I think Popcorn Hour shot themselves in the foot when they launched their next generation C-200 media player. For about $300 (US) you get a box that does what it does and nothing more, has not native disk storage, has a small but fervent following and is not hugely customizable.
On the other hand, for $330 (US) you can get the Acer Aspire Revo with the ATOM 330 (dual core), ION hardware accelerated video processing, 2GB RAM, 160GB drive (plus a cute and usable wireless keyboard and mouse) and for $0 and about 10 minutes with a very easy guide, you can have a great XBMC media player that can do just about anything you want because it is standard PC hardware in a tiny little box. (OK, so that was too much of a run on sentence, but you get the idea.) Oh, if $330 is too much, there is a $200 version that has the same graphics !
What surprised me was that the Revo came with Windows 7 64bit Home edition. What surprised me more was that the obvious way of using XBMC was not the fastest or the easiest.
I first tried installing XBMC for Windows and it looked to be working perfectly. Then I tried playing one of my HD TV shows (a 1.1GB h.264 MKV file) and it shuddered – badly.
Next I tried the special DSPlayer version of XBMC that is setup to use the ION graphics. After about 5 hours of messing around with guides and trial and error, I threw in the towel.
Finally, I downloaded XBMC Live and using a handy guide, spent less than 10 minutes to create a bootable SD card (could have as easily been a USB stick) and had the Revo flying along perfectly. I even tried an action scene in an HD movie (performance hit 8Mb/sec video stream) from my NAS and the Revo was not even breaking a sweat – CPU(s) were about 20%-25% load.
My final setup – all anyone sees is the TV and me using the iPhone as a remote …
- Acer Aspire Revo R3610-U9022 (hidden behind the TV)
- network connection (the Revo has wireless ‘N’ but I don’t)
- HD (1080p) flat panel TV connected to the Revo with a single HDMI cable
- wireless mouse and keyboard (bundled with the Revo) (hidden in a draw) for the occasional upgrade or new feature
- NAS for most of my video
- XBMC Live installed to the Revo’s hard drive
- iPhone XBMC Remote (collect3)
So, my advice ? Get the Revo. Get XBMC Live. Try it with the SD or USB instructions. If you like it, format the drive and install it for good. Later, if you want, you can follow other guides and install downloaders for podcast, streaming video, and more. Even if you don’t leverage the Revo for all of it’s idle time and other capabilities, it is still a great deal for a great media player.