With the release of XBMC v12 “Frodo” at the end of January combined with my Popcorn Hour C-200′s PSU biting the dust, I have a renewed interest in reverting back to XBMC. Since either way I have to invest in a new solution, now would be the time to make the leap back.

A few of the highlights of the new XBMC v12 that stood out to me are listed below:

Of particular interest is official support for the Raspberry PI and initial Android support. This will open the doors to cheaper all-in-one units that (someday) should be able to offer an acceptable user experience.

The Raspberry PI is an awesome start at cheap hardware, but will require hacking together a custom case, remote, and other parts to get everything working. I don’t actually mind this, but the device isn’t quite powerful enough.

For a more plug and play device, the Pivios XIOS DS seems to be getting some good reviews:

At $115, the Pivios unit is already a fraction of the price of a Popcorn Hour — and that’s full retail price. Around the holidays I saw the unit for as little as $79 – $89. Not bad at all.

The unit offers two images released directly from Pivios, an Android-based image with an XBMC appl and an Ubuntu XBMC image. Initial reports say that while the Android implementation is a good start, the Ubuntu image is still the “better” option if you want XBMC only. However, the Android image offers the ability to run other apps — XBMC and Netflix together could be pretty slick.

Unfortunately, while the Pivios XIOS DS sounds great on paper, and has been proven to play both 720p and 1080p videos smoothly, the UI is another story. I have watched a few videos on YouTube showing the performance, and navigation is a little clunky — which is a deal breaker.

For now, I will probably tinker with my old C2D-based media center that I used to run MediaPortal on. It’s not perfect, but it will be good enough for play around for now.


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