Cool Windows Media Center Alternatives

Increasingly, more and more people are turning to internet-based solutions to consume their content. Many of them are switching to solutions that hook up to televisions. I find the best solution with the most control is a Media Center PC. Some people, however, do not turn to this option due to the lack of flexibility in the Windows Media Center software. I am going to tell you about some of the best FREE Windows Media Center alternatives that I have found.

mediaportalscreenshot   Cool Windows Media Center AlternativesMediaPortal ““ MediaPortal is an open source alternative to the Windows-based Media Center software.

It is compatible with Windows only and sports a customizable interface that, by default, looks very similar to the Windows Media Center interface.

The main benefit to this program besides being open source is its vast collection of plug-ins.

This makes it very simple to add utilities to the application such as new functionalities, skins, and numerous codecs.

gbpvrscreenshot   Cool Windows Media Center AlternativesGB-PVR ““ This open source solution is very similar to MediaPortal.

In contrast, however, GB-PVR requires a more advanced pre-configuration but provides more plugins than MediaPortal out of the box.

This program also seems more to have minor bugs here and there but is a worthy alternative.

mythtvscreenshot   Cool Windows Media Center AlternativesMythTV ““ This solution is a very complex solution but provides probably the most flexibility out of any media center alternative I have seen to date.

The previous mentioned solutions install on top of the Windows operating system. MythTV, however, runs on top of a Linux distribution or Mac OS X on a dedicated machine. This means you have to use the computer for MythTV only and nothing else. For many people this is probably not an ideal solution as it requires knowledge of Linux and hardware that is compatible with Linux.

This solution is for advanced media center users that are looking for a much more advanced solution. Not only does this machine run off of a dedicated box but also has built in gaming, webbrowsing, news, telephony, and DVD ripping. MythTV can be used standalone or in conjunction with multiple MythTV servers to create a “cluster” of media centers that can perform various functions.

tvversityscreenshot   Cool Windows Media Center AlternativesTVersity ““ TVersity is perhaps the best of both worlds in regards to MythTV and the other mentioned solutions. It installs on Windows PC and allows you to create a library with the media on that machine as well as internet content and stream it across your network.

It includes support to stream content to a plethora of devices such as Xbox 360, Wii, iPhone, PSP, PS3, as well as other PCs on your network. With some advanced configuration you can also stream your media across the web, however I find it to be a more worthwhile tool for home network usage.

On the downside, TVersity doesn’t support TV tuner cards which means it cannot be used as a DVR or to watch live TV but the vast list of supported devices should make up for it.

Note :

This is by no means a complete list of media center solutions currently available. Most of these solutions are for more advanced users to configure so please be aware.

Have you any suggestions about these or other Media Center solutions? Let us know in the comments below.

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13 Comments -

0 votes

Kyle Judkins

Great roundup Nick. I do have a question, though. I was looking for a streaming solution for my Xbox 360. I see that you posted about TVersity. Do you know how that compares to Orb or any other option?

0 votes

Nick Volpe

Sorry for the late response. I personally have not been able to test TVersity for Xbox 360 as I currently don’t own one however Orb is server based and TVersity is network based meaning TVersity’s server runs on your computer meaning the speed of streaming content is determined mostly by the speed of your home network. Orb streaming, however, has to go through Orb’s servers on the internet and then back to your device meaning the determining factor is the speed of your internet connection. Therefore, I would recommend TVersity for Xbox streaming over the network but Orb for over the internet.

0 votes

Karsten

Sorry, i have a n00b question. What is the purpose of these tools? Do I need to plug my laptop to TV to use them? or?

0 votes

Disconnect

You don’t ‘need’ to, but it makes it more enjoyable for sure. Or if your PC or laptop is viewable from your bed or couch, its convenient using a media center application via remote control. It’s more of a convenience, and easier viewing/controlling from a distance.

0 votes

Nick Volpe

I would strongly agree with Disconnect and I would say these are just interfaces that make accessing content from computers or certain other devices more convenient like cable, satellite, and dvr providers have tried to do for their content.

0 votes

gotrootdude

The MythTV frontend can be run only when required, so the PC can be used for other tasks.

There’s also LinuxMCE which combines the benefits of MythTV with a VOIP telephone pbx system, a security system and a home automation system. It’s really something awesome to see and use.

Another option is Geexbox, which can stream to any uPNP media player like a Xbox and weighs in at around 8mb in size for the smallest configuration, so it can be run off a flash card without a hard drive. Really good for carpc’s.

0 votes

Kyle

Hey, I was just wondering if there was a possible way with this to get an internet browser for my Xbox 360 as people do with Windows Media Center?

0 votes

Pat Perez

tried your code for hordit but it did not accept. How can I get an invite?

0 votes

mchlbk

XBMC?

0 votes

HerculePirate

I am new Xbox 360 owner and I have intention to hack my Xbox.
I intend to stream my Movies (ISO,IMG,NRG,xvid,divx…every possible format) and Music (mostly FLAC content)to my Xbox360. Firstly I was told that the Xbox 360 didn’t need any Wireless adapter…and now it seems I need an wireless adapter to connect to my router.
I intend to Run Windows XP on my laptop …
Please suggest me the best server that is acceptable by Xbox360 and one that also plays all formats.
Regards
herculepirate
grudged@gmail.com

0 votes

HerculePirate

Correction….I have NO intention of hacking my Xbox 360

0 votes

Chrisclap

I really enjoyed reading these reviews but i still personally believe that Moovida is the best Media center i have come across of recent times.
It is free to download so i highly advised you check it out
http://www.moovida.com

0 votes

echo

thanks for this. i don’t want to use software from tv tuner bundle.