How to Build a Home Theater PC
"California Casual Home Theater" (photo by Pascal Sijen)
Last updated: December 2018
A home theater PC is a dedicated computer that hooks up to your TV in order to take full advantage of your digital music, movie, and television library; a home theater PC can also allow you to play some PC games, use your computer's optical drive as a disc player for CDs/DVDs/Blurays, and watch videos from streaming services like YouTube and Netflix, all from the comfort of your couch.
What we are going to be looking at here are different pieces of hardware that go inside the build, followed by some useful software and peripherals that can enhance or finish off your set-up perfectly.
The misguided complaints which come up against building a PC for the living room are the same all the time: namely that desktop PCs are too big and too loud. So our recommendations here focus on bringing down the size and noise of the computer by being smart with our part and case choices.
With more and more focus on low-TDP (low-max-temperature) processors than ever before, as well as a greater shift to digital downloads and streaming, there has never been a better time to look into building your own Home Theater PC (HTPC). Perhaps this desire to buid a full-fledged HTPC is due to a frustration or limitation you are facing with a small streaming device that plugs into your TV, or even with the 'smart' functions on the TV not cutting it.
This guide provides all the information you need to build a shiny new Home Theater PC for your living room that will be powerful enough to handle your workload and entertainment—all while being compact and quiet! Building your own Home Theater PC instead of buying one pre-built means you’ll get the exact performance and design you desire, with higher-quality components and less (if any) bloatware.
Let's get to it!
In Section 2, we’ve got a part-by-part explanation of how to select components for your Home Theater PC build.
Section 1: Example Home Theater PC Builds
The following four builds provide the best performance and design choices for a Home Theater PC at different budget levels. General info on how these parts were selected and prioritized is available in section two below.
Note: When building a new PC, you’ll need to install an operating system. For maximum compatibility with available HTPC software, we recommend using Windows. You can purchase Windows here. Some people are eligible to get Windows free through school or work, so you may also look into that.
Entry-level Media Player HTPC ($475)
This build is designed to be a nice entry Home Theater solution, capable of being used for high-resolution video playback, as well as general browsing and streaming. It is also designed to be very low-power, typically using only around 100W total.
Some of the biggest cost-cutting here is that this build features no discrete graphics card whatsoever, as this is intended as a pure media playback device. But if you want to use this machine to play games, you'll likely need to add a balanced GPU choice like the GTX 1050 or the RX 560.
CPU: Intel i3-8300T
Motherboard: Gigabyte B360M D3H
RAM: 8GB DDR4
Storage: 2TB Seagate BarraCuda HDD
Power Supply: EVGA 450 B3
CPU Cooler: Stock
Case: Cooler Master Elite 130
Operating System: Windows 10
At this sort of price, this build is a great choice for someone who is looking for the Home Theater experience without completely breaking the bank and still giving you plenty of options for upgrades down the line (like adding in additional storage, or perhaps a bluray drive). All told, it is a great starting point!
The Multimedia HTPC ($800)
This build is designed to be an excellent all-around multimedia performer, All while still being a compact and energy-efficient build!
At this level, the build is still relying on its integrated graphics processor. While the iGPU of this particular build's processor may be capable of performing adequately in many games, users who will be playing a wide variety of games (especially newer titles) on their system should consider adding a balanced, dedicated graphics solution like the GTX 1060 3GB (beware: any graphics card choice for this case must be smaller than 11"x4.92").
CPU: AMD R5 2400G
Motherboard: ASRock AB350
RAM: 8GB DDR4
Storage: 4TB Seagate BarraCuda HDD
Power Supply: Seasonic SS-400FL2
CPU Cooler: Corsair H60
Optical Drive: LG Bluray/DVD/CD Drive
Case: Silverstone Tek GD05B
Operating System: Windows 10
This is a LOT of performance for the money, yet the bigger focus here is all about being compact and quiet. It'll still handle some gaming thanks to the decent integrated vega graphics, and with the extra CPU cores it also serves as a great multi-tasking PC that is more than capable of 4K streaming and bluray playback.
