Creating a home entertainment system gets simpler and more inclusive all the time. Now you can combine the functionality of smart TVs, media streaming services, cable and satellite, and even gaming consoles all on one affordable device. We’re talking about the best HTPC, of course. These compact computers fit discreetly with any entertainment system to provide you with seamless access to your media libraries, streaming apps, the internet, and more straight from your TV.
While some people choose to build their own HTPC, we’ve selected the top 7 best HTPC models with pre-built configurations to get you up and running out of the box. The HTPCs on our list feature ultimate connectivity options for all your entertainment needs, as well as the latest hardware for fast, reliable performance. Keep reading to learn more about choosing the best HTPC for your home theater.
Things to Know About HTPCs
Before buying a pre-built HTPC, consider how you’ll be using it. If you just want to organize your media streaming devices and surf the web from your couch, you won’t need a cutting edge HTPC. If, on the other hand, you want to play video games, watch 4K video, or stream quality audio to a surround sound system, you need a more powerful HTPC machine.
Here are the features to consider when choosing the best HTPC for your needs:
- Processor and RAM. Most users really don’t need to go nuts here. One of the ever-popular Atom X5 processors (aka Cherry Trail) and 2 – 4GB of RAM will suffice. Casual gamers will also be fine with these specs, but hardcore gamers need at least 8GB of RAM and a recent i5 or i7 processor (or equivalent). At that point, many people choose to build their own HTPC or buy a bare bones model.
- Video Card. Many top rated HTPC models feature integrated video cards that let users watch HD video, play casual video games, and run video and software for video editing. To run 3D games and 4K, look for Intel Graphics 5000 or better. Again, hardcore gamers will want a dedicated graphic card and may prefer just to build their own HTPC with the GPU they need.
- OS. You have a lot of choices when it comes to quality HTPC software. Whether you plan to use Kodi, Plex, Media Portal, or any others, the best HTPC software is compatible with the Windows 10 OS.
- Connectivity. All the best components in the world won’t matter if your HTPC doesn’t connect to your TV and other devices. In addition to multiple HDMI ports with which to connect to your TV, you may also want USB ports, SD and microSD card slots, audio ports, and Ethernet ports.
Best HTPC Top 7 Comparison Guide
|1. Kingdel Broadwell HTPC Mini Box||i7-5600U||2xHDMI, 2XLAN, 1XOptical Output, 4xUSB 3.0, 4xUSB 2.0, 1xSD Card, 2xAudio||$$$$||5.0|
|2. MINIX NEO Z83-4, Intel Cherry Trail Mini HTPC||Intel Atom X5-Z8300||1xHDMI, 1xMini DP, 3xUSB 2.0, 1xUSB 3.0, 1xLAN, 1xAudio||$$||4.4|
|3. Azulle Access Plus Mini PC Stick, Cherry Trail T3||Intel Atom X5-Z8300||1xUSB 2.0, 1XUSB 3.0, 1xLAN, 1xAudio, 1xHDMI output||$$||4.3|
|4. ASUS CHROMEBOX-M004U Desktop||Intel Celeron 2955U||4xUSB 3.0, 1xLAN, 1xSD Card, 1xDP, 1xHDMI||$$||4.3|
|5. Intel Compute Stick CS125||Intel Atom X5-Z8300||1xUSB 2.0, 1xUSB 3.0, 1xHDMI output, 1xMicro SD||$$||4.0|
|6. Wintel T8 Mini HTPC Intel Cherry Trail||Intel Atom X5-Z8300||1xUSB 2.0, 1xUSB 3.0, 1xHDMI, 1xLAN, 1xAudio, 1xMicroUSB, 1xMicroSD Card||$$||4.0|
|7. Azulle Quantum Byte Windows Mini Desktop PC ||Intel Atom Z2760 ||1xHDMI, 1xVGA, 3xUSB 2.0, 1xSD Card, 1xLAN, 1xAudio||$$||3.9|
Reviews of the Top Rated HTPCs
This compact computer could easily be mistaken for a router, but don’t be fooled. The Kingdel NUC measures just 8.8 x 1.9 x 7 inches, yet outperforms the average home computer with its respectable hardware. The ultra-light, fanless mini box features a mind blowing 16GB of DDR3 RAM alongside a 5th Gen i7-5600U@2.60GHz processor. The integrated Intel HD 5500 graphics supports 4K video at up to 24fps and will run casual games with ease.
Kingdel knows your media library can never be big enough, so this HTPC includes a 256GB SSD, and 3 total mSATA3 slots for you to upgrade storage as you need it. We love this option to upgrade and so will you if your media collection grows bigger every day.
Another of our favorite features is the Kingdel’s expansive connectivity options. This popular HTPC spoils you for choice, featuring 2xHDMI, 4xUSB 3.0, 2xLAN, 1xOptical output, and many other ports for your every need. Our only complaint is that ports are divided over opposite sides of the chassis, meaning the cable situation gets awkward with multiple devices connected. Since this problem doesn’t detract from performance, though, this is still the best HTPC on our list. It’s quiet, powerful, upgradeable, and compatible with all your favorite devices.
The Kingdel is small, but it’s nothing compared to the MiniX NEO Z83-4. This mini HTPC measures an absolutely tiny 4.8 x 4.8 x 1.2 inches and weighs just 1.4lbs. The NEO Z83-4 features no moving parts, meaning it features completely silent operation. This is even more impressive considering this HTPC model’s exceptional performance.
Outfitted with an Intel X5-Z8300 processor and 4GB of DDR3 RAM, this little home theater computer is quite capable. Stream HD video from all your favorite streaming services, browse the web, and play seamless CD quality audio all from this little device.
This HTPC’s biggest letdown is the small 32GB SSD. At its low price, we can forgive this shortcoming, but it means you’ll need to use external storage devices or cloud storage to save and retrieve your media. Luckily, the NEO Z83-4 uses fast dual-band wireless, so sharing media between devices over your wireless connection is a breeze. This is one of the best, super compact HTPC for causal users.
Even the tiny MINIX NEO Z83-4 is too big for some folks. For an even more portable HTPC, you need the Azulle Access Plus. This HTPC fits in your pocket at just 5.5 x 2.4x 0.8 inches, but hidden within its small form is a fully capable computer. Starting with an Intel Atom X5-Z8300 processor, the Access Plus also features 4GB of RAM. There’s a 32GB SSD to get you started, but there are plenty of connectivity options for additional storage. This includes 1xUSB 2.0, 1xUSB 3.0, 1xLAN, and of course it plugs right into your TV’s HDMI port.
What’s really neat is that this mini HTPC features Bluetooth as well as WiFi. Even without an internet connection, this little HTPC allows you to connect to Bluetooth home theater speakers and other devices. The Access Plus also comes preinstalled with Windows 10, so you can install the latest home theater software. With its affordable price and handheld portability, this is the perfect HTPC for just about everyone.
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