17 July 2010

Media streaming devices–what is the best media box?

XBMC on Apple TV v Western Digital WD TV Live Plus

I’ve been a very happy user of XBMC for many years on three platforms: Original XBOX, Apple TV and Windows. When I bought the Apple TV I was moderately happy being able to watch my podcasts on TV, but it wasn’t until I installed XBMC on it that the Apple TV came to life. You should note that I use the standard Apple Remote on the Apple TV.

I needed another media box recently, and because the Apple TV might be up for a revamp in a few months I decided against that or a Mac Mini. A good media centre PC would cost the same as a Mac Mini, so I looked at dedicated boxes.

Word on the internet was that the Western Digital WD TV Live Plus (launched in June 2010 in the USA) was the one to get, so I did.

How does the Live Plus compare against XBMC on the Apple TV? Ignoring the features they don’t share, the video interface on XBMC is much, much better.

On XBMC you can sort your video folders by most recently modified, which pushes all your new TV recordings to the top of the list. That alone is a complete win for the XBMC. You can also delete, rename and move files and folders on the XBMC, although I really only just use the delete feature as soon as I’ve watched something.

Fast forward, skipping and volume control on XBMC is fantastic. On the WD TV you can only fast forward, and it’s not anywhere near as convenient or useful as on XBMC. No volume control on WD TV means you need to run two remotes, or use an all-in-one.

Use case 1; you record TV for time shifting – you record it, watch it at your leisure and then delete it. Clear winner is XBMC.

Use case 2: you want the extra features of the WD TV and don’t fit into Use Case 1? Get the WD TV. MediaFly support is sensational – you can do a lot of watching just in MediaFly alone.

Use case 3: you want to rip DVDs to ISO and watch them. Get the WD TV, but only because it’s cheaper and that bit functions out of the box.

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