Is the Home Theatre PC dead? Is HTPC even a thing?

best budget home theater system

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I’m old enough to remember days way before Apple TV, Roku, Google, Chromecast, Smart TVs, and even Netflix itself.

Working in reverse, I’ve traversed through these smart Apple TV boxes back through pre-built Android hardware boxes preloaded with Kodi and other open-source streaming and video file sharing and broadcasting devices right back to the days when you had to build your own Home Theatre PC, and load it up with all of your files for use at home. 

My belief is that there are still people out there who believe in the power of the Home Theatre PC.

There’s no doubt that a lot of people have racks with their computers in them with super fly hard drives and super powerful processors that are all connected via ethernet into various power amps and broadcasting racks serving their TV or projectors and home theater speaker systems in their houses. 

HTPC build

If those people exist, I don’t know where they are. But I think they are out there.

It seems foreign to me now that I would have a computer hooked up to my TV back in the day when I had three or four external hard drives plugged into that device, all feeding my media and entertainment appetite with videos and audio. 

Back then, Plex and Kodi were the best solutions for putting things up on the screen or through your speakers, and HandBrake was your best friend if you needed to get things off of a compact disk or CD. (holler in the comments if you remember handbrake)

For those of you out there still building Home Theatre PCs, I’d be super keen to hear exactly what and why you’re still doing that for. Is it the quality that you’re after to feed high-resolution Blu-ray quality media files down fat wire as opposed to some of the more convenient options these days?

I had an Apple Mac Mini connected to my TV for about 10 years, and it was the ultimate Home Theatre PC. And I was ever keen that they were gonna update the Mac Mini to a point where it would be a combination of Apple TV and Mac Mini.

They did end up updating the Mac Mini, but it never really served what I wanted it to serve, and that was that it was going to be more powerful than an Apple TV, and slightly less powerful but close to a full Home Theatre PC.

My Mac Mini died and I then moved on to an Apple TV 4k and that was great, but there are always those files that you need to serve that you have local.

With the lack of a Mac Mini, I only had a few options, so I opted for a Synology box and installed Plex on that, including a file management option, which can work with other external services I connect to.

This has proved to be an absolute success and gone are the days when I had to faff around with keyboards and access websites from the Mac Mini on the TV to get access to my files, whether that be local or remote.

Home Theater
Source: JumpStory

Now, the Apple TV connects through the Plex client to the Synology box and has access to all of my audio and video that I have bought and stored over the years. So, in my world, the HTPC really is dead.

I don’t see any need to have to build a full-size Home Theatre PC to manage all of my media, but I can definitely see friends and some circumstances when, if you have space in your house for a rack-mounted system with cable patching enabling you to run wires through to the important parts of your house, that a hardwired system would certainly be rock solid, never struggle with bandwidth issues, with resolution rates that are too high for the wi-fi solution I have now.

But maybe I’m wrong. I’d welcome your thoughts in the comments below.

Endless hours of experimentation, professional work, and personal investment in Home Theatre, Hi-Fi, Smart Home Automation and Headphones have come to this.

Former owner of Headphones Canada, a high-end headphone specialty retailer.

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2 thoughts on “Is the Home Theatre PC dead? Is HTPC even a thing?”

  1. I actually just bought a new PC yesterday for use as a HTPC. With win 8.1 approaching end of life, and my existing HTPCs being nearly a decade old, I went with new hardware to install Windows media centre on. This is why I still use HTPCs, for recording OTA tv. Never watch anything live so can skip ads and watch at 1.2 X speed.

  2. I just installed a state‐of-the-art gaming PC in the rack in my family room, to connect to our large 4K HDR OLED TV. It is completely frivolous, since gaming on GeForceNow and GamePass is more than adequate with an Nvidia shield. I just wanted access to more games, and to max out their settings. Playnite or Steam provide a great console-like interface almost without needing a keyboard or mouse once games are installed.

    Anyway, I decided to try to use it as an HTPC as well. I don’t have any use for storing videos, only streaming. All of the major streaming sources of course are available on Win 11, at least through a browser. However, for streaming videos, I still much prefer using Shield, Roku, and Google TV.

    The reason is that neither Microsoft, nor any of the streaming providers, have any interest in making their software comfortably usable on a TV. Windows doesn’t include by default the required codecs. Neither Windows nor the streaming apps are reasonably navigable with anything but a keyboard and mouse. You can’t even power on or wake your PC without installing additional (albeit inexpensive) hardware. I appreciate the work that went into Kodi, but it is a poor substitute for the providers’ own streaming interfaces. On top of that, the PC turns my media cabinet into 200 degree oven–worth it for 4K maxed out Elden Ring, but totally unnecessary for rewatching Game of Thrones in 4K HDR.

    HTPC’s are a poorer and over-priced substitutes for $50-$200 streaming devices. If you like for some reason storing videos in your home, just attach USB storage or NAS to the streamer.

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