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Difference between Traditional Home Theater and HTPC

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Almost everyone owns or knows about PC (Personal Computer), and some are familiar with or even proficient in home theater. But what about Home Theater PC? You may know it, but may not know it well. What is HTPC? Is HTPC over traditional home theater? What’s the difference between dedicated home theater and HTPC?

HTPC vs. Traditional HT: Concepts

Traditional HT: Home Theater refers to a system for playing movies/films at home mainly for family use. Understandably, traditional home theater is composed of signal sources (DVD and LD), AV receiver, speaker box (5.1-5.7), and display devices (TV, projector and PDP).

HTPC: On the surface, HTPC is the combination of personal computer and home theater. It refers to a device partially or wholly combining the capabilities of PC with a software application that can play back video, photo, and music, etc. More straightforward, HTPC can be considered as a conceptual home theater or a carrier taking computer as signal source and processing part. Specifically, HTPC is a personal computer preloaded with various multimedia decoding players, and capable of playing varied audio-visual media correspondingly and connecting to all kinds of display devices like digital audio devices, for example, TV, projector, PDP (Plasma Panel Display), and audio amplifier at the existence of corresponding interfaces.

***In the following section, functions and effects brought about by the features of home theater and HTPC will be illustrated in detail:

HTPC vs. Traditional HT: Configurations:

HTPC: The configuration of HTPC is flexible. People can choose among all kinds of fittings and accessories with different performances under differed brands according to the actual needs and personal budgets. Because of the open architecture of PC, the updates become easy in operation and rational in price. A customer can change any part of PC once he does not satisfy with it.

Traditional HT: For general DVD player, functions are fixed and dead. Only the functions at the time when you purchased the machine are available. An entire player must be replaced and discarded in case of functional enhancement or upgrade. At present, there are some high-tech modularized DVD players which can be upgraded, but they restrict plugins and software for upgrade to its own dedicated brands. What's worse, these upgrade-supporting players are quite expensive even for a minor upgrade.

HTPC vs. Traditional HT: Processing:

HTPC: The processing capacity of PC is powerful and updatable. With the introduction of APU (Audio Processing Unit), many functions can be realized on a single HTPC. It has great leap in cost performance and space occupation. Besides, graphics card play a significant role in providing excellent display quality. Any output format at any revolution ratios and field frequencies can be set to copy with different displays by combining the graphics card with specific optimizers.

Traditional HT: Different requirements on movie watching are only realizable with the help of multiple devices working divisionally and separately in the traditional HT system. In detail, DVD player is responsible for decoding MPEG2 video, AV decoder is in charge of decoding and processing surround sound, while STB (Set Top Box) specializes in decoding HDTV, and so on and so forth. With respect to satisfactory video output, traditional home theater is at least in need of DVD player, line doubler at sky-high price, say, Faroudja line doubler and an extra D/A conversion. Moreover, currently common display devices such as LCD, DLP, LCOS/D-ILA and PDP for traditional HT are all displays at fixed pixels. Therefore, the signal input needs to be displayed at its own pixel. Likewise, only the signal input completely corresponding to its pixels can be displayed with good output effect, or else, the format is rudely disposed by stretching and flattening.

HTPC vs. Traditional HT: Storages:

HTPC: The cheap storage and high capacity is the most outstanding aspect of HTPC. The considerable room of hard disk and technical development in virtual CD/DVD ROM, CD and DVD can be virtualized to be played on hard disk, which is equivalent to owning a CD/DVD library. Simple mouse clicks can help you enjoy movies as many as possible. In addition, the function of disk recorder can also achieved conveniently with some additional hardware.

Traditional HT: In order to play several CD/DVD discs on traditional home theater, disc library/tower and complicated mechanical machinery are required and also not acceptable by household appliance possibly. Besides, it is inevitable to find the wanted disc and importing/exporting CD/DVD at the time of each playing.

HTPC vs. Traditional HT: Software:

HTPC: Rich software brings the functions of PC into full play. Generally, the software can also be operated on another PC on the same OS except for special requirement on hardware. Flexible combination of software can generate unimaginable functions.

Traditional HT: The function menu of traditional home theater is fixed in the equipment. Although, for some types of equipment currently, additional contents can be expanded through upgrading, these are minor changes and modifications confined to the same machine type under the same brand.

However, Home Theater PC is not so good for a special group. As a computer, it is a little bit complicated and troublesome to operate for the elder generation. But conclusion can be drawn from the previous descriptions about the difference between HTPC and traditional HT that HTPC has an advantage over physical home theater, in terms of functionalities and usages.

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