There are several Linux distros set up for HTPC use now, but they generally try to be a general purpose distro as well as an HTPC environment, which can mean they are less than ideal for either. Element is a distro designed only for use in an HTPC environment, it is meant to be connected to a large screen TV and not a computer monitor. The 'ten-foot interface' is designed to be used on an HDTV from across the room. That doesn't mean it only handles HTPC functions, because there are times when you want to browse the web or keep up with your IM buddies while in couch potato mode, so it includes the likes of Firefox and Pidgin.

The interface is original and attractive, with a decent WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) which is important for something to be in the living room, and the option to operate it with a remote control is an important part of this. Naturally it plays videos and music, Element also includes XBMC, a media player and entertainment hub with a beautiful interface. However, it is only capable of playing back existing content, there is no option to watch or record TV programmes.

The download is a live CD so you can try it out before installation. This is a really nice looking package, but until it incorporates MythTV or some other means of recording and watching TV, it will never get full marks.

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Very nice, except it only works with pre-recorded material. When it incorporates MythTV, it could be the best of its kind.