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How to build a home theater PC and say goodbye to cable

Cutting the cable cord
Cutting the cable cord
hdrpt - Wikimedia Commons

Many consumers are tired with the ever increasing price of cable and satellite, and they are opting to cut the cord. Perhaps the best way to do this is to build a home theater PC (HTPC) for all of your media needs. This option may sound expensive, but you can build a HTPC for a fraction of the cost of a cable subscription. This guide will help you piece together a system that will serve your needs perfectly, while also saving you thousands of dollars each year. 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, home videos, pictures, or streaming content from providers like Netflix and Hulu. When a HTPC is connected to your home network and TV, the HTPC can be the center piece of all of your entertainment needs.

In this article I will be building a low on price, but not low on quality HTPC. A HTPC can be purchased pre-built from stores, but they often come with premium prices, but if you have a little time, and are not afraid of building your own computer (trust me, it's not as hard as it sounds), you can build one for a fraction of the cost. Below I have listed the parts that will be needed to build your PC, and what you can expect to pay for each individual component.

Processor

I always build my computers around the processor, and for this build I will be choosing a AMD processor. They are cheaper than Intel processors, but don't let the low price fool you, AMD chips offer incredible bang for the buck, and offer incredibly good performance. The processor we will be using is the AMD A6-5400k. This is a dual-core processor that runs at 3.6GHz and offers incredible value for money for just $59.99 it is a bargain of epic proportions. This processor will handle all of your HTPC needs and will not even break a sweat while playing HD content. While the AMD A6 might will not set the world alight when it comes to gaming performance, the built in GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) is more than powerful enough to surf the web, stream media, and play games on their lowest settings.

Motherboard

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 what RAM you can use what additional video or TV cards you can use, how many hard drives you can install, and what connections are available to you. Bearing in mind we are building on a budget, the ASRock FM2A55M-HD+FM2 micro-atx motherboard is the best value. This motherboards offers great specifications for the price, and it will work perfectly with the A6 processor. This motherboard offers a ton of connections including a HDMI out, support for up to 32GB of DDR3 RAM, a PCI-E port for an extra video card, and 6 USB 2.0 ports. This mother board is a great value at just $46.99.

Randon Access Memory (RAM)

The RAM is really what drives your system. It is what gives your computer the required power to run multiple programs, so the more RAM you have 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 for this HTPC build 4GB of RAM will be more than enough. The Team 4GB DDR3 RAM that this build will be using is just $34.99, and it will be more than enough to power the HTPC without causing any system bottlenecks.

Hard drive

The hard drive is where you store all of your programs and content, so you need to make sure your hard drive 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 a great place to start. You can always add more hard drives later on if you need more space. This 1TB hard drive from Seagate is perfect for a HTPC, and at just $54.99 it fits nicely into a budget HTPC build.

DVD or Blu Ray drive

Your HTPC will need either a DVD drive or a Blu-Ray drive to play physical media, and honestly the prices of Blu Ray drives has dropped so low that it makes sense to choose one. Blu Ray's offer the highest quality in terms of video playback, and they are backwards compatible with DVD's. I found the LG UH12N Blu Ray drive for just $49.99 which is a steal! This LG Blu Ray drive is capable of playing and burning DVD's, and can play all of your Blu Ray (including 3D) movies as well.

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, it 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 300 watts. You can find a really great, case and power supply combos like the . The TOPOWER TP-1687BB case for $34.99. This case is a no frills, clean, crisp looking computer case with included power supply. It is perfect for this build and will offer easy access to all the connectors

Windows or Linux

Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 are ideal a HTPC . Both operating systems are easy to use, they both offer access to the most important programs and they have powerful multimedia centers so that you can access all of your digital content easily. The operating system is the of the most expensive part of the whole build at $99.99 (windows 7 64-bit) and $99.99 (Windows 8.1 64-bit). If you really want to save some money you could opt to use Linux Unbuntu which completely is free. Ubuntu offers great multimedia options but it is not as user friendly as Windows 7 or Windows 8.

Conclusion

The total price for this build is $381.93 which is an incredible price for a powerful computer that will serve you well for years. The processor will be more than powerful enough to power through your media, there is more than enough RAM, and plenty of space on the hard drive for your content. The $381.93 price includes Windows 8.1. If you decide you want to give Ubuntu a try, you can cut an additional $99.99 off of the price, which would bring this build down to just $281.94.

With a computer like this you could easily cancel your cable or satellite subscription and could save major money. Since I cancelled my Dish subscription I am saving $130 a month ($1520 per year). I now subscribe to Netflix ($7.95 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. Along with my subscriptions to Netflix and Hulu I purchased a simple OTA (over the air) antenna so that I can receive all of my local HD stations for free.

In 3 months this computer will have paid for itself, and then you can really reap the savings from not having cable. You will still be able enjoy HD content, 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 ($20), 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. Building the PC is very easy, and as long as you take it one step at a time, anyone can assemble the HTPC in as little as 30 minutes. You really cannot go wrong with a HTPC.

Source: Newegg