ML03

Want to build a sleek home theater PC (HTPC) that will look great on your AV rack? No problem - this guide will set you up with the perfect fit, providing a wide range of HTPC options to suit any builder's needs. Whether you want to equip your HTPC for enjoying basic surfing, video streaming, Blu-Ray movies, gaming, or all of the above, we give you the basic setup, and you decide how to make it your own! 

For December  2018, this system continues to be powered by AMD's Ryzen 5 2400G, a quad-core, eight-thread powerhouse that can boost up to 3.9GHz. It has built-in RX Vega 11 graphics, which is vastly superior to anything available from Intel CPUs, and is on par with a stand-alone $100 GPU. The big news over the past few months is that price drops on RAM and solid-state drives allow us to upgrade this build while still staying within the $750 budget. That means you're now getting 8GB of DDR4-2666 memory, an ultra-fast 500GB solid-state drive, a massive 2TB hard drive, and a DVD drive, providing the total package for HTPC storage and playback. Also on the build list is a PCIe-based WiFi card to ensure you get great network performance no matter where you place your HTPC. The system is wrapped up in the AV console-friendly SilverStone ML03 case, and powered by a silent 450W Gold-rated power supply. Want to add a remote, upgraded graphics, or TV capture to your system? No problem! We list a number of optional add-in cards that will get the job done, as well as a Blu-Ray drive that can be added for high-def media playback. In truth, there are nearly unlimited upgrades you can make to this system, so definitely scroll down to see what's possible! 

ML09

To see previous versions of this build, simply flip to the Home Theater PC Archive. Note that users who want to fill their HTPC with a lot of gear should check out our $1,250 High-End HTPC Buyer's Guide, which uses the SilverStone GD09 case. This awesome case allows you to use full-size ATX components without even approaching the size of typical ATX cases. On the other hand, anyone who demands the smallest system possible should check out our new $1,000 Ultra-Slim Gaming HTPC, shown here, which can easily fit on a bookshelf.

We use Amazon's real-time pricing engine, so prices in this guide are always up-to-date. We also include local Amazon links for our readers in the United Kingdom (UK), Canada, and Deutschland (Germany), making regional substitutions as necessary. If you decide to purchase any of the products listed below, please use the links provided, which helps support continued development of this guide.

The $750 Home Theater PC - December 2018

    CPU:

    AMD Ryzen 5 2400G

    The Ryzen 5 2400G APU is by far the best solution for a budget-friendly home theater PC. It has four cores and 8 total processing threads, runs at 3.6GHz with boost to 3.9GHz, and being an "APU" rather than a CPU, includes the powerful RX Vega 11 graphics chip for true gaming and video decompression capability. The Vega 11 is actually equivalent to a $100 GPU on its own!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This APU's 55mm-tall Wraith Stealth cooler is a perfect fit in a slimline HTPC. No need to upgrade!

    Motherboard:

    Gigabyte B450 AORUS M

    This new B450-based micro ATX board brings the cost of Ryzen APU ownership way, way down! It has 8 USB ports and two digital video outputs (DVI and HDMI). In terms of expansion, you get a PCIe x16 slot for video cards, a PCIe x4 slot, and a PCIe x1 slot, four RAM slots, and an M.2 slot for solid-state drives. And of course, it has out-of-the-box support for the Ryzen 3 2400G.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Take note: the B450 chipset was launched in August 2018, and is the first chipset specifically designed for AMD's Ryzen 2000-series APUs.

    Memory:

    Ballistix 2x4GB Sport LT DDR4-2666

    This 8GB kit is more than sufficient for any home theater use, and we go for the DDR4-2666 memory that will allow the Ryzen APU's CPU and built-in video chip to really shine.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Need more memory for multi-tasking or photo/video editing? Then pick up the Ballistix 2x8GB DDR4-2666 kit!

    Solid-State Drive:

    Crucial MX500 500GB M.2

    We transitioned this system to an SSD for the main OS drive years ago, but had typically gone with lower-capacity SSDs due to cost. Now, with prices plummeting on higher-end SSDs, we recommend nothing less than a 500GB M.2 drive in this build. The M.2 form factor, which uses a dedicated slot on the motherboard and saves a lot of space in your case while eliminating cable clutter as well.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that you'll need a jeweler's-type screwdriver to affix this drive, as standard Philips #2 screwdrivers are too big.

    Hard Drive:

    Western Digital Blue 2TB

    If you'll be storing a lot of media, you're going to need a hard drive. Western Digital's 2TB Blue drive has a well-earned reputation for offering a great blend of speed, quiet operation, and reliability. Need even more space? Then just go for the Blue 4TB!

    The Guru's Tip:

    This full-size 3.5" drive will sit in a dedicated tray in the case we recommend, right next to the motherboard.

    Case:

    Silverstone ML03B

    At just 4.13" high, the microATX-format ML03 is super-slim, and at 17.32" wide and 13.39" deep, it will blend in well with your AV equipment. It has a stylish flip-down brushed aluminum front panel that conceals its optical drive bay and USB 3.0 ports. Note that because it does not include any fans, we strongly recommend you add the fan listed below. Also, due to its slim dimensions, the ML03 only fits half-height add-in cards. If you'd like to build a system compatible with full-size add-in cards, check out our $1,250 High-End HTPC Buyer's Guide.

