1. What is the purpose of this machine?
This is one question everyone should ask themselves before buying a Media Center PC. Be honest with yourself because this answer dictates the answers to the rest of the questions.
The purpose of your Media Center should be just that. As a Media Center. Movies, music, pictures, internet, and anything else you want to do. The Media Center is not intended to do your taxes, or write your term paper. Do not get us wrong, it is completely capable of doing these tasks. The point of this question is to narrow down what kind of hardware you will need to do what you want your machine to do. Keep this in mind. What do you want your Media Center PC to do?
2. What kind of software should my Media Center PC use?
This is a question that is up for much debate. However, your answer to this question and the previous question will answer the last question. There are 2 basic thoughts on this, either Windows OS, or Linux OS. It really depends on your comfort level and what you want to accomplish with your Media Center PC. Lets breakdown strong points and weak points of each.
o Strong Point : Known for its point and click ease
o Strong Point : Works with most if not all hardware
o Strong Point : Allot of software options to go with
o Weak Point : Hefty price tag. For Media Center Edition you are looking between 100-200 dollars just for the software
o Weak Point : Known for their security issues. Updates, after updates, after updates.
o Weak Point : Must run virus software and firewall software. This is a must for security.
o Strong Point : Extremely stable. No need to reboot ever. After updates, you just restart
the program you are running and the update is applied. No reason to restart the system.
o Strong Point : Extremely secure. No need to run virus software or firewall software. This makes it use less resources hardware wise. Thus making it run on lower end PC’s.
o Strong Point : Extremely configurable. If you dont like something, change it. Literally anything in Linux you can change and optimize and tailor to your hardware, reducing hardware requirements further.
o Strong Point : Completely 100% free. Not only is the OS free, most software you run on the OS is free. Yes, that is right, free.
o Weak Point : If you have never used Linux, it can be hard to setup and get running the first time.
o Weak Point : Not as much software available as Windows. There is software available for anything you want to do. Just not as much as Windows.
3. How much should I pay for my Media Center PC?
This question is answered by the first 2 you asked yourself. The requirements of Linux are much lower to do the same thing as Windows. Think about this. The Tivo runs with a 54Mhz processor. Now ask yourself this. Why would you want to spend thousands of dollars on the latest and greatest hardware out there, when it would be a lot cheaper for you to use different hardware? You could spend 2000 dollars and upwards on a new Dual Core system with 2 gigs of ram, a monster video card, and the best of everything. What do you gain though? It wont play the HD any better. It wont make your picture look better. You gain no benefits. You could spend a little and get a Media Center PC that does anything you want, or you could spend a lot and get the same Media Center PC that does the same things. Its up to you.