Cutting the Cord Part 5 - Media Center Add-Ons, Options and Wrap Up
Power Consumption and Wrap Up
As I mentioned in an earlier installment, one of my primary goals was to make the HTPC as power efficient as possible without any impact on the performance of the HTPC. To measure how well we did against that goal, I used my handy Kill A Watt meter to measure actual power usage of the HTPC. I ran all the regular tasks I would normally do on my HTPC and let them run for a few minutes, documenting the peak power usage (in watts) that I saw during the time.
You’ll notice that I said ‘peak power usage.’ In almost all of the task tests, the peak power usage was occasional spikes in power draw while most of the test time the wattage actually was 10 to 20% lower than the peak. Regardless, I wanted to capture the worst case scenario, so I documented the peaks and not the averages in all tests but one. I wanted to get a good picture of how much power the HTPC would draw over an extended period of time, so I left the meter attached to the HTPC for a full week and was able to see how much total power it drew over the seven day time period, and from there I can easily calculate the average power draw from the HTPC during the week. Enough talk, let’s look at the numbers.
The first thing we see is our average power use over an entire week. I checked the Kill A Watt meter and it had used 7.93 Kwh (Kilowatt/hours) over 165 hours telling us the HTPC was using on average 48.1 watts during that time frame. 48.1 watts is great considering my previous HTPC easily used over two to three times as much power.
Diving into specific tasks we see the peak power usage of and any tests was 80 watts during the boot up process, which will not happen very often. Once the boot settled down to idle I was seeing peak draw of only 42 watts and during our ‘away’ mode, when the machine hadn’t been used for a few hours, the power draw dropped a few more watts down to 38 watts. I’m sure if I enabled the sleep or hibernate modes I could cut that at least in half, but the USB IR receiver never seems to come back online when the machine wakes from sleep. Throw in the fact that I won’t be able to access content on the Media Center from Media Extenders throughout the house when it was sleeping or hibernating and I’m going to have to stick with away mode.
Normal tasks we would do on the Media Center ranged from a low of 51 watts for streaming AVI’s from my media server to a high of 75 watts for streaming MKV’s, also located on my media server. Once again, I want to mention that those numbers are the peak numbers, and most of the time I was watching the meter, the power usage was actually 10-20% less.
All in all I’m happy with the power usage considering all that I have instantly at my fingertips through the Media Center or extenders. I may be able to shave off a few more watts of power with a bit more tweaking, but for now I’m happy where we are.
Conclusion and Wrap Up
That about wraps up our series on Cutting the Cord and Building Your Own Home Theater PC. The hardware and software I chose for the build worked out well for our needs, but your mileage will vary depending on your situation and needs. Perhaps you want a box that you can play games on your big screen TV with Steam’s new “Big Picture” mode and need a beefier CPU and dedicated GPU. Maybe maybe you can’t give up your cable television or satellite channels and will want to go with a cable card tuner. Or maybe there are other services like Vudu or Amazon Instant Video that you have to have with your television viewing experience and there may be software other than Media Center that will be better for your needs. Whatever your situation, understand your requirements up front. It’s much easier to build your solution around your requirements than try to fit your requirements into an already built solution.
What I’ve attempted to do in this series of articles is to give you a step by step way that can sever your ties with your cable or satellite provider and put your media choices in your own hands and hopefully saving you a good deal of money that can be put to better use for your household in the process.
In closing, despite Microsoft’s best efforts to minimize Windows Media Center, the community is still alive and well, and passionate as ever. I’ll continue to try to answer questions and help folks out here in the comments, but there are lots of other locations that you can get more information to feed your Cord Cutting obsession.
- Official Microsoft Media Center Site
- Official Microsoft Media Center Support Forum
- The Green Button Forums – Best Place for Questions and Discussion from other Media Center Users
- Hacking Windows 7 Media Center – Excellent, but a bit dated, all about Win7 MC, add-ons and plugins.
- AVS Forum – Biggest and Best Forum out there for all things Audio/Visual
We hope you enjoyed the series, and hope you enjoy spending all that spare cash!
Missed any installments of our Cutting the Cord Series? Catch up on them here:
- Cutting the Cord Part 1: The Assessment
- Cutting the Cord Part 2: Building your HTPC – The Hardware
- Cutting the Cord Part 3: Building your HTPC – OS Install and Tuning
- Cutting the Cord Part 4: Building your HTPC – Installing and Configuring Windows Media Center
- Cutting the Cord Part 5: Wrap up - Media Center Add-ons and Options