Without knowing your specific needs/preferences, this is basicly what I would recommend as a generic, does-it-all solution. Build yourself a small whitebox fileserver with enough horsepower to transcode HD material to media players, and holds 4-6 disks. I would personally recommend a software RAID solution over onboard hardware raid. If you want a full blown desktop OS on there you could go with snapRAID on Windows, or mdadm on Linux. Proper raid controllers will in most cases give you the best performance and features but IMO it's usually an overkill for home media solutions when they're not in bigger scale then what you have in mind.
If you prefer a more striped down solution I would recommend either FreeNAS or unRAID, both have their cons and pros and both support a large library of plugins. I´m running unRAID myself and a very happy camper.
Install Plex Media Server (all above mentioned platforms support it). If you're not familiar with it, it handles and streams all your media to a large variety of players. For a centralized media solution, there is nothing that beats Plex - nothing in the $0-5 department anyways. Then you could go with for example CouchPotato, SickBeard and Headphones for the complete automation process. MediaCenterMaster is also a nice software with a broad feature list, including autodownload, parsing, scraping etc, but only works on Windows.
For the main viewing room I would purchase an Intel NUC and run either Win or Ubuntu, and PlexHomeTheater on top of it, by far the most complete Plex client, beautiful fast UI and support for DTS-HD/TrueHD audio, 24p and the usuals. For the rest of the house it's hard to say and really comes down to your needs and preferences.
- The Roku is brilliant, very simple and very stable, but the UI is not the prettiest one. The most stable player in my house by far.
- The ATV is usually king here, but needs a little bit of fiddling around to get Plex to work on it - Nothing serious though.
- Google TV devices. This is sometimes a love/hate device, I have one and I love it. It's the most feature packed streaming box there is AFAIK, but it does run an outdated android OS underneath and the future of GTV/AndroidTV is a bit uncertain atm.
- If you have any smart TV's or smart bluray players, some of those support Plex client apps, at least most Samsung and LG devices.
I´m sure some will suggest more simple devices that have better format support, or just the usual "XBMC everywhere!". However, in my opinion, when it comes to whole-house media streaming for the family, there's just really nothing that matches Plex. The only issue I could think of right now is the missing parental control function, which as I understand is on it's way in future releases of PlexMediaServer. On top of the inhouse streaming you can also stream from it to all your mobile devices, access it via http with a really good looking UI, and if you have the internet connection for it you can share the library with friends and family.
Edited by hemmiandra - 12/11/13 at 7:50pm
Hope this gives you some ideas.