Media Center decision

19 Jan 2009

Thank you for all your helpful comments on the post Popcorn Hour, WD TV or Apple TV?, I’ve made up my mind (for the time being).

I have to say though, it doesn’t feel like the ideal solution is there yet for me, although alohaglide warned be me about that. I dithered between AppleTV, Popcorn Hour, WD TV, Playstation 3 and giving the Mac Mini one more try for ages. In the end I went with two solutions.

First, here are the ones I rejected:

AppleTV: I’m not so concerned about the lack of support for various codecs, more the lack of space. I’d like play from the device, rather than have to have my laptop open to stream, but 160gb just doesn’t cut it. There are hacks to add external storage, both paid and easy or free and fiddly, but these have to be redone after each update, which wasn’t for me. Sadly, it wasn’t updated at MacWorld after all, as I had hoped.

Popcorn Hour: This had the expandability that I wanted, but I was unsure that I could live with that interface, or spend the time tweaking it to get it how I want it.

Playstation 3: This appealed in many ways – a machine that would play CDs, DVDs & Blu-ray discs, as well as media from it’s internal hard drive, USB drives and streamed via MediaLink. You can also add a PlayTV unit for PVR functionality, which has a good looking UI. I loved the potential of the ‘all-in-one’ unit for entertainment. However, I didn’t want to add another games console just yet (especially one so big), and it was certainly the most expensive of the options (once you add a PlayTV). This is still under consideration for the future though!

So, I’ve gone back to the Mac MIni for one more try, using a mixture of FrontRow, iPhone Remote app and Boxee (more on the lovely, but not particularly stable Boxee in a separate post) to play the media. By keeping the Mac Mini, I’m losing the airtunes streaming I would’ve got from an AppleTV or Airport Express, but with the iPhone Remote app, I don’t miss it. I can play music via a great UI without having the TV on, or my laptop open. The thing that turned me off the Mac Mini was requiring too much ‘admin’ required to get it to work, so I’ve purchased a Logitech Harmony One Remote to see if this helps (again, more on that in another post).

However, I’ve also ordered a Western Digital HD Media player! This device intrigued me – small, sleek and not too expensive – just plug in a USB drive. Once it arrives, I’m going to give the little fella a trial alongside the Mac Mini for a review.

Plenty of follow up posts to come!

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