There are many ways, that you can play music, look at photos and watch your movies on your HTPC (Home Theater PC). You can use separate pieces of software to listen to music and a separate piece of software to watch movies, or you could use just one piece of software, that will play everything, but which software is the best media center software? In this article we will discuss Boxee, Media Center and XBMC and which is the best media center software.
BOXEE – PC, MAC, LINUX
Boxee is a free service that you can sign up for straight from their website, http://www.boxee.tv/ in my honest opinion; Boxee is the absolute best media center software that you can get today. Go to the website, sign up for a free account and download the software. It is available for PC, Mac and Linux based machines. Boxee makes everything, incredibly easy to use. The user interface is beautiful and menus are easily navigated. The test is bold and easy to read and is the epitome of what is known as the 10ft user interface. You can link your account to Netflix, Pandora, VUDU, Facebook, Twitter and many others, which is a really nice feature.
This software will allow users to search the internet for free video content, from latest TV shows to music videos and it will stream the content straight to your HTPC. Boxee will also scan your entire computer and any external devices for files such as Photos, Movies, TV Shows, and music. The software will them organize and store your content in easy to navigate menus. Another great feature of Boxee is that it will allow you to use your Iphone or Ipod to control the software. Just add your Iphone to the same Wi-Fi network that your computer is on, download the app for free from the app store and then you will not have to worry about using your keyboard or mouse. It is an incredible feature. Boxee is hands down the best media center software.
WINDOWS MEDIA CENTER -PC
Windows Media Center software has come on in leaps and bounds over the past couple of years. When it very first came out, it was broken, did not work very well and overall, it just seemed like the software was rushed. Windows 7 is a fantastic operating system, it is highly polished and works great, and this is the same with Media Center. The software is built right into Windows 7. Like Boxee, MC is very easy on the eye and again has a good 10ft user interface. In some ways Media Center is better than Boxee.
Media Center has a much nicer interface when it comes to watching live TV content. If you have a TV tuner card in your PC, and have your cable feed going into the HTPC, the Media Center software does a better job of handling the media than Boxee. The built in TV guide is great and Is regularly updated, so finding your favorite TV shows is quick and easy, this also makes using your HTPC as a DVR much easier. Media Center also allows users to connect to Netflix, but that’s about it. MC will also scan your computer for local content on your hard drives, but it does not do as good of a job as Boxee does. Media Center looks pretty, but is not as easy to navigate as Boxee. In order to control Media Center you either have to use your keyboard and mouse or buy a remote control and receiver for around $25, which is a far cry from the great technology that Boxee uses. Overall Media Center is a good piece of software that will work well for people that do not want to go and venture out into downloading additional media center software.
XBMC – PC, MAC, LINUX
Like Boxee, XBMC (cross bar media center) is a free, open source piece of software, both XBMC and Boxee are built on the same software. You can download XBMC from their website http://xbmc.org/ XBMC is a great alternative to Windows Media Center but does not have all of the functionality of the first two we discussed. Where XBMC does excel is dealing with local content. XBMC does an awesome job of finding, sorting and playing all local media on your hard drives, thumb drives or other external devices.
The user interface is nice, although not quite as polished as the other software. The font is large and easy to read from a distance and XBMC can work with a lot of different remote controls, providing that you have a receiver connected to your HTPC. There is no external integration built into XBMC, so you will not be able to link it to Netflix and stream movies from Netflix through this software. If you are not going to be watching live TV through your TV tuner card, then XBMC is a great alternative to Media Center, it looks nicer, and the menus are easier to navigate. If you are not worried about being able to link to external sources, then XBMC is a great way to turn your HTPC into a great media jukebox
There are other options out there when it comes to media center software, such as, Itunes and HP Media Center, but the three listed above, are the best pieces of media center software available for your HTPC today! The great thing about all 3 is that they are all free. Go ahead and download them, try them out and see which one you prefer.