Storage, Screens And Sounds (Part 2)

6/26/2012 11:26:07 AM

All in all, your HTPC storage should be governed by the capacity you need in your local machine. If you're going to be storing hi-def movie files regularly, then a 4TB drive is going to be worth the outlay for you. If you’re going to be accessing most of your data over a network, then a simple 60GB solid-state drive for storing Windows and XBMC will be more than ample.

Description: a USB 3.0

If you've chosen a small discrete HTPC and find it running out of space all too fast, you can always add more local storage by installing an external hard drive. USB 2.0 drives may suffer from a relatively poor reputation when it comes to transfer rates, but the ~30MB/s or so they provide is still more than fast enough for even the highest-quality 1080p rip to play back flawlessly.

You therefore shouldn't worry about buying a large USB hard drive to augment your system's internal capacity. If possible, a USB 3.0 drive is, of course, preferable. They're much faster, operating at speeds close to internally connected drives, but do require motherboard support to operate. A third interface you could consider is eSATA. eSATA is basically an internal SATA connector that's been moved to the I/O panel and it provides huge performance. They can be picky about being detected 'hot' however, sometimes only choosing to make an appearance after a reboot. Provided you invest in a decent quality drive, it's now not uncommon to find disks with all three interfaces - USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and eSATA.

Optical Storage

Description: DVD player

If you're going to be using your HTPC as a Blu-ray or DVD player, then you'll need to invest in an optical drive. Many smaller HTPC boxes come with only the facility to use a notebook optical drive, which will, of course, limit your options. NEC/Sony/Optiarc make some of the nicest notebook drives, various models of which provide different speeds and functionality. Something to remember with your build is that you'll need a micro-SATA to SATA adaptor. Notebook optical drives use a smaller SATA power connector than desktop variants and to date no desktop PSU has a suitable connector. Akasa makes an adaptor, which costs around $12.8 and incorporates a SATA cable and Molex power lead into a suitable joint adaptor for the drive.

Description:  wireless blu ray player

Even if you have no interest in Blu-ray movies right now, we recommend investing in a Blu-ray/DVD combi drive for your desktop. They're not prohibitively expensive and you can be sure you will rue the day you have to deconstruct your HTPC to change the optical drive in it. Most dedicated DVD writers now run at 24x, a huge rotational speed that results in a lot of noise.

If your sole reason for having an optical drive is for ripping, this is all well and good, but in our experience the Blu-ray drives operate far more quietly when watching media straight from the disc. Naturally, when you're playing a film, all optical drives run at 1x speed rather than the much faster rate they run at when ripping, but not all drives are created equal in this respect. LG and Samsung dominate the desktop 5.25" Blu-ray drive market in this country and both the LG BH10LS38 and the Samsung SH-B123L are quiet, smooth runners. Both also come with PowerDVD software, allowing you to enjoy HD content on your HTPC without additional expenditure (assuming you can get PowerDVD working, of course).

If you're only going to occasionally need to use an optical drive (for example, if you only need it for installing the operating system), you could greatly reduce the size of your HTPC by leaving it out all together. This is where external USB optical drives come in handy. Although rarely as fast as internal drives, these allow you to install your operating system and software without permanently adding bulk to your HTPC setup.

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