Off Topic: What Do You Use As Your Media Centre?

Off Topic: What Do You Use As Your Media Centre?

As hardware becomes ridiculously cheap, and more and more options become available, we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to the humble media centre. So many devices can do it. And after recently cancelling a Foxtel subscription, I’m staring at a few pieces of hardware in my room, wondering which would be the best. What do you use?

ESPN no longer has the rights to La Liga in Australia, which means they no longer have the rights to my money. So on the odd occasion that I find myself sitting on my couch with nothing to do (after those Steam sales? Not likely, amirite?), I’d like to be able to switch on the TV and just watch something without any hassle.

My OUYA just arrived, and I know there’s a XBMC for that. Just like there is for the Raspberry Pi, which I’ll be getting soon as well. I haven’t had too much luck connecting either the 360 or PS3 to my PC – something about my sharehouse network seems to be stuffing it up.

I don’t need much. Just the basics. A list of video/audio items, a “play” button… That sort of thing. What do you use, and how have you found it?

[Cat photo] via Shutterstock


  • If I’m in front of a TV, I have a portable hard drive loaded up with pretty much everything I want to watch and a vast DVD collection.

    Otherwise I’m in front of a computer that has access to channel BT.

    • Channel BT +1. I was running mythbuntu but then upgraded my computer to play better games on my TV with an Xbox 360 controller and haven’t bothered even putting the tuner in. It doesn’t get much better than this.

  • believe it or not, I use windows media centre on windows 8. I’m sure there are better options out there, I have a raspberry pi and I believe XBMC is available for it, I just can’t be bothered configuring it.

    • “I have a raspberry pi and I believe XBMC is available for it, I just can’t be bothered configuring it.”

      There really isn’t much to configure.

  • PS3. Got the media server app working and I watch all my Chinese cartoons and American TV shows. Plays all my .mkv videos pretty swell with no issues. Struggles with 1080p content though.

    • how do you get .mkv to work on ps3? ps3 in my bedroom connects to my pc windows 8 media server, which is great.. until my pc goes to sleep =/

      • Use PS3 Media Server: It has an option in there (from what I remember) to prevent the PC from going to sleep. And its free and works with Xbox as well.

        I connect my 2TB External HDD to my Windows 8 PC (running PS3 Media Server) via USB3, which is connected to a EoP adapter. At the other end, an EoP adapter is connected to my PS3 which is connected to my TV via HDMI. It works when it wants to. More often than not I cannot for the life of me get it to connect. Very moody, but when it works, its freakin awesome.

  • AppleTV with XBMC. Plays everything, across the network, controlled with my Harmony remote. Fantastic.

    Only problem is that it has to be hacked, which means that it sometimes screws up and needs to be reinstalled. If only they’d let us install this stuff officially 🙁

  • I usually use either my computer, or a WDTV Live hooked up to my TV.
    Depending on what I’m doing, I’ll watch my Blu-rays on either my PC or PS3.

  • Depends. I have films on my PC, watch films on my PS3 and hook up an external HDD to my tv. There’s no one thing I use jsut for media. I also watch videos on my phone and now almost exclusively listen to music on my phone

  • I use a 360 (which is hit and miss) and a media server which runs Mezzmo. Mezzmo can transcode anything but it lacks a frontend, which can be annoying (it’s also not free)

  • I mainly use my 360 to play videos and use my VLC Player on Windows 8 to play music

  • I was using my PS3 for ages but I now have a standalone recorder and I use the MS Surface to play anything else – it runs on my 1080p tv with high def video fine.

  • I stream to my PS3 from my PC over the network via the ‘PS3 Media Server’ program.

    Works well and suits my needs.

  • Used to have an Asus EeBox (EB-1501) PC hooked up to my TV which was great because it handled the files that my TV couldn’t decode, but I’ve since changed TV and I’m yet to run in to something it won’t load (other than mounting an ISO file) so I just plug my HDD direct in to the TV.

    It (the TV) also has Wifi so if my PC is on it picks up a Windows Media Share from that, if there was something I hadn’t yet copied over to the external.

    It’s covered pretty much every media centre need I’ve had.

  • WDTV + external drive.

    Is all anyone could need. Plays 1080p. I’ve never had an issue playing formats, only flash video needs to be converted.
    Has all the extra apps built in like YouTube, winamp, tunein radio, ABC, etc etc…
    Automatically scrapes covers, info and artwork for movies and tv.
    Streams everything over networks.
    Built in wi-fi.
    $120 + hard drive.
    Advise to get an external drive that doesn’t require its own power supply.
    Just plug it in and you’re away. No headache setups like XBMC and such.
    Super kid friendly!

    • Done the same, but my external hard drive is connected to my router. Can access files anywhere, phone, work computer, works great.

    • Yep. WDTV.

      I have tried _everything_. I initially bought the WDTV for the bedroom but ended up using it as my main media player. Also has the advantage of running Netfilx once you set up unblockus or a similar service.

