Deciding on the hardware to use was actually one of the easiest parts of the project. I wanted to keep this project as inexpensive as possible seeing as how I just forked over a lot of cash for the van and the necessary items that come along with ownership (insurance, tags, maintenance, etc.). The plan was to use as much stuff that I already had on hand to minimize costs and fortunately, I had what seemed to be the perfect fit for the job.
This is the Averatec 18.4" All-In-One PC, a nettop featuring Intel's 1.6 GHz Atom processor, 1GB of DDR2 memory, a 160GB hard drive and 802.11 b/g WLAN, all running on Windows XP Home Edition.
This system should be a great fit for the project for multiple reasons. First, I wanted something that doesn't sip much power. Using a Kill-A-Watt meter, I discovered that the Averatec uses only 26 watts of power under full load which I'd guess is much less than the TV / VCR combo pulled. This will also cut down on heat generation and allow me to install the unit in the empty space where the TV sits.
Furthermore, since the monitor is attached to the PC, this eliminates the need to run cables from a tower and means we won't have to mount a monitor separately. I also like the fact that the system has WiFi - smartphone tethering is a possibility.
My one concern with this whole project was the hard drive. Will a regular spinning drive be able to handle the shock from daily hazards like railroad tracks, pot holes and speed bumps? This is a risk I didn't want to take and decided to swap out the hard drive for a solid state drive. A solid state drive has no moving parts and effectively eliminates this threat.
OCZ sent over a 50GB Vertex 2 for our project - the same drive we reviewed when it launched nearly a year ago. I have been using this same drive in my main test system ever since without issue. And now that the Vertex 3 has been released, Vertex 2 prices are at an all-time low. You can pick up this drive for under $90 after rebate at Newegg.
We ran into an issue removing the bottom cover of the Averatec as two of the screws were stripped pretty bad but we eventually did get the cover off. From here, it was just a matter of removing the stock drive and installing the Vertex 2. I contemplated upgrading the RAM capacity as well but ultimately decided against it for now.
With the system back together, I installed Windows 7 Home Premium, installed all available Windows updates and picked up some software that I'd want to have on the system for future use.
I will be using a Logitech diNovo Keyboard and a Logitech MX Revolution Cordless Laser Mouse to interact wirelessly with the PC. Each device has a small USB dongle that I will plug into the back of the PC.
With the PC primed and ready, let's move on and get to work removing the old media system.