Well, I have been thinking for a long time (for those who know me, know that is quite unusual, mostly my poor brain just gives up and packs up due to overload – but that’s a story for another day) of getting a Media Centre at home of some sorts. Being a Microsoft geek it was obvious of the choice of going with the Media Centre 2005, but being a geek, and not to mention the consistent and persistent push of my dear friend Karan, who is a huge proponent of OpenSource (and no he is not the sort of a guy who bashes MS just because of them being MS), I realised, I could not just take it at face value and decided to read up a little more – after all at the end of the day this would be sitting next to the TV and is something that needs to look half-decent and not something that would live in the study so who cares what it looks like. It also needs to be usable (whats the point otherwise), and of course can integrate with the TV, etc.
So, the two choices I looked at was Myth TV and Microsoft’s Media Centre – both in my opinion excellent pieces of software (though remember I have not actually installed any of the versions). So after reading many articles that describe living with the Media Centre, and Building a MythTV, and comparing the two head-to-head, I finally did decide on getting a Media Centre. Phew, job finished, ya?! Right! Think again. After thinking I was done with the difficult part, now I had to figure out if it makes sense to buy one off the shelf or actually build one?
There are many choices that you can buy off the shelf. Some from the leading manufactures like Dell has nice ones, and so does HP, and not to mention, very cool looking ones from Toshiba not to mention that there are even laptops that you can use. Then there some from lesser know companies (at least lesser known to me) such as this one recommended by Digital Home Magazine. Of course then there are some you just drool looking at – though they might not be the most practical. Still more others from Hi-Grade, UVEM Classic 3, etc.
Of course, you can always build your own, where you have total control on what you select and how they integrate. But then you need to worry about among other things what cases to buy? I mean there are tons and tons of them to pick from, some cool ones and then some others that look quite nice.
Oh and not to mention, do you want to have a case which has a fan and can be noisy, or a fanless one which are quiet, but then what about support of the other components? Other components? Once, we have decided the case, then rest of the components come into play, you still need to get a CPU, Memory, Graphics Cards (which are compatible with Media Centre), Tuner Cards that work (I want two, so I can watch and record at the same time), lets not forget a big HDD, but then do I need SCSI or not? Oh dear…. you are getting the picture…. :). Lets not skimp out on the sound card, DVD drive, and last but not the least, what kind of remote do you want, Network connection options. And now with the Media Centre Extenders that do so much, the choice does not get any easier…. aaarrrgghhh!
I have swung between buying an off the shelf (where I started earlier), to now building my own (where I stand as of now), I hope you see my conundrum here… any pearls of wisdom?