Home Theater Network
HTPC Cases
Apex MI-100 Chassis
ThermalTake VF7001BNS DH101 Black Home Theater PC
Zalman HD160XT-S Silver Home Theater PC
Antec New Solution Series NSK2480 Chassis
Antec Fusion Black 430
Zalman HD160XT Plus Chassis

HTPC vs. PC, Top 10 Differences

Building a Home Theater PC (HTPC) is just like building a regular PC. The only difference is the HTPC is geared toward the home theater environment. Here are the top 10 differences between a HTPC and a regular PC:

  1. Case Design – The typical PC case would be a huge eye sore in a home theater room. HTPC styled cases are available and are designed to match audio/video gear in a home theater room. Some cases even include a 5-inch LCD monitor on the front, which can be used to view music/movie information.
  2. Loudness Factor – Hearing the power supply’s fan spinning can be distracting when a movie is playing. How loud a fan is may not matter in an office environment where the PC is under a desk, but it does in a home theater environment. Minimizing the noise produced by DVD drives, hard drives, and internal fans is important to HTPCs.
  3. Software – Theatertek, Zoom Player, Linux MCE, MythTV, BeyondTV, ffdshow, TVersity are just some examples of software you’ll find on a HTPC, but not necessarily on a PC.
  4. Video Outputs – Most new HDTVs don’t have DVI inputs while most video cards have DVI outputs. Luckily, there are plenty of DVI to HDMI/VGA cables on the market. DVI-I can output both digital and analog so there won’t be any problems if a HDTV has HDMI or VGA inputs. Look for video cards with component output if a HDTV only has component inputs.
  5. Audio Outputs – Surround sound may not be important on a regular PC, but it is in a home theater room. Some sound cards are capable of 7.1 surround sound with DTS output and Dolby digital decoding. On the other hand, most motherboards come with optical or coaxial 5.1 surround sound outputs.
  6. Network Connections – Running Ethernet cables from a router to a HTPC is ideal; however, sometimes long cable runs are not an option. An Ethernet connection may not be available in the family room or home theater room. Other options exist such as wireless bridges, powerline networking or motherboards with built-in 802.11g wireless capabilities.
  7. HDTV Capture Cards – Turning a HTPC into a TiVo is easily accomplished by adding a HDTV capture card. A regular PC can do this too, but watching TV on a HDTV is more appealing than watching TV on a small monitor.
  8. CPU – A HTPC can be streaming music to an office PC, recording a high-def TV show, and upscaling a DVD all at the same time. This multitasking environment is perfect for a multi-core processor where tasks can be divided up. A dual-core or quad-core processor is highly recommended for a HTPC.
  9. Storage Space – Videos, pictures, music, and movies take up a large amount of storage space. A HTPC can act as a central media hub where all data is stored and shared with the other computers on the home network.
  10. Media Ports – HTPC cases have assessable media ports to connect iPods, Smartphones, or PSPs. This saves a person from having to reach behind a computer.

HTPC Hardware Examples

From our MyHTN.com community site:

Post your HTPC’s performance and get added to the list. Login or register at our MyHTN community site, and post to the HTPCnetwork category.

Best Buy's Geek Squad