Some of the most important decisions here were the fanless PSU to cut down noise, a large 4TB drive in there for digital storage, and a full-featured LG optical drive for all your disc reading/writing needs. All of this is then impressively squeezed into the compact GD05B case to keep things nice and tidy.
NOTE: This motherboard might require a BIOS update to make it compatible with the new Ryzen 5 2400G if you are purchasing old stock.
The Gaming-focused HTPC ($1400)
The focus here is gaining some more gaming performance, as well as some additional high-speed storage for optimum performance!
CPU: AMD R5 2600
Graphics Card: GTX 1060 6GB
Motherboard: Asus ROG STRIX B350-I
RAM: 16GB DDR4
Storage 1: 240GB Silicon Power SSD
Storage 2: 2TB Seagate BarraCuda HDD
Power Supply: Seasonic SS-520FL2
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-L9x65 SE-AM4
Case: Silverstone Tek GD08B
Operating System: Windows 10
The fact that you can get this much performance into a small case is frankly amazing. With this, we will be capable of overclocking both the RAM and CPU. As we have a separate GPU installed here, we've switched out the integrated-graphics-focused CPU selection above for the 6-core/12-thread AMD Ryzen 5 2600 instead. To add to our overheads for gaming, we've gone with 16GB of RAM instead of 8, as well as an SSD for a boost of speed to the PC's core operations.
Finally, in an attempt to keep things quiet, we've once again gone with a fanless PSU, and a premium low-profile CPU cooler.
All told, this will give you awesome gaming performance in something that looks nice, with a brushed metal front, all while being compact and quiet.
The Big, Bold, Invigorating HTPC ($2200)
Big might be a bit of an overstatement, but this micro-ATX monster is definitely a slight compromise regarding the size concerns championed by the above builds. Instead, this build prioritizes being the logical maximum of Home Theater power and functionality. What you're losing here is some of the space-efficiency and noise-reduction of the above builds, but what you're gaining is a huge amount of performance (especially in gaming applications, even at high resolutions).
The aim of this build is to have the best of the gaming and multimedia options, as well as even more sound options for hooking into a surround sound system.
Oh, and we're wrapping this all up in a gorgeous silver-and-glass micro-ATX case.
CPU: Intel i9-9900K
Graphics Card: RTX 2070
Motherboard: Asus TUF Z390M-Pro Gaming
RAM: 16GB DDR4
Storage 1: 240GB Silicon Power SSD
Storage 2: 4TB Seagate BarraCuda HDD
Audio: Creative Sound Blaster ZXR Sound Card
Power Supply: Seasonic Snow Silent 750
CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-L9x65
Case: Phanteks Enthoo Evolv
Operating System: Windows 10
So what are you getting for your money here? Well, it's a powerful PC which can even stand to be overclocked; comes with integrated high-speed WiFi capabilities to connect to your home network for streaming and browsing wirelessly; and doubles as a top-of-the-line gaming PC. Oh, and it has one of the best sound cards available on the market, to connect into any living room sound system you can think of.
wiretap25's Home Theater set-up (via avsforum.com)
Section 2: Choosing PC Hardware for a Home Theater PC
Like most PCs that you build, the CPU is one of the most crucial parts of a Home Theater build. We need to think of a few main things when trying to keep things together in a small package, though:
Firstly, sound! The more we have to cool something, the more our fans are going to have to work in the case. Coupled with this is total power consumption, as with lower power builds, we can use fanless power supplies, cutting down the sound again.
Secondly, a more normal question: what performance are we going to get for our money? So with that being said, let's get into some examples.
