Budget HTPC?

I have been scouring the forum trying to find anyone doing a real budget HTPC. Most posts have been for >$1000 and that doesn't exactly fit my budget. I am curious if it is possible to build a complete HTPC (assuming I need to also buy software, will XP work? or should I get the media edition?) for under $500 (the lower the better).

My needs are:

DVD playback and burning
DVR capabilities
Music Playback
Desire to run everything off a remote
Fit in a HTPC case, not an old tower

I would like to be able to upgrade in the future for:

HD DVR capabilities
Blu-Ray/HDDVD
(Anything I may not be thinking of)

I do not need this computer to run games, I solely want to be able to record TV shows to watch, play DVDs, burn DVDs and play music. Please let me know if you think this can be done, or if it has been done somewhere can you point me in the right direction.

I'd rather not rent a DVR from the cable company, but if I have to pay $1000 for a HTPC, renting it is much more practical for me.

Thanks
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More about budget htpc
  1. Maybe try something like this:
    http://www.pcnation.com/web/details.asp?item=K12534
    http://www.pcnation.com/web/details.asp?item=J77571
    The board has on-board video that works with Media Center
    and the chassis is less than $100 but for what you are looking
    to spend you are not going get a lot of RAM or a very big HD.

    Try this site too, they specialize in Media Center components:

    http://www.pcalchemy.com/

    Or, thy one of the prebuilt HP Media Centers.

    Again, $500 isn't much of a budget for a Media Center.
  2. I'm sorry to break this to you, but 500$ is a very realistic budget to build a low end "basic" PC for some typical office work and Internet browsing/light gaming. WHen you're building an HTPC, already you have to get used to the idea that you're paying a premium to get specialized components, even if those are not top of the line.

    For instance, a cheap-o no-name midtower case can cost 30$ or less, a basic 300W PSU can also be found for dirt cheap (not that I"d recommend that). THen you can find an older generation S939 or cheap S775 board and stick a <100$ cpu (like a d805 from intel or a slower athlon64 chip), and be content with onboard video and a measly 512Mb of ram.

    For an HTPC however, unless you want your setup to look like total ass, you'll need to get a decent 100-150$ HTPC Case (such as the ones from Antec, Thermaltake, and some other vendors) that actually looks good and usually comes with some rudimentary quiet cooling. Then you need to look for a quiet PSU, and a fairly low TDP, low heat-generating processor - like an E6300. On top of that, you'll need a mid-end video card with VIVO or NVidea PureVIdeo capabilities that will help you process HDTV content, and have an adequate amount if outputs/inputs (DVI, HDMI, HDTV, HDCP, whatever you need at this time). And lets not forget a decent, high capacity yet fairly quiet hard drive (speed is of less importance in an htcp) to contain all your recorded/ripped movies and media.

    I think if your budget is capped at 500$, you're better off waiting a little and saving until you can get into the 800-1000$ range. At that point you can build a respectable system that will not be outdated in 5 months, and actually look/sound/perform well and impress your guests :)

    CHeers

    p.s. Oh and I forgot to mention a decent quality TV/Cable tuner (if needed), a decent soundcard that supports 5.1 or 7.1 channels (at the very least an Audigy Se or Audigy 2 card), and a programmable remote (like the Harmony ones from Logitech)... Also, most people also connect a wirless keyboard/mouse to their HTPC, when a simple remote doesn't provide enough functionnality (or when you need to use it as an actual PC and not a DVR/player).

    Whatever you do, steer clear of thinking you can get away with a "all-in-one" motherboard solution that promises onboard sound and video. While those are usually more than adequate for regular computing (in fact, I'm using a built-in soundcard right now), the quality/speed of these components is usually inadequate when you're using it for a home theater setup.
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