What the Pros Spec: Non-CE Solutions for Multimedia Distribution
Custom installers love to tout dedicated media servers for whole-house audio and video distribution. We love those single-purpose, reliable machines from the likes of Escient, Request, Kaleidescape, Russound and Elan.
But even pros who embrace these CE servers have been tooling around with more mainstream solutions like Media Center Edition, Roku, Mac Mini, and even TiVo.
In two different articles, we discuss the pros and cons of these solutions from the installer's perspective.
Here are some highlights:Windows Media Center Edition (MCE).
Consumers are asking for it and the interface is pretty good, but one dealer says he'll only sell them with a contract for regular maintenance.PC + Roku Soundbridge.
Great sounding, and just fine for IT-savvy customers who are used to the limitations of the Windows platform. But there will always be OS and software incompatibilities because of the many configurations possible.Linksys NSLU2 + Roku SoundBridge.
With the Linksys, there's no computer running that needs to be maintained. And since the unit is cheap and has two USB ports, you can always add an additional drive for backup or more capacity. On the flip-side, IP-based units often require hacking OEM equipment with third-party code that may or may not have continued support to get the features consumers want.TiVo.
With the TiVo solution, there's really nothing extra to buy assuming you already have a TiVo and a PC loaded with music and photos. It's a basic setup, but OK to use as "training wheels" for a more robust solution.Mac Mini.
For a low-cost solution, connect video via VGA and audio via a USB-to-audio adapter. Use an inexpensive remote like the Keyspan Digital Media Remote, or step up to a universal remote which control the system via IR. Unfortunately, don't expect much in the way of additional user interfaces, the big problem with most of these solutions.Xbox 360.
You don't even need MCE to get a very MCE-like experience from a regular Windows PC and an Xbox. Just a simple download gives you everything you need.
For more insights from the pros, read the complete stories here:
Dishing on IP Servers
Anatomy of an Xbox Install