Building An HTPC Console, Part 1

I’ve been waiting for a couple of years to pull the trigger on a Home Theater Personal Computer (HTPC) set-up. I wanted to fit everything ‘multimedia’ into a custom console in my den that kept my entire system streamlined, organized, and hidden from sight. When you live in a house as small as mine, you have to consider the aesthetics or else you look like a hoarder.

I was pretty late to organize my media on my computer. The wife and I didn’t get our first iPod until Christmas of 2009 and we quickly filled our old desktop PC with burned CDs. We needed a new computer, but I wanted to get one that was somewhat future-proof. These days, future-proof means it’ll last 5 years.

I’ve been wanting to move to Blu-Ray for a couple of years, but it didn’t make sense without a HDTV. And the wife and I wanted to do more streaming of online content, but we wanted to watch the content together at home. Without an internet-enabled device hooked up to a TV, it didn’t make much sense. Who wants to slouch over a laptop on the coffee table? So I decided I wouldn’t fork out any more money on electronics until I had a HTPC plan in place.

A lot of techies build their HTPCs from scratch, choosing graphics cards, processors, and drives to maximize their experience. I’m sure those machines are great, but I’m also pretty sure they’re not very wife-friendly. And I knew that if my set-up was any more complicated than switching the input on the TV remote, I would never hear the end of it. Plus, I’m not a gamer, so I don’t really need a maximal set-up.

To get the ball rolling, I bought a sleek little Windows 7 desktop with a dual-core processor, 500 GB of storage, as well as a 1 TB external hard drive. The PC basically exists as a network-attached storage device (NAS) as well as a web browser. With Windows HomeGroup, we store all of our music, pictures, video, and documents there and back it all up periodically to the cloud. Those files are easily accessible from several more user-friendly devices around the house via WI-FI.

My surround-sound A/V system still has a few years left in it, but it was time to retire my old DVD player. I’ve been making some extra income from my consulting work, so I finally joined the modern era and bought a Sony Blu-Ray player, a LG 1080p LCD HDTV, an EPSON wireless printer (which should be the last paper printer I ever buy), a DVD organizer, and a wireless, hand-held keyboard/mouse to use as a remote control. We’re still keeping digital cable with DVR for now, but I hope to dial back our usage and eventually cut our costs.

I used the dimensions of the new components to sketch out a plan for a multimedia console that would allow cool air into the storage space, block most of the light from bleeding into the rest of the room, and neatly store everything without showing any wires. This is my plan.

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UPDATE: Building An HTPC Console, Part 2

Building An HTPC Console, Part 1
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