I have been interested in creating a media center PC for a very long time. I am interested in something that can handle the functions below.

I have a new job so I should have the money in about 5 months. I will start really researching these areas in about 2 months (have looked into alot of them already). I figure if I am looking for the best deal, I might as well compare and review the software while I am at it. So please include any software suggestions, maybe even hardware suggestions, areas I should weigh in the review, etc.

I am also debating if I can create a backend and then put an XBOX in every room as the front-end, so that will be included as a cheaper option also (don't think I can put gigabit NIC in the XBOX though).

Feature Lists
  • DVD Playback (Media or HDD-based)
  • TV Playback w/ Tivo-like Functions
  • Audio Playback w/ Ripping (Codec Dependent)
  • Electronic Programming Guide
  • Media Streaming (Atleast for LAN)

  • Video Playback w/ Ripping (Codec Dependent)
  • Gaming (Nothing hardcore, just basic emulators like MAME and earlier consoles)
  • Remote Friendly (RF/IR)
  • Remote Administration

  • Touch Screen Compatibility
  • The Weather (Nice bonus)

Current selection

Areas Covered
  • User-Friendly (Installation, Setup/Configuration, Ease of Use, Updating)
  • Performance (Hardware Requirements, Compression Times, Streaming Quality)
  • Functionality (Number of Options, Plugin/Addin Support, Integration)
  • Other Factors (Cost, Aesthetics, Etc)