I do have some followup thoughts, but they're not very useful in terms of specific hardware.
I have an htpc computer that I bought used on ebay. It's basically a full pc, running windiows 7, in a case that looks and is sized like an audio component (though it is deeper than most). I don't even remember the brand except to say that they are now out of business. It has hdmi out and digital audio out -- but basically it's a standard pc just the form factor is different.
I run windows 7 with XBMC (now upgraded to latest Kodi
What I can tell you is that I am really happy with it as a component of my media system. It is a very cool thing, and for someone like me with a ton of music, it's a pretty cool way to browse and play music.
It is also fun for playing things like youtube videos and other downloaded videos. And being a full windows machine it's convenient that I can run any program on it, whether it's burning or ripping cds, monitoring temperatures, or playing web streams of any kind with the browser.
It sleeps and wakes up perfectly with push of a button, which is really convenient, and a wireless mouse+keyboard combo makes typing full text pretty painless (much better than trying to do that with onscreen keyboard).
Having said that, here are a couple of other observations: I intended to use the htpc to play dvds/blurays but gave up and bought a standalone blu-ray player. The htpc/xbmc will play dvds but it's a bit slow and clunky and awkward, and blurays wont play without buying some software. in the end a standalone bluray player was just more convenient.
As for sound from the fans -- mine is ok but it's definitely something i would pay attention to when shopping for a device -- to make sure reviews said it was quiet -- as that could be an annoying thing to discover if you bought a no-name brand that no one has reviewed yet.
Anyway, those are my thoughts -- sorry I can't advise on hardware specifics. I can only say that an htpc is a pretty cool thing to have.
Here's my htpc:I'm ready to join the HTPC (home theater pc) revolution - what to get?