The 8 Best Home Theater PCs to Buy in 2018

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

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As technology has advanced, the definition of a Home Theater PC has changed. Back in the day, building a home theater PC required careful forethought and planning. With slow streaming speeds, clunkier graphics processors and a lack of entertainment options stored online, you needed the best processors and storage to create your system.

Things are a little easier today. Streaming video on Netflix and Hulu will work on all but the slowest machines, and music services such as Spotify cut back on your required storage. Still, you want a machine that has a powerful processor, video card and plenty of RAM. Your options are either to opt for one of the All-in-One PCs that look like a TV (with speakers and components in the monitor) or to buy a desktop, speakers and monitor separately and assemble your package. Not sure which one to spring for? We've included a few options from each category on the list below.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: HP Pavilion All-in-One Desktop

HP Pavilion All-in-One Desktop
Courtesy of Amazon.com

The HP Pavilion sports a 23.8” IPS Full HD LED-backlit touchscreen sports a 1920 x 1080 resolution that looks great in smaller and medium-sized rooms. The cinematic experience is again bolstered by powerful integrated speakers, which fill the room with loud bass and crisp audio.

The Pavilion includes an optical ultra-slim DVD burner, a three-in-one media card reader and a wireless mouse and keyboard. The processor is an ultra-fast Intel Core i3-6100T Dual-Core processor that clocks in at 3.2 GHz and is complemented by 8 GB DDR4 memory. You can store plenty of multimedia files in the 1TB 7200RPM SATA hard drive or stream them over ​​802.11ac Internet.​​​​​​​

Runner-Up, Best Overall: HP Envy 27” All-in-One Desktop

HP Envy 27” All-in-One Desktop
Courtesy of Amazon.com

This sleek, high-end all-in-one desktop from HP is a modern and powerful machine that will satisfy all of your entertainment needs. The first thing you notice is its 27” QHD IPS WLED-backlit Micro Edge touchscreen, constructed from floating glass balanced on a thin metal stand. Once you power up the computer it comes to life in Technicolor certified 3.7 million pixels for ultra-sharp definition. The beautiful image is complemented by HP quad speakers that are custom tuned by Bang & Olufsen to make an engrossing home cinematic experience.

The entertainment is powered by the latest and greatest specifications. Included is Windows 10, an Intel i7-7700T processor, 16GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M Graphics and 802.11ac WiFi. These are all top-of-the-line components that you would find in a gaming PC, but conveniently assembled with the monitor. Control the action with a wireless keyboard and use Bluetooth 4.2 to connect any other devices you need. This machine may be pricey, but it does everything and looks great in the process.

Best Value: Acer Aspire 7th Generation Tower Desktop

Alienware AUR5-12571SLV Desktop
Courtesy of Amazon.com

This desktop tower is simple but packed with powerhouse features at a baffling price. The i5 7400 processor can clock speeds up to 3.5 GHZ, and the 12GB of DDR4 memory supports it with more speed. There’s a 2TB SATA hard drive for what’ll seem like limitless storage and the Intel Graphics 630 graphics card will give you crisp picture performance. There are 4 2.0 USB ports and 3 3.0 ports for ultimate flexibility, and at under 7 inches wide it’s so slim it’ll fit basically anywhere. It runs Windows 10 and offers a DVD-RW drive for burning DVDs once you’ve watched the films. But, as we mentioned up there, the best part is the price… because with all those savings you’ll be able to add a top-notch monitor, an insane speaker set, and even more.

Best Budget: Dell Inspiron 24 3000 All-In-One

Dell Inspiron 24 3000 All-In-One
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Dell’s Inspiron 24 3000 has something for everyone in the family, making it Amazon’s choice for an All-in-One PC. The display is a 24” Full HD wide-viewing-angle screen that is thin and colorful. The attractive display is accompanied by integrated Waves MaxxAudio speakers and powered by a 6th generation Intel i3-6100U processor.

The package also includes an Intel HD Graphics card, 500GB HDD, 8GB DDR3L memory and a four-in-one Media Card Reader. Dual band 802.11ac Internet and Bluetooth 4.0 give you a host of connectivity options, while a DVD drive and several USB 3.0 ports give you more ways to view your media. This PC is engineered for powerful performance, whether it be for gaming or watching 4K media, but is built at a value price. 

Most Compact: HP Pavilion Wave

The HP Pavilion Wave is the first PC to be compatible with Amazon Alexa, adding an extra level of convenience to your work and home life. You can ask Alexa to check your calendar, save notes, answer questions, play music and much, much more. As a home theater PC, one of the Wave’s premium features is powerful internal audio, with every single speaker projecting 360-degrees of robust sound. Tech-reviewers are widely impressed by the PC's audio quality — especially when compared to its competitors. The Wave operates on a 7th Generation Intel Processor with 8GB of memory and a 1TB hard drive which can support one 4K display or a dual-HD monitor setup. Its size may be deceiving, but the HP Pavilion Wave certainly packs a lot of power.

Runner-Up, Best Value: Apple iMac (2017)

Apple isn't typically synonymous with the word “affordable,” and while the 2017 iMac certainly isn’t cheap, it's definitely worth the price. The model features an i5 Intel Core processor with 3.0GHz, 1 TB storage and 8GB RAM, which Apple boasts as being their fastest system to date. As a home theater PC, the graphics are where this product truly shines, with a 4K Retina display that shows off the brightest and most vivid array of colors. The iMac also uses P3 color LEDs for a more equal representation of blues, greens and reds — intended to more accurately reflect real-life color. The internal audio quality leaves something to be desired, but even a modestly-priced speaker will easily remedy the issue.

Best for Gaming: Alienware Aurora R7

In the gaming community, Alienware’s products are known to deliver powerful processing ability, and the Aurora R7 continues the brand's positive track record. This PC will cost you a hefty penny, but if you have the budget, it’s worth the investment. FYI for first-time buyers —  Alienware computers are highly customizable, so you can choose from eight different configurations that suit your budget and gaming needs.

Even if you go for the cheapest configuration available, you’re getting a 6-Core Intel processor with 12 MB cache, a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card, and a 1TB hard drive. The second-level configuration offers double the internal memory, a Nvidia 1060 graphics card, and VR-ready software. Aside from impressive customizability, the Aurora R7's strengths rest mostly in processing power, as the PC handles even the most demanding games like a dream. Likewise, even their most basic model, which runs a 1050 graphics card, still showcases sharp visual quality (without buffering ) and produces an immersive viewing experience befitting of your favorite movies and games.

Best Processor: HP Envy 34-inch Curved All-In One Desktop

Cyberpower Gamer Xtreme VR GXiVR8020A2
Courtesy of Amazon.com

At first glance, you might think the real shining aspect of this all-in-one is the glorious, massive, curved screen. And while that is definitely true—and it makes for a great home theater experience—the processor is nothing to sneeze at either. It’s a 2.9 GHz quad-core intel Core i7 processor that works in tandem with a completely separate graphics AMD Radeon processor and 16GB of RAM to provide truly gorgeous picture and performance. That 34-inch curved display we mentioned offers QHD resolution and the Ban & Olufsen-designed speakers offer mind-blowing sound to go with your flicks. It runs Windows 10 for the most up-to-date performance and the 1TB SATA drive alongside the 256GB SSD provide ample storage for downloaded movies, and expandable accessorization will make it fit any application you can throw at it.