We got a Dell PC for a multimedia PC. For a while, we tried Linux, but it simply didn’t work. We now have Windows 7, and are pretty happy with it. Pretty good considering that the other five computers we have in the house are all Macs.
Then again, we ordered a $350 PC and ended up paying about $600 for it (including shipping) once we upgraded the processor, the memory, etc. In the end, it doesn’t even have a digital video output.
If I had to do it over again, I’d pay another $50 and get an Mac Mini. Mac Minis have the digital video output. They have built in BlueTooth that works with keyboards and mice (you want wireless mice and keyboards). The wireless Logictech (which is one of the best) is simply not as good as BlueTooth. You can use BlueTooth as a remote, and there’s an iPhone App that lets you use your iPhone as a remote.
The MacMini also is extremely compact too, and doesn’t take up a lot of room.
The Mac Mini doesn’t take an internal tuner, but we ended up with a USB tuner card anyway. (Another stupid mistake: I ordered the low profile because I thought it’ll take up less room. Instead, you just can’t get a tuner card that fits.)
However, I think the big question is which computer are you more comfortable with, and whether or not you’ll use your new TV/Computer as a computer. If we had gotten an Mac Mini, we’d be using our TV as a computer more. However, because we’re Mac people and the TV is Windows 7, we’re simply more comfortable using our Macs.
I think the Mac Mini would make an excellent media center, but so will almost any PC capable of running Windows 7. In the end, both cost more or less the same (Make sure your PC has digital out!).
If you have a Mac Mini, you can use any HDTV with HMDI output as a screen and it’ll work great. PCs can be a bit more difficult. We have a 32" PC monitor on ours because it was cheaper than an HDTV screen, However, now HDTV sets are cheaper.
BlueRay looks like it may be the LaserDisk of the 21st century. Downloaded media seems to be the wave of the future. If BlueRay is important to you, get an HDTV with built in BlueRay player or a PC with built in BlueRay. However, right now it looks like a BlueRay player on a PC will cost you about $100 more which is quite a lot when you talk about a machine that starts at about $400.
If you get a Mac Mini and want to play BlueRay, you can simply get a HDTV with built in BlueRay player. Heck, it might be cheaper getting an HDTV with BlueRay than paying extra to get the BlueRay player in your PC. If you have an XBox, you already have a BlueRay player. In fact, some people bought the XBox solely for the BlueRay player. (For a while, it was cheaper than a stand alone BlueRay player).
Get a good antenna. A good place is Denny’s Antenna Service. He runs a small shop, but he’s entirely honest. Go to http://www.dtv.gov/ or http://www.antennaweb.org/ to help choose the type of Antenna you need. (Denny has links to both sites).
Then say goodbye to your cable TV. (But maybe not to the cable company. You need better than DSL speeds to watch Internet TV, and the only option maybe your cable company’s Internet service. At least you’ll still save $60 - $100 per month not getting their cable TV service. One more option. T-Mobile@Home is $10/month for VOIP phone service. If you have your phone through your Cable TV company, that’s already a VOIP phone.)