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What's the best/cheapest devices that you can plug an external harddrive into with USB and play it on an external display via VGA/HDMI?

It should at least support AVI, but would be great if it supported MKV, MP4 and also subtitle files: SRT and SUB.

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Check out Western Digital's WD TV line of media players. They may not be the cheapest, but they're certainly one of the popular brands in this space. Their latest model is capable of Wi-Fi streaming, amongst other things, but you're better off hooking directly your HDD to get the most absolute performance.

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I have a seagate HD which is similar and cheap, and it plays a huge laundry list of video formats. The interface is poor, and the remote is slow and unresponsive, but it was CHEAP. –  horatio Oct 26 '11 at 14:29
    
+1 WD ones have worked well for me. Latest firmware update added more formats as well. –  Dave M Oct 26 '11 at 15:41

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