A 39 euro HTPC?

Last weekend marked the return of the ‘HCC days’ here in The Netherlands. Ever since the dawn of the home computer, enthusiasts would gather in Utrecht once a year to admire the latest models and buy stuff a discount prices. In the age of the internet, with prices being even lower in web shops and blogs detailing every new gadget long before it hits the shops, this formula lost most of its appeal. What I found most interesting about the event however was to browse through old an refurbished stuff and find stuff worth gambling a few euros on to see if it still works. Luckily, the new formula still allowed for this kind of stand. Because this year, I wanted to replace my ‘TVPC’.

For a few years now, I’ve had an old Hewlett-Packard e-PC (that’s right, with only one ‘e’) hooked up to my TV. I used it to play movies, watch YouTube and surf the web. Its aging 1GHz Pentium III processor wasn’t quite able to keep up with higher bitrate videos, and YouTube’s fullscreen mode was simply too much to ask (under Linux at least). That’s why I was happy to find a Fujitsu-Siemens Scenic C620 PC that looked like the perfect replacement.

This little machine packs a 3GHz Pentium 4 processor, along with DDR memory and a SATA hard drive. The integrated Intel graphics card is fast enough to play movies at full screen, and there’s a PCI expansion slot. All for 39 euros. And it works. Really well in fact. Ubuntu really flies, and all the components were detected upon install. Getting one of these purpose-built office machines is a perfect way of getting hold of a cheap PC with HTPC dimensions.

Sure, this isn’t a true HTPC in the sense that it will record my favorite shows, but it will download them :). I use my DVD recorder for recording, so I call this my TVPC. Using the PCI slot to add a video capture card and adding more storage would transform it into a real HTPC, although the lack of an HDMI port might be an issue. But I have no need for one of those right now. I might spraypaint the beige parts black or silver to make it look more like a regular AV component, but other than that it’s a perfect addition to my home cinema setup.