HTPC Software Comparison

Discussion in 'Home Entertainment Computers' started by robbo100, Jan 9, 2012.

  1. robbo100

    robbo100
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    What HTPC software do other AVForums users use?

    Look at the 2012 HTPC Software Poll results: http://www.avforums.com/forums/home-entertainment-pcs/1630601-what-htpc-software-do-you-use.html

    Take part in the 2013 HTPC Software Poll here: http://www.avforums.com/forums/home...c-software-poll-what-software-do-you-use.html

    Introduction

    The purpose of this thread is to provide both new and existing Home Theatre Personal Computer (HTPC) users with a single point repository for HTPC software information. It aims to list each of the different software available, tell you all exactly what features they have got, where you download them, and where to find installation guides and support forums. This thread only deals with software which fall into the true definition of the HTPC, in that it only lists software that can be to view all your media using only a remote control from normal living room viewing distance from the TV/Projector (or TV Server software which is designed to be used with “front-end” software in this way). Therefore, you will not see iTunes, or PowerDVD in the list because they can't achieve this.

    This guide is formed into two parts. A list of each software with a short summary of its headline features and target usage and a link to a spreadsheet that breaks down each desirable HTPC functional characteristic and states which software can achieve each function.

    The hope is that new users will be able to use this guide to work out which software is best for their HTPC systems, and that existing users will be able to use the guide to investigate how their chosen software compares against others if they are thinking about having a change.

    If anyone identifies any categories or features which are missing from the spreadsheet then please PM me (this is working progress). Similarly if anyone is using some great HTPC software which meets the definition above that is not on the list, then send me the data and I will add it to the spreadsheet for everyone's future use.

    The Spreadsheet (click here)
    The spreadsheet is colour coded to make reviewing features easier:

    Green = This function is supported natively or using a simple fully supported plugin (where a plugin is needed then this is indicated using the words "Yes - Via Plugin")
    Orange = This function is possible, but it may not be fully supported (i.e. requiring a beta standard plugin or a development software load), or may require installation of other 3rd party software (noting that some 3rd party software may not be free).
    Red = This function is not possible with this HTPC software. If this is an essential feature for you then you should consider different software, or it might be worth posting a question on the relevant support forum for that software to confirm that it is definitely not possible)

    (Note: If a box is blank, then it doesn't necessarily mean that it isn't supported, it just means that we don't know either way. The best way forward is to ask on the specific forum, then please report back to this thread so we can input the data to help the next person!)

    Software Summaries

    Windows Media Center

    Windows Media Center is a digital video recorder and media player developed by Microsoft. It is an application that allows users to view and record live television, as well as organize and play music and videos.
    Media Center can play slideshows, videos and music from local hard drives, optical drives and network locations. Users can stream television programs and films through selected services such as Netflix. Content can be played back on computer monitors or on television sets through the use of devices called Windows Media Center Extenders.

    It is possible to watch and pause live TV with support for up to four TV tuners or two dual-tuner cards. These TV tuner cards can support TV broadcasts in Standard Definition as well as high definition video through DVB-T and ATSC standards.

    Windows Media Center is probably one of the easiest HTPC software to setup, but this simplicity sometimes limits it's flexibility to play all media types and means that it is not as customizable as other software.

    XBMC (link to Setup Guide)

    TBC

    MediaPortal (link to screenshots and link to Setup Guide)

    MediaPortal turns your HTPC into a very advanced media center, or Home Theater PC (HTPC). Out of all the software available it is probably the most comprehensive of systems and is able not only to share your TV tuner resources to other MediaPortal clients on the network, but will also record more than one channel using a single TV tuner (and allow you to fit many tuners too).

    MediaPortal allows you to:
    • Listen to music and radio
    • Play videos, movies and DVDs
    • View pictures or create a slideshow
    • Watch, schedule and record live TV - like a TiVo, but more, and for free!
    • Stream media, radio and TV to any HTPC / PC connected to your network
    • Use a remote to control your HTPC from your couch
    • Check weather, news, or information on the web, even play games!

    By using the hundreds of plugins and skins available, you can do almost anything—like monitor your HTPC; view sports scores or local movie show times; stream or download web TV, Apple Trailers, Youtube videos or internet radio; even start up MediaPortal playing music from a predefined playlist.

    Since MediaPortal delivers more complexity and customisation than most, it is fair to say that it will take a little more time to setup, but MediaPortal users agree that the results are well worth it!

    NextPVR (link to screenshots)

    NextPVR is a free Personal Video Recorder (PVR) and Media Centre application for Microsoft Windows. At its heart lies the Electronic Programme Guide from where you can watch (and pause) live TV and schedule your favourite shows for later viewing.

    Relax with a DVD or play back your music, videos and photos stored on your PC or on other devices across your home network.

    With support for multiple clients (including thin client devices such as the Popcorn hour) you can distribute your media experience around the home. Away from home you can use the web interface to schedule and stream media using a PC or a suitable mobile device.

