Best HTPC media-center platform?

At some point in the next couple months, I’d like to buy a new media-center system to go with my new 50” living room TV. Right now, I have a slightly older MythTV install in the basement, and I’ve been watching video via a pair of Xbox 360s. They both have a few issues, though, and I’d like to find something better. I’ve considered customizing a newer MythTV build, and I’ve played with Boxee on a Mac, but before I invest a bunch of time and money into this, I figured I should look for advice. Here’s what I’m looking for:

I need the ability to:

  • Talk to a SMB or NFS file server.
  • Play video in .avi, MP4, VOB, MKV, or OGM files with common codecs.
  • Play back content up to 1080p without stuttering.
  • Change audio tracks and subtitles for files that have multiple tracks.
  • Control the whole thing via a remote control.
  • Play video via HDMI, or DVI plus optical audio out.

It’d be nice if it could:

  • Play YouTube and Netflix videos.
  • Play DVDs or maybe Blu-ray disks.
  • Be controlled via HDMI-CEC.

I don’t care about:

  • Recording or playing OTA or cable HDTV signals.
  • Ripping disks
  • RSS feeds, weather, etc.

I don’t really care about Linux vs Mac vs Windows in this case. I’d be okay with some sort of appliance, but I’ve never found one that actually works right. I have a Popcorn Hour A-100, and it’s about an order of magnitude slower than what I’m looking for, plus it tends to crash or lose audio sync on a lot of the more obscure files that I’ve thrown at it.

Any suggestions?

Posted by Scott Laird Tue, 26 May 2009 21:41:00 GMT


Comments

  1. Daryl about 16 hours later:

    Have you looked into XBMC? I’ve been running XBMC Live off a USB stick for six months now. I haven’t had any codec problems, I was able to get HDMI-audio to work, and I can use my Logitech Harmony remote to control the whole thing.

    I’ll admit, I found it a subtle challenge to configure initially, but it was definitely worth the effort. The support forum is quite helpful too.

  2. Travis Cole about 21 hours later:

    I use a Mac mini with Plex and it fits most of your requirements. I have all my media stored on a ReadyNAS NV+. Plex also still use Hulu, unlikely Boxee. I’m still not sure if I like Plex more than Boxee, but I’m super happy with the Mac mini. Plenty of choice of media center apps, plays 1080p just fine, can run a torrent client and does all sorts of file sharing.

  3. Travis Bell 5 days later:

    Plex and Boxee are both forks of XBMC. All 3 are more or less the same underneath, I’ve been running XBMC on Windows for over a year and couldn’t be happier. The latest nightlies have really upped the anty. Stability, features and a real feeling of polish.

    In regards to platform though, all I can vouch for is Windows and things have been smooth when the only thing I use it for is XBMC.

  4. Chrisclap about 1 month later:

    Yo yo yo people i think the best media center for this Job is Moovida, it is what i am using at the moment an i am finding it top notch.

    IT CAN DO 90% OF I need the ability to:

    * Talk to a SMB or NFS file server.
    * Play video in .avi, MP4, VOB, MKV, or OGM files with common codecs.
    * Play back content up to 1080p without stuttering.
    * Change audio tracks and subtitles for files that have multiple tracks.
    * Control the whole thing via a remote control.
    * Play video via HDMI, or DVI plus optical audio out.
    

    It’d be nice if it could:

    * Play YouTube and Netflix videos.
    * Play DVDs or maybe Blu-ray disks.
    * Be controlled via HDMI-CEC.
    

    No problem, it is really nice to use an enriches your files for you.

    Seriously check it out - http://www.moovida.com

    An yeah it is freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

    Peace an love