My main Media Center PC developed a power supply problem a few weeks ago and I have been on a lower spec backup PC and while it’s working it’s underpowered for driving 5 Extenders so I am on the market for a new Media Center PC. Over the last couple of years or so the role of the my system has changed from being a family PC to a Media Center server so my requirements have changed. The new PC will not be used for games or office stuff it will be a Media Center server recording TV and serving it back out to Media Center Extenders. It will also be where my pictures and music are stored and synced with my Zune.

So my news system will need plenty of disk space, with a minimum 3GB of RAM to get the best performance out of Windows Vista and as it’s going to be at the back of my living room needs to be quiet. A few years ago I would have just got a nice looking case and built it myself but this time I am going to look at an off the shelf unit. I don’t need a HTPC case as its going to go in a cupboard (when I find the right one) so do you have any recommendations?

21 thoughts on “Looking for a new Media Center PC”
  1. I have been looking for about 4 months now, and this is what I have my eye’s on right now, and it just went on sale as well (don’t know if it is available in the UK).

    HP m9300t
    – Vista Premium SP1 64bit
    – Q9450 (has 12 MB L2 cache instead of 8 MB of the other choices)
    – 4GB RAM
    – 1 TB Raid 0
    – (optional) Blu-ray/HD player for $150
    – total: $1099.99, don’t think that can be beat

  2. I am looking for the same thing.

    How many TV tuners do you need Ian? this would determine which motherboard you need to buy and how many PCI or PCI-E slots are needed for the TV tuners.

    I would go with maybe a Dual Core or even a Quad core for the CPU.

  3. Hey Ian I bought a HP Pavilion a few months back and it is a Quad Core. I forget the exact model # but I love it. I have just two tuners in it now, but am waiting for the arrival of for DirecTV to get their HD tuners rolling. Just curious, aren’t you a WHS owner? Why are you going to be keeping all your music, photos, and videos on your new VMC? The only thing I store on my VMC is my recorded TV. Like I said just curious.

  4. Any reason you’re simply are not going replace the power supply on your current Media Center PC?

  5. @grant, my old machine was a p4 seft build and very noise so it’s time for a new one

    @smicale the reason i keep my music on the Media Center machine is that it’s synced with the zune (and pictures too) and I have not bothered setting it up with WHS

    @Richard I am going to go with dual DVB-T tuner

  6. Ian,
    Depends what you’re looking for mate. I have an ACER T180 which is a couple of years old , AMD x64 based, but most importantly VERY VERY quiet (like almost inaudible in a quiet room).

    they’ve binned it now, but there are some intel core-duo replacements.

    Mostly, you’ll find the cheaper units are shared video, and only have 2 PCI slots, but hey, as you’re extender driven now, the video doesnt matter at all!

    maybe:, or perhaps – even cheaper.

    My actual current Vista Ultimate MCE box is an old HP P4 unit, (similar to your dying one probably), that works just fine.

    Not totally sure how much CPU you need to drive all those extenders, but I’m sure you’ll tell us!

    Interestingly, if you’re now using IP streaming to extenders, why not move that PC out the living room completely to a closet or the garage – I ran a TV antenna to the garage last year, and mine lives out there and can make as much noise as it wants! (mine used to have 4 drives, masses of fans etc)



  7. If you guys are looking for a Media Center try some of the following. If you like the look please get in touch, we have a huge portfolio of media centers, we are also UK distributers for a majority of them so I’m sure we can help.

    Ian D, if your reading this. Get in touch as well please

  8. Ian,

    I’m driving 4 extenders (3 XBox 360s, 1 new DMA-2100) and have found the Gateway GM5478 to handle it fine (including a 5000 song music libray synced with my Zune). Specs are:

    Intel Q6600
    Geforce 8500GT
    1TB worth of hard drives
    2 GB memory
    100Mb fast ethernet (wanted gigabit but doesn’t seem to be a problem)
    Dvico Fusion USB Gold HD ATSC tuner (simply the best tuner going for pulling in OTA HD)
    Stock TV tuner card (Hauppauge?) (connected to Verizon FIOS set top box) – hardware mpeg encoding. Also has ATSC input so can have dual ATSC inputs when added with the Dvico fusion)
    CuCusoft video converter (converts DVDs for my Zune)

    This setup works fine driving all 3 XBOX 360s with HD simultaneously. Haven’t tried adding in the DMA-2100 while running all the XBoxes but I really don’t see that scenario happening in my house…

    Good Luck,


  9. Maybe you could do a comparison for us Ian and post it up as i’d be interested with your findings….

  10. My Media center machine recently started have problems and to shutdown alot I suspected a power supply problem even tho my seasonic (s12) is not that old. In a last ditch attempt I popped the top and stuck the hover (Vacuum cleaner) into it – every corner and fan I could reach. Not a problem since !!

    In my experience building a media center isn’t expensive (or hard) – building a quite one is !

  11. The Shuttle barebones system with the ICE cooling are super quiet. Just got mine placed on the family room, and it is quieter than my directTV DVR. Not much room for expansion, but it has enough support for my HVR1600 and my PVR500 tuners which is all I need. If your budget is limited you can look into this. I built mine for about 600

  12. I am looking towards a pre-built tower at the moment but the Shuttle cases and very nice looking

  13.   The post round up is back, it’s been a busy week, the live show was great and even a naked man…

  14. Ian, I am looking for exactly the same thing – an under the stairs media centre (+ Windows home server), headless, to serve extenders around the house – happy for them to be wired as I have a load of cable laid already.

    I am seriously looking at Tranquil’s Home media server. It might not be suitable for you as I am not sure if it can serve XBOXes as extenders. That aside it looks pretty impressive – 4 tuners, 2TB if you want, silent extenders, very low power consumption, pretty good price. My main concern is that I can not find anyone that has done a serious review of it and there are a load of open questions I have. Would appreciate directions if someone has seen a proper review of the kit.


  15. Hmm… Would your desire to go for a pre-built PC be anything to do with Fiji being OEM only?

    And your new dual tuner to take advantage of Ultimate now allowing four tuners without being hacked?

    Just asking… 🙂

  16. good one Mark
    The new tuner is because the HP TouchSmart is USB only so if I buy one I can’t fit my PCI tuner card in it and having a single tuner is no good for me as for Fiji I can’t say it has been a factor

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