Home Theater PC or HTPC is a common term used to describe a computer which is intended to be used together with TV in the digital living room. HTPC can be a mini desktop computer or Mac Mini or even a laptop which is used to play media files such as music, movies, photos etc.
Fuzzy image quality
I started my HTPC experiments with a desktop PC over 10 years ago. I attached a large tower desktop with my TV using composite and later s-video cable. At that time the resolution was low and image on the display was very fuzzy and unclear, but it was ok to play some music and watch videos. It was making quite loud noise, so it was not really good for watching movies.
First media center
Few years later I modded my XBOX to be able to use XBMC Xbox Media Center (first it was called as XBMP). Although installation was rather complicated, it was a huge step forward how media center could look like in the future. Now the image quality was a lot sharper thanks to SCART connection in the XBOX.
Browsing Internet in the living room
After several years of using XBOX as home theater PC, I brought a laptop with digital DVI video output into the living room. This was another big step forward as now I was able to browse Internet with HDTV using HDMI connection as image was crisp and sharp enough to see even on a smaller font size.
Cable mess and poor video performance
While laptop felt quite good solution as the home theater PC, it was a bit cumbersome to open the lid everytime when I wanted to turn it on and cables sticking from side, front and back looked quite ugly. Furthermore, HD video playback and even normal iTunes video playback was very choppy so I started to look another solution which is small and silent yet powerful enough to perform media center activities.
Beatiful design, silent and powerful
I came across 2009 edition of Mac Mini in April 2009 and decided to go a head and order it. Mac Mini has really taken my digital living room into a new level in terms of fit to my living room design and performance.
Recently, I have felt that my usage requirements have evolved further and I have been looking alternative ways to take my media experience into the next level.
Firstly, I need multiple digital tuners that are capable to decode paid cable TV content. I currently own an EyeTV Hybrid TV tuner, but I needed to start using a separate DVR (Digital Video Recorder) again as I am subscribing to some channels that require a separate cable card.
Secondly, I would occassionally like to play 3D games such as Colin McRae Rally Dirt. However, I do not like the idea of buying another game console.
Thirdly, I need more internal hard drive capacity. I currently have a network attached storage that I use for backing up media and streaming it to other devices such as my iPad. However, I still find it more convenient having most of the media on the internal hard drive.
All in all, the technology has come a long way in the past 10 years. At the same time my usage requirements have become more advance as I am striving to simplify all the home theater devices into one box.
What you should learn from my experiences is that you need to understand where your usage requirements are at the moment and not simply trying to buy the most expensive computer and thinking that is the best choice for you.
To better understand what is the best HTPC, remember to check out our HTPC Selector Tool.