A Home Theater PC (HTPC) loosely defined, is a computer that streams media to a large-format screen in your home. More specifically, it is a purpose-built PC that has large storage capacities, the ability to run very quietly, and does not attract a lot of attention. HTPCs can also incorporate some unique media-acquiring technologies.
My Own HTPC
My own HTPC is a cube-shaped black desktop chassis with a side panel, and a white cathode tube inside. It has a single 120mm radiator, attached to a CPU liquid cooler, keeping my i5-4690K nice and cool. I also have a 120GB SSD acting as the boot/operations drive, and a big 4TB WD Green acting as the bulk storage drive.
If you’re technically-savvy, you might be wondering why I chose a 4690K for a media server. The answer is futureproofing. I knew an i3 might not be quite enough power to suit my needs, and an i7 would be overkill. The K denotes an unlocked CPU clock speed multiplier, which makes overclocking possible. While I don’t overclock my media server currently, it does have the ability...if I ever decide to turn it into a decent gaming PC.
You might also be wondering why I’m watercooling a media server. While I certainly don’t need it (the i5 is quite capable of handling my operations without needing to turbo), the sheer lack of noise is bloody awesome. AND just knowing that it’s liquid cooled is cool (pun intended). I have thought about making it into a custom-built full loop, but seeing how it would be purely aesthetic, I haven’t done it yet.
Storage on a HTPC can get expensive fairly quick, due to the varying size of files. WD Green, WD Red, and Seagate IronWolf drives should be used if possible. These drives do not run as fast as other performance-driven units, and are designed to use as little power as possible when not under load. Using low power is essential in a 24x7 operation as most media servers are. Nowadays, a 2TB drive can be acquired for under $100. This makes it relatively easy to set up a nice media server, and even implement a stable RAID array if desired.
Dedicated GPU With Special Case
HTPCs can also incorporate dedicated GPUs, as it is a simple plug-and-play install. Some of the cases that are used for slim HTPCs might not be as optimized for heavy gaming use, so that has to be taken into account for. There are some very nice cases available for HTPC use, and I would not recommend them for gaming use (airflow is different).
HTPCs are definitely a different type of PC, and not what you see often. They do however, provide an excellent way to organize your vast library of movies, shows, and random video clips.
While not as crazy as some gaming setups, they still offer a sleek, clean, stylish design, that does not skimp on the really important parts.