So this is an overdue post as I did this project back in the Fall, but I wanted to wait until it was in its final location before posting so I could show it “in action.”
I’ve long been a believer that a Home Theater PC (HTPC) is the best and most economical way to build a home theater. It’s not for everyone as it takes some know-how and patience to set up, and lacks a simple, cohesive interface that anyone can get the hang of. But for sheer capability, nothing else comes close, at least in the sub-$1000 range. What else can play/record/pause/schedule live TV, drive a surround sound system, push 1080p video, play blu-ray video, networked and locally saved music and video, access any internet video (including Hulu without paying for Hulu Plus), and run a regular browser if you want? Nothing, that’s what.
Now because I wanted to be able to support HD video, particularly blu-ray, the machine I used for an HTPC in college (which was my old PC that I replaced when I built my current quad-core desktop) wasn’t going to cut it. So that left me with a dilemma. Would I upgrade my existing desktop and use the old parts for the HTPC, or build the HTPC from scratch using cheaper parts? The former would satisfy my nerdy desires for having another cutting-edge beast of a PC, but as I really thought about it, I just couldn’t justify it. My current PC is still powerful enough to do everything I want to do, including edit HD video, and a quad core is really overkill for an HTPC. So I did something I’ve never done before: I built a PC that wasn’t more powerful than any PC I’ve ever owned! Not an easy decision, but in retrospect I think it was the wisest.