    The Guru's Tip:

    We have some bad news for our readers in the U.S.: due to the tariffs currently in force against Chinese-made products, many SilverStone cases are no longer being stock on Amazon, including the ML04, close cousin to the ML03.

    Fan:

    Arctic F8 Silent

    Because the case used for this build does not include any fans, we strongly recommend you add at least one of these fans to the build.

    The Guru's Tip:

    The best place to mount this fan would be on the right side of the case, near the CPU, as an intake (with the label facing outwards).

    Power Supply:

    Seasonic SSR-450FM

    For HTPC use, the big, high-capacity power supplies popular for desktop builds just aren't necessary, nor are they a good fit. So we suggest this new 140mm-long model from Seasonic, the best value in an HTPC-focused PSU on the market. You don't need tons of watts for HTPC use, but you do need quality construction, quiet operation, and compactness, and Seasonic delivers in spades with the 450FM!

    The Guru's Tip:

    If you'd like an even higher-performance PSU in the same compact form factor, look no further than the amazing Seasonic Focus+ Platinum 550W. It's just 140mm long, so it still fits in this system, yet it adds a fully-modular design, semi-passive cooling (the fan will never spin at typical HTPC loads!), plus exceptional Platinum-rated (92%) efficiency.

    Optical Drive:

    LG 24x DVD Burner GH24NSC0B

    Add DVD read/write support at a bargain price with this LG drive.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that commercial DVD movies require additional software to play on any Windows PC. We recommend Cyberlink PowerDVD 18 Ultra.

    Wireless Card (Optional):

    TP-LINK Archer T6E AC1300

    We're going to make the assumption that like most people, you don't have a hard-wired ethernet cable near your AV setup. We therefore recommend this wireless adapter will get you connected to your home network with ease. It will fit in any of the PCIe slots available on the motherboard recommended for this build, and offers 400Mbps on the 802.11n 2.4GHz band, and more importantly up to 867Mbps on the 802.11ac 5GHz band. That's ideal for getting the most out of high-speed Internet service.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Also consider using the stand-alone Netgear EX6200 AC1200 Range Extender as an alternative to an add-in card. It connects wirelessly to your home router using ultra-fast 802.11ac networking, and in addition to extending your wireless network's range, it provides wired connections for up to four devices. That's perfect for an AV system, as you can use it for a TV, Blu-Ray player, receiver, or other network-enabled device you'd like to hook up to the Internet via an ethernet cable.

    Operating System:

    Microsoft Windows 10

    Windows 10 is a huge improvement over Windows 8 and every OS that came before it. The most obvious change for most users will be the return of a functioning Start Menu, which Microsoft broke in Win8 despite it working just fine in Win7, but there a huge number of other changes to usability and functionality that any user will appreciate. 

    The Guru's Tip:

    Because this build features a DVD drive, you can save money going with the DVD version of W10.

Optional Components

    Optical Drive:

    LG 14x Blu-Ray Burner

    For support of Blu-Ray reading and burning, you'll want to add this optional Blu-Ray drive.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Note that to play Blu-Ray movies, you'll need decoding software, and we recommend Cyberlink's PowerDVD 17.

    IR Receiver:

    Flirc USB (2nd Generation)

    We still have a lot of readers coming to us asking for a remote for use with Windows. Well, that market has pretty much dried up - cases no longer have IR receivers built in, and dedicated PC remotes with included receivers just didn't sell well, apparently, because you can't buy them anymore from a reputable manufacturer. But you can get something much better: the FLIRC. It's a universal receiver that can be trained to use any remote you happen to have lying around. It's the perfect solution for any PC, so good riddance to all those knock-off Windows remotes you might find on the 'net.

    The Guru's Tip:

    This will pair easily with a universal remote, such as the inexpensive Logitech Harmony 650.

    Video Card:

    MSI GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB LP

    This card is an optional upgrade for anyone looking for true 4K support and serious gaming power from their slim-line HTPC. This awesome little card is low-profile (required for the ML03/04 case), and offers twice the performance of this system's built-in solution. That means it can actually handle quite a few new game titles at 1080p. But its best feature is one that that will truly improve your HTPC experience: it supports HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 for true 4K/60Hz streaming support.

    The Guru's Tip:

    Remember, you don't need a video card when using a Ryzen APU, but you will if you want full 4K HDTV support.

    TV Tuner (Optional):

    Hauppauge WinTV-quadHD PCI Express TV Tuner Card 1609 (Opt.)

    The perfect solution for cord-cutters looking to watch or record over-the-air TV, this TV tuner offers four built-in tuners that run over a single antenna, allowing you to record four channels simultaneously, or even watch four channels in split screen!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Being a half-height card PCIe card, this adapter will fit right into the slimline case we recommend for this build.

    The Home Theater Keyboard/Trackpad Combo:

    Microsoft Wireless All-In-One Media Keyboard

    Consider picking up the convenient Microsoft Wireless All-in-One Keyboard and Touchpad combo to make navigation of your HTPC a whole lot easier from your couch!

    The Guru's Tip:

    Microsoft has been in the peripherals game for a long time, and makes some of the most reliable products on the market.