An update on my Foxconn A3700 OpenELEC build. (Cheap, quiet, small)
It looks like I have found a good low cost solution that meets my needs: Give the kids the ability to play movies and music stored on a NAS. Low noise and small footprint. This compliments my main HTPC in my TV room (as in the kids can watch on the smaller TV now!). You can buy these boxes on sale for about $150, add $18 for some RAM and a spare USB drive and you are in business.
4 GB RAM was easy to install. I installed OpenELEC (OE) 2.0 Fusion 64 Bit build onto a bootable USB drive. This is the Eden version of XBMC with all the EDEN features (profiles, etc). Performance is surprisingly good. Not using an SSD is a cost saver, any decent 8G usb drive should work (Class 10 SD card is a good option, I didn't have a spare). I considered ordering a USB 3.0 thumb drive, but have learned that boot support for USB 3.0 drives is still lacking. Boot time was about 45 seconds, I think I can speed that up if I change the BIOS boot settings to fast boot. Very quiet. I have not tested any sleep/wake features. Menu response is satisfactory, video loading is a tab bit slow.
I tested on my Sony Bravia 55". HDMI to TV, optical audio from TV to AVR. I also tested analog stereo audio. All video file formats worked, 1080p DTS and Dolby MKVs, DIVS, just like you would expect for any XBMC build. Very nice picture, no stutter at 60hz or Refresh = source. Some audio lag on 1080p DTS, but easily corrected in sound menu. A small delay on restart after pause.
The audio configuration was a bit tricky, or at least was not intuitive to me at first. There are 3 key items to configure: Audio Output, Audio Output Device, and Audio Passthrough Device. Audio Output is the format, I originally selected HDMI, but the right choice for me was Optical/COAX because the TV connection to the AVR was optical. The Audio Output device became HDMI, as well as the passthrough device. With this setup, DTS down-mixed properly. Every video file had proper audio playback.
I then tried 2 channel analog output, as that is how the final setup will be for the kids. Audio Output = Analog, Audio Output Device = CUSTOM "plughw:1,0" (no passthrough option here). Normally, all of your available audio devices should show, a neat feature of OE, but there is a Foxconn issue that requires entering the device name as a custom setting. This is the only "bug" I encountered that required troubleshooting.
Other audio configuration choices include DTS and Dolby Digital Receiver capability. (Turn off DTS if you have optical, even if your receiver is compatible)
The Foxconn also has an optical audio output, you need a mini-TOSlink connector to use it. I did not test it.
When you install OE, it asks if you want the SSH server. I opted not to install it. If you want to add/change config files you can still do it through a Samba share feature. Just enable Samba in your settings menu, define username and password, then on another PC just open an explorer window and enter '\\IPAddress' (it does not show up on your Network Devices list as you might expect). You will have access to config files, userdata, etc. I used this feature to copy my Music database and music thumbnails from another Eden build.... a huge timesaver over a new metadata update and scan. (you have to import the library as well)
I connected an MCE IR receiver and tested with my Harmony remote...it worked perfectly. Need to order one.
I plugged in a USB thumb drive and it was recognized instantly.
All the normal XBMC Add-ons are available, plus some OE specific ones. I tried the DIY Network, streaming worked as expected.
The Web control interfaces and Android control interfaces are all available and work.