Here’s my question of the day: I have a popcorn hour in my home theatre, which works ok. Â But it doesn’t have a slick user interface. I also need to get some kind of media player for my daughter’s room. Â She can’t read yet – so that one has to have an interface where she can pick through pictures of shows. Before anyone gets set off by the idea of a 3 year old having video on demand in her room, let me add that I’m an involved parent and can set restrictions and all that.. blah-blah-blah. Â But on Saturday morning when I want to sleep in it’s golden. Â (Don’tÂ judge!)
The popcorn hour is great in that it plays many different formats, but I really want more out of the interface – and integrated hulu support would be killer. I also need either the same solution or a second solution for G’s room. Â There’s also the issue of everything streaming or things having to be copied locally. Â For G local is fine but streaming is better so we can share the media across both rooms. Â Heck.. if I find a good box I’ll put one in my room too.Â I’ve been researching different solutions but mostly the sweet UI’s are in the iterations ofÂ XBMC. Now that is on the software side. If I go software based, on the hardware side I would want to stay mac (cause I just do David!). I’m very curious about XBMC on the Apple TV – because that’s a much less expensive hardware solution.
So far I’ve been unimpressed with the native quality of the Apple TV. 5mps is not fast enough for my tastes. My popcorn hour can play HDDVD files with no problem – and that’s more like 25mps. At a bare min I need to be able to play raw VOB files and those get up in the 8 – 10 range.
All ranting aside.. here are my actual questions which I’ll toss out to all 5 of my readers…
1. Does Apple TV enhanced with boxee, plex, etc play files that are fatter than 5mps?
2. Does an enhanced Apple TV handle 1080i or 1080p files since it’s native output is 720p? Â How does it handle them?
12 thoughts on “Plex vs Boxee vs XBMC ?”
umm… what is a popcorn hour?
oh sorry… I added a link to the popcorn hour site. Popcorn hour is an HD media player that streams any kind of video file from your computer to your TV.
Just curious if you have any updates, or what you decided to do? Never heard of the Popcorn Hour.. seems interesting…
I have not decided what to do yet. I do have a popcorn hour and could do a review of that if you want. It's good on some levels but not on others. I really want a cool UI – which popcorn hour does not have. So I'm waiting. I have to do a couple of things, like order my home SAN and sell my G5 system. Then I'll be ready to target in on the perfect home media system.
I have tried boxee and Plex on my mac mini. i am a bit of a perfectionist and right now while they both are decent but i feel as though they have a long way to perfect their software. Both applications have issues with scraping media. Not so much as issues but everything needs to be named in a specific way or in a certain folder structure which is not very easy to do if you have a lot of items not to mention their naming convention may not work with another application… IE Boxee's naming convention is different that Plex's naming convention. Also both applications randomly crash. In addition my mac mini 1.83GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 2GB of Ram will drop frames on 1080P MKV content. In a 1hr 40 min movie it will drop about 400 frames, which I am not sure if that is acceptable or not to you or not. Like I mentioned before I am a perfectionist so this is bordering that line for me of acceptable and unnaceptable. I am planning on giving the original XBMC a try and seeing how that goes, however I expect the same issues. 1080p content in mpg format runs MUCH better. I think MKV containers are harder to run and will not even run in a player like VLC.
Thanks for those comments. I'm perfectionistic as well and it's always bothered me that A) a computer's monitor refresh rate isn't necessarily 30p or 60i or 24p, etc, and B) a computer has to be able to deliver frames to the output at the play rate. Having said that I can believe that it's possible to make a computer do that. Certainly Avid and Final Cut do it with the right output cards.
But in order for a computer to be at the center of my home media system it has to be able to play video at an honest playback rate of (30i or 30p or 60p) and Film (24p). And to me that means NOT playing over DVI but via an HDMI output card (blackmagic). I've also been concerned about Boxee on an AppleTV and how that would perform.
Maybe I should be sticking to my popcorn hour for now. It looks quite good. I will do a review of it as soon as I get everything set up again. OR I could convert my G5 into something instead of selling it, but again, since it's not Intel.. UG!
I need to do something on this again, maybe install both on my new system and compare. This is one of the top searched topics on my site.
let us know what your results are 🙂
Curious How you made out. I also have a PCH. In addition to the popcorn hour I have a couple Apple TVs. I have small children also and the PCH is way above their head and having them find suitable content is like a game of Russian Roulette. I am in the market for new way to make media "work" in my house. The PCH is great for me. It can play almost anything I throw at it. I have only had it stutter on a few large 10080p mkv's. I have been messing around with YAMJ to improve the GUI of PCH. I am not happy with this solutions since it leaves out Music etc…. The Apple Tv's are great but I am really tired of converting content to meet it's restrictive Itunes needs.
I am looking at getting a NAS in the near future to centralize all of my content. I am having a hard time deciding which bit of software makes the best HTPC. I really like XBMC with the AEON "Strak" skin. With a decent box like the AsRock 330 and Linux it looks like I can get 1080p with no problems. The GUI is great. It looks like the media scrapers are top notch although I expect a lot of time in effort bring my collection up to speed. The only thing I am not sure about is being able to keep the little ones out of unsuitable content. I would also like the ability to rearrange the menus so I could situate the menus in the same way I have my media laid out Movies – Kid Movies – TV – Pictures – Music etc…
Curious how you are making out with you search.
The kid thing drives me crazy. I figured Apple would have that one worked out but they don't. The AppleTV is just not easy for a kid to use. You'd link there would be a simple icon based view for kids, but there's not…. well, except in the mode where you're looking for a video to buy or rent. Then they show them to you as icons.
I'd say I'm still working this out. As I said below, I'm prepping to do a series of video podcasts on media servers, software, apple tv, plex, boxee, pch, etc… and video formats, codecs, compression, digital copies, ripping (not that I do that), and everything else I can think of to talk about in that field. It will probably take many many videos, which is good. But I don't think there is one good solution right now. I'm trying to work with a company who is going to make another video player, but I think it's a little ways off.
I've really been impressed with Plex lately. I think Boxee has a better iPhone integration (if you intend to use it as a remote) and the Pandora plugin is great on Boxee. However, my goto app has been Plex for the last couple months. It plays everything, has pretty much the same apps/plugins as Boxee, and I find the UI much more intuitive. I'm not sure if you can load Plex onto an Apple TV at this point, but if you're going to use a Mac Mini, Plex is the way to go. If you're stuck with an AppleTV, then Boxee is worthwhile for Non-HD content on the AppleTV.
I'm going to do a series of video podcasts on home media servers and software like plex and boxee. I need all the help I can get researching and collecting information. My experience with Plex and Boxee wasn't favorable. So if there's a another viewpoint – I might want to hear it before I write and shoot those episodes. If you want, shoot me a note at michael at badweasel dot com.
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