|Recycled PC: Old Computers with a New Purpose|
|Articles - Featured Guides|
|Written by Mat Thompson - Edited by Olin Coles|
|Friday, 05 June 2009|
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Watching video on a computer is becoming more and more common all the time among computer users. There's a lot of videos out there, especially with the advent of Youtube and streaming video from the internet through services like Netflix. Yet, watching video at your computer leaves something to be desired. The HTPC lets you sit back and enjoy movies and shows in your living room. Because of the sudden increase in media, the HTPC has become exceedingly popular among people of all walks of life.
Watching video on a computer does not require that much processing power. DVD resolution mpeg-4 ASP video (DivX or XviD) can be played back on processors that were manufactured as far back as 2000 (such as Pentium 4 1.8ghz or Athlon Thunderbird 1.0 ghz). DVD resolution mpeg-4 AVC (h.264) video requires a bit more processing power. But, it can be handled by processors produced as far back as at least 2003 (such as a Pentium M 1.5ghz or an Athlon 64 3000+).
HTPCs aren't just limited to video either. Music can easily be streamed from computers throughout a household using wireless b connections. In fact, iTunes allows the sharing of playlists for streaming playback. So, you can maintain your music library on your main computer and share it with all the computers on the network. Moreover, the same software that is used on your desktop pc to view your photo collection can be utilized to view the same on your TV. With a good wireless keyboard and mouse set, the TV can be used to play PC video games as well.
The HTPC genre has also led to a plethora of software suites developed in the vein of Windows Media Center, many of which are free. Some suites are based on the Linux, such as Myth TV. The suites serve to simplify your video and audio collection into a single interface that allows for simple, single click usage. The media suites also typically contain DVR (digital video recorder) functionality with the ability to synchronize with online TV listings.
The caveat (there's always one) with the HTPC is that it doesn't necessarily look like it belongs in the living room. The computer's can usually be a bulky affair with colors that may not necessarily match the décor surrounding it. A fair amount of HTPC cases have been released in order to blend in with the rest of the setup. Also, if there are too many fans in the computer, it can produce an unattractive amount of sound. These are the sorts of problems that plague most HTPC setups. However, if these hurdles can be overcome, the HTPC can become one of the most interesting additions to your living room. Moreover, if one is so inclined, a modest investment can be put into a computer to silence it, including larger fans and larger heatsinks.