I wanted to make it easy for you and help you from wasting your time and money on tedious research, so I have built and tested all these four builds myself.
Starter system, is the most affordable and smallest build which features the Raspberry Pi board. Raspberry Pi has developed and matured a lot as a media center during the past year and can be now used as an excellent starter level home theater computer at less than $80.
This system is powered by ARM CPU running at 700Mhz, and a Videocore 4 GPU. The GPU is capable of Blu-ray quality playback, using H.264 at 40MBits/s. You can also play MPEG-2 and VC1 video files, but you need to buy a separate license from the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
So, if you are looking for an ultra-cheap HTPC, then this Starter system is the right choice for you.
Budget system has now AMD A6-6400K Richland APU with a powerful on-board Radeon HD 8470D graphics.
This is an excellent choice for you, if you are looking for a computer that supports proper 23.976 video playback, HD audio bit streaming, HDMI 1.4 and 3D video.
This processor is suitable for both Windows 8.1 and Linux operating systems and it has enough CPU and GPU power for most media center tasks. I’m currently running this system with the OpenELEC XBMC operating system and have been really happy with it.
I continue using the Antec ISK 300 mini-ITX case that looks small and stylish on your TV cabinet. It even has a built-in 150W PSU, so you do not need to buy an additional power supply.
This computer is designed to be a front-end HTPC (particularly with XBMC Linux) and should be paired with an external storage. Thus, it has an SSD drive to make your computer boot lightning fast.
Value system has the latest Intel Core i3-4130T Haswell processor, which includes the HD4400 series GPU.
Silverstone case, Intel Core i3 processor, fast solid state drive and completely silent power supply will guarantee that you cannot go wrong with the value system.
Many regard these components as a standard for HTPCs at the moment.
Performance system’s core specification gets completely renewed with the Intel Core i5-4570S Haswell and I have changed the case to the smaller BitFenix Prodigy mini-ITX case.
While the Sapphire Radeon Ultimate HD 7750 passive cooled graphics card is not the latest model, it still provides excellent power efficiency to performance ratio and I have been really satisfied with it.
Some builders might regard this computer as overkill for home theater PC use, but if you like playing games and want to have a future proofed setup, then this is right choice for you.
So, what are you waiting for, go building your own here.