Since Intel announced and released the new 32nm Core i3 processors and compatible H55 chipset, Socket 1156 motherboards this week, I decided it was time to rebuild the home theater PC (HTPC) that is in my family room. The Core i3 processor is a dual-core, with hyper-threading (so the OS sees four cores), plus there is a 45nm integrated graphics processor built into the CPU. This version of Intel integrated graphics has enough performance to allow you to play all but the most demanding games.
This CPU allows you to feed an HDMI, DVI-D, or VGA video output built into an H55 based motherboard. I got an ASUS P7H55-M PRO motherboard. For HTPC use, you will probably want to use the HDMI output (which also allows you to bit-stream blu-ray quality 7.1 audio over the same HDMI cable to a modern AV receiver.
The Core i3 530 runs at 2.93GHz and does not support Intel Turbo-Boost. It does have plenty of horsepower to run a HTPC (in fact, it is about twice as fast at the 45nm 3.0GHz Core2 Duo E8400 processor in many benchmarks), and it only cost $99.00 at Micro Center in Denver. The ASUS P7H55-M PRO motherboard requires DDR3 memory, so I put two, 2GB sticks into it. I put a 1.0TB Western Digital Green hard drive into the system. It also has a Hauppauge WinTV-DVR-2250 dual TV tuner, so that I can get OTA digital TV. This system will probably draw about 30-40 watts at idle, which is not too bad.
According to the gurus at AVS Forum, you are better off with the 32-bit version of Windows 7, since many HTPC programs are still 32-bit only. One good example of that is Boxee Beta. At any rate, I am hoping to build a system that will allow me to dump DirectTV, and save quite a bit of money each month. Below are screenshots of the Windows Experience Index Scores and a CPU-Z shot.