HTPC-vs-Xbox-360-PS3Having an HTPC (home theater personal computer) as a component of your home media arsenal can significantly enhance your home media experience, and those who already own an HTPC might argue that a gaming console like PS3, or Xbox 360 is no replacement. While it’s true you can’t do everything on an Xbox, or PS3 you could on an HTPC, the modern game console has a lot of options for streaming media over your home network, or the Internet, making it a viable, family friendly alternative to a full blown HTPC setup.

Advantages of the HTPC over Gaming Consoles

Since an HTPC is a computer, you’re not restricted to the type of content you can access online. While PS3, and the Xbox 360 either have, or will have (I.E. 10 for Xbox) internet browsers, they don’t do a good job of streaming video through the browser. You can’t download programs to enhance your media experiences to Xbox, or PS3. For advanced HTPC users there are a lot more reasons why a gaming console just won’t do, but what about the average home media consumer who simply wants easy access to the most popular streaming content with little to no hassle?

Advantages of Gaming Consoles

In addition to quick access to your favorite games, gaming consoles provide an easy way to stream content from popular video sites like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, and Crackle, just to name a few of the most popular. Both PS3, and Xbox 360 possess the capability to stream music, and photos stored on a computer within your home network. You can even play blu-ray movies on the PS3 which is as good as any BD player on the market.

Arguably the biggest advantage to using a gaming console instead of an HTPC is cost. A new computer in the same price range as a game console simply isn’t going to perform as well. A computer in that price range is going to be slow, and lack the requirements for optimal HD streaming, or even gaming.

Games consoles, unlike an HTPC are nearly maintenance free. No worries about viruses, scheduled backups, and other maintenance associated with a smooth running computer system. You don’t need to be a techy to have a great media experience using Xbox, or PS3, since apps integrated into these consoles are designed for a lean back experience. No keyboard required. In fact, both consoles have traditional remote controls available which can be purchased separately.

Game consoles can replace multiple set top boxes. The PS3 is a game box, blu-ray player, and streaming media player all in one, and even has an Internet browser, though not the best internet browsing experience. Xbox 360 also has all of these features minus blu-ray, and an Internet browser, though the Xbox 360 is getting support for I.E. 10 in the near future.

User Friendly vs. Feature Rich

If you’re considering an HTPC for the media hub of your home entertainment system you probably already know your way around a computer to a good degree. You can play games on disc, (even with a game controller) or online with a keyboard, stream media from any website, and personalize your HTPC any way you like, and while this sounds great, be prepared to put a lot of time, and effort into making your HTPC easily useable by the rest of the family. Also be prepared to drop a few greenbacks here and there for peripherals, software, and other, sometimes necessary enhancements.

A gaming console on the other hand is an easy, out of the box system that will provide access to most of the popular entertainment features you might want from an HTPC that the whole family can use, and enjoy effortlessly, for a lower price, and a whole lot less work.

Do you have an HTPC, a gaming console, or are you just trying to decide which will be best? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Daymon is the founder of