Our lowest-tier example build in section one features the Intel i3-8300T. Now, I know what you're thinking, why go with a strange 'T' CPU? This is mainly because it has a low max power draw of 35W. For our build, this means it won't run as hot as other processors, so our CPU cooler won't need to run like a jet engine, keeping things quiet! Not to mention that the low power consumption frees up options when it comes to the PSU, like I mentioned above. It's a great starting point for a small build. The integrated graphics processor of this CPU (Intel's UHD Graphics 630) is compatible with 4K resolutions, and it performs really well for video playback. However, if you're wanting something for heavy multitasking, this CPU might be too limiting for you.
Jumping up a bit in budget gets you the Ryzen 5 2400G from AMD. This is a 4-core/8-thread CPU, which gives you more than a modest jump in performance for that extra cost. However, this comes with an additional concern in that, although AMD does allow under-clocking on this CPU, you can only go down to 46W—so you need to keep that in mind for cooling, and the PSU you use! That being said, this CPU is the perfect choice for 4K playback and multitasking. While it does have a relatively nice gaming performance built in as well, we wouldn't recommend it if you are looking for optimum performance.
Around this level, if you aren't going to use the built-in vega graphics, it is worth looking to switch over to the AMD Ryzen 5 2600. This gets you 6-cores/12-threads and still has a low standard TDP.
Finally, throwing cooling and power consumption out the window in exchange for performance, comes the Intel i9-9900K. This will undoubtedly provide a noticeable performance improvement, but has the price increase to match it. This is the CPU of choice here if you are wanting to be able to game extensively on your Home Theater PC. This CPU can handle essentially any current AAA game on the market, as well as all the functionality and software you would want in a Home Theater set-up. The only downside here is that power-and-noise-conscious users are going to have to be more cautious on cooling overall!
Graphics Card (GPU)
Choosing a graphics card is an interesting balancing act when you're looking at HTPC builds. One the one hand, having a discrete GPU means far more graphics performance for video playback and playing games. However, having a GPU also means more heat in the case, more power consumed, and more fans spinning for cooling—so if you're after a quiet build you might have problems.
In most cases, a build for only video playback may not necessarily need a graphics card (most of the CPUs in the example builds have inegrated graphics processors capable of displaying high-resoultion HD video). But a graphics card can open up additional display options, and is almost certainly needed if the system may be tasked with any gaming applications.
At the low end, as I've said, we're relying entirely on the integrated graphics of the CPU, as it can do the job for a Home Theater PC whose only or almost only task is video and music playback. But if you want to build one of those two lower-tier example builds without giving up gaming entirely, then consider seeking a balanced graphics card like the RX 560 for your upgrade.
For terrific 1080p gaming and 4K everything else, a solid option right now is the GTX 1060 6GB. There is a reason that it's the card featured in our gaming-focused example build: it strikes the aforementioned balance between performance in terms of power and performance in terms of low(ish) noise and low(ish) power consumption.
Those users looking to put what amounts to a Home Theater desktop computer in their living room, and use it for 1440p everything (gaming included), will want a powerful card like an RTX 2070.
Folks who really want 4K gaming on an HTPC will need to spring for something like a GTX 1080 Ti, an RTX 2080, or even an RTX 2080 Ti. But at that level, it's worth mentioning that all of the usual priorities of a dedicated Home Theater PC (size, portability, noise, power consumption, etc) have all been completely forgotten.
As mentioned above, one of the key considerations with a Home Theater PC is the cooling. The cases are often smaller and more compact internally, meaning there's no room for large, robust cooling solutions.
If you aren't pushing the CPUs particularly hard, like if you're just watching video or browsing online, then you can get away with the standard cooling solutions AMD and Intel provide. However, these never really have sound in mind—so what can happen is that people start to notice the hum from the fans when they're running.
Thus, below are a number of alternative solutions for keeping your CPU nice and cool!
