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post #1 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 07:44 AM - Thread Starter
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I'm setting up a HTPC right now, and am a little overwhelmed with choosing the software. I thought this would be the easy part tongue.gif To be honest, as researching the details, I'm not sure which way to go here.

HTPC: ASRock H77 mobo, i5 3570k, BD/DVD drive, etc... Have AV Receiver with HDMI ins available, Panny Plasma TV

OS Software:
Thinking Windows 7 or 8 + Windows Media Center

My goals:
  • Easy to browse UI - wife/kids approval factor
  • Metadata scraper for movies & tv shows
  • Utilize remote control (HP MCE w/h Infrared Receiver)
  • Play Blu Ray discs
  • Play .iso files
  • Launch Netflix within main interface (or, just launch from Windows/browser?)
  • Maximum Audio/video quality for movies/music
  • Netflix quality - video & audio
  • Stream to 2 clients on wired network (looking into Western Digital Live, Roku, or cheap nettop HTPC)
  • Music selection - for parties, want people to be able to browser/search for artist/song and add to current playlist
  • No DVR/Live TV - currently using DirecTV)

Software Options:
  • XBMC version 11/12
  • Plex
  • MediaPortal - Skins look amazing, no Netflix integration?
  • Media Browser
  • JRiver Media Center - seems to have built in high quality video, audio, scrapper, Netflix, disc, and .iso integration. Theater View might be weakness.

I don't mind configuring codecs, external players, or anything else on the backend as long as I can maximize the UI and audio/video quality. It's awesome there are so many HTPC software choices available, but it appears there's some trade-offs to consider in making my selection. Would be interested in hearing your thoughts.
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post #2 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 07:56 AM
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Yes setting up software correctly is by far more daunting than the hardware.
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post #3 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 08:01 AM
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What I use (and am happy with)

Windows 7 Media Center
-Netflix plugin for WMC (quality is no better or worse than their website. Windows 8 Metro app is allegedly better)
-the default Music Library sounds like it can do what you want

-Arsoft TMT 5 plugin
--setup to play physical bluray discs and hd-dvds. I changed the .PNG files in it to match my WMC theme

-Media Browser
--automagically updates metadata based on folder names
--launches mkv, avi, mp4, mpg, wtv files with default Windows Media Center player
--launches bluray and hd-dvd folder structures with TMT5 plugin (it can do .iso as well)
--set up to match my WMC theme and Arcsoft theme

Plex Media Server
-connects to Logitech Revue on network and Android phone over internet

I'm happy with WMC but I'm tied to it because of DVR. If I weren't I would investigate XBMC more, though I am happy with what I can do now.

My HTPC front end set up
Integration for whole home ATSC, CableCARD, FM radio, Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, DVD, VHS control & capture, video games, and archived & streaming media playback
Mironto's Panasonic plasma black level restoration guide
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post #4 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 08:37 AM
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post #5 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 08:55 AM
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Just FYI, all the Netflix solutions on HTPC are pretty crappy. The only official one is on WMC, and it's extremely outdated. Other than that, I don't really see much reason to go the WMC route if you don't need live TV / DVR.

If you need ISO and disc playback, you should decide whether you need blu-ray menus or 3D. If you need menus or 3D, you'll need to launch an external player like PowerDVD or TMT. And if we're talking about ISOs on your hard drive, you need to use an old version of PowerDVD or TMT to avoid cinavia restrictions.

Giving up on blu-ray menus and 3D opens up your options a bit. If you want to expand your options even further, I would convert your ISOs to something more convenient like mkv's.
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post #6 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 09:04 AM
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I haven't tried because I don't have a 3D TV (probably skip that and wait for 4k) or even 3D content but won't MPC-HC/LAV/madVR playback 3D from mkv?

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post #7 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 09:14 AM - Thread Starter
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I'd be willing to drop playback of .iso files. Most of my collection is ripped MKVs. I have a 3D tv, but we don't utilize the 3D. Lockdown, where do you see the options going from there?
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post #8 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 09:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sammy2 View Post

but won't MPC-HC/LAV/madVR playback 3D from mkv?

you have to encode one first. it isnt as simple as remuxing your 3D bluray disc to mkv and having a 3D mkv. Samsung actually used an mkv file like this on their store endcap displays that showed Megamind last year.

My HTPC front end set up
Integration for whole home ATSC, CableCARD, FM radio, Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, DVD, VHS control & capture, video games, and archived & streaming media playback
Mironto's Panasonic plasma black level restoration guide
Restore the initial MLL on a 2009 Panasonic plasma
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post #9 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 09:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thaynes View Post

I'm setting up a HTPC right now, and am a little overwhelmed with choosing the software. I thought this would be the easy part tongue.gif To be honest, as researching the details, I'm not sure which way to go here.

