Building a home entertainment center based around a personal computer is not hard to do. Starting with the PC tower, add a TV or as many monitors as you want, and go from there. Your PC should be at least fast enough to handle DVD-quality or higher video, requiring a good integrated graphics card or performance card from a company such as ATI Radeon or Nvidia. A decent amount of RAM to play DVDs or Blu-ray discs is also recommended, at least 512 mb. Next, determine your monitor setup, whether you will use a dual or multiple display, or whether you will use one flat-screen television to do all your watching. Consult the user manual for your graphics card to set up the proper display mode. You will want to select the equipment for your surround sound system. Traditionally, a surround sound system contains seven pieces: a subwoofer for bass and low frequencies, two main front speakers, a right and left front speaker for music and sound effects, and a left and right back speaker for panning effects and ambient noise or music. You can opt for a low-end brand that will cost you $80 or less, or, for more volume and high-fidelity sound, you should be prepared to spend at least $200 for a quality system. The next thing you will need to decide is whether to have the system professionally installed or not. A professional installation usually involves the running of the wires through your walls, so you have to be willing to have this done to your house. If you rent, you will need to ask your landlord’s permission first. If you choose, you can set up your system and let the wires hang or run along the ground. If you do this, make sure that they do not become a tripping hazard for you or other people. You may wish to use electrical tape to keep the wires out of the way, or put the wires underneath rugs and furniture.
If you haven’t yet selected a TV set, know that you can now get a quality high-definition flat screen TV for $300 or less. These provide the most authentic theater quality visuals, surpassing most theater projection rooms. The features are as dynamic and versatile as the price tag. More expensive models will have more features, but a basic HD flat screen TV set will only set you back a few hundred dollars if you start small. Larger screens will add to the cost. Since you’ll be playing your movies on the computer, you won’t need to worry about picking out a DVD or Blu-ray player, since these will be installed on your PC. You can also watch movies online via a movie subscription service such as Netflix or Blockbuster, or through a licensed video web site like helium.com. Using your PC as a medium through which to watch movies will simplify your living room space and reduce clutter, allowing you to use fewer pieces of equipment. It also puts many different entertainment options in one place at your fingertips, allowing you to choose either an online movie or a DVD to watch. You control what you want to see by letting people decide from a huge selection of online movies, or from one of your DVD or Blu-ray discs. Channeling everything through your computer, you will have a high-tech graphics card on which to display all of your entertainment, and when you are done, you can still use the monitor that came with your computer to surf the Internet and check email. This simplifies the number of cables you need to own, the pieces of equipment requiring cleaning and maintenance, and leaves you with less to worry about. You can also do your gaming on your computer, watching on the monitor or the TV set. This setup is a great option for the modern living room.