Its not often that I get suckered into buying something based solely on the advocacy of a few people on a mailing list but when a said few people, on different lists, all recommended the XBMC + Acer Aspire Revo combination almost simultaneously, I went to investigate.
Now I’m a big media fiend, just ask my wife. We now don’t have a garage because I went and converted it into a home cinema room (8 foot screen, HD projector, 500+ films archived, DVD+Blueray+HD-DVD sources …). I hack on the Entertainer Media Center project (although its a little stale at the moment, effort really appreciated) and I’m a former user of XBMC on the first generation XBOX’s from Microsoft and now uPNP of the XBOX 360. So when someone says to me they have a £150 tiny and silent PC, running Linux and decoding HD material, I got a little credit card jumpy.
A couple of days later the Revo arrived. I was a little in two minds on whether this was a good purchase or not. I count at least 23 computers in my house so another was probably not a good idea but none-the-less, I justified it as a replacement for the excellent but slow Viglen MPC-L which, coupled with many USB disks, was a great file server. The first thing I did was install Ubuntu Karmic Koala. Out of the box it worked great (no surprise there ;)). Install the Nvidia drivers, tweak the screen resolution for my plasma TV, install XBMC and away we go. One tweak every media concerned individual must do on this device is to disable compiz. For some reason, on full screen playback, compiz causes video tearing. It took me a little while to figure this out and I don’t mind admitting that I was initially disappointed to see video playback on this machine (when compiz was enabled) but my god did things change.
I enabled my old Windows Media Center remote, added all my video sources to XBMC, tweaked the interface a little and now, all I can say is WOW. The Revo+XBMC combo ranks up there with the best of my purchases. The interface is wonderful; the little things like showing you the actual time a video you are watching is going to end, the UI which puts every set-top-box maker to shame and the shear extensibility of the thing is immense. I won’t even mention that this is running Ubuntu, doing my work-related backups, downloading (legal) torrents, running scripts, mail, and a whole host of other services, and drawing a trickle of power.
If your considering replacing a uPNP enabled XBOX (which I did) or PS3, getting rid of your aging server or just wanting a great media experience, I whole-heartedly recommend this combination.