I've been on a quest to tame my MP3 collection for quite some time now. A few months ago I bought two Audiotrons from Turtle Beach
($300 each). I've been using them ever since, with only one complaint: I wish the Audiotron had a composite video output to make navigating the box easier.
So, I couldn't resist when I saw that Best Buy had the HP Digital Entertainment Center (HP de100C)
in stock ($999 each). I bought one.
Within one hour of playing with the HP I decided that it wasn't going to cut it. Here's why:
1. It can't play MP3's from a shared drive on your network (without first copying those MP3's to the HP itself). This means that if you have more than one unit in the house, you have to copy your music to each one independantly. It also means that you're limited by the unit's 40GB drive (OK, so that's a lot of MP3's, but still...)
2. The unit didn't read the ID3v2 tags I had put in my MP3's using Tag&Rename. I didn't try other tagging software, but the thought of having to re-tag everything using the HP's remote as the only way to enter data made me dizzy.
3. Once you copy an MP3 to the HP, you can't copy them back over the network. Here, HP's documentation is a little misleading -- I didn't imagine when I read in the manual that "enabling File Sharing" would mean that you could copy files TO the box, but not FROM the box. This right away prevented me from being able to use the HP as a file server for my other MP3 devices (such as my existing Audiotrons). The HP shares an "/import" directory, and then scans that directory every two minutes for new files. Any MP3's it finds there it moves over to a non-shared directory. Don't ask me why.
All in all, the box has all the right hardware to provide exactly the functionality needed, but appears to have been crippled by design.... Just think how cool it would be if it had a good web interface, allowed real file sharing, and had WinAmp type plug-ins that showed up on the TV during playback.