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 five builds myself.
Ultra-cheap, is the most affordable and smallest build which features the Raspberry Pi model B+ board. Raspberry Pi has developed and matured a lot as a media center during the past year and can be now used as a light-weight home theater computer at less than $100.
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 Raspberry Pi system is the right choice for you.
Entry system is a new sub-$250 system that runs completely silent and you can set it up in less than an hour.
It is capable of doing everything you need for home entertainment expect for heavy transcoding and gaming.
The system is based on a low cost AMD AM1 Athlon 5350 (codename Kabini) that runs only at 25W TDP, which means your system will be completely silent. I have chosen a compact Antec ISK 110 case that comes with a fanless power supply.
This system is one of the cheapest and easiest way to build a quiet and capable home theater computer, especially when using OpenELEC operating system.
Budget system continues to have the 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 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 and should be paired with an external storage. Thus, it has an SSD drive to make your computer boot lightning fast.
Value system continues to include the Intel Core i3-4130T Haswell processor, which uses the HD4400 series GPU.
This value HTPC provides the best HD video and 3D Blu-ray performance with an excellent value to price ratio. When using aftermarket CPU cooler and case fan, this build is practically silent.
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.
Performance system’s core specification gets renewed with the Silverstone ML07 mini-ITX case and Gigabyte GTX 750 Ti Windforce graphics card.
The Silverstone ML07 case is a “home theater box” version of the revolutionary Raven RVZ01 case. The Milo ML07 has an advanced layout designed for maximum performance and a PCI-E riser making it perfect choice for your gaming HTPC.
Graphic card coolers can easily be the noisiest component in your computer, therefore I chose a Gigabyte GTX 750 Ti Windforce graphics card, which is an excellent choice for silent running HTPCs whilst offering strong performance.
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.