My current Media Center is a 2TB External HDD with a portable build of XBMC Dharma on it. It works like a charm, and looks just as good, but the problem is it requires a host Laptop / PC, and then said system needs to be able to output to a TV or Monitor, let alone be able to handle HD content. This works fine on my Tower at home, but not so much when I'm with friends or family, as not everyone has a powerful setup.
So, I'm thinking of building a HTPC, one that I can just plug into any monitor / TV with HDMI ports, and go from there. However, I'd like it to have Windows OS on it, mainly because I'm a huge gamer and the alure of having all my emulators and ROM Dumps playable in hi-def, all in one place, let alone maybe getting Steam in my living room is a huge temptation.
I'd also like to try and get Blu-Ray and/or 3D playback as well, just to really push my HTPC to the next level.
Of course, the tricky bit is keeping this moderately low-priced, as well as small and quiet enough to function as a living room HTPC, or if not at least portable enough to move to someone's house without much trouble.
Thanks in advance for any tips / advice!
Approximate Purchase Date: Summer / Fall
Budget Range: 500 - 700$
System Usage from Most to Least Important: Blu-Ray / Hi-Def (1080p) Playback, Powerful Enough to run XBMC Dharma, Gaming (Emulators / Steam, Internet Surfing and/or Streaming, Ability to use a Webcam (if it's going to be in the living room, it'd be great for keeping in touch with distant friends / family)
Parts Not Required: speakers, monitor
Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg, amazon, tigerdirect, anywhere that takes paypal and is reputable
Country of Origin: USA
HTPC case, or Small case
Moderately-Highly possible, depending on performance vs. comfort issues (noise, heat, etc.)
Various - 1080p and/or 3D being tops though. Ranges from 18" to 72" monitors/televisions.
Mainly playback of HD content is the biggest goal here. The webcam use, emulators are secondary, but would be very much liked if the price is reasonable.
Emulators I use: MAME, Snemul, Project 64, NullDC, Dolphin.