HTPC: ASRock H77 mobo, i5 3570k, BD/DVD drive, etc... Have AV Receiver with HDMI ins available, Panny Plasma TV

OS Software:
Thinking Windows 7 or 8 + Windows Media Center

My goals:
  • Easy to browse UI - wife/kids approval factor
  • Metadata scraper for movies & tv shows
  • Utilize remote control (HP MCE w/h Infrared Receiver)
  • Play Blu Ray discs
  • Play .iso files
  • Launch Netflix within main interface (or, just launch from Windows/browser?)
  • Maximum Audio/video quality for movies/music
  • Netflix quality - video & audio
  • Stream to 2 clients on wired network (looking into Western Digital Live, Roku, or cheap nettop HTPC)
  • Music selection - for parties, want people to be able to browser/search for artist/song and add to current playlist
  • No DVR/Live TV - currently using DirecTV)

Software Options:
  • XBMC version 11/12
  • Plex
  • MediaPortal - Skins look amazing, no Netflix integration?
  • Media Browser
  • JRiver Media Center - seems to have built in high quality video, audio, scrapper, Netflix, disc, and .iso integration. Theater View might be weakness.

I don't mind configuring codecs, external players, or anything else on the backend as long as I can maximize the UI and audio/video quality. It's awesome there are so many HTPC software choices available, but it appears there's some trade-offs to consider in making my selection. Would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

If you want it in one interface, your only option is JRiver.

XBMC doesn't play BluRay natively
Plex doesn't play BluRay natively
WMC doesn't play BluRay natively, has no built in metadata scraper

One thing I'm not sure of... Can a JRiver run smoothly on a Roku box? No idea. You might try the support forums for JRiver.
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post #10 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 10:04 AM
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The keyword there is "natively" but these can actaully play Blu-ray just without the menus.

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post #11 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 10:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Sammy2 View Post

The keyword there is "natively" but these can actaully play Blu-ray just without the menus.

Yep.

XBMC and WMC can be configured to use different BluRay players.
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post #12 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 10:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thaynes View Post

I'd be willing to drop playback of .iso files. Most of my collection is ripped MKVs. I have a 3D tv, but we don't utilize the 3D. Lockdown, where do you see the options going from there?

XBMC is a great choice. Last I checked the Netflix add-on didn't work so well though. My personally favorite is Plex, but I wouldn't jump on that ship until Plex Home Theater is out, which is still in beta. JRiver is great, although UI customization is limited. Like Plex, it supports Netflix.

The main issue with Netflix on JRiver and Plex is that they're not supported by Netflix. What that means is that they're prone to break once Netflix changes something on their website. This is part of the reason why Netflix is a PITA on HTPCs.

As for streaming to other players, Plex and JRiver both have DLNA support. Plex even has an official Roku app. I don't think JRiver will work with the Roku because it only supports DLNA, and the Roku does not have DLNA support.
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post #13 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 10:21 AM
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Also XBMC has UPnP and i think the ROKU has UPnP support, but i`m not sure. J.River has UPnP support also and can act as UPnP server:)
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post #14 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 10:23 AM
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Btw, Plex is heavily based on XBMC. The current version of Plex Media Center is based on XBMC 10.0, which is now very dated and has some playback issues. Plex Home Theater will be based on the just released XBMC 12.0.

The major difference between the two is that Plex uses a central server application called Plex Media Server designed to easily distribute media to your HTPCs, phones, tablets, DLNA devices, Rokus, and more. The other major difference is that Plex and XBMC use completely different plugins, and they aren't cross compatible. I personally prefer the plugins for Plex, just because whenever you add a plug-in to one device, it's automatically added to every device. XBMC probably has more plug-ins to chose from overall though. Overall, media management is far superior or Plex and easier to setup, and it allows you to access your media from almost any device, in and outside your network (so, you could stream your blu-ray from your server to your phone, even if you're halfway across the world) . Lastly, Plex does not have live TV and DVR support like XBMC 12.0. ISOs aren't going to work well with Plex either.
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post #15 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 10:24 AM
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Yes, XBMC does have UPnP. I'm almost positive the Roku does not support UPnP, although maybe there's some Roku channel that can do it now.
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post #16 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 10:47 AM
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Well, that sucks smile.gif. But on the bright side, since the OP has an i5 under his umbrella, he could run both XBMC and Plex Media Server at the same time.

XBMC for Playback on the HTPC.
Plex Media Server to serve the Roku clients , the i5 should handle transcoding easily while still being able to playback something via XBMC.
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post #17 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by GreenEyez View Post

Well, that sucks smile.gif. But on the bright side, since the OP has an i5 under his umbrella, he could run both XBMC and Plex Media Server at the same time.

XBMC for Playback on the HTPC.
Plex Media Server to serve the Roku clients , the i5 should handle transcoding easily while still being able to playback something via XBMC.

There's also PleXBMC. The developer just complete rewrote it and it works great now! That way you don't have to deal with two sets of metadata and watched statuses.

So many options!
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post #18 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by GreenEyez View Post

Well, that sucks smile.gif. But on the bright side, since the OP has an i5 under his umbrella, he could run both XBMC and Plex Media Server at the same time.

