So I have a need for a dedicated HTPC that will power a home theater room. This setup must be dead easy to use for a whole host of people: wife, house guests, baby sitters, etc. Currently I have an old Mac Mini running Plex which I manage manually on my own because no one else can get it to work reliably. All of the usual gremlins: sound randomly stops working after sitting idle for a few days, subtitles rarely are set correctly and are challenging to switch on or off, Plex loses focus for unknown reasons, media playback starts at wrong refresh rate, OS update takes over during playback, etc. After having run an HTPC for many years, I've seen it all. Of course, when I'm there, I can quickly recover,
First, the hardware itself needs to go. With my current configuration, OSX outputs the wrong color range to my projector so everything is extremely dark, and Windows in Bootcamp produces far more random gremlins such as those listed above (refresh rate problems, sound dies). OSX ran fine when I output to my Kuro, but that panel has been demoted and the HT room is now the priority. Also, HD sound is not available on my older hardware.
For software, I'm not married to Plex, but I do like it. I've tried XMBC as well, and that's fine, but with my current setup it won't auto negotiate the correct refresh rate. I blame the Mac Mini running Bootcamp for the failure.
For control, well, that is tricky. Everything is hard wired back to a wiring closet 25 feet away and around a corner. No line of sight possible. I do have ethernet between the closet and room, so I tried using a ethernet-to-IR extender, but they never seem to work correctly. Now I just use a bluetooth mouse and keyboard and the Plex app on my iPhone. Aside from the gremlins, the poor control options are really the biggest problem preventing others from using it. Right now I have to power up the projector using the projector remote, then re-open Plex (as it usually has crashed or lost focus), then navigate using the Plex app on my iPhone. If I have to change volume, I run over to the closet and adjust. Not great.
Here is my hardware:
AVR Pioneer SC-1522-K (Rebadged SC-65)
Projector Logitech Pro8200
10TB home built media storage server
Budget is negotiable.. but I'm thinking I can make this happen for under $750. Noise is a minimal concern because its tucked away, but I would like to minimize heat. The fewer watts dissipating into that closet the better.
I looked at barebones systems like the Intel NUC, which is interesting, but it looks like the next revision isn't out yet, and the platform does have its own issues. I've built plenty of systems from scratch so no worries there.