Low-profile Air Coolers
With creating a compact-style HTPC, a low-profile/low-noise air cooling soluction, like the >Noctua NH-L9x65, is perfect for keeping a CPU cool and quiet, while still providing sufficient cooling for CPUs at the lower-mid-range and below (or higher-tier CPUs that aren't being pushed to their absolute limits). All told, this makes such coolers an ideal choice for a tight build.
If you want to get a little creative with your cooling, there are plenty of options and (importantly) shapes of air coolers at this price. One further example is the be quiet! Shadow Rock LP, which has an even lower profile—but the right side of it hangs over RAM slots on certain motherboards, so be sure to check your purchase so that your RAM can still fit!
All-in-one Liquid Coolers
For a slightly different approach to your HTPC's cooling, you can go with a simple all-in-one liquid cooler, like the Corsair H60. Here you can have a very small footprint over the CPU itself, in addition to having the fan blow heat directly out of the case (making the inside stay nice and cool).
If you are after a higher-end model, then consider spending a little extra for the MasterLiquid Pro 120 from Cooler Master.
It is worth noting here that, depending on exactly what you are doing with the CPU (i.e. are you overclocking?), you might find the liquid cooling solution isn't as ideal as air cooling. This is mainly because, although these set-ups do mean less space taken up around the CPU block, their space savings are often offset by a fan that has to work harder to cool the smaller radiator. This all adds noise to your build, so like a lot of things with home theater setups, you will start to get into a compromise over whether you want a more compact design or a lower amount of system noise.
Concerning Fanless Options
Now, finally, you might think we would recommend a fanless cooling solution here. After all, what is more quiet than a quiet fan? No fan at all! However, we need to consider efficiency here also. In order to keep a CPU cool, fanless coolers tend to involve very large chunks of metal, designed to have a super large surface area. So, although you could put these into a much larger case, they're not really the best option for an HTPC.
The actual final point here is for your fan selection. Better cooling often translates to bigger heatsinks and/or bigger fans, whereas better space-efficiency typically means more noise from the cooling system as it works hard to keep things at a low temperature.
Welcome to the realm of Mini-ITX motherboards! This form factor is designed with size in mind, so you end up missing out on a high number of RAM slots, PCIe slots and so on, in exchange for the super-small size. Now, depending on exactly what type of Home Theater PC you are going for, these types of boards will be perfectly fine, even if you are a gamer. The only time they are not likely to cut it is if you are aiming to game as well as having additional sound cards for things like 10.1 surround solutions.
Mini-ITX motherboards feature in most of the example builds in section one, due to the fact that their extreme space-efficiency makes them natural pairing for the tiny cases of HTPC builds.
One of the drawbacks of the mini-ITX boards, as I've said, is that they only come with a single PCIe slot. Now, if you're just after a HTPC for video playback or gaming then that is fine. But what if you want to do multiple things with the system, or upgrade it in some way? This is where the Micro ATX boards come into play. They're similar to the Mini-ITX boards, but they are longer in order to accommodate additional PCIe slot(s), meaning you might have to re-think your case selection if you go this route. What you'll do here is use the main PCIe slot for the GPU, and then (depending on what sound card or other expansion card you specifically purchase) use the second slot at the bottom of the board.
After picking a form factor to match your case, the most important thing with the motherboard is to make sure that it is compatible with your CPU (this will be determined by the manufacturer, generation, and sometimes even model of your CPU—but will always be listed in the motherboard's specifications).
The good news here is that for home entertainment purposes, you don't need a whole lot of RAM—8GB would do fine. However, when you start looking at gaming, you might want to consider doubling that to 16GB. On the other hand, if you've gone with one of the Ryzen CPUs, it might be smart to spend a little bit more for higher-speed RAM, as those chips have demonstrated the ability to take advantage of speed increases.
Although normally you might think buying a kit of 16GB RAM might produce savings, more often than not they're around the same price as if you simply purchased 2 separate 8GB sticks. Because of market fluctuations, I'd strongly advise keeping an eye on the RAM column of our primary build chart for the best value propositions we can find on 8GB and 16GB RAM!
