Commercial VMC alternatives?


Established Member

My Vista Media Center PC is apparently on its way out. WAF is at an all-time low, naturally. I already bought components to upgrade it, but have experienced major compatibility problems before even getting to set up VMC. I have ordered alternative components, but experience tells me that I will inevitably hit more problems.

I have come to realise that although (once set up) the system has always been what I would consider "rock solid" for a PC, this is really not the same level of reliability as one tends to get from a a piece of consumer electronics. Most of us techies accept the occasional problems such as crashes, channels disappearing from the guide, streaming DVDs not working with extenders etc because it's a PC, but truthfully they do matter. I am convinced these will always occur within any computer-based solution. There's just too much going on besides the PVR/media playing capabilities - more points of failure.

As a result I am now wondering if there are any commerical consumer alternatives to PC-based media centers that will do what I want. I suspect not, but I owe it to my better half to find out. So what I want is:

A multi-tuner PVR (Freeview or preferably Freesat HD)
Can play DVDs from hard disk (vobs) without hacks
Can play DivX and mkv videos without hacks
Can play MP3 music from hard disk
Can share recordings, videos and music with another reliable consumer device over a network
Has an attractive interface

I do have a PS3 so watching videos and MP3s could potentially be optional, but would still need a device that will play these (and crucially, TV recordings) over the network. Best would be access to DVR functionality over the network too (like a media center extender).

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