There's just no decent media centre devices

Note: this post was migrated from my old Tumblr-backed blog

so I’m reading this article:

and I’m now 100% convinced that there is no decent media centre device. They’re all too locked down to do anything useful as you’re at the mercy of the manufacturer to resolve bugs and implement new features and support new media sources.

I think the best bet is to purchase/build a real PC and drop media centre software onto it (eg: XBMC, Boxee, Plex, whatever). With that, you can play any format and aren’t limited by features because even at a worst case, you can use VLC or a browser (Chrome, Firefox) to play video from an unsupported file format or site.

It’s just disappointing that computer manufacturers are beginning to drop support for media centre PCs lately. Dell had this awesome $250 machine (I think it was called the Zinio) which they discontinued. It was capable of playing 1080p video including flash video, had HDMI and good sound support (I forget the details of that). There was this other company that was shipping a smaller similarly priced and similarly spec’d machine with an even less expensive bare-bones model, but I can’t seem to find the info for that guy.

It should be possible to deliver a machine that’s powerful enough to do all the video stuff, along with running applications (eg: SickBeard) and web for < $400. The big win would be to have decent resource management so that when it’s playing video, it can guarantee resources to the video so it doesn’t skip while other background processes are running.

I’ve got my MacMini for my media centre and it’s ok, but it’s kinda expensive to use strictly as a HTPC and playback suffers when files are being copied while I’m watching high-bitrate videos.

Too bad no manufacturers are really targeting this market. They’re all concerned about racing to the bottom and delivering customized experiences. They should pick up an open source project and extend it and ship it on their device. There are plenty such projects out there and they’re quite mature.