    Extend your experience with an increasing range of plugins that provide additional features such as weather, internet radio and RSS Reader. Change the look and feel of NextPVR with the supported skins.

    JRiver (link to screenshots)

    JRiver is a complete media solution. It can play almost all media types, and it has a database that can handle hundreds of thousands of files without hesitation. It was built from the ground up. It plays audio, video, images. It records and plays television. Its scope is similar to WMC.

    It has a high quality 64 bit audio engine that is audiophile grade and is recommended by many high end audio companies and at sites like computeraudiophile.com.

    Its video engine uses the well regarded projects of nevcairiel and madshi, namely LAV and MadVR. It can bitstream to AVR's, so it supports 7.1 or greater speaker systems. It is well regarded and recommended at sites like avSforum.com. MC is a DirectShow player and uses Red October, its own method of downloading, installing, and configuring DirectShow filters like madShi and LAV. It is completely independent of the problematic MS method. More on our wiki.

    That said, its greatest strength may be it's multipath engine. It allows playback to an unlimited number of zones, using its native networking or standards like UPnP and DLNA. You can stream audio to several zones while watching video or television in others. To do this requires well developed remote control and JRiver Media Center has it. You can use a Media Center Remote (green button) or an Android (Gizmo, or iOS (WebGizmo) or another copy of MC.

    Sync to devices is available for most smart phones and tablets. Conversion on the fly is possible, including caching, for all media types. As a front end, MC's Theater View is written to exploit the 3D graphics capabilities of most video hardware. Scrolling is smooth in large collections. This ten foot view can also be used with a Touch Screen. Configurability is a strength of JRiver Media Center, though we are always being asked for more.

    For The Record (link to screenshots)

    Easily record your favorite TV programs with a push of a button. Never miss your favorite show again!

    - Smart Program Guide: automatically handle schedule-time changes and recording conflicts.

    - Worldwide Access: take control of your PVR system from anywhere in the world.

    - TV Extenders: enable playback on any TV in your home, with access to your central recordings.

    - Auto Record: have your PVR record a recurring show like the daily news for later playback, automatically removing older recordings.

    Plex

    Plex on Your Desktop: Experience your media on a visually stunning, easy to use interface on your TV. Your media has never looked this good!

    Plex for Mobile Devices: Effortlessly connect to all of your favorite local and online content, all presented seamlessly on your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android devices.

    Plex for Connected Devices: Extend the functionality of connected TVs and add low cost streaming devices to your home theater with Plex for Connected Devices.

    Boxee

    TBC

    Myth TV

    TBC

    DVB Viewer

    TBC
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2013
  2. robbo100

    robbo100
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    Windows 7 Media Center - Screenshots
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2012
  3. robbo100

    robbo100
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    XBMC - Screenshots
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2012
  4. robbo100

    robbo100
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    MediaPortal - Screenshots Click Here for MediaPortal Demo Video

    Here are a couple of skins taken from the Team MediaPortal website which show the sort of layouts which can be easily achieved. There are roughly 25 fully release skins available for MP, as well as a number of beta skins still in development. And if you know a bit about .xml files, you can always tweak an existing skin to meet your needs.

    Avalon HD

    Avalon is a new HD (1920x1080) skin for MediaPortal 1.2.0. It offers a clean and simple layout without compromising the ever growing need for information at a glance. You have the choice between several layouts to suit your needs, all configurable from within MP. Screens are as consistent as possible for a better user interface experience.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    StreamedMP

    Streamed MP is a port of Team Razorfishes skin Mediastream created for XBMC, over to the popular open source HTPC Application MediaPortal. Streamed MP is a close port, however there are some new views/layouts included with the skin that will keep the fanart fans happy. This skin has also been designed with ease of use in mind, with a custom menu generator included to make creating menus suited to your setup extremely easy. All of this is wrapped up in a nice installer that also installs the latest version of two very popular plugins TV Series and Moving Pictures

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2012
  5. robbo100

    robbo100
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    NextPVR - Screenshots

    Main Menu
    [​IMG]

    Live TV
    [​IMG]

    Pending Recordings
    [​IMG]

    Picture Library
    [​IMG]

    Music Library
    [​IMG]

    Programmes Plugin
    [​IMG]

    MusicBox4 Plugin
    [​IMG]

    TV EPG
    [​IMG]

    Web Administrator
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2012
  6. robbo100

    robbo100
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    JRiver - Screenshots

    Theatre View - Home
    [​IMG]

    Theatre View - TV
    [​IMG]

    Music View
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2012
  7. robbo100

    robbo100
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    For The Record - Screenshots

    The Web EPG Interface
    [​IMG]

    The "Front-End" (note: This screenshot is using the MediaPortal "Front-End" software)
    [​IMG]

    Management Console
    [​IMG]

    The Agrus Recorder/Tuner Management Console
    [​IMG]

    Mobile Client
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2012
  8. robbo100

    robbo100
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    Plex - Screenshots
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2012
  9. robbo100

    robbo100
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    Boxee - Screenshots
     
  10. robbo100

    robbo100
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    Myth TV - Screenshots
     
  11. robbo100

    robbo100
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    DVB Viewer - Screenshots
     
  12. MrRiver

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    robbo100,
    Thanks for doing this. Not an easy job, I think. And thank you for including JRiver Media Center.

