Are you using any Media Center alternatives?

As part of a future podcast looking at alternatives to Windows Media Center I want to get your feedback on the platforms available. Do you use any Media Center type applications, it could be Sage TV, Boxee or an open source project. I would like to hear how you find the applications for expandability, usability and very important for WAF reliability. Either leave a comment or email ian at I would love to hear how they stack up against Windows Media Center


8 thoughts on “Are you using any Media Center alternatives?

  1. I’m currently using a Dish Network 622 DVR as well as Media Center 7. I plan on getting the new Dish 922 DVR and using it in conjuction with MCE. Depending on how nice the 922 is I may ditch MCE at the end of this year.

    Do I want the commercials taken out of some shows or have all my content in one place? We’ll see.

  2. I’ve found SageTV to be a much more complete solution than MC. For e.g. the extender provides the same experience as the PC (i.e. plays everything) and a “SoftSled” option for those who prefer it.

    Stability (when I’m not messing of course) is equal to MC, the only thing that is somewhat annoying is the way LiveTV is handled. Because LiveTV is really Recorded TV that gets deleted when you’re done, there is a slight pause when channel surfing as a new file gets created. It doesn’t impact SAF (or personal AF) much because we almost never watch LiveTV.

  3. Personally, I don’t touch Media Centre. I’ve got a PS3 and my WHS has got PS3 Media Server.

    Main reasons:

    1) PS3 and PMS plays just about everything.
    2) The PS3 remote is just so much better than the Xbox 360
    3) Don’t use/need any TV recording functionality.

    Plain old simple streaming from WHS, works fine for me.


  4. I’m still using XBMC primarily on three of our four TV’s. Silicon Dust’s update to the HD Home Run to support XBMC is making XBMC even more compelling.

    I’ve played with Boxee on an AppleTV and it really wasn’t much more performant than XBMC on an original XBox. I’m torn between getting a Popcorn Hour C200 and adding a BluRay drive to it or waiting for Asus to ship their Eee Box and running XBMC/Boxee on it…

  5. Ive been using MediaPortal for the last 12 months. Very good replacement for MCE. Front and back-end, good tuner support, automatic refresh rate changer, skip steps, skinnable, editable menus, many plugins available, very customisable. Has many features MCE does not support – even with hacks and 3rd party add-ons. Only caveat is that its a big learning curve to set up and use. Apart from that, a great application with a strong user community.

  6. Check out J.River Media Center. I’ve been using it for several years for my music collection, but it has a full set of video, photo, music, and TV/DVD playback with a 10 foot UI. I’ve played with the TV playback a bit, but my tuner hardware is so old I couldn’t get it to work properly.



  7. I am very strongly considering switching from Windows Media Center to a Mac Mini + one of the MacOS X-oriented DVR apps (SageTV, EyeTV, MythTV and/or XBMC). My girlfriend suggested this without knowing “how much more advanced and broad” the market for Windows-based DVR is… but then I started looking into it and I was surprised to see what kind of hardware and software support is available. For about the same price as a reasonably-tricked out 7MC system, it looks like I can get a souped-up Mac Mini + some pretty decent tuner hardware (Elgato EyeTV, Hauppauge 950, Equinux TubeStick).

    Hulu, Boxee, Netflix all seem to have well-liked streaming options for Mac OS X; OTA or ClearQAM TV programming is easy enough with a decent tuner, and satisfying remotes seem to be pretty easy to find. What I haven’t figured out yet is if the Mac Mini will support multiple USB-based tuners – but then again, these days so much content is available without having to capture it yourself at broadcast time, that that may not be as big a deal as it once was.

    My only other misgiving is that I won’t be able to add whatever hardware I want to this setup. However, the trade-off is that the developers of hardware/software/add-ons for the Mac market know what kind of hardware they’re getting (making compatibility not so much the nightmare it is with Windows systems), and making stability go that much further up (even though I realize that the Win7 64-bit kernel is getting more and more stable, and allowing a lot less poor behaviour from the driver developers). Hell, I might even be able to leverage my .NET programming skills with Mono + Moonlight, if I really need to write some add-on software to smooth some rough edges.

    In the short run I’ll be trading in one set of headaches for another, but if my experience with my iPhone (vs. years of WinMobile agony) is any indication, the long run should make me less inclined to have to keep messing around with my HTPC, and leave me more time to actually *enjoy* my HTPC.

  8. Yes, I think going the Apple route is a safe bet. I am using the Spring 2009 release of the Mac mini paired with a 1 TB Western Digital external drive (for media storage). It is connected via HDMI to my 47 inch HDTV and it definitely pumps out 1080p (FullHD) at smooth frame rates. I am not using it as a DVR but I have heard the Elgato EyeTV tuners are super for this functionality. I hope to review one soon.

    As for the software powering my mini HTPC, I prefer Plex over Boxee for its awesome media management interface. It has a HULU and Netflix (though I don’t have an account at this time) plugin so that expands your media options immediately.

    Recently I published a quick comparison of Mac mini media center software on my blog. It may prove useful to those considering the construction of a mini HTPC. You can download it free here:


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