XBMC / Media Player PC - March 2014
If you want a full featured HTPC including TV capabilities, have a look at our Home Theater PC buying guide. However, if you just want a solution to for living room playback of films, photos and music from a network location, there are better and more affordable options.
Our XBMC / Media Player Buying Guide is a good option if you want to use the XBMC media software. Combining this configuration with XBMC results in a more versatile product than any stand alone media player, while costing not a lot more.
We recently tested a large number of platforms to run XBMC on, ranging from a Raspberry Pi to a fast Core i7 system. The conclusion: an affordable Celeron 1037U is the cheapest way to get a good XMBC experience. Gigabyte built one of those into a nice little box called a Brix, which is quite suited to the living room. It just needs storage and memory.
It doesn't have too many connectivity options, with just two USB 2.0 ports and HDMI, but that's enough for our needs, as long as you don't need to connect an older model amplifier.
Two gigs of memory is more than enough to have XBMC run smoothly and dual-channel offers no extra value here. So we install a single 2GB SO-DIMM, any affordable brand will do.
For storage, the Brix only has an mSATA slot for an SSD. XBMC in the OpenELEC distro doesn't require a lot of space to install; you can stream media from a network location or an external drive. So we choose the smallest, cheapest mSATA SSD we could find: the Kingston SSDNow mS200 30GB.
Remote control Flirc
In order to control XBMC from the comfort of your couch, you need a remote. Of course XBMC is compatible with Media Center remote controls, but there is a better and cheaper option: the Flirc USB receiver allows you to use any remote to control the PC and it works just fine with XBMC. In short: get a Flirc, a random remote you have spare or use a universal model, configure once and you're set. An advantage of the Flirc is that the receiver is very cheap, but you can only order it at Flirc's site.
|Memory modules||Kingston ValueRam 2GB DDR3-1600 CL11 Sodimm||–|
|Hard disks/SSDs||Kingston SSDNow mS200 30GB||£21.90|
|Barebones||Gigabyte Brix XM14-1037||–|
|Save as your own wish list||Average total price:||£21.90|