I'm seriously considering building a HTPC again, but it's been a long time and the tech has changed a lot. But so has my requirements. I'm not trying to build an all-in-one machine. For instance I don't need disk (BR/DVD) playback. I have no interest in a TV turner or DVR functions.
Really I have four requirements
1) It'll store all video and music for the network. I'll very likely have a wired connection rather than WiFi. Since there are just two of us in the household, the likelihood of media being accessed from multiple devices on the network at the same time is very low. This is primarily a means to centrally locate/manage our media so I don't hear, "Turn on your computer so I can listen to my music."
2) It needs to be low power. Being a media server it'll be running 24/7.
3) It needs to be able to play back streaming content well. This means no Roku, Boxee, etc. I want simply to use a web browser and get to all the content.
4) It needs full HDMI AV output. I plan to run this through an AVR with HDMI switching so as to keep a single HDMI cable going to the TV and simplifying the programming of my Harmony remote.
I can get about 80% of the way with my current setup. My Samsung Blu-Ray player does DLNA and plays back most of the codecs that I have, as well as my music. My Xbox360 does most of that as well. Both have Hulu Plus and Netflix, but Amazon Instant doesn't work on either. And more often than not certain networks simply don't have their content on these services (ahem CBS).
I've been using an old laptop with VGA output and a mini-jack to RCA audio connection and it works fine but it's clunky as hell. I'm sure a new laptop would do all this fairly well but I suspect I could get more bang for my buck building a dedicated HTPC.
Any thoughts/advice would be greatly appreciated. I'm guessing I could go pretty cheap by my requirements but I don't want to end up with a system that chokes on moderate tasks.