While there are fewer custom HTPC (Home Theater PC) builders than there were a year ago, the category still exists and you can still find builders online that will take the work out of building the ultimate centerpiece for your home theater. I recently came across Assassin HTPC. A small custom house, Assassin has several selections of standard PCs and can customize your solution for you as you need.
I recently contacted the company to receive a review unit. Assassin was kind enough to send me their Elite unit, which is the typical customer order. Stacked with a Blu-ray player and enough storage to record a significant amount of HDTV, the unit I received comes packed in a small form factor case that, while not the typical home theater component size, will look good in your main viewing area. The glossy piano black finish on the front panel hides the built in Blu-ray player as well as two USB ports along with mic and headphone jacks.
The rear panel on the PC provides you with all of the typical connections including HDMI, DVI and VGA for video. There's also a S/PDIF optical port available in case you prefer that for audio instead of HDMI. There are a total of eight USB ports and two of those were USB 3.0 on the model I received. The 3.0 ports won't be completely useful yet as there isn't a lot of USB 3.0 gear out there but it's coming and having the future-proofing of the feature is nice. Standard 3.5mm audio jacks, an Ethernet port and eSATA fill out the back panel. There's also a PS2 keyboard port though I doubt many people will use it these days. With modern HDTVs you should be all set. The connections for using an older TV aren't there but it's hard to expect companies to continue adding the ability to use component or S-video forever.
Assassin uses a full height case for this particular build. While the full height isn't needed, it does leave room to use the PCIe slot on the motherboard to add a tuner. Tuners are optional with Assassin builds but they do offer several choices on their website. If you are looking for a smaller solution, you can make that choice when ordering your system.
- 2.5 GHz Intel i3 Processor
- 60 GB SataIII SSD (Solid State Drive) for OS
- 2 TB Hard Drive
- 4 GB DDR3 1333 SD RAM
- Blu-Ray Drive
- Mini ITX Motherboard 3D ready
- HDMI, DVI, VGA video
- Digital, Optical and analog audio
- USB 3.0 x2
- USB 2.0 x4
- Gigabit LAN
- SATAIII and SATAII connections
- ACHI Enabled
- Black Steel Mini Box case w/250w Power Supply (11.80" x 8.7" x 5.1")
As you can see, the Elite system comes with enough horsepower to easily push Media Center. There's room for expansion should you need another hard drive, though with 2TB available strictly for TV storage, most people will be fine. 4GB of RAM should also be plenty. If you intend to use this box for anything other than Media Center, you may want to consider adding more, but as it stands, the HTPC should be able to keep up with no problem.
Stay tuned here for more information as I dive deeper into the use of the Assassin Elite PC. I'll be running the unit through it's paces in the next few weeks and will have a full report near the end of December. It's always hard with computers as the smallest things can effect how well they work but you can expect to receive full details including test results and more general information on how well the HTPC handles different audio and video scenarios.