Media PC for the A+ Exam Cram 6th ed.


Introducing Media PC. This is the new computer I built for the 6th edition of the A+ Exam Cram. It’s a fast, quiet computer, but not too expensive to build. I wanted to go with middle-of-the-road components that are a good example of today’s technology. I decided on an Intel i5-2400 3.1 GHz CPU, 16 GB of RAM, Antec media case, Asus silent video card, and solid-state drive. This computer works great as an audio workstation or HTPC. After portraying it in the Exam Cram book (from which I nearly lost my mind writing during the months of Jan-Mar 2012), I decided to use it as a ProTools audio workstation… and of course had to pickup ProTools version 10 for it. 🙂

Still a little straightening up to do, but you get the idea. Pics below. Links to each of the parts afterward.

List of parts:

– Case: Antec NSK2480: MicroATX form factor. Power supply and two case fans are very quiet, if not silent. USB and audio front ports. Two 5.25″ bays in front with a 2.5″ mounted space underneath for an SSD. Two 3.5″ bays inside. I’ve always liked Antec, but this case surprised even me.

– Motherboard: Intel DP67DE Media Series: MicroATX, handles i3, i5, and i7 CPUs, up to 32 GB RAM. Single chipset. Northbridge functionality on newer Intel boards is built into the CPU. Two 6.0 Gb/s SATA ports. Two 3.0 Gb/s SATA ports, and one eSATA port. Two USB 3.0 ports and a bunch more 2.0. Built in RJ45, and IEEE1394. The IEEE1394 port is all right, but I also picked up a separate SIIG IEEE1394a PCIe x1 card to communicate with the musical equipment. It has a Texas Instruments chip that works nicely for my purposes. That card is 1394a so it is limited to 400 Mbps, but SIIG also makes 1394b versions.

– CPU: Intel Core i5-2400 3.1 GHz: LGA1155 socket (replaces the older 1156), 6 MB L3 cache, TurboBoost to 3.4 GHz. The loudest thing on this computer is the CPU fan, though it is pretty muffled by the case.

– RAM: Kingston – Two 8 GB kits

– Video card: Asus EAH5450 SILENT: Passive cooling, that’s how they make these silent. Not for a gaming rig or video editing workstation, but great for HTPC or audio system. HDMI/DVI and VGA outs.

– Hard drive: Western Digital 128 GB SSD: Really fast, and silent. I used to store music files on external Glyph drives via a Firewire (IEEE1394) connection. No longer. Files are stored right to the SSD. Picked up a second one so as to keep the OS on one drive and the music files on the other. The first is installed underneath the optical drives; it mounts directly to the case. The second is in one of the 3.5 bays using a 2.5″ rail kit. Main drawback: these drives are pricey! Cheaper option: the Crucial 128 GB SSD, or for a cheap magnetic disc, try: WD Caviar Blue 500 GB.

– DVD drive: Sony 24X SATA DVD+/-RW.

– Blu-ray drive: Samsung Blu-ray 12x combo. Had to get this. Burns DVDs but not Blu-rays.

This PC cost about $800 to build. The SSD was a big part of that. A cheaper version of the computer would instead have an i3 CPU, Caviar Blue HD, and would forego the Blu-ray drive, bringing the system price down to about $450 depending on where you buy the parts. I list a lot of Amazon links but you can get these parts from Newegg, Tigerdirect, and Pricewatch as well. For a quick search of websites and local shops that offer computer parts click Search below:

In my travels I found a decent monitor for this guy (I use two), the ASUS VS228H-P 21 inch. Got it for $135 new (though prices will vary), not a bad price for a 21″ monitor. Works at 1080P; tested it with The Matrix Blu-ray, looked great on this system, no skips. I use it at 16:10 in Windows. Interesting note: text doesn’t read well on this in Windows Classic mode, so for this system I’m running in Windows Basic mode.

I’m thinking of building a similar computer for use as an HTPC. To make this computer a super-HTPC, I would upgrade the video card (maybe), add a TV tuner, add SATA magnetic storage (perhaps WD Black drives), and consider a liquid cooling system or other option to eliminate the CPU fan noise.

Hope you enjoyed this article, grab the 6th edition of the A+ Exam Cram to see how I analyze and diagram the system.
Any questions, feel free to contact me.