A media center PC is a personal computer designed for use with a digital TV in the home entertainment area, to serve Internet-based and local content.
Media center PCs can be as simple as a general market computer with a video output such as HDMI or a display port for downloading and streaming content on the TV screen. However, specialized media center PCs that differ significantly from a standard Web surfing tower or gaming machine are offered by some vendors and built by some individual users.
One of the most common differences from standard computers is the focus on quiet or silent cooling to ensure the computer fans don't drown out the sound a user wishes to hear. Low noise operation is achieved by a number of means, such as quiet fans, passive-cooled components and noise-damping materials.
The components themselves are often chosen for characteristics such as low power consumption, low heat dissipation, input-output (I/O) connectivity options, wireless control and either surround sound or the ability to connect to home theater amplifiers. Media center PC cases may be specialized in appearance and form factor to fit in an entertainment center; some have a small built in touch screen for control. Most modern operating systems include features for media center support.
The increasing number of equivalent consumer devices on the market means that media center PCs are not seen as often as they were previous to the introduction of TiVo, DVRs and Apple TV. Nevertheless, for the savvy builder, the media center PC can still offer more than most consumer product options.