Re: Media Center
Well for consumer devices, it's normally commonly listed in the tech specs, eg an Apple TV:
H.264 video up to 1080p, 30 frames per second, High or Main Profile level 4.0 or lower, Baseline Profile level 3.0 or lower with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps per channel, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4 and .mov file formats
For the Google chromecast:
H.264 High Profile Level 4.1 (the processor can decode up to 720/60 or 1080/30)
10bit Hi422p is rarely supported by commercial devices. You'll often find it in cartoon rips, because it produces much more efficient encodes.
On my (BSD) media centre, I use a (fanless) Zotac Nvidia GT 520 GPU, which supports all of these things (MBAFF deinterlacing (thanks for MBAFF, BBC :/ ), Hi422p, 2160p, better deinterlacing than bob/weave, Hi1080p30@L5.1), and cost £20. mplayer can offload all video decoding to the GPU via VDPAU, so 0% CPU usage. Bit bulkier than a SoC though!
(I'll never understand why people choose such high levels to encode at, there is little difference in quality/bitrate between Hi1080p30@L5.1 and Main 1080p30L4.1, and usually is constrained to a bitrate within Main/4.1. Still, it is nice to get a file, and play it without having to say "oh thats the wrong codec options, give me 4 hours, I'll transcode it")