Many households have an Xbox 360, Wii, or PlayStation 3. What you may not know is that these devices make for very good HTPC substitutes. While these don’t offer the full HTPC experience, they do offer a streamlined and easy way to get video, music, and pictures from your computer onto your TV.
If you are a Netflix subscriber, all three of these consoles allow you to access your Netflix subscription and watch any video available for streaming from Netflix. You will have to have an Xbox Live Gold subscription if you have an Xbox 360, which costs approximately $50 a year. So if you are thinking of going this route and don’t already own one of these consoles, the PlayStation 3 may be preferable, if you want to save yourself that $50 a year in addition to whatever you’re already paying for Netflix.
Upside: Can do all the media streaming that you will need, affordable, easy to use interface. If you already own one of these consoles, it's a great budget HTPC option.
Downside: Will require some knowledge of networking, and will also probably require following online tutorials for a few hours to get everything working as you would like it to.