Home Theatre PC's are specially built computers with emphasis towards HD video
and audio play back. Here are some of the things to look for:

  • An ascetically pleasing case designed to blend or stand out, preferably tool-less
  • A quiet Power Supply that will provide more than adequate, consistent and
    clean power
  • Quiet case ventilation
  • A 64-bit OS with Media Center
  • A reasonably powerful CPU
  • RAM memory, it's cheap so the-more-the-better (8gb or better)
  • A fast spinning, large cache SATA main HDD
  • A Bluray/DVD/CD drive (int/ext)
  • A Motherboard capable of combined audio/video HDMI output or DVI video
    with either optical or digital coax audio
  • A network adapter and working connection, preferably wired
  • Playback software capable of Bluray and HD playback (Bluray playback is not
    native to Win7 MC)
  • Movie indexing software for Media Center (optional)
  • Software to copy your owned Bluray / DVD collection to HDD (Optional)
  • TV Tuner card - 1 or 2 (Optional)
  • Remote Control (Optional)

You could buy a computer from a Big Box store with spec's that may "fit" some of these criteria and it may
work but then you are essentially buying a general purpose box made with cheaper components that will
also not include required software for broader playback options. In the long run you will waste money on
unnecessary technologies and have a machine that will expire sooner, cost more to upgrade and still will
be insufficient to the task.
HTPC
Personally, I believe that the best configuration is a "mated set", the HTPC and the Media Server together
with all applicable software installed and set to connect via network. A pre-configured set can guaranty that
you will have a fully working system that is essentially plug-n-play.