      I’m also not organised enough to have a media collection in one location so being able to run something like Plex media Server or Serviio on my computers and have them stream to the WDTV works well for me.

    • I’ve heard these have some issues though, slow interface, crashes, etc.

      What’s it like in practice?

      I’m running a Raspberry Pi/PS2 & SMS Media Player combo (for vids the Pi doesn’t play) but would like a cheap solution to replace both and the WDTV is a good price point. I’ve just been put off by the poor reviews floating around.

      You make it sound amazing though.

      • I’m trialling it at the moment. Very slow and can’t handle large collections (> 3000 movies). Might be fine for collections of a hundred files or so. Although discontinued, Boxee Box still runs rings around it.

  • Picked up a popcorn hour A400 about a month ago, best media setup I’ve had to date. No issue with any videos, can fast forward like a VHS tape, flick video to it over airplay.
    It has apps like BT/FTP built in so you can torrent/download straight to the internal drive.

  • Well I have a dedicated HTPC with a dual tuner DTV card, running Mediaportal (open-source, extendable media center software), several TBs of HDD space, uses ac3filter to convert all audio to 5.1 surround for my sound system. It’s also attached to my network, so I can access those TBs on my mobile or laptop, or gaming PC. Can also steam live tv over WiFi to my laptop.

    My friend recently switched over to a rasPi and swears by it.

  • For me, I use my PS3. I buy the retail blu-ray versions of all of my tv shows, and rip them to mp4 myself. I then copy them to my PS3 via usb, unless the show encodes to larger than 4gigs, otherwise I have to copy them over the network. (due to the 4gig FAT32 limitation)

    That way not only do I need to worry about swapping blurays, I also don’t need to worry about lag with watching shows over the network. Once I’ve finished the show I delete it off the system since I have it backed up on the PC.

  • I’m using a HTPC (Arctic MC101) with Windows 8 and XBMC.
    All media files are on my NAS running FreeNas.

  • My PC is right next to my TV, so a short HDMI cable works well. Combine that with my Xbox wired controller and a very fancy joy2key setup.

    • Same. Two PC’s at home, a gaming rig in one room, and just a 2gb ram dual core cpu with Win7 with big ext hdd HDMI’d into the tele. The tele PC also has several emulators and a ps2 controller
      Tele TV and gaming PC hooked up with gig ethernet.
      By the by, you know your gig LAN is working well with you can get 100Mb/s copying from computer to computer, but only 40mb/s copying from hard drive to hard drive in the one pc

  • I use my PS3 with PlayTV. For downloaded shows I either stream from my computer or copy over first if Full HD onto the HDD over the network.

    • How you copy content over the network? Your media setup is identical to mine except I still copy my HD MP4’s to USB.

  • PC plugged into 50 inch plasma through an Onkyo reciever and using mpc-hc as a player,and PS3 for Blu-ray/DVD.

  • 40″ Sharp LED TV in my room, with a Boxee Box loaded with Boxee+Hacks firmware, and a 2.5″ 1TB drive hooked up to it. I had a RaspbPi using XBMC for a bit, which works OK, but too many limitations. Boxee Boxes are pretty shoddy on stock firmware, but are heaps better with aftermarket firmware.

    • Agreed – I love my Boxee – low powered, plays every file format in existence and the remote makes it so anyone can use it.

      • I was a bit iffy on them at first, I thought they were a little pricey – but two coworkers got them and swore by them. Was streaming from my PC to a Pi, and since the Boxee, I haven’t looked back. It’s played every single file I’ve thrown at it, and the cataloging side is great too. Provided all my eps are named to the appropriate convention, it digs out all the art, episode descriptions etc perfectly.

  • I bundled everything with Adam (Service Provider in SA) and got a discount for adding Fetch TV. Has subscription channels and plug in an external USB. The media player plays pretty much everything

  • I use my PC for pretty much everything. EVERYTHING. I have a really comfortable set up and a large screen.

    That said, I really should hook my PS3 up as a media player sometime for some couch watching. I’ve always used the 360, in the past, but it has such limited usefulness to me because it can’t play the .mkv files I mostly get.

  • I’ve got a purpose built low spec PC running XBMC, does the job to an adequate degree, enough that I don’t have the impulse to look for a replacement yet.

  • A classic, trusty old blu-ray player for my DVD’s and Blu-Rays (Yes, I’m one of those strange people that still buy them,) plus a Seagate Media Player (which I’m planning on upgrading soon.)

  • I set up my Raspberry Pi with XBMC, but I rarely use it due to buffering issues. I used to have a DLNA setup with a HDD on my router… and it worked great until the router’s software decided to create a recursive symlink in a weird place that caused me to accidentally wipe the entire drive… O_o

    Mostly use my PC, as that’s where all my media resides, and that’s where my comfy chair is. Having my bed next to my desk also means I’ve essentially got a recliner chair and footrest for my PC. 😛

    TV only really gets used for console gaming, and even that is in decline nowadays.

