I basically had a spare PC sitting around doing nothing so I decided to hook it up to my 37″ LG HDTV via HDMI and old school Stereo systems via the stereo 3.5mm analog audio jack (audio on HDMI also works for sound to TV speakers) and have a HTPC for watching movies with XBMC, surfing the web and watching online videos and listening to music on my TV.
I recently upgraded it to Windows 7, added another 2GB stick of DDR3 RAM for $12 (giving it 4GB total in Dual Channel mode) and got a $20 mini wireless mouse for it. I also found the ATi media IR remote and receiver that came with my ATi 650 TV Tuner that I bought several years ago. I gotta say everything just works great. The XBMC interface for watching movies is hard to beat and the ATi remote works perfectly without finding any drivers or setting up any key assignments. Oh, and watching YouTube videos on the couch is much more enjoyable too!
AMD Athlon II x2 250 3.0GHz Dual Core, 4GB RAM DDR3 1,333MHz in Dual Channel mode, AMD Radeon HD4250 Graphics (integrated AMD 880G chipset), 320GB Seagate SATA 3.0Gbps HDD, Sony 24x SATA DVDRW, Cooler Master eXtreme Power Pro 550W PSU all in an old Acer case. The Acer case is a nice size mATX tower with a card reader. The onboard graphics do the job for now as they can handle HD video and this isn’t a gaming PC. But just about any PCI-e video card could be added to handle modern games if needed.
Point of this video
Well, if you have a spare PC sitting around you might as well hook it up to your TV and stereo system! If it doesn’t have HDMI output you can get by with VGA (VGA can easily handle 1080p video you know!) or you can buy a new, low end PCI-e video card with HDMI for as little as $35! Just as mine shows it doesn’t have to look pretty but there are always case options out there for dedicated HTPC’s and the system doesn’t have to be overly powerful. This rig even when it only 2GB of RAM did everything just fine. Just as long as the CPU and GPU are powerful enough to playback the videos you want (ie 720p or 1080p) than you’ll be fine. XBMC will run on Windows XP and there’s even a Linux version if you don’t have a spare OS.