November 21, 2011

Mega-PC For All Your Home Entertainment

I was poking around and found a combo deal that included all the parts to make a home media PC with a 4 x HDTV tuner, Blu-ray burner/player, i5-2600 processor, 8GB memory, 2TB harddrive, Radeon HD 6570 video card, an Xbox style wireless controller, and some other misc, bells and whistles.   The total price on the combo was about $1,370 plus a $20 rebate so you'd pay $1,350 after the rebate.   It didn't include an OS so you may have to put down another $100 for Windows or you could use Linux for free.   This "mega-PC" would provide about all the stuff you would want in your home entertainment center all in one box.

This single combo system would replace :
Desktop PC
Blu-ray player
HD Tivo / DVR

Xbox 360 or PS3 gaming unit

To buy all that stuff individually you'd be spending roughly $500 for a PC, $100 for Blu-ray player, $800 for a Tivo with lifetime, $200 for the Xbox 360.   Thats $1600 total.    Or if you don't buy a Tivo you could spend $800 on the hardware and another $10-20/month to rent a DVR from your cable/satellite company.

The mega-PC is potentially cheaper and better in many respects than buying the individual electronics.

Lets consider the pros/ cons of building such an all-in-one Mega PC :

- Potentially cheaper overall
- Easily more powerful
- Upgradeable
- One box with central control and location
- Flexible and customizable
- Smaller and less cluttered

- Requires building the system
- Could be more complex to use
- You may already own half the stuff

Of course if you're interested in such a "mega-PC" then you don't have to use the set of parts listed above.  You'd likely want to tailor and customize the system to meet your own needs.   For example if you aren't too interested in video games you could build a less powerful system and make do with a lower end video card. 

If you're not experienced or interested in building a computer then that can pretty much kill this idea for a lot of people.   The though of building a complex computer may be more than most people want to tackle.   Building this kind of computer is more complex than a basic system as you'd have to setup all the TV connections as well.    However, I think people shouldn't be too afraid of building computers or working on computers.   The basics are actually fairly simple and don't require any more skill than knowing how to use a phillips head screwdriver.   There are a lot of guides online to walk you through how things are done.  I am convinced most people could do it if they tried.

Personally I think the bigger reason why this kind of mega-PC system may not work for many people is the last con on the list which is that you may already have many of the components.   Many households already have a gaming system, DVR and a blu-ray player.   If you don't have all three then you probably have one or two.   It doesn't make sense to throw out a perfectly good PS3 or Tivo if you've already got one.    The benefit of the all-in-one home entertainment PC is its ability to replace several other electronics.  If you don't have any of those electronics currently then this can be a great way to go. 

What do you think?   Have you built a PC?   Would you consider building an all-in-one entertainment home PC like this?

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