Building your very own home theatre PC

Staff Writer By Staff Writer - updated May 2nd, 2022
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Home theatre PCs (HTPC) 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 an HTPC will not hold you back. When building an 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 an Intel NUC will do the trick. Here are a few tips to help you choose what you need for an 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 in the videos which is never good. Nowadays most people expect at least QHD for their streaming needs, for ultra-wide monitors (1440p) and 4k it is best to get an Intel i3 / AMD Ryzen 3 3300X processor or upwards. 

Case – Compact or Customizable?

A compact PC such as the 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 future 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 Lian Li A4-H2O 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. Your CPU cooler should be efficient and quiet, somewhere around 20db or less is ideal.

Storage options

If you aren’t streaming media online, you’d probably have a large collection of movies or TV shows ready to watch. An 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.

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I appreciate the need to keep this simple and accessible but how about linking to an article discussing current options in some more detail? e.g. perhaps a local media PC with lots of storage (i.e. more than 3 drives), media pc but uses NAS storage, media pc using streaming options. And then just to complicate it all, what should we be thinking about if we want to use surround sound and a separate amplifier? I'm not asking for details or a setup guide, just a good pros and cons of all the options.

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