Petite PCs: slick and small living room computers

About The Author

CNET Editor

Nic Healey can usually be found on a couch muttering about aspect ratios and 7.1 channel sound - which is helpful given that he's the home entertainment guy at CNET.

With the growth of smart TVs and the ever-increasing feature sets of media players, the idea of a PC specially designed for the living room has lost some of the currency it had a few years ago.

However, there are still some great reasons for wanting a small form factor PC tucked into your entertainment unit.

First and foremost, a good home-theatre PC (or HTPC) can still give you the best option in terms of the breadth of video and audio file formats that can be played, with a wide range of players and codecs all easily found and installed.

Some users stick with an HTPC for easier access to software that disguises your computer's geo-location to get access to overseas streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and BBC iPlayer.

The interface is another big draw card with the HTPC. Rather than putting up with whatever default smart TV or media centre interface your device comes with, an HTPC allows you to choose the software you want, with Plex and XBMC being two very popular options.

The other reason that a lounge room PC might be your kind of thing is for gaming. Thanks to Steam's Big Picture interface, gamers can now easily access their entire Steam-based library of games conveniently from the TV set.

While it may not be exactly what hardcore FPS gamers want, it's a good rival to the console age and certainly makes Steam a very viable platform for some of the indie developers and even more casual-style games. It's also why there are constant rumours about Valve partnering with PC manufacturers to build a small form factor gaming PC: the fabled Steam Box.

We've assembled a list of some pre-built PCs from well-known names, some more DIY-style kits and even just a few PC cases that would look good in the lounge room to show you where to get started.




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PhilipA posted a comment   

Only one of these have a slot for a PCI card... A living room pc with no tuner card, whats the point?

 

JamesM8 posted a reply   

Ditto on the Blu Ray/DVD drive.

 

skythra posted a reply   
Australia

Why are you watching free to air at all? Stuck in your ancient ways. No i'm not talking about torrenting 'linux isos' i'm talking about the dozens of other video streaming services out there in the world that offer better tv programming. Same obviously goes for the dvd drive comment though. I haven't had one in my 3yo (firstgen i7) htpc and i've never needed it. If i do feel bored enough to buy one at a supermarket, i make sure its the version which comes with dvd+bluray+digital download. Because lord knows i don't want to stand up search my draw and pull out the case just to watch some trash i bought while waiting in the line at the checkout.




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