Home theatre PCs are the most versatile way to watch movies, videos and TV shows. Many devices such as the Chromecast, Apple TV, and a smart TV will allow you to stream TV shows or videos onto the big screen with built in apps, but there are some limitations which may make those options unappealing and a HTPC will not hold you back. When building a HTPC, you should always build towards what you are using it for and budget for future usage as well. If you are only streaming Netflix or videos in full HD, a budget HTPC such as the ASRock BeeBox or an Intel NUC will do the trick. Here are a few tips to help you choose what you need for a HTPC.
What processor should you get?
Unless you are getting a dedicated graphics card, the graphics processing will all be done by the CPU. It is important to choose a CPU that can handle your requirements otherwise you may get stuttering of the videos which is never good. For Netflix and full HD video streaming, an Intel Celeron of Pentium will do just fine, for ultra-wide monitors (1440p) and 4k it is best to get an i3 processor or upwards. You can go with an AMD CPU if you are after a budget build, but AMD CPUs consume a lot more power, the dual core A6-7400K has a TDP of 65W which is 16 times as much compared to the Intel N3000 with a measly 4W TDP. As most HTPC will be run frequently, it is best to stick with an Intel processor to achieve an energy efficient build.
Case – Compact or Customizable?
A compact PC such as the ASRock BeeBox or Intel NUC is great for HTPCs because they consume minimal power, barely use any space, while still having the performance to run a high power HTPC. The only problem with these compact PCs is that they lack expansion, which may limit your fyure options. If you are concerned about how things will go in the long run, you should opt for a case where the parts are interchangeable allowing for future upgrades. Preferably you’d want a small sized case, so it will be best to go for a Mini-ITX or Micro-ATX case. These cases pair up with a mini-ITX or micro-ATX motherboard with enough expansion ports to run a fully capable HTPC or even a gaming PC. The Cooler Master Elite 130 is a great choice as is it compact, has USB 3.0 ports and has plenty of room for cooling and hardware.
Power supply and cooling
The power supply, case fans and CPU cooler will be the bulk of the noise generated by your HTPC build. It is important to choose the right parts in order to get the most silent build possible. For the power supply you’d want an energy efficient one so look out for the 80 Plus standards when choosing your power supply. You can also get the Corsair RM-650W which features a zero fan mode when you aren’t using much power. Your CPU cooler should be efficient and quiet, the Phanteks TC14PE will be a great choice as it only has a sound output of 19dB.
If you aren’t streaming media online, you’d probably have a large collection of movies or TV shows ready to watch. A SSD is highly recommended as they are extremely fast and make a minimal amount of noise and the last thing you want to hear while watching movies is a spinning disk from a mechanical hard drive. If you don’t have a NAS it may be time to consider getting one, they are very convenient for storing your files and can be accessed by anyone connected to your network. These are a great companion for HTPCs as you can run everything on your NAS through media applications such as XBMC (Kodi) or Plex. If you aren’t looking to invest in a NAS, an external hard drive will do so you can transfer files to your HTPC easily or even play from it directly.
Peripherals and add-ons
A wireless keyboard and mice combo will be the most convenient add on for your HTPC such as the Logitech K400, it features a touchpad and keyboard all in one device with a range of up to 10m. An external optical drive could also be quite handy, be sure to get a Blu-Ray capable one for your Blu-Ray collection! The LG BP50NB40 will do just fine in this regard. Most HTPCs will be lacking USB ports, especially the smaller HTPCs like the Intel NUC. A USB hub will sort out all your peripheral connectivity, the Orico 4 port USB 3.0 is an affordable option for this.