HTPCs: A Victim of Evolution?

Uh oh. It looks as though I had better pack up and call it a day. [H]ardocp, one of the oldest and most popular gaming sites on the net, has an article declaring HTPCs will be dead sooner then later as a result of emerging technologies from content providers and streaming devices. I do not consider myself an expert, however, I will try and address a few points of the article.

Those consumers who made the leap soon realized that the reality didn’t
quite live up to the fantasy. Users with vast MP3 collections, for
example, quickly noticed that compressed music doesn’t sound so hot
coming through full-size speakers. Getting it to sound right would mean
countless hours of re-ripping CD’s (assuming they owned them in the
first place) to their hard drive using a lossless audio codec (such as
FLAC or Apple Lossless), which in turn made for significantly larger
file sizes. An album’s worth of material now took up 500MB instead of

As they mention in the introduction of the article, hard drive prices are very low these days and is not is really not the same issues as it was even a year ago. Terabyte storage systems are relatively cheap. Ripping a CD collection, of course depending on the size, is a one time thing and should only be around a few hours for the average person. The next paragraph, which I won't quote here deals with compressing DVDs and the resulting artifacts. Of course, I go back to my earlier point. On a 500 GB HD, you could rip 90+ DVDs at 5GB a pop without compressing them.

Even only taking into consideration the present capabilities of
STB/PVR’s, these devices offer significant advantages for recording and
watching HDTV and SDTV programming over stand-alone HTPC’s. First, they
are incredibly easy to use. With interactive programming guides, dual
HD tuner capabilities, and a simple user interface, even the most
extreme technophobe can get the hang of it with minimal difficulty. The
second advantage that STB/PVR’s have over HTPC’s is the significantly
lower financial investment required. Cable providers and some satellite
providers rent the boxes for as little as $8-20 per month. Compared
with HTPC’s that cost anywhere from $800-$2000 on up, STB/PVR’s are
exponentially more attractive to consumers on a limited budget. Also,
content providers that do rent boxes will generally let users upgrade
for free when new capabilities and technologies are introduced.

There is no doubt a high end Media Center is expensive. However, they forgot to mention that CableCard Media Center PC's are here! For cable subscribers, there should be no difference in handling HD content. Sattelite systems should be appearing later this year. In the next paragraph they do mention that Media Center PCs are significantly more versatile. However, they fail to go into the MANY things you can do besides PVR duty.

Devices with the ability to stream content over a home network comprise
the second category of devices. They basically come in two flavors:
dedicated media streamers, such as D-Link’s MediaLounge series and Netgear’s Digital Entertainer HD, and multi-function devices with the ability to stream, such as Microsoft’s XBOX 360.
Rather than eliminating the need for a computer all together, these
boxes act as a bridge between the PC and the entertainment system.
Often, manufacturers design them to take advantage of special features
available through technologies such as Intel’s Viiv and Microsoft’s Media Center OS.

Don't get me started on streamers! They often have very poor UI and are very limited by what they can playback. As a stand alone device they suck.. simple as that. However, when paired with an solid HTPC application like Sage's MVP extender or the Xbox360, HTPC owners are very happy to settle with an extender. In all reality, this is the HTPC nirvana. A loud noisy HTPC server tucked away somewhere out of the way and quiet cool HTPC clients/extenders at every other place in the house :). Before you declare your HTPC dead, come on over here and we will help you get the most out of your HTPC.