grain of rice" thermal grease method. Use grease the size of a grain of rice in the center of the CPU and mount the sink - let the pressure spread it. It's supposed to cool the CPU up to 5*C better.
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post #14 of 52 Old 07-01-2010, 05:13 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Davinleeds View Post

Piecing the parts together is no problem, but what do want it or expect it to do?

My HTPC would be used for:

A lot of Gaming
Ripping/Storing Blu-ray & DVD's
Ripping/Storing Music
Multiroom Audio music
Store photos & videos
Use as STB & DVR (might wait for the Ceton infinitv4)
Mult-room TV/DVR/Movies/etc using XBOX on other TV's
Possibly storage for IP Cameras
Possibly remote access for media and/or storage
Surf the web on TV
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post #15 of 52 Old 07-01-2010, 05:26 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the tip BENAVS.


Does anyone have a good source to buy HTPC parts?
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post #16 of 52 Old 07-01-2010, 06:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by URnext View Post

Thanks for the tip BENAVS.


Does anyone have a good source to buy HTPC parts?

Computer parts are computer parts. Go to newegg.com.

Oh, and if you haven't already done it, you should really read the HTPC build thread. There are prebuilt systems you can choose from that will make choosing parts very easy.

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=940972
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post #17 of 52 Old 07-01-2010, 07:03 PM
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newegg is your best friend once you learn how to build computers. when I have money I buy stuff their almost weekly. next you can build a desktop. when you have the skill set you can save thousands of dollars on your computing.
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post #18 of 52 Old 07-01-2010, 08:01 PM
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Since you were willing to pay a high premium for a pre-build why not do this:

Buy some cheap parts and put together a "test" system for cheap. Use this as practice. You can use it as a second computer around the house, kids computer, or even just end up slapping a 2 TB drive in it and use it as a file server for your rips.

Then move on to the big boy toy and build that gaming PC. Do note, you will have much different requirements since you want to game on it. So build it as a gaming PC. The HTPC part of it doesn't take much "horseepower" at all comparatively.

However, I am going to suggest something: You list you want to do lost of gaming on it yet at the same time you seems to want it to also be your "media hub" for the whole house with extenders and everything. Honestly I would suggest that you build a gaming PC separate from the HTPC if you're going to try to do all that with it. Others may suggest otherwise but I can see problems if you're stressing the PC hard playing a high end game while at the same time you've got two family members trying to stream HD from it. Maybe not an issue but I personally would want a dedicated HTPC in this case.

And for the money you were probably going to pay for a pre-build you can build both a gaming PC and an HTPC.

Good luck!

Scott
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post #19 of 52 Old 07-01-2010, 08:52 PM
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Building computers may seem to be overwhelming at first but once you understand how to match things up everything becomes much clearer.
Everything has a spec. Read the specs! They are a piece of the puzzle that really tells you what they are and what they are compatible with.If you don't understand a spec do a google search for it.

Lets start with cases

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16811129054
This case is compatible with only Micro ATX /Mini ITX sized motherboards.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16811163117
This case is compatible with only ATX, Micro ATX sized motherboards.

Form Factor= size of board.

Choosing the case determines the size motherboard you could fit in it and also how much hardware you could fit in it. Read the specs to find out.

I will go with the atx sized board so I will choose the silverstone.

Time to choose the processor.

http://www.sharkyextreme.com/guides/...705_3889641__2

Lets say I wanted this processor how would I make this work. It is in the specs!
Core 2 Quad Q9400 2.66GHz/1333 LGA775
What does this mean?

Core 2 Quad Q9400 2.66GHz (Type of processor and speed)
1333 (front bus speed of motherboard needed).
LGA775 (The socket that the cpu fits in).

Lets say I want this cpu.
I would look for a ATX sized motherboard that is a LGA775 socketed with a front bus speed of 1333.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16813128433
As an example I found this board that supports all of the specs of the processor and the size board.

If you look into the specs you will see it supports FSB 1600/1333/1066/800 ( This board supports 4 different bus speeds for chips that are also LGA775 socketed)
Memory Standard DDR3 2200 (OC)/1333/1066/800

Could you guess what type of memory?
Just match the memory to the bus speed of the processor. In this case it would be DDR3 1333.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...-143-_-Product

Like I said read the specs! If you don't know what something means look it up! Reading the motherboard specs will tell you what could be connected to it. How many slots what the slots are and so on.
Every piece of hardware has specs.

