Are you looking to build a home theater PC but are on a budget? Want to lose cable and save hundreds of dollars every year? Don’t fear, I am here to help walk you through this process and help you build a great HTPC (home theater pc) for a low price that will not be low on quality.
In this day and age of digital content, a HTPC is a great way to store, play and share all of your digital media, whether it be mp3 music, movies or home videos, pictures, or streaming content from providers like Netflix and Hulu. When hooked up to your main television in your house the HTPC can be the center piece of all of your entertainment needs, even being able to eliminate cable from your home which could save you thousands of dollars each year. In this article I will be building a low on price, but not low on quality HTPC. I will be getting my pricing information from Newegg.com and tigerdirect.com, which is where I buy all of my pc parts from. What will we need to build our computer? A case, power supply, processor, ram, hard drive, graphics card, dvd or blu ray drive an operating system and a wireless keyboard and mouse.
I have recently built this system for myself and it is great for a HTPC. I always build my systems around the processor, and for this build I will be choosing an AMD Phenom processor. They are cheaper than Intel processors and offer incredibly good performance. The processor we will be using is the AMD Phenom 9850 B.E (black edition). This is a quad core processor that runs at 2.5GHzand offers incredible value for money and at just $69.99 it is a bargain of epic proportions. This processor will handle anything you throw at it and will not even break a sweat; playback of HD content will be a breeze for this processor. The fact that it is quad core also means heavy duty tasks like video encoding will be handled with ease. The Processor should come with a heat sink and fan, If not plan on adding another $15.
Once you have decided on the processor you can then find the motherboard that you want. The motherboard is in all honesty the most important part of the entire system. It will dictate to you, what RAM you can use and how much, what additional video or TV cards you can use and how many, how many hard drives you can install, and what connections are available to you, So it is important to pick a good motherboard. Bearing in mind we are building on a budget I have chosen the MSI 785GTM-E45 Motherboard. This is an incredible motherboard that works perfectly with the Phenom processor; it also offers an HDMI out which is the new standard for High Definition, not to mention it makes it incredibly easy to connect to your TV. There is support for plenty of RAM and it can run in dual channel and offers more than enough USB connections. It is also just $69.99
THE RAM (Random Access Memory)
The RAM is really what drives your system. It is what gives your computer the required power to run multiple programs and multi task so the more ram you get the better. RAM over the past year has sky rocketed in price and can easily become the most expensive part of your build if you are not careful, However I have found a great deal on 4gb of ram which is more than enough for a HTPC, in fact you could be fine with just 2gb of RAM in a HTPC but more ram will mean increases in performance which cannot be ignored and for just $62.99.
THE HARD DRIVE
The hard drive is where you store all of your programs and content, and with everybody using digital content more than ever, you need to make sure you get a hard drive that has enough space not just for your current content, but for future content too. Music, Movies, and Pictures can take up space pretty quickly so a 1TB (terabyte) hard drive will be fine a HTPC, finding one that will fit in with our budget is the challenge. I have found the SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 HD103SJ 1TB hard drive for $69.99 which is a great deal. It is the fastest hard drive you can find which is 7200rpm and it will ensure you have enough space for all of your programs and media files.
THE DVD/BLU RAY DRIVE
This will entirely be a personal preference on the buyer/builder. The decision to jump from DVD to Blu Ray is a big one. Prices of Blu Ray drives have dropped dramatically in recent months and can be found rather cheaply now. Blu Ray drives will not only play the latest High Definition Movies but they will also play all of your old DVD’s as well, so for me the choice is an easy one. I found the Samsung SH-B083L/BSBP for $79.99 which is a steal! It will act as your dvd burner which also supports lightscribe as well as being your Blu Ray and DVD player.
THE VIDEO CARD
Most motherboards will be able and handle most HD video feeds without a problem in fact this motherboard we are using in this build will be able to playback HD Video but when it comes to Blu Ray it is worth spending just a little on a quality video card. The Radeon HD 5450 is amazing for a HTPC it will play anything and everything, Blu Rays will look absolutely spectacular and will play smoothly and seamlessly! The HD5450 will also allow HD audio to be passed through the HDMI which means if you connect this HTPC through a receiver that supports HD audio you will be able to hear the latest Dolby True HD and DTS HD MA. The HD 5450 is just $49.99
THE CASE AND POWER SUPPLY
You really do not need to spend crazy money on a case and power supply for your HTPC. The case does not have to be fancy or flash, does not need to grow neon green or blue, it just needs to house your components and sit there as they do their job. The power supply will need to be about 450 watts. You can find really great, cheap case and power supply combos like this one. The Logisys CS206BK for $29.99 is a no frills, clean, crisp looking black computer case with included power supply! It is perfect for this build and will offer easy access to all the connectors
THE OPERATING SYSTEM
Windows 7 is the ideal operating system for a HTPC it is easy to use, offers access to the most important programs and has a very powerful multimedia center so that you can access all of your digital content easily. Now you could go a different route and go with Linux which is free, it also offers great multimedia options but it is nowhere near as user friendly as Windows 7. Windows 7 64 bit edition is perfect for a HTPC and is available for $99.99.
The total price for this build is $532.92 which is an incredible price for a very powerful computer which will serve you well for years. The processor will be more than powerful enough to handle new programs for a long time; there is more than enough RAM and plenty of space on the hard drive for your content. Now you could make this cheaper by $50 if you opt out of the Blu Ray Drive and just go with a DVD drive ($20) which brings the price down to $482.92. You will be hard pressed to find a better deal than this for a HTPC. If you are really computer literate and go with Linux as the operating system instead of Windows 7 the total price of the build is just an amazing $382.93!
Since I built this computer I cancelled my cable subscription which was costing me $120 a month! I now subscribe to Netflix ($9.95 per month) and Hulu ($9.95 per month) and I get all of the movies I could ever need to watch and all of the current TV shows from ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and TV shows from Food Network, HGTV and many more from Hulu, all streaming to my big screen TV through my Home Theater PC. In 5 months this computer will have paid for itself, then you can really reap the savings from not having cable and you can still enjoy HD content streaming from the web, not to mention you can enjoy all the benefits of a computer on your big screen, like Facebook and Youtube. Add a wireless keyboard and mouse, sit in your favorite chair, surf the web and watch all your favorite shows on your big screen without having to pay hundreds of dollars to the cable guy! You really cannot go wrong with a HTPC.