Maximum PC - - R&D -

WELL, HERE WE ARE: our first at­tempt at an HTPC styl­ized build. We knew from the get-go that the Phanteks Shift was the case of choice for our home the­ater as­pi­ra­tions. Hav­ing worked with its cases ex­ten­sively over the last few years, we’ve learned that the top-qual­ity ma­te­ri­als and con­sid­er­a­tion to­ward builders in­grained into ev­ery facet of Phanteks’s de­sign make most builds in its cases a cake­walk. Know­ing we’d be work­ing in a tight chas­sis with an ITX sys­tem meant we would def­i­nitely hit prob­lems, so hav­ing a qual­ity case was an im­por­tant first step.

The Shift comes in two vari­ants: the shorter, stub­bier stan­dard Shift, and the longer, wa­ter cooler sup­port­ing Shift X. As our build is aimed at longevity, rather than brute power, the Shift X is a lit­tle overkill for what we had in mind. Air cool­ing is the name of the game, along with de­sign­ing a com­pact ma­chine that can hap­pily sit next to a set-top box or am­pli­fier, and not be that no­tice­able.

But why build this ma­chine in the first place? What can an HTPC pro­vide that a good smart TV can’t? The an­swer? Con­trol and ver­sa­til­ity. For us, it’s the con­trol el­e­ment of an HTPC that’s most ap­peal­ing. You’ve prob­a­bly seen it: a smart TV that gets slower over time as the hard­ware ages, the stor­age fills up, and you’re just left with a frus­trat­ing menu sys­tem that chugs away, wast­ing your time. Our me­dia con­sump­tion is no longer as on-de­mand as we’ve come to ex­pect.

If you build your own home the­ater PC, how­ever, you know ex­actly what you’re get­ting, and if you have any is­sues, you’ll likely know ex­actly what the prob­lem part is. Be­ing able to choose your spec is a big deal. Couple that with the fact that you can run prac­ti­cally any stream­ing ser­vice on a Win­dows PC via a web browser, and load your own me­dia from masses of af­ford­able lo­cal stor­age, or even from a net­work at­tached de­vice, and the PC quickly pulls ahead, more so than a Rasp­berry Pi, Fire Stick, or any­thing else, for that mat­ter.

The only down­side? It re­quires a lot of setup. So, we’d bet­ter be­gin.

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