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How To: Build An HTPC (With Windows 7)
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As mentioned, the MSI Media Live DIVA’s I/O panel is unlike any you’ve ever seen, so if you encounter any confusion in setting up this HTPC, it’ll probably come as you match PC technology to your home theater components.

Let’s start with the display. MSI enables HDMI, VGA, and component outputs. There’s a good chance your TV has one of those three. The days of composite and S-video should be behind you. If not, there’s a good chance that you wouldn’t be able to enjoy the high-def picture this system should be able to generate anyway. Our test “platform,” an aging Samsung 50” DLP, is able to take the HDMI input, so that’s what we used. Though the set supports 1920x1080i, the interlaced setting isn’t at all attractive for a Windows desktop. Thus, we settled in at 1280x720p.

From left to right, component video output, S/PDIF audio in/out, VGA video output, HDMI output, FireWire, USB 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet, line output, sub input, line input.From left to right, component video output, S/PDIF audio in/out, VGA video output, HDMI output, FireWire, USB 2.0, Gigabit Ethernet, line output, sub input, line input.

Next up is the television input. AMD’s TV Wonder HD 650 Combo card features two tuners, each with its own coaxial input. One is able to handle analog TV and FM radio, while the other hooks up to a digital antenna (ATSC) or a cable input (Clear-QAM). Getting these sorted out is important. Otherwise, you’ll be frustrated at the lack of content available over whichever hookup you make. In our case, we’re using both—the analog tuner attached to a standard cable feed with the digital tuner connected to an ATSC antenna.

Now let’s hook up some audio. My modest little rack setup already has its own multi-channel receiver, so I’m going to connect the motherboard’s S/PDIF output to the amp and use that. But for the folks who do not, in fact, have existing audio configurations, the MS-4140 would be the way to go. It features positive and negative terminals for each of five channels. And again, a pre-amp output on the motherboard sends an LFE signal to your powered sub. The board also offers two channels of line input and two of line output.

Finally, I/O. One of the largest obstacles in getting a PC to play nice in the theater environment is control. Going from the “two-foot” to the “10-foot” interface can definitely be a challenge—a challenge that AMD circumvents by including an infrared transceiver and media center remote control. I attached a USB mouse and keyboard to complement the remote, if only because they aren’t needed very often anyway (this system is decidedly not for drafting emails or working in Word). So long as you’re in a media-center environment, lacking conventional PC I/O becomes less awkward very quickly.

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