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Home Theatre PC - August 2012
A Home Theatre PC (HTPC) or media centre PC serves as a music and film jukebox, as a video recording device, digital photo album and so on. The media centre is the centrepiece of the digital living room. The fact that it will reside in the living room puts unique demands on the device, such as an attractive design or a graphics card that can connect to an LCD television.
There are a couple alternatives for complete Media Centre PCs for around £85. The disadvantage of these is that it is not possible to download new codecs, unless they come with firmware updates. Media players are also not great at upscaling and improving a Standard Definition image on an HDTV.
The other option is a mini-ITX nettop based on an Intel Atom processor combined with an nVidia Ion chipset, or an AMD Fusion C-350 processor. Without operating system, it will cost you around £200. The downside is that both processors are too slow to independently play modern video codecs. If either the Ion chip or the integrated GPU are able to play the codec, you're fine. If a codec is not supported, then there is a good chance that the video won't be played correctly.
Recording TV is not recommended with either of these alternatives. It is possible with some tinkering, but performance won't be enough for recording HD.
Creating a Home Theatre or Media Centre PC gives you all the features of the cheaper alternatives, plus the flexibility of an actual PC, and the high performance needed for recording HDTV even on multiple channels. The price tag will reflect this, so you will have to decide what fits your needs the best.
Please note: the PC Buyer’s Guide is compiled based on independent component tests performed by Hardware.Info. If no new, superior products are released that should replace one or more of the components, then the component(s) will remain the same as the previous month.
If you want to know more about how we compile our PC Buying guides, have a look at this article.
Graphics card - Integrated
|CPU coolers||Scythe Big Shuriken 2 Rev. B||£35.16|
|Memory modules||4 GB (2x 2 GB) DDR3||£28.63|
|Hard disks/SSDs||Crucial m4 128GB||£101.34|
|Optical drives||Lite-On iHOS104 Black||£30.42|
|Cases||SilverStone Grandia GD04B||-|
|Power supplies||Nexus Value 430W||-|
|TV cards||Anysee E30 Combo Plus||-|
|Remote controls||Conceptronic Windows Media Center Remote Control||-|
|Add as wish list||Average total price:||£321.80|