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Copyright ©2002
by Stuart Greenberg
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Under the Hood
Tuesday, May 20, 2003

I hadn't shopped for a PC in some time and was surprised about a few things when I went to purchase the parts for my HTPC. For one thing, prices dropped dramatically. I couldn't believe the level of motherboard and processor I could afford. My second surprise was the changes that have occurred in motherboard design.

To say that I am a picky shopper is an understatement. I have been abandoned by friends with normal patience levels at many computer shows. I usually grab some part numbers at one show, research them on the web and make the purchases at the next show. This time I went on blind faith when I chose the A-Bit KR7A-RAID motherboard. The features were, to put it mildly, phenomenal: network, USB 1.1 and 2.0, Firewire, and surround sound on board plus support for up to 12 drives! However, there was one little detail that I overlooked at first glance. After my friend, John, bought one of these motherboards and left the show, I found out it had no "legacy ports." No PS2 keyboard and mouse ports, no serial ports, no parallel ports.

John discovered this when he got home and couldn't plug in a keyboard and mouse. I found out at the show and made sure that the wireless keyboard I was purchasing had a USB adaptor. Although this was a minor inconvenience at first, it proved to be the right way to go. I have never had interrupt conflicts with this board. The KR7-A turned out to be the easiest of any motherboards I've owned to configure and Windows XP Pro loaded up and ran without a hitch.

The next decision was the video card. I'm not a PC Gamer so I didn't feel I needed a super powerful card. I also didn't need a TV tuner since my satellite box has a built in Personal Video Recorder (PVR). I intended to grab the video from an external box and bring it in through the Firewire port. The ATI Radeon 7500 was a reasonable middle-of-the-road board. It has the main feature I did need: dual output. I attached it to a 15" LCD screen and my TV.