The Best Media Center – Review & Setup.

Is it Windows Media Center? XBMC? MythTV? Xbox One?

Okay, this isn’t really going to cover Xbox One, but I can tell you, the Xbox One Media experience has left a lot to be desired for me, and therefore… I no longer have an Xbox One.  I’ve used the Media Center Extender feature in the Xbox for years, but since Microsoft has made it clear that Windows Media Center is not in their plans going forward, I thought it was time to abandon that ship too, and I have mostly.

The requirements for my media center were:

1. It had to play Live (cable) TV.

2. It had to be able to play local media files (and files from my local network)

3. It had to be able to stream content from the internet (Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Video, Youtube, etc.

4. It had to NOT be a total pain in the arse to install (wasn’t actually a requirement but I abondoned ship on a MythTV install for this reason (hence the WMC backend for LiveTV))

5. Wanted to have a media center extender like experience for other devices/computers on my network.

6. Allowed live TV from my phone/tablet (Android and/or IOS)

Here’s the needed Hardware & Software:

1. HD Homerun Prime – (for cable TV, for Over the Air, checkout – Cost: $119 on Amazon – If you’re using a HDhomerun Prime, don’t forget to get a cablecard from your provider (there is no monthly charge from Comcast for this)

2. Windows PC (Windows 7 or 8.x (if it’s 8.x you need to pay for Windows Media Center) and no, you wont really be using Windows Media Center – Don’t Abondon the article yet! – Cost: Free if you have a Windows PC, otherwise any PC that can run WMC ought to do. I’m using a higher end desktop, as I stream steam Games from this PC as well. 219.99 for this Dell PC on Amazon if you’re only interested in light gaming, and the TV/Audio/Video experiences.

3. Playon & Playlater – I bought the Lifetime Subscription w/Chromecast – Cost: 69.99 from the Playon Site

4. Plex.TV server – Yes you can use the free version, on the same Windows desktop that is running WMC, and Playon/Playlater. – Cost: $0 from the site

  • I also use this plugin for Plex, which allows me to watch LiveTV from my Roku – cost: free from here

5. Steam – For Games and/or a Decent Web Browser – Cost: $0 get it at the Steam Store

5. XBMC – This is the front end software.  -Cost $0 from – There are a couple add-ons you will also want:

  • ServerWMC – This allows the XBMC frontend to use WMC as a backend (WMC needs to go through it’s initial setup for this to work properly) -cost: $Free.99 get it here
  • XBMC Steam Launcher – This great little Add-on allows you to launch Steam directly from XBMC, and relaunches XBMC any time Steam closes, or exit’s Big Screen Mode. This is not part of the XBMC Add-on repository yet, so you will need to install it from the .zip file provided on the site -cost: $Free from this site

6. Optional – Extenders – Virtually any semi-modern PC works for this purpose – I am using several ECS Livas as Linux makes an excellent OS for your extender systems (tv/videos/and games), and as you’re probably aware, it is free and open source. cost of the Liva: 164.99 on NewEgg

  • If you want an extender, don’t care about games, and don’t mind some sluggishness in your XBMC menus the Raspberry Pi with Raspbmc also works pretty well. – Cost: $62.99 from Amazon
    • If your down for an adventure, you might be able to stream games from the Pi for free… (I haven’t done this yet) – check out Limelight

This setup is the dream setup for me, it met all my requirements, and I think I could install everything from scratch in < 2 hours easy (your time may differ based on technical skills.) Total cost is <$200 if you have a PC to use, and <$400 if you don’t… The extender functionality works great, and I don’t have to pay Comcast for one of their crappy set-top boxes.

This concludes my writeup, but I am not kidding when I say this is a near perfect Media Center setup, the one thing I hope improves slightly is the Playon Rewind/FF functionality, and the ability to search Netflix from XBMC. Outside of that, this is my dream setup, and will be yours too. BTW, sorry for the lack of a walkthrough, but I didn’t think about posting this until I was already all the way through the process. Their should be plenty of technical information out on the ‘net for each piece of this, but with enough coaxing from my readers, I can go back through and setup a walkthrough for ya’ll. I’d give this setup a 9.5/10.






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