The 4 Best Home Theater PCs of 2023

Watch your favorite flicks on your computer — just bring your own popcorn

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The best home theater PCs are small, powerful, and expensive. If you’re working on a budget, you can expect to sacrifice either size, power, or both to hit your desired price point. To help you find the best option for your setup, we’ve researched and tested systems from all the top manufacturers, including Intel, Apple, Asus, and others.

Best Apple

Apple Mac Mini

Apple Mac Mini


What We Like
  • Compact form factor

  • Lots of configuration options

  • Flash storage up to 2TB

  • Runs up to two 4K displays

What We Don't Like
  • High base cost

  • Upgrades are expensive

  • Integrated graphics

The Mac Mini is a beautiful piece of tech with impressive specifications and an exceptionally high price tag. Available in a wide variety of configurations, the Mac Mini comes with a single HDMI 2.0 port that’s capable of piping 4K video to your TV, and you can also hook up a second 4K display via one of the included Thunderbolt 3 ports. All models include Ethernet for connecting to your home network, and you can even upgrade to 10GB Ethernet and a compatible high-speed network-attached storage (NAS) unit to round out your home theater experience if you like.

The best thing about the Mac Mini, and the thing that makes it so well suited to the role of home theater PC, is the diminutive, unassuming case. This tiny computer is small enough to slide into just about any home theater setup, either alongside or on top of your other components, and the sleek, space-gray case is unlikely to clash with the rest of your gear.

"I was able to juggle an impressive number of browser windows, intensive apps like Photoshop and Handbrake, voice and video chat over Discord, and more without running into any real problems." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Apple Mac Mini

 Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen

Best Mountable

Dell Optiplex 3070 Micro

Dell OptiPlex 3070 Desktop Computer - Intel Core i5-9500T - 8GB RAM - 256GB SSD - Micro PC


What We Like
  • Lots of mounting options

  • Entry unit very affordable

  • High performance options

What We Don't Like
  • Mounting brackets cost extra

  • Only two high definition video outputs

  • No discrete graphics options

 The Dell Optiplex 3070 Micro is a great choice if you’re working on a bit of a budget and also have space constraints. While this unit is small enough to fit into most home theater cabinets and other situations, you can actually mount it to the back of your VESA-compatible television with an optional bracket. Carefully route short cables behind your television as well, add a soundbar, and the Dell Optiplex 3070 can form the core of one of the stealthiest home theater systems around.

The entry-level Dell Optiplex 3070 Micro offers an excellent mix of affordability and performance, with a dual-core Pentium processor, 4GB DDR4 RAM, and a spacious 500 GB hard disk drive, all with a price tag lower than much of the competition. If you need a higher performance option, you can upgrade to a variety of Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 processors, add a 256GB PCIe SSD, add up to 8GB of RAM, and more.

The only real drawback of the Dell Optiplex 3070 Micro is there isn’t any option for discrete graphics, so you won’t be using this as both a home theater PC and a gaming rig. If that isn’t important, then this line has a whole lot to offer.

Best for Gaming

Origin PC Chronos

Origin PC Chronos

Origin PC

What We Like
  • Home theater and gaming in one package

  • Fantastic performance for the size

  • Some upgrades available

  • Compact design

What We Don't Like
  • No free PCIe slots for upgrades

  • No free DIMM slots for more RAM

  • Manufacturer add-ons are expensive

The Origin Chronos is on the larger side of PCs we recommend for home theater settings, but there’s a good reason for the exception. This PC is still significantly smaller than your typical tower unit. Yet, it’s powerful enough to run the 4K display in your home theater system and then seamlessly switch over to play many of the latest games at the highest settings. If you’re a home-theater buff also into PC gaming, the Origin Chronos ticks all the right boxes.

While the Chronos is a bit on the large side, gamers will be immediately comfortable with the size and form factor. It doesn’t conform exactly to the size specifications of any specific game system. Still, it doesn’t look out of place next to an Xbox One or PlayStation 4, nor will it have overstayed its welcome by the time you upgrade to the next generation of consoles.

The base configuration of the Origin Chronos comes packed with a six-core AMD Ryzen 5 3600 and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Super, which means you can even use it with some of the best VR headsets. You can also upgrade to a variety of more powerful Intel and AMD Ryzen CPUs and even slot in a beastly Nvidia GeForce3 RTX Titan if you’re looking to future-proof your home theater and gaming experiences.

The Origin Chronos is a bit pricey if you’re not looking for a home theater PC that can double as a powerful gaming rig, but it’s a fantastic option if that is what you’re looking for. It even allows you to upgrade after the fact, like a traditional PC. However, the PCIe and DIMM slots are all full from the factory, so you’ll be replacing components with upgrades rather than just adding new functionality on top.

Best Pocket Performance

Intel Compute Stick CS125

Intel Compute Stick CS125 Computer with Intel Atom x5 Processor and Windows 10 (BOXSTK1AW32SC),Black


What We Like
  • Remarkably small size

  • Decent performance

  • Affordable

  • Full Windows experience

What We Don't Like
  • Limited memory

  • Some versions are expensive

  • No upgradeability

  • Some models are sluggish 

The Intel Compute Stick is a tiny home theater PC with a form factor that isn’t much larger than most television streaming devices. It’s designed to plug directly into one of the HDMI ports on your television, or you can use an HDMI adapter if the Compute Stick is too big.

Unlike streaming devices with a similar form factor, the Intel Compute Stick is a legitimate Windows PC. It features the full Windows 10 experience, which means you can use this tiny home theater PC to do anything you can with any other Windows computer. You can install apps, browse the internet, and stream media for your home theater.

The Intel Compute Stick comes in a few configurations, so choosing the right one is essential. The most affordable option packs a lightweight Atom processor suitable for basic streaming, but don’t expect it to do any heavy lifting. More expensive versions are available with faster processors, all in the same tiny form factor.

What to Look For in a Home Theater PC 


You’ll find home theater PCs equipped with both Intel and AMD CPUs. AMD is a fine choice if you’re after a budget model and don’t need high performance, while Intel typically provides higher performance. The latest AMD processors have flipped that script with a fantastic performance from their most expensive offerings, but you’re unlikely to make that kind of investment in a home theater PC.

Graphics Card

You need your home theater PC to have a discrete graphics card if you want the best performance. It doesn’t need to be powerful enough to play the latest games if you aren’t also a gamer, but it does need to be powerful enough to drive an HD or 4K display or multiple displays, depending on your configuration. If budget is more important, you may have to settle for integrated graphics.


You’ll need plenty of storage to convert your media library to digital content that you can play on your home theater PC or stream to other devices. Look for at least a 256GB SSD with the option to add more via USB or Ethernet. If you prefer to stream your content, look for a home theater PC with a built-in 802.11ac or 802.11ax Wi-Fi card.

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