.: Home Theater Personal Computer (HTPC)

A Home Theater Personal Computer, or HTPC, is a device that is both a computer and a digital video recorder. This kind ofcomputer is used to record live TV for later playback or for pausing real time broadcasts. HTPC's are also used for pictures, music, and DVD/HD playing. A television with a VGA, DVI, or HDMI is the perferred way to connect a HTPC to the display.

The minimum recommended hardware for a HTPC is:

Processor: 2.0 GHz dual core (2.4GHz dual core if outputting HD)
RAM: 2Gb (4Gb for HD)
Hard Drive: 500Gb or larger (can run on a smaller drive but not recommended for storage reasons)
TV Tuner: Combo card with digital tuner
Audio: 5.1 HD (standard on most motherboards)

Above is what I recommend for a HTPC, the one part were you have the most customization is the hard drive space. The larger the better is the key but you can get away with a smaller drive.

There are a lot of tuner cards out there, the most known cards are made by AverMedia & Hauppauge. There are 2 different styles of tuner cards, Combo or Hybrid. A Combo card has 2 seperate tuners whereas a Hybrid has 2 inputs but only 1 can be run at any given time.

Some sites say a 1 GHz computer can run a HTPC, but I disagree; a 1 GHz can not keep up the whole time without dropping frames, and in this day in age where a 2.0GHz dual core chip only costs $50 there is no reason to go any slower.

There are plenty of options for software when you are deciding on a HTPC, most TV Tuner cards come with software that will run in Windows and works fine. One of the easier solutions is to use Windows Media Center Edition 2005, Vista Home Premium, or Vista Ultimate. If you have windows XP or Vista but not one of the media center versions then a free software is available, GB-PVR.

For the most budget conscious person (Vista or Media center license costs $130) a linux HTPC is a great solution. MythTV for linux works just like Windows Media Center and is completely free. Linux does have one large drawback and that is it will not play any Blu-Ray movies from a disc due to security built into the discs.

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