Brandless Home Theatre

Seems like it does not have to cost a bomb to build a decent home theatre system these days. I just returned from the local Carrefour after shopping for sundries and noticed that they were selling a 32″ LCD screen at only RM1299 (£256), which is a fairly decent price.

It is not a ‘branded’ product but that is really a non-issue for me. The LCD display market is a ODM market. This means that there are only a few display manufacturers that manufacture all the displays for everyone to use. The other ‘brands’ merely put them in a custom enclosure and stick on their labels on it. So, while this is not a ‘branded’ product, it is likely that it shares the same LCD panel as certain other ‘branded’ products while selling for about 65% of their price.

There is also a 5.1 home theatre surround sound system being sold by the same brand at only RM299 (£59). Most ‘branded’ sound systems come with a built in DVD player. However, since I will be playing all my media through a PC, the DVD player would be redundant. Therefore, I only need to have the speakers and amplifier systems. Once again, while the specs are nothing to shout about, it is more than sufficient for watching films.

While most people will look at the power output of a sound system, the most important measure is actually the signal to noise ratio, SNR. As a rule of thumb, most 2.1 computer sound systems will come with at least a SNR of 72dB. This includes many entry level products from the likes of Altec Lansing and all. However, CD-quality sound is rated with a 92dB SNR. So, a SNR of 80dB or so for this sound system is actually decent and probably not noticeable to most ears.

I may actually get these things purchased first, before buying a nettop machine for my HTPC use. HP has recently launched their first nettop. So, I expect this market to grow just as fast as the netbook market did, which will only drive prices down further. The HP mini-Q is a decent machine that is more than capable of functioning as a HTPC. I saw one for about RM1000 at Harvey Norman.

It is an Atom 230/330 based machine with 1Gb RAM and a 160Gb HDD. This is more than sufficient for running a home theatre system. While it comes with a DVD-burner, it does not seem to have built in wifi. This means that I’ll need to run an additional cable through to the unit. However, this is a non-issue if I plug in a usb wifi dongle. However, I will probably wait for other vendors to release their nettops before deciding on one to buy.

So, in total, a new TV and sound system and HTPC will only cost me around RM2600, which is a steal. Granted, it is not ‘branded’ but as long as it works, I’m happy.

PS: Maybe it’s time to pay a visit to TESCO.

Published by

Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered/Professional Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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