How hard is it you say? It all depends if you are willing to learn a few new words.
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post #20 of 52 Old 07-02-2010, 07:47 AM
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The main thing to remember is the more you try to do with your HTPC, the more difficulty you will have. Some things that seem to cause the most issues are Bit perfect HD Audio, Ripped Blu-ray playback, Integrating a receiver of certain types and pay cable HD recording. Look through he forums threads and you'll notice that all the really long threads usually deal with an issue that has caused a lot of heartache among posters.

I avoid a lot of these issues by only recording HD OTA, not moving to BR yet, and being happy with analog surround. You can build a really inexpensive setup that will do these things easily and flawlessly. But if you want more, you gotta deal with more!

BT

Just remember, to the MPAA "We're all guilty until..............."
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post #21 of 52 Old 07-02-2010, 08:18 AM
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My HTPC was the first computer I ever built. I relied on the Guide to Building a HD HTPC thread in this forum. Renethx is very knowledgeable and very helpful. I took the time to figure out what Renethx was recommending and why. If I had unique needs I posted and sought advice before changing a recommended configuration. I wrote a complete parts list before ordering. When your parts come read the inserted material in each box before putting anything together.

I used the Antec Fusion Remote Case and found pictures of a build using that case on the internet. The pictures were helpful to me.

This said I ran into a couple problems that slowed me down. My copy of Windows XP was so old it lacked all the updates and I had to learn how to modify it before I could use it to get Windows 7 upgrade. And the CPU needed a second connection and it took me a while to figure that out. Also, the Antec Fusion has a patch cable that is explained in the literature but is confusing at first. Additionally the case does not have an interal speaker so I was not getting the confirmation beeps I expected. So, it took a couple of weeks after the parts came to get it up and running.

All this said, because of digital rights management blu-ray adds a lot of complexity. You can do a lot with just Windows Media Center; however, out of the box it needs modifications and additional programs for blu-ray. You will be a beta tester whether you want to be or not.

In conclusion, with a HD HTPC you have the potential for an amazing amount of flexibiltiy. But, the flexibility comes with an investment of time.
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post #22 of 52 Old 07-02-2010, 08:36 AM
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I repeat. Buy a pre-built one. You guys are missing the OP's perspective.

Quote:


Before you guys decide to flame me for paying such a premium for an HTPC in the first place please know that the more research I did about HTPC's the more I was lost/confused.

That's precisely why you pay the premium of buying a pre-built one, so that you don't have the vagaries of different hardware and software and installing them and configuring them, and tweaking them and.....

Quote:


I have very basic skills overall about CPU's and I am still not sure if I could pull it off. Is there special tools/equipment needed?

These statements scare me (no offense to the OP, you were honest about your skills). Suggesting to someone that they should still go ahead and do DIY on a PC, when they don't even know what tools are needed?? Complete recipe for disaster.

Quote:


Any tips/suggestons would be greatly appreciated.

Oh, there are/will be lots of tips and suggestions. This forum (and this is only one) is FULL of that. But does that raise your confidence level in terms of building one?
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post #23 of 52 Old 07-02-2010, 08:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by URnext View Post

My HTPC would be used for:

A lot of Gaming
Ripping/Storing Blu-ray & DVD's
Ripping/Storing Music
Multiroom Audio music
Store photos & videos
Use as STB & DVR (might wait for the Ceton infinitv4)
Mult-room TV/DVR/Movies/etc using XBOX on other TV's
Possibly storage for IP Cameras
Possibly remote access for media and/or storage
Surf the web on TV

After reading this my advice is to go buy a top of the line system from Alienware or Dell that has a HDMI port, and then throw in a TV tuner into it. If you plan on gaming, you need to make that the priority and then the HTPC part second. HTPCs are basically lower power gaming rigs with a TV tuner.
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post #24 of 52 Old 07-02-2010, 09:01 AM
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kapone - Computer parts today are designed to fit one another, it`s impossible to put a DDR2 memory stick into a DDR3 one, or a PCI Express 16x card into a 1X slot. Or a Intel CPU into a AMD AM2/3 socket. + they all come with instruction manuals, easy to read

The only thing i would worry about is negligence, like forcing the CPU in the socket thus causing broken/bent pins.
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post #25 of 52 Old 07-02-2010, 09:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GreenEyez View Post

kapone - Computer parts today are designed to fit one another, it`s impossible to put a DDR2 memory stick into a DDR3 one, or a PCI Express 16x card into a 1X slot. Or a Intel CPU into a AMD AM2/3 socket. + they all come with instruction manuals, easy to read

The only thing i would worry about is negligence, like forcing the CPU in the socket thus causing broken/bent pins.

