Just having a Home Theater PC is not enough. You need to connect it to your television if you really want to make the most of your system. The question which confronts every designer of an HTPC system is what high definition television system should you use to make the most of it?
Once upon a time, all broadcast television stations were analogue, so that would have severely handicapped your elite HTPC system. Today all stations are broadcasting digital signals, so you could easily tune in all the area stations with a digital tuner. This won’t get you many stations, but at least the local stations and broadcast networks would be available.
Going with digital cable
With digital cable you get a wide assortment of cable television stations, many in high definition. Going with digital cable gives you an opportunity to truly maximize the capabilities of your home theater PC.
Digital cable sends a lot more data through the same analog bandwidth so you have a chance to see more and get more from your provider. You can connect to your digital cable using a digital set top box, Firewire or a tuner card which supports digital cable.
Each of these come with their own special features and limitations. With a set top box you need an infrared remote to change channels and you can only get analogue channels.
With Firewire you don’t need the infrared remote but you will need decryption software to watch premium channels. With the tuner card you will need to call cable technician for complete installation, a pricey option and a bit outside the do-it-yourself credo.
Satellite television option
If you are tired of dealing with cable companies there is the satellite television option. All you need is one of those small satellite dishes available through any of the satellite television providers.
You will still need a set top box to connect your HTPC TV, much the same as you do for connecting to cable television, but some say dealing with cables companies makes that option just too difficult.
What type of regular service you want?
As for which one of these options is right for you, it is much the same as choosing what type of regular service you want. There are some small additional costs involved when dealing with one or the other and some minor limitations, but overall the systems are about the same.
A company sends your HTPC a signal, it converts that signal into images which your eyeballs consume. Your HTPC is doing all the heavy lifting in all these situations. It is providing the digital video recording; pausing and rewinding live television and storing information on the internal hard drive.
A matter of personal preference
The signal your HTPC receives is really a matter of personal preference. With satellite your system may be more susceptible to outages caused by inclement weather. Cloudy days or rain storms definitely cause interference not seen by customers using cable.
Customer service is an issue for some users of cable television. They are tired of constant rate hikes and limited availability of some events and programming, but at least the signal stays strong despite the weather.
In the end, if you want to make the most of your HTPC you really just need a digital television signal. Where you get that signal is up to you.
As a next step, have a look at the HTPC monitor selection tips to find the perfect television for your HTPC.