XBMC for Playback on the HTPC.
Plex Media Server to serve the Roku clients , the i5 should handle transcoding easily while still being able to playback something via XBMC.

Good point

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post #19 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by NorCalJason View Post

If you want it in one interface, your only option is JRiver.

XBMC doesn't play BluRay natively
Plex doesn't play BluRay natively
WMC doesn't play BluRay natively, has no built in metadata scraper

One thing I'm not sure of... Can a JRiver run smoothly on a Roku box? No idea. You might try the support forums for JRiver.

XBMC plays ripped blu-rays natively. If you rip with DVDFab you can even select extras. You can also setup a link to the WMC Netflix app.

Plex is supposed to work well for transcoding your media to other devices(my experience was negative).

I would suggest using all of the mentioned software together. Each one used for what they are good at.

J.River is cool if you think changing the source audio and video is a good thing.
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post #20 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by macks View Post

XBMC plays ripped blu-rays natively. If you rip with DVDFab you can even select extras. You can also setup a link to the WMC Netflix app.

Plex is supposed to work well for transcoding your media to other devices(my experience was negative).

I would suggest using all of the mentioned software together. Each one used for what they are good at.

J.River is cool if you think changing the source audio and video is a good thing.

I guess it depends what you mean by "natively". First of all, the disc needs to be decrypted. Secondly, it won't play BD-J menus or 3D.
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post #21 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

I guess it depends what you mean by "natively". First of all, the disc needs to be decrypted. Secondly, it won't play BD-J menus or 3D.

You always have to decrypt a blu-ray to play it. smile.gif You are right that xbmc won't decrypt it.

The only need for menus is extras...

OP doesn't care about 3D(smart guy).

Don't think I have ever used a BD-J feature.

Edit: Software is definitely the hardest part of most HTPC builds.
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post #22 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 11:59 AM
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XBMC can play Blu-ray the same as JRiver, it does not need an external player for this, plus you get the added bonus of HDMV menus (in Frodo).
JRivers main movie selection on BD playback is superior though.
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post #23 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 12:12 PM
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Originally Posted by macks View Post

You always have to decrypt a blu-ray to play it. smile.gif You are right that xbmc won't decrypt it.

The only need for menus is extras...

OP doesn't care about 3D(smart guy).

Don't think I have ever used a BD-J feature.

Edit: Software is definitely the hardest part of most HTPC builds.

You don't have to decrypt a blu-ray disc to play it in PowerDVD and TMT. That's what I think what I hear "natively".
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post #24 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 12:19 PM
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You don't have to decrypt a blu-ray disc to play it in PowerDVD and TMT. That's what I think what I hear "natively".

OR... you can avoid the whole problem by ripping your BluRays to MKV's, and play them with whatever you want.

Then the OP is really just comparing what interface he likes best, and what produces the best picture.

biggrin.gif
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post #25 of 42 Old 01-31-2013, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by NorCalJason View Post

OR... you can avoid the whole problem by ripping your BluRays to MKV's, and play them with whatever you want.

Then the OP is really just comparing what interface he likes best, and what produces the best picture.

biggrin.gif

I totally agree! MKV's make everything much easier and give you more options.
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post #26 of 42 Old 02-04-2013, 06:34 AM - Thread Starter
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This is an exciting time for a new HTPC person like me coming into the game. You got XBMC 12 just released, MediaBrowser 3, Plex Home Theater coming soon, etc. Lots of choices!
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post #27 of 42 Old 02-04-2013, 12:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

The main issue with Netflix on JRiver and Plex is that they're not supported by Netflix. What that means is that they're prone to break once Netflix changes something on their website. This is part of the reason why Netflix is a PITA on HTPCs.
JRiver uses the Netflix API. It is pretty good, not perfect.

Jim Hillegass / JRiver Media Center
jriver.com or Owners Thread at AVSForum
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post #28 of 42 Old 02-04-2013, 12:58 PM
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JRiver uses the Netflix API. It is pretty good, not perfect.

So there is an API? Interesting. That's never the impression I got. What exactly are the limitations? I'm assuming it uses the same feeds that you get through the web browser (compared to the Windows 8 app)?

The solution I saw for XBMC seemed more like a hack, which may be why I got the impression that there wasn't a proper API.
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post #29 of 42 Old 02-04-2013, 01:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lockdown571 View Post

So there is an API? Interesting. That's never the impression I got. What exactly are the limitations? I'm assuming it uses the same feeds that you get through the web browser (compared to the Windows 8 app)?

The solution I saw for XBMC seemed more like a hack, which may be why I got the impression that there wasn't a proper API.

All the different third-party solutions use the API. XBMC, JRiver, Plex, etc.
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post #30 of 42 Old 02-04-2013, 01:25 PM
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There's also PleXBMC. The developer just complete rewrote it and it works great now! That way you don't have to deal with two sets of metadata and watched statuses.

Holy smokes, I don't know how this has been off my radar all this time

Do you use this lockdown? Any conflicts with a mysql synced library?
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