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HTPC Frontend Comparisons

June 4, 2005

Eirik Solheim has put up a mini-roundup of his experiences with several different Home Theater front-end programs.

He discusses ShowShifter, MyHTPC/Meedio, SnapStream PVS/Beyond TV, and MCE 2005.

His conclusions are that (although you leave aside some bells and whistles), MCE is the simplist way to get a reasonably great front-end experience.

I went down a rather similar path myself — I ran ShowShifter for quite awhile. Although I never really used its PVR functionality, I used its Live TV to front-end a Tivo, and to integrate watching that with the ability to play DVDs and get to my (rather extensive) collection of digital video.

This finally bored me, and I wanted to have some on-machine PVR capability. I tried the trials of SnapStream and BeyondTV several times, and never quite got the picture quality I wanted.

This eventually lead me to SageTV, which I liked a lot (excellent picture quality), except that the interface was clunky.

Playing with various “skinning” options with Sage, I eventually got to where I really liked the “MCE Knockoff” skin.

When I had to rebuild the HTPC, I decided to give genuine MCE a try, and I was quite impressed — that’s where I am today.

Interestingly, when I look back over it, what I liked about ShowShifter (the integration with other media) was something I lost when I gained PVR functionality with Sage.

The smooth integration (and eye candy) of MCE are a lot of why I like it at this point. I also like the fact that the remote actually makes sense and each button does what it’s supposed to do without a lot of dinking around.

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