I don't want to force my vision. I carefully read all news about such
devices and I still feel they aren't ready to use it daily.
Let's take your arguments calm:
- energy efficiency - true, but computer with Celeron i'm talking about
takes <50W. SoC takes probably 10W or less but difference is unimportant
in term of cost even in long run
- low cost - I can buy mainboard, CPU and RAM under 100€. SoC needs PSU
and case too so costs are similair
- footprint - if I understand correctly you means size. I agree SoC will
be smaller, but ITX is also small - you need just a correct case.
Taking Raspberry Pi as an example isn't quite good - under XBMC it's
laggy, his weak CPU doesn't allow to decode less known file formats in
software. You can't connect SATA, LAN is 100Mb only and so on. It runs
XBMC but for me it's rather proof of concept, not for daily usage.
So while it's possible to play x264 format via hardware decoding even on
very cheap devices (<50$ tablets, Rasberry etc), I don't think they are
capable to be full featured HTPCs. As your needs and your HTPC grows,
you will be crippled by your hardware.
Hovewer if you want to make only media player you can do this on ARM, or
better you can buy ready-made cheaply (having SMART on TV you even
doesn't need to buy one - you just have it builtin).
But I see HTPC as something more. My HTPC have five different tuners
(DVB-T, DVB-S2, analog). It acts as video recorder using VDR and
connects to TV via XBMC. But it also makes many other things like file
sharing, file conversion, file downloading from net. It acts as network
server, so for example I can use network interfaces of VDR or XBMC
remotely from my phone.
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