Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: East Vancouver, BC
HTPC starts from PC (or MAC)
Normally, PC or Mac is one of two hearts of the HTPC system (proper receiver is another one). Not external HDD or "media player" like Lacie or WDTV. You can almost indefinitely upgrade a PC, choosing software players that you like. My favorite is VLC, and SMPlayer is another one, equally good.
I am using ancient 7-years old mATX PC (small form factor) as a dedicated HTPC, it is silent, monitor output permanently connected to TV and not used for emails or work. I installed 700 GB HDD on it - enough for ripped movies. After I will have upgraded video-card (the current one was made before HDTV appeared), I will be a happy camper for 3 or 4 years, and then the time will come for a new HTPC.
One of the problems that you will encounter is a good remote control with mouse function. I am using Gyration 4101us, it is cheap and it's Ok, but ZV (ZeeVee) would have been better. You MIGHT get away without a mouse function if you always stay within Windows Media Center or similar Apple interface, but it's better to have a mouse. 4101 and ZV have it.