So, for HTPC purposes, super-speed isn't crucial to most people. It's all about high capacity (video files and game files are space-hungry assets!).
Hard Disc Drive (HDD)
A lot of this depends on just how much digital media you have, as 2TB might be enough for you. If so, you can get a drive like the 2TB Seagate BarraCuda. But given the fact that the 4TB BarraCuda model is less than twice as expensive, that is the better value solution for those wanting a large storage capacity.
For an HDD, anything above 4TB is beyond the sweet spot for drive cost. Beyond this threshold, the cost per GB beings climbing again and reducing the value of the purchase.
That said, if you really need it, Seagate does have its IronWolf HDD series, which goes up to a staggering 12TB.
Solid State Drive (SSD)
If you really want to use a high-speed/high-cost SSD for something, the best option here is as an OS drive to speed up all of your computer's core operations (not to mention its start-up time). The best part here is you do not need a super-large amount of storage to act as a boot drive, as we're just after something to speed up the performance of (typically) less than 50GB of vital software.
For a cheap but solid-performing drive, take a look at the 128GB ADATA SU800. If you want to double up your storage, then you can't go wrong with the 240GB Silicon Power SSD, which features in the higher-tier example builds above.
Power Supply (PSU)
Although more often than not an afterthought, in a Home Theater PC build you really have to consider your power consumption. More power consumption means a bigger PSU to handle it, which in turn needs to be kept cool, which means more noise! We just want to watch movies in peace, is that so much to ask?
Well, thanks to the low power consumption from a number of available CPU options: no, it's not really that much to ask. Now, if you are going for a more powerful gaming and multimedia build, then on a practical level you're not going to be able to go for a fanless solution. But if you're building one of our lower tier example builds, there are a number of highly-rated, low-volume power supplies on the market (granting that those models are somewhat pricier than their louder and/or less-efficient counterparts).
The interesting part of this is actually understanding how much the PSU fan will actually spin up under load. If your system is close to, say, 100W—then even a decent 450W power supply won't be under a lot of strain at all to handle it, meaning its fan won't be going a million miles per hour. As such, you can go for great options like the EVGA 450 B3 if you are on a budget. So keep things like that in mind when reading the details below!
PSUs without Fans
When looking at these, you'll find that they top out at 600W; if you need more power than that, then you really should be looking at a different solution! However, that does give us enough room for a few different build options.
Now, if you are just going for a multimedia system without a GPU, you can't go wrong with the Seasonic SS-520FL2. Not only is this PSU fanless, but it is platinum-rated and fully modular, making it one of the best around for creating a quiet build.
If you are in need of some more power, then you should consider the Seasonic PRIME Titanium SSR-600TL. As the name suggests, this 600W PSU is a titanium-rated unit, and it is one of Seasonic's flagship models. It's far from the cheapest, however, as you're paying for the top-end output, stability, and safety measures (plus being fanless, of course).
PSUs with Quiet Fans
Now if you are not after a completely silent solution, there are still a number of quiet-fan supplies out there.
One of the nicest for the price is the 750W Silencer MKIII. What you lose in sound with still having a fan, you gain in wattage and price for what is still a relatively quiet component.
Yet, at this price point, there is a LOT of competition in the marketplace for your hard-earned money. You will also find popular models like the Cooler Master Silent Pro M2 and the Seasonic Snow Silent. So you really can get a good selection if total silence from your PSU is not your focus (or if you want to game, and so need a more powerful GPU).
Where to even start? Some Home Theater PC cases are a statement in and of themselves, designed to be compact while still standing out. Every so often, you will even see limited runs of models that have fancy touchscreen fronts or all-glass cases. Yet, as those arefew and far between, we have restricted ourselves to readily available cases for this guide!
There's plenty of mini-ITX options available, like the Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX (not to be confused with the Micro ATX Phanteks Enthoo Evolv featured in the highest-tier example build in section one), one of my personal favourites for airflow and internal design.
