Best Home Theater Personal Computers

Illustration of movie theatre seats on computer


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Home Theater PCs are very specific desktop computer systems that are designed to be in a home entertainment system and act as a hub for all audio and visual content. At one time this was based on the Windows Media Center software but that has been discontinued and more and more people are getting their content through streaming rather than cable or satellite. This means that there are fewer systems designed for this function. If you are still looking for a digital media-based PC to be the center of your entertainment center, here are some options.

Velocity Micro CineMagix Grand Theater

Velocity Micro CineMagix Grand Theater
Velocity Micro

Velocity Micro is one of the few companies that still specializes in manufacturing home theater specific PCs. Their CineMagix Grand Theater system is quite large compared to most new systems but it offers a huge range of options both in terms of configuration and features. For instance, it can have multiple tuners put into it so it can view and record programs simultaneously. It also features an optical drive for a Blu-ray drive which many of the other systems these days lack for those that still want to watch physical media. The company even offers multiple hard drives in a RAID array for high capacity storage for storing lots of digital media. The case is also designed to mimic many other home entertainment center components. Just be warned that this system can get very expensive although they also offer a Raptor Multiplex based on the same system but with higher level components for things like 4K Video Support.

Alienware Alpha

Alienware Alpha Gaming Console

The Alienware Alpha is really more of a home gaming console than it is a home theater PC but that does not mean that it cannot be used as one as well. The system is smaller than many other dedicated HTPCs using a lower profile compact design. This does mean that it does not have a DVD or Blu-ray drive but many people do not use them anymore. It also offers fewer features on the front to keep things to a minimum. The big difference here is that the systems are generally sold with dedicated graphics cards that offer it the ability to play PC games or for non-gaming tasks like media encoding. It also features the Graphics amplifier slot so it can use a high-end graphics card externally if you need even greater graphics performance. While there are no tuner cards, there is an HDMI input that allows it to be used with a separate receiver or game console.

Apple Mac Mini

Small form factor PCs are becoming popular for use as home theater systems thanks to their small size so they can be discretely added to an existing system. They also tend to be quieter than larger systems as they require less cooling. Apple's Mac Mini may not have the latest and greatest hardware inside of it but Apple's software integration makes great for home theater usage. The iTunes software and the AirPlay feature make the system great for streaming media to or from the Mac Mini to other compatible devices. Combine this with the Front Row features in MacOS X and it makes it easy to navigate your media from a remote. The Mac Mini is also much more affordable than man other home theater specific systems.