Off the shelf HTPC recommendations?
June 19, 2008 1:02 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any recommendations on off-the-shelf WMC HTPCs? I've been searching high and low, and virtually all the information on the intertubes seems to be about building HTPCs. I know that's the more cost-effective route, but I just don't have the time. Here's what I'm itchin' for:

- Stereo component form factor
- HD Recording Capable
- Oodles of storage & memory (min 1TB/4GB)
- Blu-Ray drive/ DVD-RW
- Integrated cable card
- Super-quiet! (perhaps liquid-cooled)
- On-board wi-fi
- Wireless remote/keyboard

I guess I like the idea of having a small touchscreen on the unit itself, thereby eliminating the need to turn on the big TV every time you want to change the music. But does anyone have any opinions on the relative merits of the touchscreen?

I've checked out the websites for VidaBox, VelocityMicro, Niveus, Alienware Hangar 18 - but don't really know anything about those brands. Anyone have any good experience with them - or can recommend others? I can't seem to find any comparison reviews for such off-the-shelf systems.

Any insights, suggestions much appreciated.
posted by MaxVonCretin to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you can forgo the stereo component case, just about *any* off the shelf PC can be an HTPC, all you need is Vista Home Premium or Ultimate and a tuner card. I bought a slim line PC from HP and saved the $200ish it would cost for the stereo looking case and custom PSU.

You may want to look into vista sideshow for the external LCD.
posted by wongcorgi at 1:53 PM on June 19, 2008

The HP Pavilion Slimline s3400t meets most of your requirements and does so inexpensively. I have an older model than works great as an HTPC.

* Stereo component form factor - It isn't quite a stereo form factor - it's narrower and taller than stereo equipment, but looks fine in a rack. You just can't stack other components on it.
* HD Recroding - Yes
* Drive space and RAM - You can get a 750 GB drive standard. You could also configure it with a smaller drive and buy a 1 TB drive seprately. These machines use a regular 3.5" SATA drive. 4GB of RAM is no problem.
* Blu ray - Yes
* - Cable card - No. That's the one major downfall here.
* - Super quiet - Yes - my TiVo is louder than my HTPC. (I don't use the HTPC for recording TV). It uses a single quiet fan.
- Wifi - yes
- Wireless remote, keyboard - Yes
- Touchscreen - No

I was able to configure one of these with a Core 2 E4500, 4 GB of RAM, a 750 GB drive, Blu ray, wireless, OTA recording and a remote/keyboard for $1,149. Although it adds complexity, you may be better off buying one of these and a $260 TiVo HD for recording TV than paying $2,000-$3,000 to have it all in one box.

That being said, Alienware is now owned by Dell and is a well respected company.
posted by cnc at 2:00 PM on June 19, 2008

If you need a cable card - right now the only thing you can do is get a Dell 420
posted by bleucube at 2:04 PM on June 19, 2008

Seconding CNC - I was looking at building my own for ages but instead plumped for an HP S3240 - runs solid as a rock (even on Vista), very quiet, can even run Crysis (just about) and does all the TV recording malarkey you could ever want.

And as cnc for skipping tracks etc, it comes with an IR remote.
posted by eb98jdb at 1:31 AM on June 20, 2008

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