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I'm ready to join the HTPC (home theater pc) revolution - what to get?

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I've resisted this for a while but i'm really interested in adding a home theater pc (HTPC) device to my stereo system.

But I have no idea where to start regarding hardware or software.

What's most important to me:

* I will want to use it to browse and play from my music collection; so i want very good software for music browse/search; I'm more interested in good solid reliable software vs cutting edge super customizable stuff.  This will be my primary use of this device, playing music from a large collection of mp3 directories, so that's what i want it to do well.
* I want this to replace my DVD player; so it should be able to play dvd (or better yet blu-ray) discs well.
* Ideally it should have same wide form factor as a dvd player -- though this is not mandatory; fine if its as large as a full size receiver.
* I don't need tv tuner functionality.
* I would like to be able to watch youtube/live streaming.
* Always on or quick-on functionality is important -- I don't want to have to wait more than 30-60 seconds for startup.
* Cheaper is better -- don't want to pay more than a couple hundred.
* Being able to upgrade HD in it would be nice (as opposed to a closed box); but i'm not obsessed about being able to customize/replace all of the hardware in it.
* It should run quiet and cool -- it can get hot where this will be located.
* Do not need to worry about multi-room streaming, etc.; I already have a stereo system and hdtv, this will be one component feeding into the receiver.

Are you looking at building?  Or buying a pre-built solution?

Either way.  Wouldn't mind building.

Last year, I set up an HTPC or sorts using a Dune HD Duo ( as the core. To play music, audio books and movies/documentaries, I use a few of 'green' 3.5" drives from WD, Seagate and Hitachi. What I like about Dune is:

* its ability to play most file formats,
* the nice Zappiti media wall (
* the clean video up-scaling
The Duo has now been discontinued by Dune, although firmware updates continue to be available. You could however look at the currently available models, which should fit your budget.

What sort of budget are we building in here?


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