Can a Media Player Replace a Home Theater PC?

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Bender2000

How would the AppleTV fit in here? It looks to me a Roku box all in all.

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blueguile

Isn't there a moderator who can delete all these spam messages? Or better yet, an admin to delete all spammer accounts?

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Colt725

I have a WD TV Live and I love it a lot!!!  I connected a 2 TB USB drive to the WD TV Live and send movies,  wireless to the device often for viewing at a later time.  Since it is on ,my network it has access to my photos and music files which it handles wonderfully.   I am so glad I got this jewel. 

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Damnlogin

wtf is up with this guy advertising sheos and boots? Who the hell would go to a tech site to buy leather boots mannnnn COME ON!. STFU and GTFO!!

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whiskeymcclinton

I have tried XBMC, Boxee, and a few others on a full PC, and the one word that sums them up is, "almost". The best home theatre experience means an interface that is fast and simple, and a remote that you can use in the dark without looking at it.

I would like to see a "part 2" to this article, reviewing the Boxee Box (once it comes out), and the Asus O! Play Air (which has gone though a lot of firmware updates since release).

I was considering picking up the WD player, but now I'll go check out the Viewsonic.

 

Thanks.

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ModZERO556

I am curious if the BOXEE box , or GOOGLE TV from Logitech will be better. For the most part i think they will take off more as they are not as complated as a HTPC. Granted you lose recording tv but for the most part its still a pain to do and the masses. 99% of tv viewers will not care all that is wanted is something you can sit on a shelf and do what is most basic of PCs (email,youtube,facebook,etc.) U.I. is very important as i have a HTPC the same O.S. my wife uses everyday and loves <but give her my HTPC remote and its like giving a monkey a math problem(i love you honey XOXO). So it will be a buy for me just for the ease of use.

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Deanjo

All these devices have two major shortcoming that a HTPC does not posess,

1) Ability to record

2) Ability to use what ever UI and player combo you want

 

The UI in almost every player out there pales in comparison with options out there like XBMC / MythTV / Media Portal / Boxee / MC etc etc etc all quite literally offer options that any one of these players can only dream about. You can even do things like automate lighting of the room upon playback.

These players are extremely limited when it comes to comparing them to the flexability of a HTPC.

 

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Trendecide

I wholeheartedly disagree.

I've built numerous HTPCs, even before the conception of Windows Media Center, which to date I still find I loathe (I gasp at the thought of waiting for my thousands of files to index again). I still cringe at the thought of using Twonky ever again.

I've used XBMC on both an original XBOX and the PC along with some Boxee usage... sure I'll agree the interfaces are nice.

If it's going to sit next to my TV and look nice with everything else, I'm sure not using old parts slapped into a chassis, which means I'm going to spend about $600 per HTPC for each TV. This is outrageous considering I have 3 WD TVs at almost half the cost of one HTPC! Further, the maintenance and the cost of upgrades over time... and for me... can my wife, kids and the babysitter use it? An HTPC? I think not... still way to tekky for everyone but me (I remember my wife being scared to use the first HTPC I built in 2000 or 2001 because the remote came with my All-In-Wonder card which had at least a 3 second delay between every button pushed).

It took me until I cut cable, but recording is no longer important. We watch what we want when we want to... not what's dictated to us by satellite or cable schedules. Anything we want live is available over the air digitally. It's a different mentality I know, but once you're used to it, TIVO is laughable... because we have the internet. So that eliminates the necessity for recording. And as for using whatever UI/combo I want... I know the WD TV offers several 3rd party options, but the default from WD is sufficient for my family on the three I own. And to be honest, I go on a limb and guess most everyone who uses Boxee or XBMC uses the default interface as well.

Having turned numerous people away from HTPCs at this point, I can't see the benefit over cost anymore. It's already a pain in the butt to keep my laptops, desktops and servers up to date with everything (windows updates AND 3rd party software... sheesh), it's a pain just thinking of having to do that for my media center as well. And with the WD TV playing all of my old mpg, avi and divx files from 5-10 years ago along with my new mp4, mkv, iso and flac files, I'm trying to figure out why anyone else would need much more than that either.

So sure an HTPC is great and may do a little more than these boxes do, but at what cost and how much time? And is an HTPC really necessary anymore?

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riopato

can't compete with an all out bonified HTPC. One reason, format compatibility! Pretty soon there will be a new compression format out and better than the last version. My HTPC will be ready for it because most likely it will be developed for it. web browser on the viewsonic? is it compatible with HTML5 or latest version of flash? can it play my Bluray backups natively? can it make Bluray backups or even dvd iso? all of this and be able to play games!

