You probably have the basic idea of what to look for in a working PC but when it comes to the home theater PC, it’s a whole new ball game. Similar, yes but some considerations just aren’t the same. Your home theater PC, if chosen well, can assure you convenience and hours of visual entertainment, so make sure you buy only the unit and/or components that will meet your specific needs.
A home theater PC is basically your computer combined with an AV receiver. Having a PC with powerful graphics can be a great alternate for a DVD player. You can also use a TV tuner with a home theater PC. Using your own personal video recorder, you can then time-shift TV viewing, essentially creating your own TIVO. This is your home theater system enhanced, since having a PC will enable you to view, record, save files and enhance sound quality.
Contrary to what most people believe, a good home theater PC doesn’t necessarily require the latest CPU packages. In fact, the CPU is one of the components that are of least importance. If your existing CPU is decent enough, that should work, regardless of whether you’re running on Intel or an AMD.
However, a higher GHz will give you better DVD resolution and help you access HDTV, so you’ll probably fare best with an Intel Pentium 4 or an Athlon XP. Your existing computer can also benefit from upgrades if necessary. Usually, you’ll need a more powerful motherboard to keep up with the new system. If you don’t want to assemble it, simply buy a pre-built PC.
Building a better view
To ensure that your home theater PC doesn’t break up the actors’ faces into linear jigsaw-like puzzle pieces, get one that has a good graphics card. ATI Radeon is usually the popular choice, but there are others on the market you might want to check out. Next to a good view, of course, is audio functionality. Your home theater PC should have an audio card that is hearty enough to support gaming and DVD playback.
You’ll need a robust drive if you hope to skim over files during random access and especially if you are looking forward to recording high-def content later. You can get a multi-format recorder, although a reliable DVD-ROM combined with a CD-RW drive should be enough.
The speakers that came with your PC package will usually do, but it’s not called a home theater for nothing. You’ll need to have a good pair of speakers to make the video viewing experience more satisfying.