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Powerful HTPC for Less Than $500

The web is rich with streaming video, and there’s no reason you should limit yourself to enjoying it all on smaller screens. Here’s how to roll your own home theater PC and consolidate your media center components to one small, sleek box.

If you’re thinking about cutting the cable and ditching your cable or satellite provider in exchange for streaming video services like Hulu and Netflix, video podcasts, and your own video collection, you’ll probably need a way to get all of that video from the web to your HDTV with as little fuss as possible.

Sure, you can always pick up a set-top streamer like an Apple TV, a Roku, or a Boxee Box, or even use your Xbox 360 as a Media Extender, but when you go that route, you give up one important feature: control. That’s fine if one of those devices (and its pre-packaged software) has all of the features you want and need in a streamer, but if you’re looking for more flexibility in your set-top box, it might be worthwhile to roll your own. That way you can install any set-top software you like, and if something else catches your eye, you can switch to that just as easily.

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