Choosing Frontend Hardware

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This is a placeholder page to guage interest in the topic...

I've got a combined frontend/backend system in the living room, based on the fabulously easy Mythdora. As we get more addicted to it, the desire for additional frontends in other rooms in the house is increasing.

I see the goal of this page as helping poor sods like me compare the options and make a choice. I've barfed out some thoughts below.

From what I can see it looks like the choices are between:

  • MacMini
  • Mini-itx systems
  • XBox
  • MediaMVP

Ideally I think this page will have a nice "Consumer Reports'ish" comparison table... but that's beyond my wiki skills today...

Attributes

Cost

An SD frontend shouldn't need a lot of hardware power. How cheap can you go and still play SD recordings from a backend?

Things to think about:

  • Does it need an optical drive?
  • MPEG4 vs MPEG2 a factor?
  • Does it really need a hard drive? Network boot, bootable CD.

Noise

Some of the mini-itx systems are fanless. How noisy are the others? Hard drive noise? DVD reader noise?

Complexity

How much pain and suffering required to get things set up and running? How much 'fiddling around'? Will Mythdora, knoppmyth or another all-inclusive distro 'just work'? If network booting or other approaches used to reduce costs, how hard are they to configure?

I'm cheap, but I also value my time. If somethings going to save me $100 but take 20 extra hours to figure out it's not worth it to me...

Quality

Is there any trade-off in video or sound quality?

Usability

Is the system power borderline? Are menus slow? This attribute is mainly aimed at MediaMVP, which loses points since kids, spouse, etc will need to learn another UI.

Gravy

Other nice side-benefits of a particular approach or system.

The Options

MacMini

  • Pros

?

  • Cons

?

  • Comments

?

Mini-itx

  • Pros

?

  • Cons

?

  • Comments

?

XBox

  • Pros

?

  • Cons

?

  • Comments

?

MediaMVP

  • Pros

Cheap! ?

  • Cons

Different UI ?

  • Comments

I think I read that this includes softsqueeze for tunes. ?

Comparison Table

This section intentially left blank due to authors current ignorance... :-)

Sample systems

...Links off to specific system entries in the PVR Hardware Database.