    Here's a placeholder description I've just written. I'd like a chance to make corrections.

    For those who don't know me, I started the company in 1981.

    Jim Hillegass
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2012
  13. MrRiver

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    Changes made to the spreadsheet. Thanks.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2012
  14. coolamasta

    coolamasta
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    Nice work going to be a great thread, im currently using XBMC and Plex and about to Trial JRiver and see whether the benefits are worth actually paying for :) Keep up the good work!
     
  15. robbo100

    robbo100
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    Thanks coolamasta,

    I haven't developed it much in the last couple of weeks, but I hope to get some time soon to make some further improvements.

    Robbo100
     
  16. icstm

    icstm
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    What are the comparisons you would make to your experience of Plex over XBMC? I use a PC so can use either. I thought Plex is like Boxee, ie a branch of xbmc?
     
  17. KhalJimbo

    KhalJimbo
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    Robbo100

    You can add here now that XBMC now natively supports bit streaming HD Audio
     
  18. MrRiver

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    Done.
     
  19. robbo100

    robbo100
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    Thanks
     
  20. AndyCob

    AndyCob
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    I just found this thread was surprised not to see MyMovies listed My Movies - Home although since it's not technically a player itself maybe that explains it.

    I use it to run my Sony megachangers and catalogue my entire DVD/Blu-ray collection for selection and playback. It integrates into WMCE and supports external players as well for blu etc or if you have a preferred option over WMCE.

    Has some really nice featues with all the metadata for your films and TV and now has a new automatic refesh feature (beta at the moment) that should make sure all your DVDs, media files etc playback at the native refresh of the source.

    Has iphone/android app versions with control and selection as well but I don't use those yet as I'm such a ludite I don't own a smartphone.

    The PC version is free to download but you unlock higher level functionality either by contributing to the title database or by purchasing.

    media center screenshotsMy Movies - Windows Media Center

    Theres a home server version as well.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2012
  21. robbo100

    robbo100
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    Thanks AndyCob,

    From what I can tell, this is just a plugin for WMC, so is covered under the WMC column. Like you say, it isn't actually a player in it's own right.

    Thanks

    Robbo100
     
  22. icstm

    icstm
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    but is it worth splitting MediaBrowser from MyMovies and treat them seperately? just a thought - I would have thought that user numbers would be high on both.
     
  23. robbo100

    robbo100
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    Or we could list MediaBrowser or MyMovies as two seperate plugins within WMC?
     
  24. Naaktgeboren

    Naaktgeboren
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    I have found both hugely frustrating. My problems with each:-

    Mediaportal - Dropped frames galore!! All configured very nicely except those damn dropped frames which spoil everything. Both SD and HD content is affected, damn shame as it would have been a keeper.

    XBMC - No matter what I try, I cannot import my TV Series, I have tried the renamer apps with no luck whatsoever. To give an example, my sons Peppa Pig series, I have them named according to the XBMC wiki. When I ask the scraper to import them, it downloads all series information for the Grand Prix :confused:

    I might stick with XBMC as it still works for movies without stutter, will have to forget my TV Series though and play them by the folders.
     
  25. robbo100

    robbo100
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    have you tried posting your log files on the MP forums and asked for help. You will get great support.
     
  26. Naaktgeboren

    Naaktgeboren
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    Finally figured it after a week of messing around with codecs and what have you. It is the musicinfohandler plugin which is causing all of the problems. Once disabled everything works as it should. Anyone else had any issues with the plugin?
     
  27. maddogb

    maddogb
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    one thing you might want to mention in the comparison is the support for dvb-t radio which Media Portal handles very well yet none of the others seem to bother much with

    this was a deal breaker for me as the Mrs is an avid radio fan
     
  28. the Dix

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    Media portal problem! had it working sweetly TV well on the way Ripped my old region 1&3 to hard drive and they played ( in DD and DTS) Music loaded and playing fine.
    Them got a VGA card driver download and have lost 5.1 sound in fact all sound with video and TV. Did think I was being eco friendly and switched off AV amp and TV as download was taking a long time. have reloaded Media Portal again and set up as before to same result . Any ideas ?
     
  29. robbo100

    robbo100
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    This is the software comparison thread, not the mediaportal support thread.
     
  30. the Dix

    the Dix
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    Ah well will look for the xbmc support thread as MP lost TV functionality ( Again!) So giving xbmc a try along with Next PVR so far seems simpler. But sure I can brake this to given time. MP the Alfa Romeo of programs it great when its working but it doesn't for long.
     

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