I recently installed Windows Media Center 2005 onto an old PC of mine, and have been amazed with the great performance of it. I expected MC to run like crap considering the old hardware I had left over from old pcs, but I can honestly say it does not lag or run slow at all. This is what is in it:
Intel Celeron 2.4ghz (running at 2.6ghz)
256mb Generic DDR400 RAM (I had 768mb (1X512 1X256) but my 512mb has failed on me)
ECS 845GV-M3 Motherboard
GeForce MX400 (not sure on brand)
40GB Seagate IDE hdd
I am currently using it mostly for playing music that is stored over 2 pcs on my network out to the lounge room stereo, playing DVDs to aviod the need for a DVD player and playing videos stored on my PC, to save burning some stuff to disc.
There is just one thing that I havn't got in it, but should have in the next few weeks is a Tuner Card so I can watch/record TV and avoid needing anything other than a PC and a TV.
The interface of MC, for me is great. I don't have a widescreen or high-class TV, so it suits me perfectly, this is what it looks like:
OK, I've been holding out to talk about this, The Media Center Remote. In one word: AMAZING! It it just so responsive and easy to use. It completely avoids the need for a keyboard/mouse in MC and unlike cheap, inferior remotes doesn't lag or have a slow responce time. It lights up when you press buttons so that you can see it clearly during the night (great for my Mum who has trouble finding the buttons!!)
Lastly, I have really utilized the More Programs add-ons, which enables me to install MC supported apps such as Solitaire and Nero which are usable with the remote.
All in all, I couldn't have found any better way to use an old PC, and the only money I spent was AU$55 for the remote/reciever which comes with 2 extra sensors to plug in the back for more coverage (which really isn't needed with the great reciever!) and the money for the software (cough cough).
I will be sure to eomment when I have the tuner card installed and will review the quality etc when I do. Feel free to comment on this review!