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Another console purchase guidance question.
February 16, 2009 4:59 PM   Subscribe

Can an PS3/Xbox 360 perform most of the media functionality found on an original Xbox with XBMC?

So I have an itch to get back into gaming and as it is I'm torn between the PS3 and the 360. I don't much care for the BR player functionality of the PS3 or Netflix on the 360 so that's off the table, however I'd love whatever I pick to replace my original Xbox with XBMC.

Currently, I have XBMC attached to a DNLA-capable 2TB NAS with my media (straight DVD copies, and Xvid/DivX avis, MP3s/FLAC, some photos). I love it, but do wish I could run h264 HD video.

Can either of the new systems fill in for the XBMC, and if not, where are they lacking (in terms of functionality, ease of use, interface)?

I'm essentially down to basing my decision on this, online play, and any trends in exclusive games I may prefer.
posted by drpynchon to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have both, currently I think the PS3 has better streaming options (as well as UI). They both can stream divx/xvid as well as H.264. I do think the 360 has a much better selection of games though.

I used to use TVersity to stream divx/xvid, h.264/ac3, mpeg2 to my PS3, but now I've found PS3 media server (http://code.google.com/p/ps3mediaserver/).

PS3 media server pretty much plays any format out there, and if the PS3 natively can't, it will transcode. 1080p MKV encodes work flawlessly (with Tversity, I had to do a quick conversion with Tsmuxer). You'll need a dedicated PC with some decent power to do the heavy lifting to get it to work though.

There are also transcoding options with the 360.
posted by wongcorgi at 5:12 PM on February 16, 2009


I don't know if this is an option for you, but XBMC runs on Macs and PCs now. Maybe just replace your Xbox with something a little beefier to handle HD videos and keep the console for just gaming?
posted by bradbane at 5:17 PM on February 16, 2009


Do I need to actually stream from a computer? I'd really prefer if the console can access my NAS directly via SMB/DLNA or what have you. Forgive my ignorance, but is that not an option?
posted by drpynchon at 5:20 PM on February 16, 2009


Something in the last system software update magically made the PS3 see my Buffalo LinkStation Pro NAS with DLNA. My wireless connection is kind of wonky, but streaming seems to work okay for the most part. I've seen a couple of lock-ups while trying to jump to points in DiVX files, but I've seen the same thing from XMBC. Xbox 360 streaming has worked about the same for me.

Because my neighborhood is so crowded with other WiFi networks, its hard to get a reliable enough connection to stream MKV / H.264 files, but playing the files from an external hard drive works okay.

I think the biggest difference might be the interface -- I think its easier to make XBMC organize your video library.
posted by curse at 5:34 PM on February 16, 2009


I definitely have no problems with the PS3 + ReadyNAS NV+ (using the built-in streaming services, including TwonkyMedia), though it can be picky about some ripping formats including using chapter markers. The only real downside vs. my old XBMC setup is that you can't directly mount-and-play an ISO. It's a fairly major problem but the PS3 is definitely not a bad one-box solution if you're a game player too (I use mine for media about 95% of the time, including Bluray).
posted by kcm at 5:59 PM on February 16, 2009


The PS3 has issues playing AAC and some AVI codecs. You could run a Mac Mini, with Mac OS X as the home theatre PC OS, and then flip over to a Windows XP installation to play games.

I have an Xbox360, PS3 and Mac Mini, and I once used TwonkyMedia to serve media from the Mini to the PS3 and Xbox. I now no longer use the Xbox360 and PS3 for HD theatre purposes, only for console-only games.

The Mac Mini plays MP3, AAC, MP4, AVI, MPEG1, MPEG2, H.264, Netflix, hulu, etc. at HD-quality without skipping a beat.

I once had a homebrew Windows XP PC for theatre purposes, but it would not play HD without stuttering, so it now sits in the corner gathering dust. Windows is not made for HD, it seems. In my experience, the Mac Mini is the best and most flexible HD server to be had under $600.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:38 PM on February 16, 2009


If the Mac Mini option piques your interest, consider checking out Front Row. It makes all your movies, music and photos available from one simple interface.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:43 PM on February 16, 2009


The PS3 can connect to anything that serves up media as a UPNP server, which apparently is a lot of things. Still, I find the easiest thing is usually to connect my drives to it directly via USB.
posted by raygan at 7:33 PM on February 16, 2009


Blazecock Pileon: "If the Mac Mini option piques your interest, consider checking out Front Row. It makes all your movies, music and photos available from one simple interface."

If your movies are in formats that Apple supports or you can hunt down codecs and converters in a clumsy attempt to get the seamless playback Apple advertises. I have a 360 and I use it almost as much for streaming Netflix as I do for gaming. I don't use it for other media stuff because the hard drive space is ridiculously cramped and Microsoft wants you to use Windows computers for their native Xbox-PC interactions.
posted by Science! at 8:03 PM on February 16, 2009


If your movies are in formats that Apple supports or you can hunt down codecs and converters in a clumsy attempt to get the seamless playback Apple advertises.

