Top 7 Web Integrated Media Centers

With the advent of broadband internet, cheap hard disks and services like iTunes, there is a sea change in the manner we consume our digital media. With the sheer amount of multimedia files we accumulate over time, it is almost impossible to keep track of and organize the content to consume it in a logical manner. Moreover, the built in file browsers of our operating systems are too bland to consume the content tastefully. That is when dedicated media center apps come to our rescue and we will be checking out some of the best ones today.

Boxee

Boxee

Boxee

Boxee is the newest free and open source media center app with an unbelievably long list of features. Of late, Boxee has become the “King of the hill” among the media center apps with its ability to pull videos from a number of legitimate internet sources; sites like YouTube and of course media from your local archives.

Boxee got famous so fast not only because of its public spat with Hulu but also for its social networking features that allow you to share links (legitimate ones), comments, what you are watching right now, etc. with your friends. Boxee supports video formats like ogg and mkv out of the box.

Still not convinced? Boxee has its own app center for those of who don’t know where to get all those legitimate podcasts, music, videos and TV shows. One downside with Boxee is that you will have to sign up and login with a Boxee account.

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Apple TV, Ubuntu Linux.

XBMC

XBMC

XBMC

XBMC was originally programmed to work with the Xbox gaming consoles and was later ported to support a multitude of platforms to spread the sheer awesomeness of the app. XBMC is free, open source and has a lot fun themes & apps to customize it to your tastes. Almost all forms of media playback is supported and XBMC can even play files that are in a compressed file (ZIP, RAR, etc.). A fun fact is that Boxee is a fork of XBMC.

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Apple TV, Ubuntu Linux.

Myth TV

Myth TV

Myth TV

For those of you running Linux, Myth TV wont be an unfamiliar name. Myth TV has been around for a long time and can compete with any other media center app when it comes to features. For power users, Myth TV lets you control is functions remotely from a web browser and has an interesting client-server configuration to tweak on. And, there is always a good selection of themes and plugins.

Platform: Linux

Moovida

Moovida

Moovida

Moovida sports an iTunes like interface and supports Last.fm playback out of the box. Though not high on eye candy, Moovida does play a lot of media formats and pulls cover art & meta data effectively. Moovida project development is funded by advertisements and if you really enjoy using the app, there is an opt in to view banner ads from partners.

Platform: Windows only (Mac and Linux versions coming soon).

Sage TV

SageTV

SageTV

Sage TV is a well known cross platform media center and DVR application. Sage TV allows you to record TV shows on your PC without the hassles of DRM. You can also record and playback existing recordings remotely via a web browser. Sage TV costs $80 and you can try it out for 21 days free of charge.

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux.

MediaPortal

MediaPortal

MediaPortal

MediaPortal is a free media center and DVR application that lets you record TV shows and watch time-shift live TV. In addition to the standard media center features, you can also schedule recordings across multiple tuners using an advanced scheduler.

Platform: Windows.

Miro

Miro

Miro

Miro might not be a full featured media center app because of its lack of playback support for files in the local disk. However, if you are an internet multimedia junkie, you cannot afford to skip Miro. If there is a site that hosts videos or podcasts, Miro can bring it to your desktop. It acts like a video RSS feed reader and once you add a web link, Miro will fetch you the videos when new ones are available. Miro can play web videos offline for you and can handle HD videos with ease.

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux.

Conclusion

All the media center applications have one thing in common — eye candy. And we all know what happens with pure eye candy — a drain on computing resources. Boxee is such a fantastic app but it sucked the life out of my PC when scanning a single folder with less than 100 files, but without an app like Boxee I am pretty sure my terabyte collection of multimedia would be useless. So if you have a desktop with enough juice, give these media centers a spin and do let us know what you think in the comments section.

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  • http://www.infrasoundkids.com L1 The Producer

    I have to recommend Plex with the Alaska theme, It’s was a mac fork of the XBMC team but it split a few years ago. however Plex was built for Mac and so it’s really stable with features such as iTunes and iPhoto integration. The Alaska theme looks great on it as well.

    Boxee is based on XBMC as well, but with gimmicky “Social” aspects built in, I really would hate to see “X is watching Y” on my facebook list every day.

    • adrian

      i tried plex and it was a HORRIBLE experience! for one there is no mouse control and the keys you use are placed very inconveniently. Two, the app was lagging and not responding to keyboard input. Boxee on the other hand has mouse control and no lag. I’m trying xmbc right now.

      • http://www.infrasoundkids.com L1 The Producer

        Plex has mouse control, you just enable it in the general settings.

        Could of been that version or incompatibilities with your OS/HW. It works perfect on my Macbook. Plus it’s so much better looking that boxee.

  • Gav

    XMBC – website is down? Has this now died?!?

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  • Mat

    I gotta recommend Boxee, very useful for large collection of video files on local disk, nad good for watching podcast and feeds

  • Neil

    I gotta go with Boxee too. Very useful app, doesnt look that bad either. Had it on a plain old celeron 2.4Ghz and performance was terrible, with audio stuttering bugs in the menus and movies/series would take a few minutes before they would actually sync up. Now I’ve got it on something meatier and it runs like a dream. Great app.

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