Quote: Any others software front ends I ought to check out? What's this class/type of software called?
Windows Home Premium (7 or Vista) comes with Windows Media Center built in, which is also very good, but won't play as many formats out of the box without some work.
You are looking for media center front ends. Google will turn up many options. I have a buddy on another forum that has a sweet setup, I'll try to dig up his posts and see what he uses, but I think it's a combination of Media Center and a plugin called Media Browser.
Quote: I already know how to build a PC albeit it's been ~6 years since I built one. Do current motherboards come with hdmi built in or will I need to buy a video card with an hdmi output? If a separate card, any preferences on brands or even specific card models?
Yes, many new motherboards come with on-board HDMI, and most on-board stuff is good enough for movies and Blu-Ray. the cheaper motherboards leave off the HDMI connector, so read the specs carefully before buying.
with 8GB of DDR3, a 60GB SSD boot drive and a 1TB storage drive. Runs cool and quiet and boots up in 10 seconds. The core i3-2105 is the best value (in an Intel CPU) for a media center because is packs the higher performance HD3000 graphics. The Core i3-2100 only has the HD2000. AMD's chips are also worth considering.
-------------------- 1991 Mitsubishi Pajero XP TD LWB family hauler.
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