When I get a thought in my head to do something, I usually follow through; no matter how crazy or indifferent it is.
In this case I was looking to complete a mini media center (HTPC) setup in my living room that would provide full computer access with wireless connectivity to the internet, my main PC and my netbook. In essence my goal was to lay back in the recliner and be able to browse the internet, stream media (and movies) from the internet, play my music and movie collection, play a game or two, check my email, check the blog, etc… You get the idea.
You are probably wondering why I would want a “mini” media setup instead of a full blown super large screen media setup? Well, here is the problem and the word spelled out is “w-i-f-e”. See, we have an oak TV cabinet (that is like the foundation of our relationship) that will only accomodate a TV the size of approximately 26” to 30” and no way was anything going to replace the cabinet. Also, I wanted to keep cost to a minimum.
So here is what I did (step-by-step) to create my “lay back in the recliner media center” using the confines of the oak TV cabinet.
The current TV had to go. I replaced it with a LG M2762D-PM Glossy Black 27″ 5ms 1080p HDMI Widescreen LCD Monitor with TV Tuner 300 cd/m2 DC 50000:1 [ SEE HERE ] . In short this Monitor/TV has hi-def capability, very good ratings, numerous connections and a nice remote to toggle between TV and computer. This monitor/tv fit nicely into the oak cabinet and connected to an existing DVD/VHS player, that was already in the cabinet.
A nettop is a very small form factor, inexpensive, low-wattage desktop computer designed for basic tasks such as surfing the Internet, accessing web-based applications, document processing, and audio/video playback. – Wikipedia
The Lenovo Ideacentre Q150 sports an Intel ® Atom Dual Core processor D510 (1.66GHz, 1MB L2 Cache), 2 GB DDR2 667 (2GB max), 250 GB, 5400 RPM, HDMI NVIDIA ION Graphics Processor with 512MB graphics, Full HD (1080p) support, Wireless network ready, Handheld wireless multimedia remote with trackball mouse and keyboard Windows 7 Home Premium 32 Bit.
Now comes cool part #1. The Lenovo Ideacentre Q150 shown above can be removed from its’ stand and mounted directly to the rear of the monitor using a bracket included in the package. That is exactly what I did. In essence, I now have an “all-in-one” PC. I then connected the Lenovo Nettop to the HDMI port on the TV for hi-def. Again, everything still fitting nicely in the oak TV cabinet.
Now comes cool part #2. The multimedia remote that you see above is slightly larger than the palm of my hand; yet it is a keyboard and trackball mouse all wrapped up in one. Took some getting used to, but I love this little bugger. What a great idea from Lenovo.
Now comes cool part #3. The only thing I did not like about the monitor was the built in speakers. I would rate them as average, but I needed better. No way could I ask “w-i-f-e” for any more money. Then it hit me. We have a Bose Wave Music System that we purchased years ago and the sound from this thing is absolutely awesome (for such a small package). I started exploring this option and found that I could patch the sound from the TV and the Nettop into the Bose. To make it work in the oak TV cabinet, the LG monitor/tv with the attached Lenovo Nettop sat perfectly on top of the Bose; and the black color scheme of the monitor and Bose matched nicely to make it appear as an “all-in-one” system.
Now comes cool part #4. I attached an external Western Digital My Passport 250 GB drive to the Lenovo nettop (that I already had) for more storage capacity and setup the nettop to be remotely (and wirelessly) managed from my main desktop computer (using UltraVNC). If you have a network in your home, wireless or hardwired, I highly recommend setting up remote access from a main PC. You can then easily manage your networked PC’s from one location.
Now comes cool part #5. When using a setup such as this from a distance across the room, seeing the text on the screen when browsing the internet or performing other Windows functions can be a chore; especially when your eyes are going south like mine. The solution here was the Windows 7 maginifier tool that can be found under “Ease of Access” on the Windows 7 menu. The magnifier tool provides the option to magnify the entire screen or just portions of it.
In the end, I am very satisfied with this setup and that it met the specifications, as set forth by “w-i-f-e”. The “w-i-f-e” is quite happy and I think impressed (even though she will not break down and tell me that).