So you want to put together a home-theatre PC based on AMD's E-350 processor? We outline the pieces of kit you'll need (and it'll set you back less than $800 all told).
The initial offering of AMD Fusion APUs is on the notebook side, so our hopes weren't high for the DIY crowd. The good news is that MSI, GIGABYTE and ASUS are all offering mini-ITX solutions based on the new silicon, so you can get your hands dirty with the new boards.
As it is, the technology is probably best suited for use as the core of an HTPC solution. This is because of the very low power requirements of the E-350 APU, which clocks in at 18 watts for both CPU and graphics combined. In real terms, this means you can spec a cooler and quieter PSU and worry less about moving excess heat out of a small case.
We've put together a basic HTPC based on the AMD Processor E-350 with AMD Radeon HD 6310 Discrete-Class Graphics. It will run very nicely as a playback platform, either from an optical disc or a network. We've omitted a tuner for a good reason. This system does not have the grunt to watch and record HD video at the same time, so you're probably just better off with a set-top box for your Freeview needs. The prices shown are street prices, found through retailers.
MSI E350IA-E45 Motherboard & APU
The MSI E350IA-E45 board contains almost everything you need for the core of a quality HTPC. Our test board included two small heat sinks, but retail versions look to contain a single cooler over both the APU and the FCH. So we're looking at a single fan for the board – and we wouldn't recommend replacing the cooler at this stage. This board includes 7.1 audio with digital audio out, USB 3.0 for fast transfers (useful with large media files) and HDMI out to connect to your TV.Price:
Kingston ValueRAM 4GB DDR3 1,333MHz KVR1333D3N9K2/4G
This is not a high-performance platform, so we're not stumping for $800 worth of super duper 2,000MHz+ low latency RAM with built-in heat spreaders or water cooling. What we're looking for is a good quantity of good-quality memory at a decent price. Enter this Kingston ValueRAM. At under $100 street price for 4GB of memory that matches the top spec of our board, we can't go wrong. The MSI board allows memory overclocking to 1,333MHz (compared to the stock for the APU at 1,066MHz) for a slight advantage.Price:
Aywun A1-8989W White Cube Case
There are many different HTPC cases on the market, but, to be brutally honest, we've mostly found a better experience can be had with a standard case. This case is a cube model from Aywun, and though there are definitely more expensive cases on the market, this one is going to do what we need – and without breaking the bank. This case holds one 5.25in optical drive (for our Blu-ray drive) and one 3.5in drive for our SSD. The included 150W PSU is more than enough for the system. Price:
Lite-On IHOS104 Blu-ray/DVD reader
This isn't a video production platform, so we've chosen a Blu-ray reader rather than a reader/writer combo drive. This particular model will be just fine for playing back home-burned and commercial Blu-ray movies. It's also capable of reading DVDs and CDs for video and music playback.Price:
Corsair Nova V64 64GB SSD
This is far from the highest-capacity drive on the market, but it is fast, relatively inexpensive, small and silent. Of course, SSDs don't make any sound, with no moving parts, and for us, that's a huge plus in an HTPC, despite the limited capacity. This model uses the Indilinx Barefoot controller, so it's more than fast enough for the duties here. Price:
Samsung STORY 1TB USB 3.0 External Drive
We still need a big whack of capacity if you're planning on storing more than a few movies, especially in HD. For this little HTPC playback PC, we're expecting the media to be stored somewhere else on your network (say on your main PC, server or NAS), but if you want to keep it all together, something like this external drive is called for. This Samsung unit holds 1,000GB of data and plugs right in to the USB 3.0 ports on the MSI board for some very fast transfer rates.Price:
Compro VideoMate K200 Remote
We usually end up using the remote provided with the tuner, but we don't have one in this build, so a dedicated remote package is called for. The K200 from Compro works nicely with the Windows 7 and Windows Vista Media Center applications, so you can get that proper lounge room experience with your media playback.Price: