The popcorn hour has been great, but with the scene changing standards and compressed headers in .mp4/.mkv files becoming the norm, I have heard the death knell, and realized that an upgrade is inevitable. It's either that, or constantly having to remux files, and that is getting very old, very quickly.
My current setup uses the Popcorn Hour A-110 (no HDD, nothing is stored on the device) over ethernet, in conjunction with NMT Server running on my WinXP box (yea, I know, but it works) where my movie and TV show collection is stored. I control things with my Logitech Harmony 880. TV is an older Toshiba H83/H84 rear project CRT that only does up to 1080i, so I typically run 720p instead. Onkyo HT-R680 with 7.1 surround to handle the audio and video passthrough.. I've also recently started using Sickbeard, CouchPotato, Headphones, and SABnzbd to try and automate the bulk of my downloading and sorting of files into the appropriate locations.
I love the fact that NMT server gives me a nice, dynamic movie and TV wall that I can interface with, mark stuff as watched and toggle those hidden or visible with 1 button press. (if you aren't familiar with it: http://www.networkedmediatank.com/showthread.php?tid=16870
The other thing I love about it is the fact that I can run 3 separate libraries (one for all my movies, one for JUST my Recent TV shows, and one for my ENTIRE TV show collection minus recent stuff). If I only want to do a very quick update on just my Recent TV shows without having to rescan all my movies and my larger TV shows collection, I can, and then NMT server groups all 3 libraries and presents them as one.
So, with all that being said, I need to upgrade
-Must be able to play anything that my current popcorn hour a110 can play: http://www.networkedmediatank.com/wiki/index.php/Supported_Formats
(for reference, 99% of the files I currently have are .avi, .mkv, .mp4, .mp3, with the occasional DVDISO or VIDEO_TS)
-must support compressed headers in .mkv/.mp4
-Will play anything out there right now and be forward compatible as much as possible within reason (although I do not require anything 3D, if I need it in the future I will upgrade my device at the same time)
-HDMI or optical audio
-Have some type of dynamic interface similar to NMT server, where I can interact with a nice movie wall, mark stuff as watched to hide it, pull down IMDB info, etc. (something with similar functionality to this: http://www.networkedmediatank.com/showthread.php?tid=16870
-At minimum, something that will index my stuff as quickly and specifically as NMT server, where I can choose which library I update so I don't always have to scan my whole collection. Alternatively, I've noticed in SABnzbd, CouchPotato, etc. that there are notification services that I can use to interface with devices, although I'm not completely familiar with how these work. If these would allow me to just update a single file to my library automatically when it is finished without any user interaction from me, and without having to rescan whole libraries, that would be absolutely ideal and I would prefer that.
-Something that isn't going to give me issues with having my library spread over several hard drives. Right now, I have everything setup using Junctions, so my share looks and acts like it is in 1 folder, and then in subfolders within that. I have read in the past that people had issues with using multiple hard drives and the popcorn hour only being able to play files off 1 hard drive at a time, until you did something to activate and mount the other drive (which would only play stuff off that drive until you mounted a different drive, ad infinum), so my solution was to Junction the whole thing together, which has worked nicely, but I don't want to run into issues when I buy a new box and have to COMPLETELY restructure my file storage system just to make it be able to utilize my entire collection without having to do a bunch of weird crap every time I want to access something on a different drive.
-Media services, minimum being Netflix and Pandora Radio, but as much else as possible would be awesome
-Must work with my Harmony 880 remote
-all the heavy lifting needs to be done on the device. As I said, my collection is stored on an older WinXP box running on a Dual Core @2.6GHz w/ 2GB RAM, which is already running Sickbeard, CouchPotato, Headphones, and SABnzbd, so doing heavy amounts of transcoding from the PC would not be ideal (and would probably just cause the freaking thing to burst into flames at this point, lol)
Things that it would be cool to have, but are by no means necessary:
-games (like the Roku box)
-abilitty to add rss feeds for podcasts
-an app for my android phone, be it something as simple as a remote control, or something as complex as the ability to manipulate things on the box, whatever that might entail.
-the ability to watch trailers for upcoming movies, and possibly add movies to my CouchPotato queue on my PC
With that in mind, I would love to be able to find something that could do all that in a prebuilt solution for under $200. However, it has been a while since I've poured through all the spec sheets and dark corners to dig up all the info on whats new, so I understand if that isn't reasonable. If there is not a prebuilt box that will do this within that price range, I am willing to look into building some kind of HTPC, as I've heard quite a few good things about XMBC, although I've never had first hand experience with it. I'm comfortable building computers, but if there is already a parts list put together for this, that would really help me along in making sure I get a quality build that will last for as long as possible. Again, I would like to stay within a $200 budget, but I know if I get into an HTPC that probably is low, so I'd say right about $300 would really be about my top end.
So, is there a box out there that will do all this for a reasonable price, or do I need to start looking at building an HTPC?
Thanks for taking the time to read, and any insight you can provide!