Reader How Tos: Build a PC for TV

TV-out Is Not Optional!

Neither me nor my girlfriend wanted a bulky monitor in our living room, so the AGP card had to be able to be displayed on a TV set only. The Matrox G550 Dualhead had no fan and cost only $93, so I snatched it up immediately. This turned out to be a mistake, however. I could not make this board display on the TV-out only. That would mean having an additional monitor in the living room, so I had to ditch it. (You can check out a complete review of the Matrox G550 in the article entitled, Matrox Launches The G550 .

The Hercules Prophet 7500 AIW and Remote Wonder kit (you can read the THG review of the ATI All-In-Wonder 7500 in their review, ATI All In Wonder RADEON 7500 were my next choice, as they provided a 1024x768 TV-out resolution, bundled remote controller, TV tuner, S-video in/ out and even SPDIF/ CDAudio out, so you can use the volume controls of the ATI media player/ remote. None of the Nvidia-based boards had as much functionality at a price of $122. The fan in the Hercules 7500 whines some, but I will see what I can do about that later.

Here is the Hercules Prophet AIW 7500 with parts. Sorry Matrox, I could not work with the G550, since I needed TV-out only. The Hercules AIW 7500 has a variety of features.

Couch potato operation required ! I wanted to do as much as possible from the couch, so a cordless desktop was in order, as was a remote for the AIW 7500. Hoping the AIW 7500 remote would let me play MP3s through the ATI media player, I gave no thoughts to a Creative Live ! Drive or anything similar.

Logitech Wireless desktop IR and AIW 7500 remote.

I chose the Logitech Wireless Desktop optical. There is no need to remove the mouse ball to clean it. Also, the black finish and design is acceptable in our living room "decor." The AIW 7500 remote is of a very functional design.

Network connectivity ! All my converted CDs are on my other computer, and they take a lot of space, more space than I am willing to allocate to my living room PC. So, I needed a network connection for this, as well as for browsing the Internet. Since I actually own more than two PCs, I decided to purchase a network switch. The cheapest switch I found was the five-port SMC 10/ 100, but my retailer was sold out, so I ended up with the next higher version, with eight ports. It’s nice to have something with growing room, anyway. The difference in price was not much : the eight-port is $74, while the five-port is $49. You might even want to consider a wireless broadband router or switch if you don’t want any network cables in your living room. Of course, another option is to use a RJ45 wall jack and fish cable through your wall to where you have your router or switch located.

All these components together will provide me the functionality I want, including playing DVDs/ DivX, recording TV programs, playing MP3s/ CDs (even up mixed to 5.1 with a SoundBlaster card), playing simple video games, viewing my photographs, and surfing the Internet. And, all this for as ’little’ as $1199. If you can do without the network switch, Zip 250 MB, wireless desktop, only 256 MB memory and a cheap DVD player, you can shave $350 off that price.

(Logitech Cordless Desktop Optical : $97 ; Corsair 512 MB XMS CAS 2.0 : $155 ; 2.5 inch to 3.5 inch adapter/ bracket : $12 ; Zip 250 MB : $68 ; Remote Wonder and 2.4 GHz P4 : $189.)