So are automotive engine parts. They all "fit" only one way. Would you build an engine, with that assumption?
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post #26 of 52 Old 07-02-2010, 09:54 AM
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I bought the Dell 580s w/i3 and Win7 for $370, shipped, taxed, sent to my front door. I couldn't build a similar one for less than $500 unless I used Linux.
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post #27 of 52 Old 07-02-2010, 10:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GreenEyez View Post

or a PCI Express 16x card into a 1X slot.

Though I agree with the spirit of what you said, this one is actually not technically correct :P There are open-ended x1 slots which will allow you to insert an x4 or x16 card into it. The good part is even if you do that, the card would still work fine, albeit at reduced link speed. Also most people would not try that other than doing it intentionally, becuase it looks all wrong to insert a full-length PCIe card like that with 3/4 of the connector not plugged into anything.

As for engine building, that's a bit of a different story. Engines don't have colour coded parts/connectors, and nothing simply pushes in to connect like it does with computers. Not everything on an engine goes together with your hands or with a phillips screwdriver either, lol. There are no moving parts within a PC except for the fans (and perhaps inside HDDs and optical drives, but you don't touch those things), so there are no clearances to measure and verify and nothing to [physically] line up so it doesn't conflict with something else and end in catastrophe.

For example installing a DVD/BD-ROM drive does not require you to set timing marks on gears as you would with say a timing belt. Connecting a DVI cable and tightening the thumb-screw hold-downs cannot possibly be compared to say, putting on a cylinder head, which typically involves following tightening sequence, and fastner torque specifications including correct procedure for torque-to-yield bolts.

I also agree with the other posts that say the actual physical building of the PC is not hard at all, but it's the software that is much tougher to get right. If you want something that works as if it were a stand-alone or "set-top" type device then you will have a lot of software setup to deal with. For me, I use my HTPC as if it were a [regular] PC, so I couldn't care less for the front-end business and all that. But, if the OP isn't going to "use it as a PC" they should be prepared for a lot of time spent researching, installing, and setting things up.
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post #28 of 52 Old 07-02-2010, 10:16 AM
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@URnext
Have you ever opened up a PC and replaced/installed components (e.g. video card, RAM, hard drive, etc)? If yes, then I'd say you'll be able to find your way around building your own PC, barring DOA parts.

If you haven't, though, I'm with kapone on just buying pre-built. You don't necessarily have to go boutique. There are several off-the-shelf ones from Acer, Dell, HP, etc that would look nice in the living room. Assuming you want something that's also capable of gaming, check out CyberPower PC or iBUYPOWER.
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post #29 of 52 Old 07-02-2010, 10:18 AM
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I didn't ever start building computers until I had done a lot of research. The threads on this particular forum will probably tell you everything you need to know, and as this thread shows, people are eager to help. The websites of equipment makers can get you .pdfs of manuals, and most have forums along the lines of this one, where users and the occasional employee offer advice. But do a lot of reading before you do much buying.

For the sort of machine you want, you might want to have moderately deep pockets. You don't need to be rich, but you might need to be prepared to drop a grand or more to do it really right.

CW Hinkle
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post #30 of 52 Old 07-02-2010, 10:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by benavs View Post

I bought the Dell 580s w/i3 and Win7 for $370, shipped, taxed, sent to my front door. I couldn't build a similar one for less than $500 unless I used Linux.

I am not sure URnext can do all he want with this computer configuration:
"My HTPC would be used for:

A lot of Gaming
Ripping/Storing Blu-ray & DVD's
Ripping/Storing Music
Multiroom Audio music
Store photos & videos
Use as STB & DVR (might wait for the Ceton infinitv4)
Mult-room TV/DVR/Movies/etc using XBOX on other TV's
Possibly storage for IP Cameras
Possibly remote access for media and/or storage
Surf the web on TV"

He would need to think about attached storage to hold those blu-rays an IR receiver and maybe expansion slots or HD Homerun, (and a router) for a TV tuner.

I don't know enough to say this computer could or could not allow him to get what he wants.
Postmoderndesign is offline  
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