Is there a single Windows based media center platform that does it all?
January 9, 2012 6:58 AM   Subscribe

What are the best ways to watch and record live, broadcast TV in a Windows environment without using Windows Media Center?

For the last couple of years, I've made my Windows 7-based HTPC the centerpiece of my home theater system, and have been mostly satisfied. The most annoying aspect is switching between programs (Windows Media Center and Boxee) for watching Live or Recorded TV and then watching downloaded or streaming content, respectively.

Ideally, I would have a single program that does it all... and with my wife and a small baby at home during the day, WAF is a must.

What I'm looking for is a full-featured, ten-foot media center program (like Boxee) that also integrates Live TV and PVR functionality (but is not Windows Media Center). I've toyed with XBMC, and have also been hearing about Plex recently. Is there anything else I'm missing?
posted by BobbyVan to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Check out MediaPortal which might be a good fit for your HTPC. It is able to play streaming content as well as timeshift broadcasted TV.
posted by samsara at 8:21 AM on January 9, 2012

Is it the interface to MCE that you don't like or is it codec support?

You could just install a codec pack which will let you watch all your downloads via MCE.
posted by wongcorgi at 10:11 AM on January 9, 2012

I have been in your shoes, and I know the pain. My additional complication was that I wanted HDCP compliant HD DVR functionality through cable, though I was less interested in streaming. As much as I do love XBMC, the best integrated solution I could find that didn't involve awkward program switching was to go ahead with WMC7 with MediaBrowser, further tweaked with Windows Media Center Studio and shark007 codecs. With this, I get nicely integrated and well organized movie and tv rips in mkv containers and x264 format, full lossless 7.1 channel audio bitstreaming (DTS-HDMA/TrueHD), and the best DVR functionality currently available for HD cable content.

If you really want XBMC or Boxee, there is a WMC plugin that allows you to launch programs out of the WMC menu here. But I found it incredibly clunky and ugly as it switched between programs.
posted by drpynchon at 10:44 AM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the very helpful replies.

Is it possible to have archived file support (direct playback of video files inside .rar archives) in WMC7? That and Pandora are the two reasons I do the awkward switching between WMC7 and Boxee.
posted by BobbyVan at 10:56 AM on January 9, 2012

Response by poster: And I'm still interested in other programs in Windows, aside from MediaPortal (have tried that but was put off by the setup and the interface), that can do live TV and PVR.
posted by BobbyVan at 11:23 AM on January 9, 2012

@drpynchon, just wanted to chime in and agree with you there. The launchers for WMC are often very clunky, hackish, and often don't resolve cleanly when exiting (one of the main reasons I switched my parents from a WMC HTPC to a Roku for Hulu, Crackle, etc...much less potential for "support calls")

I would've recommended SageTV next after MediaPortal, but it appears it's been bought out by Google and sales have been discontinued.

Here is the Big Wiki List of PVR software to comb through.

I too had issues with it's a bit too technical for its own good. The same could be said for MythTV as well, but overall it is a much smoother and highly recommended if you're willing to try out a linux system. (Mythbuntu and Mythdora being my two favorite can get rar playing and dvd ripping working very easily with MythTV, but you'll have to workaround some technologies that can only be found on Windows)

It's a shame Yahoo cannibalized Meedio, which was a decent HTPC solution back in the day. Enthusiasts still keep the codebase alive, but I haven't touched it since 2007 so couldn't say if it's worth looking into anymore.

As far as I know, there's not much else out there that are as feature rich unfortunately.
posted by samsara at 12:13 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Before you give up on WMC, have you tried MediaBrowser (for your downloaded content), Shark007 (for your codecs and 1-click configuration) and TunerFreeMCE (for your streaming content)? All are free.

This solution has worked for me and the consistent UI means its accepted by the other half.
posted by mr_silver at 12:54 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a long time sage user and it's now a dead platform since Google bought them.

I'm looking for a replacement for when my sage extenders die.

I think there are two options that I'm going to investigate further:
- npvr which may only support the same extenders as sage (npvr used to be called gbpvr)
- eyetv by elegato w/ apple TVs as extenders
posted by reddot at 8:09 PM on January 14, 2012

« Older Running out of $$$... line of credit?   |   Magsafe for the rest of us Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.