The HTPC (Home Theater PC) concept is a fast growing trend within the Indian tech-savvy community. Knowledgeable users in India were always aware about the HTPC’s versatility vis-à-vis the amazing effects it can provide; whether it is for enjoying video or music, gaming, or just casual PC usage. But it’s only since last year that HTPCs started to become popular among the mainstream PC users.
Before then, only a few highly priced mini-ITX motherboards were available in India. But according to industry insiders, the currently rising popularity of HTPCs is not only attributed to the cost savings of building a mini-ITX system, but mainly by the readily available computer components (especially motherboards) for such a form factor. After all, it is well known that components for mini-ITX size systems are ideal for HTPC rigs.
Mini-ITX Motherboards, the Preferred Choice
At the center of an HTPC, you need a motherboard which should be designed to give out the best possible video and audio, ensure extremely efficient power consumption, offer sufficient cooling, and maintain low noise levels. But most importantly, it should also be able to sustain a small (read mini-ITX) form factor.
It is true that large PC cases with ATX or mATX motherboards can also do the job to an extent, but often they fail to satisfy a ‘complete entertainment’ setup look and feel – which only a mini-ITX board can.
“To get this ‘entertainment look’, users going for an HTPC, usually look for a small and smart-looking case, which they can place near their high-end audio / entertainment equipment to bring about the ‘home theater’ effect and also, stylish enough to impress their friends,” opined Jodhpur-based Rakesh Sharma, a custom PC builder, who also runs PC TeK India.com, a website focusing on PC technology. “Moreover, a mini-ITX form factor motherboard helps in making the complete rig small in size without compromising on performance.”
Motherboards that Surpass Expectations
One motherboard model which many of the users and builders of HTPCs swear by,is GIGABYTE’s GA-Z97N-WIFI, which is part of GIGABYTE’s 9 Series motherboards that support the latest 4th& 5th generation Intel® Core™ processors. It is the only mini-ITX board, currently available in India, which comes with dual gigabit (GbE) LAN. This feature along with built-in Wi-Fi and the onboard Realtek® NIC, makes for a unique combination.
You can also use an HTPC build with a GA-Z97N-WIFI as a home media streaming machine.By connecting both LANs in bridge mode with any manageable G-Lan switch, you can get uplink speed of up to 2Gbps.
Many of the mini-ITX motherboards available in India used to have only 2 or 4 SATA ports, which made life difficult for users who sought more drives or solid-state drives (SSDs) in their rigs. But the GA-Z97N-WIFI comes with 6 SATA ports, which makes this board a lot more versatile than similar boards available in the market, according to Shripad Kudtarkar, a Mumbai-based PC enthusiast who specializes in making customized PC rigs, averaging over 50 per year.
The other attractive features of the GA-Z97N-WIFI, in addition to its sleek design, include 4K support, up to 7.1 Channel Audio, dual HDMI output, 10 USB ports, and the widespread presence of Solid State Capacitors, which are rated to work at higher temperatures to provide a longer lifespan.
In addition to the GA‑Z97N‑WIFI, other mini-ITX GIGABYTE motherboards that are also popular in India, include the GA‑H97N‑WIFI (also, one of the company’s 9 Series motherboards), and the GA-J1800N-D2H.
While the GA-H97N-WIFI comes with a wide range of features, including USB 3.0 and multiple display ports (x1 DVI port and x2 HDMI ports), which can be used at the same time in a multiple display setup; the GA-J1800N features the Intel® Celeron™ J1800 dual-core processor and is entirely fanless, making it ideal for noise-sensitive digital entertainment systems.
Although DiY PC users are mostly going for barebone / mini-PC type of entertainment systems, the number of hardcore HTPC lovers is growing steadily. The only limiting factor is the availability of more mini-ITX form factor boards. In this context, GIGABYTE Technology has always striven to bring a larger number of mini-ITX boards in the Indian market. After all, that is what any hardcore HTPC lover would go for, as their ‘preferred’ motherboard option.