Alternative Windows-Based HTPC Solutions - dummies

Alternative Windows-Based HTPC Solutions

By Danny Briere, Pat Hurley

A number of HTPC software packages (besides Windows Media Center) can turn your Windows-based PC into an HTPC that integrates with your home theater. You might consider these options if you want to convert an existing (non-Media Center) PC to a home theater PC.

You can build a Windows-based home theater PC by using one of the following solutions (and these aren’t the only ones out there, only the most popular!):

  • BeyondTV: BeyondTV is SnapStream’s media center/DVR software system. It offers a free onscreen program guide, customized to your area, and support for multiple TV tuners (for recording more than one program at a time). BeyondTV supports HDTV viewing and recording. One neat feature of BeyondTV is its remote recording feature that lets you log in and set up recordings from any Web browser, including those found on many mobile phones! An optional component, BeyondMedia, allows you to control all the media on your PC via SnapStream’s interface and your remote control.

  • SageTV: SageTV is a cool media center application that can control your TV, DVR, music, video, and photos. A nice feature included with SageTV is its ability to work across a home network — so you can easily access media located on any PC attached to your home’s wired or wireless network. You can even access and control the TV tuners located on other networked computers, creating, in effect, a whole-home DVR system that spans all your TV tuner-equipped PCs.

  • Pinnacle TV Center Pro: Pinnacle sells both hardware and software — TV tuners and DVR/media center software. Its top-of-the-line software system, Pinnacle TV Center Pro, is included with its PCTV HD Pro Stick and PCTV Ultimate Stick — these are both external (USB) HDTV tuners. The PCTV HD Pro Stick can pick up both analog and digital (ATSC) TV broadcasts — the PCTV Ultimate Stick adds unencrypted digital cable (QAM) broadcasts. The TV Center Pro software turns your computer into a PVR.