Can you connect to the internet, watch TV, movies, pictures, surf the net, shop, play games, listen to your music or radio and many more all on your TV screen. If you can’t, then your TV is not that smart; it is in need of an upgrade!! The current trend is to have what is called a Smart TV. A Smart TV allows you to have the ultimate Home Theatre experience.
If your TV is not already built in with this SMART technology (e.g some Samsung SMART TV’s), you can obtain it through the use of a Home Theatre PC system.
According to WikiPedia “a Home Theater PC (HTPC) or Media Center appliance is a convergence device that combines some or all the capabilities of a personal computer with a software application that supports video, photo, and music playback, and sometimes digital video recorder and time shifting functionality. In recent years, other types of consumer electronics, including gaming systems and dedicated media devices have crossed over to manage video and music content. The term “media center” also refers to specialized application software designed to run on standard personal computer“
In laymans terms, an HTPC is just a device you use to enable you to obtain the multimedia content.
If you are ready for your own HTPC, read on.
The components that can be found in an HTPC system includes a Digital Media Player device, TV screen, television connections, a remote control, TV and Radio tuner cards, speakers and Media Centre software.
Digital Media Player
The key to any Home Theatre System however is the Media Player, which can come in all shapes and sizes. There are dedicated devices called set top boxes (e.g iDer Smart Player, Apple TV, Roku, Boxee Box, Android PC on a USB Stick), integrated devices found in consumer electronics (Xbox 360, PS3) and PCs.
A readily available option for a Media Player is a PC. You can select any capable PC that you like; however, popular brand name manufacturers have recently been making small computers called nettops suitable for becoming an HTPC. They are affordable, deliver a quality HD video experience, quiet and contain the necessary ports. Popular choices of HTPCs are: Dell Zino Desktop, Apple Mac Mini, Asus EEE Box, and the Acer Aspire Revo.
After your choice of a media player, you need a television set. Although you can use older CRT models, the best viewing experience would be on a nice flat screen LCD/LED television. These TVs have modern connectors such as HDMI ports that enable easier connections to the media player.
The next thing you would need is the connection from the Media Player to the Television. You need to check your Media Player and TV and determine what connections are available. Modern TVs and Media Players (e.g nettops) have HDMI ports, so you could easily connect them with an HDMI cable. If you do not have HDMI ports, probably a S-video on the TV and DVI or VGA on the computer, then it would take a little more work to make the connection. There are cablings that you can use to connect them together.
To make your TV truly smart it needs to be connected to the internet. You connect your Media Player to a working internet connection either through a wired eternet cable or through WiFi from your home router.
It is no fun using your HTPC if you have no remote. You can use a wireless mouse or keyboard, but the ideal thing would be to have a Remote. Some of the dedicated media players come with a remote so you do not have this additional worry.
However, if you are using your PC, then you require a remote such as Windows MCE Remote
TV and Radio Tuner cards
To watch/listen to live radio and TV, you need a TV or Tuner card. If your media player (such as a PC) does not come with a TV or Radio Tuner card on board, then you can incorporate it via an onboard TV/Radio tuner card or a USB TV/Radio card.
If you want the ultimate Home Theatre experience, you can connect your media player or Television to a stereo system to utilise its impressive speaker sound capability.
Media Center Software
Once your Media Player and TV are connected, you need specialised media center software to control the home theatre experience. It manages all your digital content of playing DVDs, slideshows, radio, TV, online video games etc. Dedicated Media Players may already have this incorporated into them. If using your PC, you can install the following popular media center software: Windows Media Centre that comes with the latest version of the Windows OS, Boxee, MediaPortal or XMBC.
We found that MediaPortal was the most advanced media center enabling you to:
• Listen to music and radio
• Play videos, movies and DVDs
• View pictures or create a slideshow
• Watch, schedule and record live TV – like a TiVo, but more, and for free!
• Stream media, radio and TV to any HTPC / PC connected to your network
• Use a remote to control your HTPC from your couch
• Check weather, news, or information on the web, even play games!
So once your have your HTPC all set up, turn down the lights, sit back, relax, pump up the volume and enjoy your favourite Home Theatre experience in the comfort of your living room, on your big screen TV.
Were you able to setup up your HTPC? Leave your comments below and let us know how it went.