What has some in the market excited is that, with street prices between $125 and $150, they now have a board that will let them build a complete yet small and unobtrusive HTPC (Home Theater PC) for a relatively low price.
The motherboards have a Gigabit Ethernet Controller, integrated 7.1 High Definition audio and Hi-Def video with HDMI and DVI ports. Additionally, the onboard Media Graphics Accelerator means that a fairly inexpensive Dual-Core processor should be more than enough to handle the balance of the workload. Pop in a slightly faster CPU and a gaming system can be added to its list of functions.
Chassis manufacturer Antec Inc. is clearly keeping its finger on the pulse of this trend. Its sleek Fusion 430 series (formerly Fusion V2) is designed to look more like a piece of expensive audio equipment than a computer case. With a Vacuum Fluorescent Display, Windows-compatible IR receiver and volume knob all in a low-profile package, a PC-based media center can now look like something that belongs in the family room, den or any other place a home theater may be, rather than hidden away somewhere in a back room or closet.
Along with broadband Internet, when you add in a Blu-ray drive, a TV tuner card, as well as DVR and media-playing software, a compact and powerful system can be had for less than the price of any single, stand-alone component.
Of course, there will still be a need for speakers, monitors and the like, but as the technology continues to improve, the parts continue to get smaller and the prices continue to drop, there will soon be very little reason for a majority of the population to purchase individual components of a home theater.
Tech-savvy consumers are already leading the way on this front, and any smart system builder or integrator should be planning to head in that direction.