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Cheap Home Theatre PC

DezGalbie
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I work in a homeless shelter and, long story short, we have been given some funding to organise activities with the residents. Due to my interest in PCs I've been trying to get them involved in sessions to build and repair PCs. I recently had the idea of building a home theatre PC with them to use in the communal TV room. I could fill the hard drives in it with hundreds of movies and TV shows for them and they will always have something to watch.

I would like to keep the costs down on the project so I'm looking at using 2nd hand parts. Obviously, I don't need latest generation components for this use case, but I find myself unsure as to how old and/or cheap to go with the machine. Do you guys have any recommendations for minimum specs or for particular parts?

My initial plan is to run Windows on the machine with a free Plex account to organise all the media.

(Building the system with them is a key part of the process due to the nature of the funding being given and the strings attached, so I'm not looking for recommendations of pre-built systems etc).

Thanks.

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to be honest the most important part of this will not be getting parts for cheap and stuff like this.

The most important thing will be ease of use, it needs to be setup to work out of the box if average not tech savy people should use it.

 

This is the reason why so many set top boxes and stuff like this exist, just plug it in and it works.

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Honestly, there isn't really a need to buy a PC. Buy a cheap laptop with a HDMI output and then get a plex subscription. Or, to save hassle, get netflix.

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Just now, Pixel5 said:

to be honest the most important part of this will not be getting parts for cheap and stuff like this.

The most important thing will be ease of use, it needs to be setup to work out of the box if average not tech savy people should use it.

 

This is the reason why so many set top boxes and stuff like this exist, just plug it in and it works.

Yeah, I've been thinking about that as well.

I think the best way to do it is to set up a login for them with limited permissions so they can't delete the media, only has a Plex icon on the desktop, can't install any other programs etc

Part of the sessions where we build it together will also be teaching them how to use the machine. But I don't imagine they will need too much teaching if I set it up like that.

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another solution would be if their TV has any smart TV or DLNA functionality you could just make them use just the TV and only use the PC to serve the media files.

 

That would make it even more fool proof.

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Just now, ProRifts said:

Honestly, there isn't really a need to buy a PC. Buy a cheap laptop with a HDMI output and then get a plex subscription. Or, to save hassle, get netflix.

As I said in the initial post, the actual act of building the system is key to the whole thing. It's about teaching them, engaging with them, etc. So just buying a laptop doesn't qualify and the funding wouldn't cover it.

Plus a laptop wouldn't hold the storage devices necessary for the number of movies I plan to put on there. Or if it did then the storage devices would be monstrously expensive.

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1 minute ago, Pixel5 said:

another solution would be if their TV has any smart TV or DLNA functionality you could just make them use just the TV and only use the PC to serve the media files.

 

That would make it even more fool proof.

The TV is pretty terrible. It wouldn't work that way round, but I get what you're saying. It could indeed be set up in a completely fool proof way like that. That would be nice.

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