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The Advantages of a Home Theater PC

written by: Matt McConnell•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 7/14/2009

There are many ways to incorporate your computer into your home theater setup. There are many possibilities that you can unveil when using a PC in addition to a home theater setup. In this article, we will get into the advantages of setting up a home theater PC.

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    Things Needed

    There are tons of things that you can do with your home theater system when adding a PC to the mix. Lots of people like to play movies, music, and share documents to view in the comfort of their living room or bedroom.

    There are a few things needed when putting together a home theater pc. First, you need a PC with at least a Pentium 4 (or AMD equivalent) processor with a fast motherboard. You also need a video card that is at least 256 megabytes, a decent sound card, and a fairly large hard drive to store the movies you want to watch. Depending on the use, you would also need a wireless keyboard and mouse so you can control the PC while sitting in bed- or across the living room. I would recommend a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. These can be found all over the Internet and range in price from $75 to $200. These are the most reliable keyboards for long distance accuracy and a "must have" for home theater PC users.

    You can watch your favorite movie downloaded from Itunes or an affiliated pay-per-download service in high quality surround sound. This can be done by hooking your home theater PC up to the internet, either wireless via router and wireless Ethernet card, or thru a wired cable into an Ethernet card. To avoid latency, you are going to want to use either a high speed wireless G or N connection to do the transferring or streaming. If using a wired connection, you will want to use a gigabit speed Ethernet card.

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    Streaming

    Streaming video is content sent in compressed form over the Internet and displayed by the viewer in real time. With streaming video a web user does not have to wait to download a file to play it. Instead, the media is sent in a continuous stream of data and is played as it arrives. When streaming all of the aforementioned items need to be incorporated into your system. This will keep the crystal clear picture that you want in movies, and also keep the sound lined up with the movie. There is nothing worse than an American-based movie that, because of a bad connection, looks like a poorly dubbed kung fu movie. My suggestion to avoid this possibility is to transfer the movie that you will be watching to your hard drive temporarily before you watch it. The data transfer will only take a few minutes, depending on the file size (a 700 megabyte movie will take approximately three minutes on a normal connection and less on faster connection). This will take away the possibility of network traffic causing interference, and leave only the computer latency to be the source of a possible problem. If you are streaming a movie or video clip from the Internet on Youtube or another site, you may not be able to download it and are left with streaming only.

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    Internet, gaming and sharing files

    Two other uses for a home theater PC are computer gaming and sharing files. These two things, depending on who the users are, can be very helpful. The internet gaming network is a huge network of any kind of game you can think of, and they are all connected together by the Internet. Many games are what's called first person shooters or FPS, and are mostly games involving only a view of the weapon you are firing from your first person perspective. There are also role playing games (RPG), Real-time strategy (RTS), and many others. With your PC incorporated into this home theater PC system, you can play all those great games on your tv in your living room or bedroom. This experience increases when you view the game on a Flat panel LCD, plasma, or DLP TV in a large format of at least 32" or larger.

    File sharing is the ability to share files between two or more computers on a home based network. You can share video, audio, documents, and plenty of other formats through file sharing. There are also many factors to think about when sharing files: file size, amount of files to be shared, content, and the amount of sharing that takes place These factors are all determined greatly by the ability of the network to process this sharing in an acceptable amount of time. If you have all the elements of a good system, your file sharing as well as your home theater experience will be wonderful for years to come.