A picture of a home theater PC fitting into 5U of space

The Home Theater PC (HTPC) – Right-Sized for Me!

In the long, long ago, there used to be no streaming devices. Nearly everybody watched cable TV, and only some used a TV as a computer monitor. (Those that did connected to the TV with a VGA cable, but let’s not talk about that nonsense.) These elite few of society recognized the value of getting entertainment content from the internet. PC manufacturers rose to meet the needs of these elite few, and they soon released a new category of case coined the Home Theater PC (HTPC). It looks like a high-end piece of stereo equipment (from the 90’s) when underneath a TV. Yet still, inside, it is a powerful gaming computer ready to be unleashed – if you dare sit cross-legged in front of the coffee table with your keyboard and mouse.

Nowadays, the world has dozens of streaming devices that get internet content to the TV. There are still plenty of consumers, though, that prefer the PC experience in the home theater. Moreover, many gamers want to fit a high-end machine onto the TV stand. There is also me, who needs a PC to sit in a 5U spot in his home lab. For this I love the HTPC. It fits great where I need it today, and I can bump it to the TV stand later to make room for the next build.

Design by Compromise

Per my usual, I have thrown myself into a deep technical analysis to find every last bit of capability for my dollar. Of course this means building the PC from scratch. I have longed for the opportunity to pick the exact case I need, the best processor for the job, tons of RAM, tons of storage, a high-end graphics card, and a quiet yet powerful cooling solution. Also, the total cost was half that of a similar box from Apple, Dell, HP or the like. (Which helps when pitching the idea to the wife.)

What I have learned from this adventure is that PC building is an exercise in choosing the most optimal set of compromises in the design. For me, despite everything else, I can’t compromise on the footprint. I’m a software engineering, flight simulating, blog writing nerd, and I’ve been at my nerding for decades. It would follow suit, then, that I have amassed a fair deal of equipment in the old home office. I only have one spot for a new computer, and it is my first hard requirement of the build.

Unfortunately, finding a horizontal case proved challenging! Many, many cases on the market are a tower. Towers make a great gaming PC case. The width usually allows cable management in a small enclosure behind the motherboard. One side is typically clear to showcase all the fancy parts. There’s room for liquid cooling and radiators to mount optimally. Fan mounts are numerous and fit large, quiet, and efficient fans. There is just plain less compromise in a tower. Thankfully, though, the HTPC is alive and well!

My research brought me to the Grandia 11 from Silverstone. I love this case. It fits easily in 5U rack space, has front-to-back cooling, accommodates a 240mm AIO, and seats an ATX motherboard. You can see the full build below.

The Bill of Materials (BOM)

Once I decided to build the system, I went into deal finding mode. I bought almost everything else on sale. The processor and GPU were each a steal, and I did pretty well on the rest. I’m really satisfied with the performance to cost ratio I achieved.

HTPC Chassis[Amazon]
Video Card[Amazon]
120mm Redux Fan[Amazon]
120mm Redux Gaskets[Amazon]
120mm Slim Fan[Amazon]
80mm Fan[Amazon]

Closing Thoughts

I’m only just get starting with this computer. I’ll post again soon with thoughts on cooling and performance – stay tuned!

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