Media PC - Page 2

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With all the parts in place, the next stage was to configure the BIOS, install the operating system and all the necessary media software.  This stage was just as important as the parts selection stage, as it would make the media player usable.


As this was to be a Vista based system, I changed a few BIOS settings before installing any software on the PC to get the best performance. In order to use Vista's hybrid sleep mode which has the best start-up speed of about 8 seconds, S3 mode must be selected on the BIOS setup screens. Also to get the best performance out of the DDR2 memory, select either dual channel mode or if using a compatible processor (like the Phenom) multiple memory controller mode. I tried both and saw no real difference in this application, so selected dual channel mode.


I decided to use Microsoft Vista Ultimate for the operating system although Home Premium would be enough for most systems. I used Ultimate because I wanted the player to connect to an existing domain controller and the Home version can't join domains. Media Center (which comes as standard) would manage my music and video files and play standard DVD's. It will not play HD-DVD's or Blu-ray disc, so for that I installed Arcsoft TotalMedia Theatre, which integrates fully into Media Center, performs very well indeed and is really the only choice.

Remote control

I selected the Philips SRM7500 remote control from lots of available ones, mainly because it uses a radio signal instead of infra-red for communication with the PC which has 2 benefits. The first is that the PC does not have to be in line-of-sight with the remote making it incredibly responsive, and the second is that it supports 2-way communication allowing the PC to send information (like playlists) back to the remote for display on its built-in screen. It uses a small USB dongle device at the PC end and also supports traditional infra-red control for up to 6 other devices (like TV and home theatre) using its built in commands, learning facility and macro options.


I decided that I didn't really need a keyboard at first, but then changed my mind when I realised that the maintenance of the player (installing updates) was very difficult without one. I selected the Logitech diNovo mini, a really small Bluetooth keyboard that also has a built in touch-pad that acts as a mouse. So the single device would do everything I would ever need and again it used a radio signals for communication using a USB dongle at the PC end.


A few settings need to be altered in Vista to get the best performance. As this is a media player, it really needs to be running the processor at full pace all of the time, and any delay in speed switching may cause visible stutter on the TV due to the fast progressive refresh rates and relatively high resolutions (1920 x 1080p @ 60Hz). I created a new power management profile and changed the minimum and maximum processor speeds to 100%. I also selected hybrid sleep mode as the sleep type so that it would wake from sleep very quickly.


I'll try and add some more details to this over time, however in the meantime, if you have any questions at all about any of this, please post a comment and I'll do my best to answer it.