Home theater PC enthusiasts want their HD video and Blu-ray discs to run smoothly, dammit, and the HTPC doing to the leg work had better being whisper-quiet doing it. Zotac is a company that has made its name by catering to the demanding HTPC crowd, and a product they’ve announced today continues that razor-sharp focus: the GeForce GTS 450 ZONE Edition graphics card mixes DirectX 11 visuals with a fan-less cooling system that helps keep noise to a minimum.
PCs make great Blu-ray players, but Acer’s Revo RL100-UR20P is the first Blu-ray-equipped PC we’ve seen that’s thinner and smaller than most purpose-built Blu-ray players. If it played high-definition audio discs such as SACD and DVD-Audio, it would be one of the most powerful Blu-ray players on the market, but this machine isn’t that ambitious.
We’ve built our fair share of home theater PCs in the past, with all sorts of different use cases in mind. Our August 2010 HTPC was a stunner built for 3D, with passively cooled GPU, CPU, and PSU, as well as a four-channel CableCard tuner and Blu-ray 3D support. In June 2011, Gordon tried to make a small-form-factor HTPC that could cut out the previous build’s bulk (and CableCard) while still supporting Blu-ray 3D. Both of those rigs handled their respective tasks well, but what if I don’t care about cable but do care about gaming? This month’s task is to create a kick-ass gaming rig in an HTPC form factor—one that can handle modern games, as well as 3D Blu-ray and Dolby TrueHD audio, without sounding like a jet engine.
Looking to get your movie watching on? Turn to Zotac. The company might not be at HP’s level in terms of sales, but when it comes to HTPCs, few companies deliver better small form factor results. The company’s ZBox line has been a go-to brand for video streaming enthusiasts, and now, there’s a new Zotac ZBox available that ditches Intel and AMD in favor of a VIA processor.
The original ASRock Vision 3D is acknowledged to be one of the best small form factor HTPCs available. It was a reasonably specced machine for its time, but a page was recently discovered on the ASRock site that points to the second generation Vision with spiffy new Intel Sandy Bridge CPUs.
Lian Li today launched a pair of pint sized cases, one of which is intended for your home theater. That's important to note, because at a glance, you might mistake the new HTPC PC-V353 as a NAS box. For whatever reason. Lian Li went with a square design instead of the more traditional rectangle shape, a fitting shape for Spongebob but one that isn't likely to fit into your HTPC rack.
AMD currently has two Llano desktop APUs on the market, with four more chips scheduled for release later this year. A product roadmap recently discovered inside MSI marketing material has already shed light on three of the four upcoming chips. As for the fourth one, our friends over at Fudzilla now claim to have all the details.
I have an average-size spare bedroom that mostly functions as a home office and gaming room, and has been used primarily by me. Given the cramped quarters of San Francisco apartments, I set out to make the room less me-centric and more family-friendly by transforming this home office into a home office theater. The goal was to create a room suitable for three things: normal PC computing, big-screen surround sound movie viewing with no reconfiguration needed, and big-screen gaming. Ancillary goals were to make the room feel less like a cluttered man cave, and to avoid breaking the bank.
Back in the August 2010 issue of Maximum PC I built a 3D HTPC that I was pretty damned happy with, but the times have changed. The CableCard quad tuner that was featured prominently in that machine is no longer needed, as I have joined the ranks of the Cable Cutter Movement™. So without the need for a CableCard, I wondered if I could build a rig with all the same capabilities but make it much, much smaller.