A Home Theater PC is a Computer that runs one or all of the following: Windows XP Media Center Edition, Windows Vista Home Premium or Ultimate, or other Media Center software like BeyondTV, SageTV or MythTV. A Home Theater PC allows you to watch and record TV, burn DVDs of your favorite TV shows, burn DVDs of old home movies, listen to music, play CDs and watch DVD movies. Typically a Main Menu lists all your entertainment options:
Below are my top picks for Home Theater PCs.
The Alienware Hangar 18 HD Home Entertainment Center Media Center PC brings the latest in audio and video technology to your home. The Alienware Hangar 18 HD Home Entertainment Center features Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium, which integrates the functionality of individual Audio/Video components into a single unit. It allows users to playback and burn CDs and DVDs and it works like a TiVo Digital Video Recorder. The Alienware Hangar 18 HD Home Entertainment is slightly larger than a VCR and fits easily into any home entertainment center.
An excellent Media Center PC that fits nicely into your living room. With a 500GB internal Hard Drive and a 300GB external drive, you get tons of storage space for your TV shows and Videos. Includes dual NTSC TV tuners so you can record one show while watching another. Also includes an ATSC tuner to record Over-the-Air HDTV. Control your TV, music, movies, and photos in one unit, with a design that blends with your home theater equipment. Pause, replay, and record TV from cable, satellite, or antenna.
The Sony VAIO VGX-XL3 Home Theater PC turns your living room into a home theater. You can edit and archive video, music and photos. Capture and edit TV and video. Turn your old VHS videos into DVDs. Watch, record, and pause TV with DVR capabilities. Includes a 500 GB Hard Drive and 2 GB of memory. Best for people looking to purchase one unit for all their multimedia needs. Lots of hard drive space and memory.
The Dell XPS 420 Home Theater PC is a computer for all your digital entertainment needs. Watch and pause live and recorded TV, play movies and videos, music and radio. This Media Center PC from Dell is fully upgradable to the latest processors, memory and hard drive sizes, and includes a TV Tuner upgrade option. The Dell XPS 420 is a tower desktop PC that won't fit easily in a living room setting, but the price is excellent for people who want a good Home Theater PC.
The Sys Technology MediaMax Media Center PC looks more like a stereo component than a computer. It packs a lot of power for a small unit and allows you to play music and movies, tune into FM radio and TV stations, display photos from a memory card or disc all without loading Windows. Includes up to a 300 GB Hard Drive and 512 MB of memory. Uses the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-150MCE TV tuner for DVR functionality. A PC that looks like a stereo. Very cool.
The Gateway FX series of Home Theater PCs are an affordable Home Theater PC option. Upgradeable to 4GB of memory and a 1TB Hard Drive. Utilizes the Windows Vista Home Premium O/S for watching and recording TV. Includes DVR functionality and allows you to pause and rewind live TV like a TiVo. Burn DVDs to a dual-layer DVD burner. A tower PC that runs very quiet, ideal for a living room setting if you don't mind a tower PC in the living room.
The Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV600 is a laptop computer that runs Windows Media Center. With a built-in TV Tuner, the Qosmio G35-AV600 allows users to watch and record TV on their PC. Good memory and hard drive size for a laptop. DVR functionality along with the other Media Center functions. A bit pricey, and not ideal for a living room set up. On the other hand, it's pretty cool to watch recorded TV shows or DVDs from virtually anywhere.
The CyberPower Media Center PC Ultra Edition runs Window Media Center OS and fits in nicely with your other A/V equipment. With a black or silver finish, its a little larger than a VCR or A/V Receiver. Includes 1 GB of memory and a 250 GB Hard Drive. Offers a Dual-layer DVD drive and DVR functionality. A good price, but fan runs a little loud and includes a single TV tuner only (dual tuner costs extra). Overall a quality Media Center PC.
The ZT Media Center PC X6568 is a sleek PC that looks more like a Stereo or A/V component. It comes loaded with Windows Media Center OS and features a TV Tuner and a multi-format DVD drive. 2x 512MB memory and a 250GB Hard Drives gives it plenty of storage for TV and Video. Use like a TiVo DVR: Pause and rewind live TV right on your PC. Affordable option for a living room PC, although the fan is a bit noisy.
The iBuyPower Media-XP System Media Center PC runs Windows Media Center OS and comes loaded with 512MB of memory and a 200 GB hard drive. Includes a Dual-layer DVD Burner, 5.1 Surround Speakers and many A/V inputs and outputs for connections to other A/V components. About the size of an A/V receiver, it fits nicely with your other home theater components and runs quiet. Not as many bells and whistles as some of the other Media Center PCs, but solid nonetheless