Basically, search the net for advice on what to use for streaming video to the tv and someone, somewhere will say "just grab any old computer you have and connect it up to your tv". After going through that route for a bit, I have to disagree.
The problem with using any old computer is that the computer itself might not be powerful enough to run/stream hd quality movies. Nothing's worse than watching a good movie halfway through when the computer chokes and skips a few seconds of vital footage. And if the computer is powerful enough, there's always the noise factor and heat problem, not to mention where to put a computer in your av cabinet. It's also aesthetically ugly as compared to a nice, compact media streamer. Yes, with an actual computer connected to your tv, you can do a lot more things like word processing/games/etc. and can configure/tweak to your hearts content but it really is overkill just to stream video to your tv. Another factor is the electricity used by a computer is going to be much more than a media streamer. Oh, and to easily control the computer you would have to use a wireless keyboard, which is a bit bulky to store when not in use.
So after using a computer for a media streamer for a bit (and having it crash on me a few times due to either hard drive failure or heat problems) I decided to try a laptop. The advantages of using a laptop is that it has everything a computer has but is a lot smaller and generates a lot less heat. The disadvantages are that it's still a computer so have all the quirks a regular computer has like software issues, drivers issues, etc. Laptops usually aren't designed to run 24/7 like av equipment also so it's a pain to have to boot up the laptop and shut it off when it's not in use. Waiting for it to boot up is annoying. The option of using windows standby or hibernate instead of shutdown is better/faster but it's still slower than a dedicated media streamer's instant on capability.
I fussed with the laptop a bit until I finally decided to go the full-on HTPC route, get a small htpc computer case and build up the computer to do video streaming. After a ton of research/forums reading/learning/etc to get all the software and hardware required for a decent, quiet (almost fanless) htpc I realized it's not that much different than the laptop or regular pc. There are still all the software bugs/configuring that constantly occur. Windows updates always seem to break something, somewhere. It's still difficult to control the computer without using a wireless keyboard. Imagine trying to teach a babysitter or the inlaws on how to watch something.
Get a dedicated media streamer if all you want is to stream videos to your tv.
You can browse the internet (with the crappy Opera browser), but most importantly you can stream Netflix for free (something Xbox 360 doesn't offer, so much it requires a $20/month Gold account subscription, so much as it requires a $20/month Gold account subscription) and watch anything in their extensive database with a $8/month unlimited streaming account. And of course, nowadays you can find a Wii for $50-80.
|Bonjour,UPnP SSDP, UPnP AV, Windows Media Connect, Windows Media Player NSS, Samba,NFS|
|Media Servers: myiHomeLite, myiHomeMS (UPnP)|
|Third-Party Jukebox: Eversion/YAMJ, UMC|
|BitTorrent P2P, Usenet downloader|
|NAS Access : SMB, NFS, FTP|
|Supported Media File Formats|
|Video containers: MPEG1/2/4 Elementary (M1V, M2V, M4V),MPEG1/2 PS (M2P, MPG, DAT, VOB),MPEG2 Transport Stream (TS, TP, TRP, M2T, M2TS, MTS),AVI, ASF, WMV,Matroska (MKV),MOV (H.264), MP4, RMP4|
|Video Decoders: XVID SD/HD,MPEG-1,MPEG-2 MP@HL,MPEG-4.2 ASP@L5, 720p, 1-point GMC,MPEG-4.10 (H.264) : BP@L3, MP@L4.0, HP@L4.0, HP@L4.1,WMV9 : MP@HL,SMPTE 421M (VC-1) : MP@HL, AP@L3|
|Audio Containers: AAC, M4A,MPEG audio (MP1, MP2, MP3, MPA),WAV,WMA,FLAC,OGG,APE,TTA|
|Audio Decoders: Dolby Digital,DTS,WMA, WMA Pro,MPEG-1 Layer 1, 2, 3,MPEG-4 AAC-LC,MPEG-4 HE-AAC,MPEG-4 BSAC,LPCM,FLAC,Vorbis|
|Audio Pass-Through: DTS, DTS-HD HR, DTS-HD MA,Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby True HD|
|Other Formats: ISO, IFO navigation,AVCHD navigation,Simple BD navigation|
|Photo Formats: JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF, TIFF|
|Subtitle Formats: Opensubtitle support, SRT, MicroDVD SUB, SSA, SUB/IDX|
|Cardea DRM (WMDRM-ND),Janus DRM (WMDRM-PD)|
|Sigma Designs SMP8647, 800MHz CPU with 256KB L2 Cache|
|512MB DDR2 DRAM, 256MB NAND Flash|
|HDMI, Component Video, Composite Video, Stereo Analog Audio, S/PDIF Optical, Digital Optical|
|Power LED and Attention LED, 5 x Host USB 2.0 (2 x Front, 2 x Back and 1 x Internal), 2 x internal SATA (one occupied by HDD tray), 3.5" HDD tray, Internal mounting for 2.5" HDD, 2.4GHz RF Remote Control, Infra-Red Remote Control port (Infra-Red Remote Control optional), 3.2" TFT Color Display, Mounting brackets for slim BD-ROM drive|
|Ethernet 10/100/1000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet, Wireless N USB dongle (optional), MN-200(Optional)|
|110-240V AC, 50-60 Hz, max 2.5|
|Width x Depth x Height : 425mm x 290mm x 80mm|
|Vented Aluminum Body, Fanless, Quiet Operation|
The Boxee comes with a two sided RF remote with a QWERTY keyboard on one side, which makes searching for shows a lot easier.
Lots of hype around this device and it looks fantastic. The only thing is that it's not out yet so the verdict's still out there.
My favorite and current media streamer. It has worked wonderfully for my needs which is basically to stream .avi, mp4, .mkv, or any other video file types I download from the net. It has never failed to play a file and runs super quiet and cool.
I have been wanting to upgrade since it's been a year or so old already and thought there might be better, newer devices out there like the popbox (which is made by the same company). However, current reviews of the popbox say that its buggy and I've also grown to love the radio frequency remote on the C200 (since I place my av equipment inside a cabinet) and the popbox does not have that. The other device I've thought about trying out is the new Apple TV. However, knowing Apple, it probably won't allow me to play any files I download off the net. Thus, probably will stay with the C200 until something better comes along.