Building a Low-Power Home Theater PC System


With so many great advancements coming semi-annually to Home Theater PCs, a build is never quite "finished" but instead "rests between seasons" while serving a useful function. A quick look at our now functioning unit, with self-adhesive drive tray cover installed:

Author's Opinion

Low power and low noise are great ideas, but my vision of the "perfect" home theater PC is a unit that combines the functionality of a TiVO/PVR, DVD/File player/recorder, and game console. With ultra-high bitrate codecs such as H.264 and MPEG-HD requiring hardware assistance from the graphics card for smooth playback, adding a "gaming" card seems almost a "no brainer" - except for the fact that the fastest cards come with noisy coolers.

Fortunately, companies like Asus, Gigabyte and MSI produce upper-midrange graphics cards with passive coolers, but these often receive unsatisfactory ventilation when used in smaller enclosures. Because of this, the Zalman HD135 seems an excellent compromise between good looks and hardware support, and I'll be requesting one from TG Publishing headquarters... now.

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Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.