I bought a Mac Mini to run as an HTPC and returned it because of it's seeming inability to play back 1080p DD5.1 MPEG-2 Transport Streams ripped from Tivo perfectly. It had very slight stuttering issues - which I thought might have been due to the video card in the Mini.
I tried to run it with the following software: XMBC, Boxee, PLEX, Toast Video Player, and VLC. All had slight stuttering issues that annoyed me.
And all have wierd slow-motion issues when you skip from one section of a movie to another - everything slows down for a second and then goes to the correct speed.
I have a giant (for an HTPC) Dell Studio XPS 435 Tower with a Radeon 4870 video card in it and it had the exact same issues using XMBC, Boxee, Plex and VLC.
Interestingly enough Window 7 Media Center plays the streams *perfectly* with no stuttering or any other issues.
I tried the same files on a WD Live and they all played perfectly - but the lack of a real fast forward/rewind by more than 30 seconds is annoying on the WD Live. (And yes, I know you can skip 10 minutes ahead if you press two buttons on the remote - but not one minute, and not backwards.)
Is there a small, cheap media center box that doesn't have these issues on the market right now?
I think the Boxee Box might be the ticket, but I'm not sure when they'll be available. (And the Boxee remote application has some great features if you have an Android or iPhone device.)
Does anyone have a Popcorn Hour or other player that has a full featured media Center on it, with a good remote that plays large files without issues?