If you are working on a tighter budget but still want good airflow, you can choose among lots of nice and uniquely shaped cases, like the Cooler Master Elite 130.
There are plenty of high-end alternatives too, which include things like the black brushed aluminium brilliance of the IN WIN 901, if you're after more of a stylish centerpiece in your living room.
As you might have guessed, these are cases which have been specifically designed with someone building a home theater PC in mind. These are designed to sit alongside existing TV hardware, as well as being slim enough to sit alongside or beneath other devices if you're someone who has a normal TV stand for cable boxes, blu-ray players, game consoles, and more.
There are a fairly high number of these on the market, and you'll find that big-name case manufacturers have entire ranges of them where you can choose among granular feature differences to match your preferences.
Silverstone is a great example of this, where they have put a lot of effort into having similar-priced models with different internal and front designs, to allow you to pick one that is perfect for your build. You'll find two of their HTPC cases featured in example builds in the first section.
Sometimes you need a little something extra to finish off a build to your satisfaction, and Home Theater PC builds are no exception to this!
Optical Disc Drive
For playing physical blurary, DVD, and CD discs, you'll need an optical drive. An internal optical drive requires an available 5.25" drive bay on your case, so pay attention to that when choosing which case to use in your build. For the newest, highest-definition bluray standard, there is the Pioneer PIO-BDR-211UBK. For general playing of bluray discs, DVDs, and CDs, there is the less-expensive LG WH14NS40.
The sound system built into the motherboard of most modern computers is typically good enough for most or all desktop uses (and desktop users). But if you have a full-fledged surround sound system, high-quality speakers, and/or some other audio set-up to support (or if you just don't want to use the motherboard's on-board audio for some reason) you can add a sound card to your system. A solid, common choice is the Creative Labs X-Fi Xtreme. If you're after higher sampling (at a somewhat higher price), then it's the monstrous ZXR 24-bit 192KHz Sound Card for you.
Cable TV Card
While any computer with internet access can easily take advantage of the numerous streaming services available on the web, putting cable television on your computer requires something more. Hauppauge have cornered the market here, and their PCIe TV Tuner Card 1609 will happily work with QAM digital cable TV.
"Home Theater" (photo by Tysto)
Section 3: Home Theater PC Peripherals
So now that you know what is going into your build, it's time to take a look at additional items that will make your Home Theater PC set-up more complete and convenient.
Wireless Keyboards and Mice
Ranking high on the "What is that thing?!" scale for visitors when they see it—is the Lenovo Multimedia Remote N5902. For a sit-on-the-sofa experience, this is honestly one of the best compact options available while still having a keyboard and mouse.
If you would prefer a more normal-looking, less-specialized device, then take a look at the Logitech K400 for a keyboard with a built-in trackpad.
If you're actually wanting something that looks like a remote, there's plenty of models out there which work across multiple devices, like this mini 4-in-1 remote from Favormates, which still features a trackpad and a tiny keyboard on its back.
However, if you have a smartphone and it's something free you're after, browse on the app store of your iOS or Android device for a 'PC remote' app. There are plenty of them available on both platforms, and they'll do the job as free alternatives.
For PC gaming on a machine running Windows, you will find that the default controller these days is a USB Xbox controller (typically either the Xbox 360 or Xbox One style).
However, an Xbox controller is thankfully no longer the only high-quality option!
The PlayStation 4 controller is compatible with any ordinary PC. The controller itself is $45 for the standard black model, and if your chosen motherboard doesn't come with bluetooth, cheap USB Bluetooth adapters can be obtained for less than $10 each.
Oh, and let's not forget the Steam Controller! A highly customizable option designed with PC gaming in mind, which comes with everything needed for wireless connectivity, for $80.
Section 4: Home Theater PC Software
Oh man, there is so much choice at this point! From free to expensive, there's a choice for everyone in the HTPC software world, and I'll just give an overview of a few of the highlights!
