Whats the right product to buy? Were impressed with TiVo and the Prismiq, but still see PC alternatives as offering the best mix of features.
There are a lot of different ways to get a media client into your living room, and each one is a study in tradeoffs. Of all the offerings we surveyed here, there are two shipping products that come closest to satisfying our ideal: Prismiq and TiVo with the Home Media Option. We also found that a repurposed desktop or laptop PC offers another decent way to get your audio and video files flowing into your living room. This is a good option if youve got a machine youre about ready to retire anyway.
Finding the right media client is a tough balancing act between power, features, and cost, and its also a function of what features you really want. Theres also the matter of whether you want this to be a "tinker box," or a CE device that you leave well enough alone and just enjoy.
Going the PC hardware route obviously opens up a lot more tinkering opportunities, though the TiVo is also a tweakable, and less expensive system. The Prismiq media player is an interesting alternative if you already have a PC-based TiVo app like SnapStream or ShowShifter, since you can stream that video to your TV and play it via the Prismiq player. We expect to see more Prismiq-like devices in the coming months that offer up audio, digital pictures and video in a compact, affordable package. Once you decide what features you really want, and what your budget is, theres a media client thats the right fit for you in this vast array of options.
What to Buy
Small form-factor PCs are an interesting possibility here, like Vias EPIA M10000, or one of Shuttles XPC-based systems, but again, unless youre harvesting components from existing systems, the costs here may be more than you want to spend for a media client box.