Thursday, December 04, 2008

Ars Ultimate Home Theater PC Guide: 1080p HDMI Edition

If you're building a home theater PC (HTPC) this Christmas, and you won't settle for anything less than high definition, then checkout Brian Won's post over at Ars Technica.

The Ars Ultimate Home Theater PC Guide definitely earns two thumbs up from me. Brian breaks down the ins and outs of several key components, both software and hardware and makes some great suggestions. The guide is well written and fairly easy to follow, I strongly suggest checking it out.

The guide is broke up into three separate HTPC systems.

System one is described as the All-in-one HTPC:
  • This is what most people traditionally think of as the classic HTPC: a single box that sits next to your TV and plugs neatly into your TV, network (wired or wireless), and antenna/cable. This normally has at least two tuners in it, so you can watch and time-shift content at the same time as you record something else in the background. It also has enough space for most of your video files, and probably your pictures, music, DVD ripping, and whatever else you need to do.

The other two HTPC options come in the form of a one-two punch:
  • Lightweight front-end: this sits by your TV like a traditional HTPC does, except it offloads the storage and heavy lifting to the back-end. It streams all of the content off of the back-end, so the front-end can be very compact, low power, and unobtrusive. No tuners, only minimal storage, for minimal footprint in more ways than one. In fact, a media center extender might work here for those willing to explore the option.

  • Heavy Duty Back-end: in a two-part setup, this does the heavy lifting, containing the tuners and all of the media. Since it's out of the living room, it can be much bigger with significantly more emphasis on storage and performance, without costly burnt offerings at the altar of low-noise components. Cramming a stack of 1TB hard drives in a low-cost software RAID5 may be an exercise in overheating in the living-room-friendly chassis of an all-in-one box, but it's cake in most good quality conventional chassis.

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