  • I store most media on my PC and stream it directly from the PC to my Smart TV. For the few formats that won’t work via the TV, I use my Xbox.

    Our TV can access Youtube directly but the interface is clunky. Since I have my TV set up as a duplicate monitor anyway, we sometimes just use the TV like it’s the computer. The only downside is in that case the sound still comes from the computer’s speakers, which is not always ideal.

  • A Drobo 5N for Storage – Mac Mini running Plex, a Raspberry PI running Plex and a iOS/Android Versions of Plex. Hmmm maybe I should invest in Plex.

  • Synology DS413J running sabnzb+, Couch potato & sickbeard through to a WD Live onto TV.

    Thinking of giving Plex a shot too because it’ll transcode and deliver to almost any device – iPhone, iPad, android, pc, ps3 the list goes on…

  • No media centre. Just a lap top and external drive full on stuff. Plug the drive into my Kogan TV. Yeah i said Kogan, it was cheap. 42inch 3D for $500. Mostly though i just watch TV shows and movies on my laptop in bed. HD and surround sound don’t bother me as i grew up with a coat hanger for reception and now days i wear glasses and have tinnitus so i’m just glad to have a clear picture that i can hear properly.

  • Used to rock a modded Xbox with one of the first builds of XBMC, but now using a Raspbarry PI with RASPBMC installed (XBMC version for the Raspberry Pi). It plays everything I’ve thrown at it so far.

  • Boxee Box + Unblock us VPN + WD Mybooklive

    I use my boxee box with the recently boxee hack firmware loaded onto it. Love it to bits!
    The boxee box comes preloaded with over 150 apps to use from e.g MLB TV, IGN TV, Rev3 TV, Netflix, Vudu, Spotify & Crunchy roll. (A few of my fav apps I use constantly)
    You can even add manual repositories which enabled me to install a NaviX app – perfect for project free TV without having to use your PC.
    The beaut about this box is that it I can use my smartphone as a qwerty keyboard & TV remote for the boxee box (Android & iOS apps available). The box also comes with an inbuilt browser. (Great for foxtel over the web)
    When it comes to my own movie library on my HDD shared over the network, I’ve set my boxee up to instantly grab meta data for trailers for that movie, information & IMDB ratings etc.
    Unfortunately Samsung have bought out boxee and the support for the boxee box was dropped a while go – but it is what you make it 🙂

  • Boxee Box with the community released Boxee+ update.

    Plays absolutely everything flawlessly via UPnP, SMB etc – has SD and USB ports and the bundled remote makes it extremely easy for anyone to use. The fact that it retrieves album and DVD art as well as episode synopsis and tracks what you have and haven’t watched is a bonus.
    The only downside is that it now doesn’t airplay since Apple changed the API.

  • File Server running PC-BSD (I wanted to use ZFS) + XBMC (doesn’t matter what I run it on).

  • Ive got a full Plex setup. Server computer has gigabit ethernet, 8Tb which without a hassle streams it out to 15 different devices (PCs, tablets, a Jailbroken ATV2 and a Roku 3) between the loungeroom and the 5 bedrooms.
    Because Plex is cross platform its dead simple to set up clients. Best solution I’ve yet come across for a multi-client system.

  • WDTV with a 3TB external attached.

    The WDTV is on the 1GB LAN, so easy to copy new content to.

  • Currently in the process of piecing together a HTPC for the living room.
    For now its the laptop plug into the TV via HDMI playing movie files from my main PC over the wireless network. So hopefully my HTPC will save me some money on power.

  • PC hooked up via HDMI-HDMI to my 42″ LCD TV.

    I do also own a WDTV Live but in the current configuration of my apartment, I don’t use it. In the previous apartment, I used that to watch shows on my external harddrives.

  • I just stream through my smart TV
    I do also use a 2tb hard drive mainly for kids movies and some 3d movies.

    but I have like 7 flatscreens in my house, there’s 6 of us…i have 4 kids, so various other ways too but the above is the main way

  • XBMC or bust. The only thing I found it lacks for the true couch potato is automatic media discovery. You need to tell it where to search first. Other than that, I think it’s great.

  • I used to stream to my ps3s using PMS, but now I just stream straight to my Samsung tv using plex. Best app available to it. I use the ps3s and apple tvs for Netflix though. Samsungs Netflix app doesn’t work in au. Kinda sux.

  • Twonky comes installed on my NAS, so I use it to stream to my PS3 or WDTV Live.

  • I recently got a 3TB WD My Book Live. It means I can wirelessly backup my Macs with Timemachine, and stream media to my PS3 and smart phones. Cannot fault it at all! Super cheap too, compared to alternatives.

  • Boxee Box. Works great. Will need to replace it with h10p becomes more popular, looking at a Mac Mini + XBMC/Plex for that.

    Hate, hate, HATE DLNA with a passion.

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