For the last 3-4 years I've always had a dedicated "media" PC sit next to the TV that contained all my movies, tons of music, and was only used for playing media. Lately it has become a sight for sore eyes and I started exploring options. Replacing the tower with a Mac Mini was at the top of my list, but the idea of spending nearly a thousand bucks on a mini & some external storage (to supplement what the mini comes with) didn't sit well with me.
A few days ago I started thinking about the Apple TV and doing some research; at $109 it's hard to go wrong with this thing, but the slim support for file formats (especially .mkv - matroska) didn't impress. This could be solved by jailbreaking the device, but the new Apple TV is very new, no jailbreak is available, and nothing coming in the foreseeable future, so that was a no-go. I did find a nice alternative though: Western Digital TV Live Hub Media Center - good specs, good output connections, and plays just about everything. And once you consider that a 1TB of external storage (which you'll need to add for an AppleTV) will easily run you $100, it sits on-par with the AppleTV (as far as price goes).
Picked it up today - works great and I'm super happy. Very simple to setup, and I've got most of the space already filled with data from my media PC. So far it has played everything I've thrown at it (even .flv files), with the exception of .mov files. Interface is clean and simple, but a tad slower than what I'd like; that's my only gripe with it.
This thing can read files from the internal drive, network shares, media centers on the network, USB stick, or dedicated external hard drives - lots of options.
Anyone looking for a simple media centre should give this thing a shot!