I haven't run into anything that Perian hasn't handled. That's one double-click away; not sure how hard that is to do.

With a Mac Mini, you can get any off-the-shelf hard drive and enclosure when you need to expand your storage needs. With an Xbox360, you have to buy a special Xbox360 hard drive. With a PS3, you have to get a notebook hard drive, which limits your storage expansion choices.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:22 PM on February 16, 2009


I have a PS3 and XBMC'ed Xbox. I still prefer XBMC.

I rarely have trouble sharing with Samba to the Xbox. UPNP to the PS3 is flaky. Rhythmbox shares my audio reasonably well, but I'm not fond of Mediatomb for video content. If you're not serving up your files from linux you may have an easier time with this.

As far as the interface goes, I prefer XBMC for two reasons. First off, I have a remote control that feels like a remote control instead of a game controller. More importantly XBMC has an actual media library. PS3 gives me all my files. The PS3 lets me pick artists or albums, but I couldn't do artists and then albums within that. I just find it clunkier to deal with.

Of course any interface preferences on my part should take into account the fact that I got used to XBMC and that's what I expect from the PS3 rather than the other way around.

Another factor to take into consideration is that XBMC now has a Hulu plugin. PS3's browser does not do Hulu. I think the 360 does netflix streaming if you're into that kind of thing.

Anyway, I think your best bet would be to keep the XBMC box for most of your content. Use a 360 or PS3 for HD content. I don't know if the 360 will be able to stream it, but the PS3 has no problem with that.
posted by valadil at 9:22 PM on February 16, 2009


Appreciate the Mini recs, but it's not what I'm looking for. The XBMC already does all the Mini can short of play HD. What I want is a device that serves as a gaming system (something the Mini really can't do with XP or otherwise) and a media server (with my NAS). And I don't want to use another computer to direct streaming. I'd like to be able to organize and run media directly through the console, attached to the NAS. Again, if the consoles don't play nice with my NAS then they're a no go. Can someone clarify if this is how the new consoles work with DLNA/UPnP NAS drives, because that's exactly what I'm doing with my XBMC right now.
posted by drpynchon at 9:25 PM on February 16, 2009


Streaming I don't think would be a problem, as long as the formats are supported by the console -- I haven't seen a modern DiVX file that hasn't worked on either the PS3 or the Xbox 360, and if you have the bandwidth, the Xbox 360 handles hi-def WMV. PS3 will handle MPG4 files decently, up to 1080p.

Organization is where the consoles fall flat over XBMC, as far as I can tell, you're stuck with the file structure supported by DLNA, and if you are looking at grabbing metadata for downloaded TV episodes, I don't believe you are going to get that.
posted by curse at 12:02 AM on February 17, 2009


I'd like to be able to organize and run media directly through the console, attached to the NAS.

You will be able to stream but not organize; DLNA access is read-only. The interface is clunky, but it works okay. The Xbox360 and PS3 will fail on some audio and video codecs, giving cryptic error messages when it happens. You'll be stuck with whatever support Microsoft and Sony provide in their firmware updates.

For basic access, it should mostly work, but depending on the variety of what you are streaming, you may run into some brick walls.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:29 AM on February 17, 2009


It's starting to sound like I'm going to be a fair bit irritated if I get rid of the XBMC. While I find it amazing that the console manufacturers haven't incorporated anywhere near this level of media functionality (organizing media, decent codecs, and good SMB support don't seem like rocket science) into their software, I guess it remains a testament to the amazing XBMC project. I suppose I might just keep this old rig and add one of the new ones purely for gaming.

Thanks for all the input guys..
posted by drpynchon at 3:39 AM on February 17, 2009


Yeah, the Mini + FrontRow is the sexiest solution I have found yet. That silent little Mini + remote ($399 refurb!) plays anything I have ever thrown at it, no matter what crazy codecs someone used to, um, rip or encode those anythings.

I have both PS3 and XBox360, too, and while both HAVE media front ends, they both suck pretty hard, especially in the supported codecs department. My PS3 will mount a video drive from my network but it can only actually play about half the files it finds, and the UI is really bad for browsing many directories. I have also run XBMC software on both a PC and an Ubuntu box... it's somewheer in between: better than the PS3 and XBox experience, but still a pile of ugly configuration messes and bad UI compared to the click-click-watching Mini.
posted by rokusan at 5:13 AM on February 17, 2009


Do you use any of the library functions in XBMC? Because the other solutions don't measure up in that regard.
posted by smackfu at 9:40 AM on February 18, 2009


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