HTPC on a Budget


Jul 11, 2002
I have been running a HTPC system for about 6 months now and wanted to share how I built what I consider a rather nice total Home Theater on a rather modest budget.

1. Display. I purchased a DLP projector. Infocus X1 for the low price of $1400 CDN. It is a nice small unit and projects a nice image even relatively bright conditions. The only time I have a hard time seeing anything is when there is direct sunlight in the room. I have it setup right now projecting on one of my walls, I get an image that is around 100 inches (4:3 aspect). I have it hooked up to the VGA out of my computer so picture is super sharp.

2. Sound. I looked into getting a small stereo system with Amp and speakers but then settled on the Logitech Z-680 computer speakers. They are 5.1 and have a builtin digital decoder. The room I have my theater in is not large (11x12) and these speakers have no issues creating a full sound in this area. I have actually had visitors over who commented on the great sound and could not believe that it came from those small speakers. Price $400 CDN

3. PC. I have a P3 933 with 512MB ram. For recording I use a Haupauge PVR 250 tuner card. The card handles 99% of the load when recording so I am not worried about using a slow computer. I can watch recorded video and record at the same time with no delay. It comes with a nifty remote as well which I use to control everything. For sound I have a cheapo SBlive with a digital out on it, This goes directly to my 680's so that I can use their builtin decoder to decode the digital sound properly. Price $200 for the PVR 250. The computer I had laying around.

4. Software. Mythtv. I can not say enough great things about this piece of software. It records TV, plays my DVD's, plays my music and even tells me what the weather is like outside. I have even converted all of my DVD's into AVI's (Xvid with AC3 sound) so that I can play them all on the fly with the software. I am a total Linux newbie so I used a version called KnoppMyth ( which is perfect for people like me. They just recently updated to version .15 which added a number of new features like Picture in Picture. Price $0

Total $2000 CDN or around $1500 US. Not bad for a total home theater.

Stuff I would like to do in the future.

1. Screen. I am thinking of making or purchasing a screen to project on. My wall is fine but a screen should make it easier to see in brighter lighting situations.

2. Xbox. I am thinking of getting an Xbox and modding it out to run linux. With Mythtv you can run a frontend version of the software on an Xbox and be able to watch recorded videos or television on another Television. Essentially this turns my recording box into a Backend server which can then feed video information to every Television with its own frontend in my residence.

3. A second PVR 250. This way I can record 2 shows at the same time or watch something while recording something different. I can also get Picture in Picture to work if I have another one of these.

Well thats about it. Just wanted to show that you do not need a 10,000 budget to make a rather nice HTPC setup.

Spud've given me some options to consider. I'm trying to keep costs as low as possible..very interesting. :cool: