Many HTPC enthusiast are using XBMC as a Media Center system and as XBMC has remote control features I thought it would be good to control my XBMC system (running on a Raspberry Pi) from my Microsoft Surface RT (running Windows RT). There are many XBMC control apps in the Windows Store and I have focused on a few remote controls and one that can be uses to send media to XBMC.
The first app I am going to look at is called XBMC Buddy. This app isn’t a remote control, this is an app that you use to send media to XBMC, its very much like Airplay or DLNA. The way the apps works is that you browse the web for video or audio content in your choice of web browser and when you find a video you want to play on XBMC you copy the link and then use XBMC Buddy to send it to an XBMC system. It works with video and audio content and once you have sent the link to XBMC you can close the remote app. I gave it a try with some audio and video files and it worked very well, it’s a nice simple way of sending video or audio to XBMC from Windows 8 or Windows RT. You can also use the built in Share Charm in Windows 8/RT to share a link to XBMC. XBMC Buddy is free from the Windows Store.
The next app I played with was XBMC Commander. With this app you can control XBMC using the app as a remote with navigation controls (up/down/left/right etc) and that works very well. You can also use the app to browse your music, TV Shows, movies and pictures collection and then play them on your XBMC system. You get a really nice visual representation of your media including quick links for movie categories. You can also switch between XBMC systems so you can use it to control all your XBMC systems around the home. This app is free from the Windows Store and works very well, some other apps I tried wouldn’t connect to my systems but this one worked every time. Not all apps I tested have a remote control and this is one of two that you can actually use as a remote and navigate around XBMC as well as the media browsing, its more basic than the remote on another app that I test (XBMC Remote RT) but it does the job well ans its free.
XRemote is a free app in the Windows Store and enables you to browse content stored on XBMC and then play on the XBMC device. You can browse your movie or music collection and then queue up a file to play. The XRemote app gives you feedback on what media is currently playing. There are two ways of using the app, there is a quick play which lists the content down the left hand side and is great for quickly selecting content and there is a full art mode which has full cover art as well as cast info and fan art. The app makes good use gestures with swipe up to access the various sections of XBMC. For a free app I am very impressed. You can get the app from the Windows Store.
XBMC RemoteRT costs 99p from the Windows Store and has a nice combined view of your media collection using fan art. There are no remote control features in this app but you do get lots of movie info in this app. The controls work very well on my Surface and
XBMC RT Remote is a very metro looking remote app that as well as being able to browse XBMC media also allows you to manage plugins something which none of the other apps will do. It probably has one of the best looking media browsers and also has a full featured remote control which most of the other apps don’t have. So if you want to be able to use Windows 8 or Windows RT as a remote then this is an app well worth looking at. This app costs £1.79 from the Windows Store.
I should say unless you have your video and music collections already indexed on XBMC many of the apps will crash when you run them as they depend on XBMC’s database of content (expect for XBMC Buddy and XBMC Commander).
I tested all these apps with XBian on the Raspberry Pi but they should work with any version of XBMC.
As you can see there are plenty of options to control XBMC and all of the apps I played with worked well, there are plenty more in the store as well. The Surface RT makes a great devices for browsing XBMC content especially your movie collection and as a remote it works well.