As for updating and upgrading, most companies' software have auto updaters and windows upates can be setup to update, install and reboot by itself. Upgrading is a non issue as long as you get a reasonable setup. A HTPC I built for some one has a quad core intel with 4gb of ram, 2 TB of storage soon to be upgraded to 6tbs and a bluray compliant nvidia direct x10 video card that plays and records bluray built inside a lian li case that looks like a stereo reciever. Whole set up less than $900 and it's over kill but 2 years running now. The only thing that needs upgrading is the video card so he can play direct x11 games. Now with windows 7, he can chuck his cable box and rent a cable card attachment and all of the sudden he's got a tivo better than a tivo. Upgrading is a great reason to have an HTPC! Media center has one feature that trumps anything out there, plugins! Netflix, media browser, there's even a plugin for a web browser through media center! you name it, there's a plugin for it somewhere. Same goes for the other softwares like xbmc or boxee.

I would like to see something like windows phone on media center since the interface was based from media center and have internet transparency just like then phone os.

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Trendecide

  • as for the compressions formats... WD TV supports all of them and has added formats through their updates (mkv was one of them).  I'm sure the other media players add formats over time through updates as well... no different from Windows.
  • As for the HTML and Flash, I'm still trying to figure out why anyone would want a browser on their television and/or in their living room.... I guess that's what the viewsonic thing is for.  Not my cup of tea though.
  • And addressing Blu-Ray discs... you're running an HTPC and you haven't thrown your media/discs in a box in your basement?  I'm stunned!  The HTPC shouldn't be doing the blu-ray backup... it should be a workstation doing the backup and then dumping the backup on a server to be streamed.  A true HTPC should virtually be a dead client on your network and doesn't do any work.
  • Yes, I have 8TB of storage on my Windows Home Server, but why in the world would you want 2-6TB of storage on an HTPC that isn't left on all the time and the files may not always be shared?  Overkill much?  You just need storage on that thing for the OS and some extra if you plan to do some recording.
  • $900!  I mean... $900!!!  I can outfit all the TVs in my house AND my neighbor's house for that much with WD TVs.
  • DX11 games... on an HTPC?  Are you starting to understand how ridiculous this sounds now?  This is an HTPC... NOT anything else.

Sounds like you're single and living on your own with a nice TV hooked up to your PC in your living room... in which case the multipurpose PC you've created for yourself is pretty sweet... but it's not an HTPC.  It's a PC with multimedia/multiple capabilities.  Great idea, but slightly off topic.

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Deanjo

I really find it funny that you think only the tech savy can use a HTPC.  Everyone from my kids to their grandparents are able to use a HTPC just fine.  These boxes are a nice compliment to a HTPC but they are not a replacement by any stretch of the imagination.  The cost is minimal as well with Atom/ION systems going for as little as $200 and these little media players still do not have any recording capability which is a huge disadvantage.  Having large amounts of space on a HTPC also has it's advantages as HTPC's are usually on 24/7 for recording purposes.  Recording HD media for example easily chews away at that space pretty quick.  There are also many issues with these standalone units with the format having to be encoded in a format that they can recognize.  The WDTV for example has an issue with MKV's utilizing compressed headers.  These issues are not present with a PC.

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Trendecide

Having owned the goVideo D2740 when it was released in 2004 I've been doing the streaming video thing for quite a while now.  While I don't own the Seagate or the Viewsonic, I do own both the Roku and the WDTV.  And despite the bad reviews, I'm a bit surprised you didn't include the popbox in the lineup.

Regardless, I'd agree with just about everything said here except for a few things:

  1. I'd pull a point from the Roku... the simple fact it doesn't stream your own media should be a deal breaker, although I can see this turning into a channel down the road.  I have mine simply to watch my Netflix stuff while I'm working at the office.
  2. The remote looks very nice on the ViewSonic, but I'm trying really hard to figure out why it got a kick-ass award over the WD TV which supports far more formats, has a much larger user base and community which inludes its own 3rd party firmware.  I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the Viewsonic, but I don't believe a web browser makes it any better than the WD TV which is a stellar product... I have a WD TV on every TV coupled with my server and have cut the cable TV entirely!  My kids love it!  I personally believe and will vouch to anyone that it's the WD TV that deserves the kick-ass award.  I'm a little peeved it didn't (little crap like this is why I've thrown in the towl and cancelled my 12-year subscription to the magazine).

Regardless of this review today, we're entering into exciting times over the next few months as Apple TV was just introduced (too little too late unfortunately albeit the right price range) and Google TV is coming in October.

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riopato

All that roku needs to do is a software update that allows network streaming. the equipment is already there in that little box. I wonder if 1080p is just a software thing too and the hardware is 1080p ready. does anyone know what that usb port will be used for? I tried to get some info on it but roku's customer service can only say that "it's for features not currently scheduled for now, but for a later time"! Whatever that means.

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MrMick

I spent several hours with each streamer, and I really liked the WD TV Live Plus (a "9" verdict is not easy to get at Maximum PC), but I found the ViewSonic's feature set and overall user experience to be superior. I've been using both devices on a regular basis since I wrote the review, too, and my opinion hasn't changed.

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PawBear

I think I'll wait to see how the competition responds to Google Tv.  They seem to approach everything unlocked.  I prefer that.

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tonyaldr

Does anyone know if any of these devices will playback video media at 1.5x speed with audio?  Currently I watch my TV shows on a JVC DVD player which offers that feature.  It's a time-saver!

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