The latest release of XBMC (9.11 Camelot) was a major milestone for the media centre with regards to both stability and usability. The release stabilised and improved a lot of the core features, vastly improved the skinning engine and came with a completely new and much improved default look and feel.
Without a solid media center software your HTPC wouldn’t be much more than a regular PC hooked up to your TV. If you are desperate you could resort to using Windows Media Center, but you HTPC could be so much more and it won’t cost you anything apart from a bit of time and perhaps an ounce of dedication. There are several great open source alternatives to Windows Media Center available and the one I finally decided on was XBMC Media Center.
Having an HTPC hooked up to your TV just isn’t the same unless you’ve got an efficient and simple way of controlling it from the couch. The whole idea of an HTPC is to have access to all your media at your fingertips and getting off the couch sort of defeats that purpose. There are many different gadgets and peripherals you can buy to enhance your living room experience and give you greater control of your HTPC. At the very minimum you’ll want a remote control and/or a wireless keyboard.
Choosing the right hardware for your needs. When choosing the components for your HTPC you should first consider what you will be using your HTPC for.
- Do you plan to play full HD 1080p content?
- Do you plan to play games?
- Do you plan to record TV programmes?
You don’t need the hardware of a revved up gaming computer just to watch HD content but if you plan on playing some newer games then you’ll probably want to invest a bit more in components. For slower systens there is now an ideal (and cheap) hardware solution to provide smoother 1080p playback even on slower machines, it’s called Broadcom Crystal HD. Check out the Broadcom website for more details.
Over the past decade computers have slowly but surely crept their way into the living rooms of more than just uber geeks. I’ve wanted to build a dedicated HTPC for ages but I’ve never felt the timing was quite right, until now. Full HD TV’s are dirt cheap, the computer hardware required to run and store 1080p is cheaper and more readily available than ever. Recent graphic cards that have HDMI output supporting 7.1 surround sound means that you can easily assemble an HTPC with a single cable connecting to the TV. Hard drives cheap and big enough to support even the most ambitious media collections. My childhood dream of having access to a massive media archive at my fingertips is almost a reality; no more having to search for that elusive DVD missing from it’s cover to watch something
Building your own HTPC is not that different from putting together a regular computer, but there are some things you should keep in mind.