You won't go far into multimedia software searches without hearing about Kodi. This is because it's free, it works across numerous devices, and it also has a LOT of add-on support—making it a dream for a PC builder who likes to tinker around to get things how they want!
Plex is an interesting alternative to Kodi mainly because you give up some customizability in exchange for an easy "install and go" experience. (Plex even now offers a form of Kodi integration that is meant to allow users to get Kodi-style customization with Plex-style multi-device access.)
Now, if you're just after a player, then the free version of Plex is fine. A lot of the decision as to whether to upgrade to the paid subscription version of Plex comes down to what additional features you want. A lot of what some might consider to be key features (like DVR for live TV, and parental controls) are locked behind the subscription.
Probably one of the more contentious pieces of software in the HTPC world, to the point that some love it (for its ease-of-use) and some hate it (for its constant adding of new features), comes PowerDVD Ultra. That being said, you do get what you pay for here—and you get nothing less than a fully featured modern player and media center.
The initial interface option between PC and TV is a nice touch to set it up how you want. And from a technical standpoint, it is compatible with every modern standard under the sun for video, audio, and photos. It will play and display any media files without issue, and will also let you customise your experience.
Section 5: Gaming-specific Home Theater Devices
Yes, yes. I suppose we have to mention these devices for those of you already equipped with a monster PC in your home, who therefore don't want to build a cool separate Home Theater PC. Take all the fun out of it why don't you?
In all seriousness though, one of the devices below—which are designed to let you stream games from your desktop computer to your TV—can be a great addition to your home set-up.
NOTE: If you came to this section hoping for recommendations or additional info on building a PC that is only or primarily for PC gaming in your living room, then you should definitely check out our big guide article on building a living room Gaming PC.
Have too many Steam games to finish just at your desk, or do you want to play your most awesome games on a bigger screen? Then consider getting the Steam Link (a simple device that connects your computer to your television, and your controller to you). It's rather inexpensive after all, and it does work!
Nvida's crazy streaming device. Some say this range of devices inspired the Nintendo Switch, yet this model is just a very hardcore and high-end streaming device for all kinds of media, from games to films to everything else. In addition to being designed for a broader range of streaming applications than the Steam Link, this beast also comes equipped with 'smart' capabilities, including Roku-style all-in-one video streaming management and smart home device compatibility.
If you can't tell by reading through this guide, there are a LOT of options available for someone wanting to create that big Home Theater TV experience with a PC. The example builds and components in section one of this article are only a representative sample of the many choices on the market. Yet we hope that this guide helps you formulate your entertainment plan, with the right balance of PC size, performance, cooling, and sound generation.
Unlike a lot of other builds, a Home Theater machine starts with the case. If you go for one of the specialized HTPC cases, then that means you can only go with a Mini-ITX motherboard, and therefore a single PCIe slot and little room for building or upgrading (or cooling, for that matter). If you jump up in motherboard size to the micro ATX, you do gain additional features and space, at the cost of no longer having something super-compact, uniquely attractive, and maximally portable.
Everything else, as this guide has demonstrated, then starts to slot into place around the case choice, with the biggest determining factor after that point being the budget. Above all, in keeping with our general philosophy here at Logical Increments, be sure to build something that meets your specific requirements, whether that is one of the example builds above or a well-researched custom machine of your own design!
"Home Theater, After Images" (photo by Chris Lattuada)
Chris is a contributing writer for Logical Increments, and has worked in the gaming and technology industries as a community manager for many years, as well as a live streamer. He has been building PC's for over 11 years.
When Chris is not here creating builds and guides, he can be found at University, studying for a BSc in Video Production as he makes the transition over to the film industry from gaming. You can read more about his journey on his website.
Logical Increments helps more than 2 million PC builders each year with hardware recommendations for any budget.
If you want to see our build recommendations for general purpose gaming PCs, check them out!