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Hardware to replace Xbox Media Center


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I really like XBMC on the original Xbox. But it doesn't do HD. What is the most similar piece of hardware that is HD-capable?

Some specific XBMC features that I like:

Most codecs supported

Skins

Streaming/local storage options

Visualizations (Milkdrop) during music

Open architecture

Plug-ins to do other neat stuff

No DRM

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Sorta. It has some beautiful output, but easily chokes on high anything with a high bitrate.

http://www.xboxmediacenter.com/info_faq.htm#HDTV

Q: Does XBMC and Xbox support HDTV (High Definition TV) resolutions?, and HDTV media?

A: Yes and no, but the answer is a little more complicated than that, you see: Xbox/XBMC can output 480p/720p/1080i (if you have a High Definition AV Pack/component cable) and upscale all low-resolution videos (like retail DVD-Video/Movies) to 720p (1280x720 pixel progressive) or 1080i (1920x1080 pixel interlaced) in hardware (linear upscale/upconvert). So XBMC have no problems with upscaling example DVD-video (720x480 NTSC/720x756 PAL) movies to HDTV 480p/720p/1080i. XBMC is even capable of playing native HD video (video/movies with native resolutions higher than 720x576) like 720p (1280x720) and 1080i (1920x1080), however there is here a big snag/limitation and that is that a standard Xbox only has a 733Mhz Intel Pentium-III CPU (processor) and that does not have the processing power to decode those native HD video resolutions, and that means you would only get maybe 10fps (frames per seconds) displayed which would appear so jerky because of all dropped frames that it will be un-viewable. The only solution if you want to play videos with native HD resolutions on Xbox is to buy or upgrade to a non-standard Xbox with a much faster CPU (processor), (like example the DreamX-1400 from FriendTech which has a 1480Mhz Pentium-III that is at least capable of decoding native HD videos that are have up to 720p in native HDTV video resolution. FriendTech do offers trade-in). Note! XBMC does not yet have DVD-menu support so note you only get video on DVD-Videos. Note! You must enable/setup your HDTV settings in Microsoft dashboard, (on NTSC Xboxes).

To make this even clearer XBMC capability on a standard Xbox (with Intel 733Mhz PIII CPU):

- 720x480 pixel video output to 480p HDTV (720x480 progressive) = OK! (eg not upscaled).

- 720x480 pixel video output to 720p HDTV (1280x720 progressive) = OK! (eg upscaled).

- 720x480 pixel video output to 1080i HDTV (1920x1080 interlaced) = OK! (eg upscaled).

- 1280x720 pixel progressive video output to 720p HDTV (native 1280x720 progressive) = FAIL!

- 1920x1080 interlaced video output to 1080i HDTV (native 1920x1080 interlaced) = FAIL!

The Friendtech boxes mentioned are no longer for sale.

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Last I checked, there were builds of XBMC that were meant for installation on standard PC hardware. Since generic Linux video drivers work on most hardware, building yourself a standard PC system in an HTPC case should do the trick. You'd want hardware that can handle the HD media (at least Intel E4300 for 1080 suppor)., but otherwise, the rest is up to you. RAM is really not a concern - remember that the original XBMC ran on 64MB of RAM. ;)

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You are both on the right track, but...

http://www.xboxmediacenter.com/wiki/Linux_port_project

Note to XBMC end-users! Please understand that this Linux port project is not yet mature enough for a regular end-user to play with. We can not yet give you an ETA as to when it will be useful for end-users. Respect that we can not accept any bug-reports or feature/function-requests for this Linux port yet, nor do we offer support to end-users.
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Good suggestion, Zxian. I actually tried that before but the system requirements were too high for my poor little HTPC laptop. Have you tried it? Is it worth buying new hardware to run it?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, the Xbox360 does HD just fine, and costs about what I would pay for a PC to do the job (and I can play 360 games on it, which the PC can't do :)). My MCE machine is Vista, so I've got some OTA HD broadcasts and some HD video that works well too.

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What kind of networking and media format support does the X360 have? I also looked at the possibility of using a gaming console to do this, but the Playstation3 just came out with a patch to support DivX-like codecs, but no H264 support yet.

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I doubt you'll see a Microsoft console support DivX, as it's not free, just like it'll never support encrypted AAC content, RM or MOV files, etc. However, the MCE page on the 360 extender does bear out what I've found thus far:

Using Windows Media Center and Xbox 360

What types of media stored on my Media Center PC can I access through my Xbox 360? Live and recorded TV, digital photos, digital music, home video, and exclusive online multimedia content such as news clips, downloadable music, local weather, RSS feeds, and more (through Online Spotlight). Video formats

MPEG-1 with MPEG audio

MPEG-2 with MPEG audio or AC-3 audio

WMV 7, 8, & 9 with WMA Standard or WMA Pro audio

WMV Image 1 & 2 (Photo Story 1, 2, & 3)

Audio formats

Windows Media Audio (WMA) Standard

WMA Pro

WMA Lossless

MP3

I've actually seen some things that aren't on this list work, but not 100% of the time. Also, the spring 2007 update brought about H.264 support, so that should work too (which means Blu-Ray DVD support is likely in the future too, as that's the codec required for it).

Since I store most of my music in MP3 or WMA Lossless and my video is WMV, I've not noticed anything - plus, I generally am watching TV or movies on the extender itself, or downloading them from the marketplace. It's too bad about the HD-DVD drive and the format's ultimate death, but since the console does support H.264 as of the spring of last year, I'm guessing a Blu-Ray player attachment will be forthcoming this year or next (a guess, but an educated one).

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Thanks for the reply cluberti. I find it strange that Microsoft can't use a universal filter to decode their videos. mplayer (the underlying media player in XBMC) is fully capable of playing high-def formats - it's just that the CPU in the old Xbox can't handle it.

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Thanks for the reply cluberti. I find it strange that Microsoft can't use a universal filter to decode their videos. mplayer (the underlying media player in XBMC) is fully capable of playing high-def formats - it's just that the CPU in the old Xbox can't handle it.

You assume it's the same software in both, when in fact it isn't - the 360 isn't even intel-based.

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