The third major HTPC application available
is MediaPortal. This application combines the TV Tuner support and
functionality of WMC with the robust online video format support and TV
series/movie management features of XBMC. For some users it's a true
"single application for everything" solution for the HTPC, but
despite its flexibility, it certainly isn't for everyone.
First of all, MediaPortal is split into two
discrete halves - the front end which acts as your GUI and interface when using
your HTPC, and a configuration utility which uses a traditional Windows-based
interface. Want to add newly downloaded music folders from the GUI section?
Sorry, but that's simply not possible. Want to seamlessly add a new photo
MediaPortal 1.1.0 advanced Multi MediaCenter / HTPC
Nope, you can't do that either. You can of
course automate the adding of new content on a periodic basis, but there's no
escaping that Media Portal's GUI lacks the flexibility that XBMC and WMC excel
at when it comes to adding content without having to revert to a keyboard and
mouse and sitting two feet from your display.
The great scraping capabilities of XBMC are
present and correct in MediaPortal, and if anything they are even more in
depth, delivering detailed synopses and high resolution images automatically
for all of your content. This unfortunately makes adding content very slow as
well. If you have a massive collection of ripped or downloaded TV shows or
movie content, expect the initial building of your MediaPortal database to take
at least a few hours, if not all night. Patience is rewarded however, with a
depth of content that simply can't be matched by the app's competitors.
The MediaPortal player is pretty good at
handling tricky video container fomats like MKV, but it is inarguable that XBMC
is better. When testing six different downloaded shows on a fresh install with
no further codec installation, only XBMC managed to play them all with no
issues. Both WMC and MediaPortal needed fiddling to either play at all (WMC) or
play with sound (MP) across all file types.
The GUI for WMC is pretty and functional,
while the GUI for XBMC is dark and cool. By contrast the default GUI for
MediaPortal is pretty dreadful. Its ugly, makes an irritating sound as you
navigate sections by default, and isn't particularly mouse friendly if you have
a media keyboard with touchpad rather than a remote control. Fortunately, a plethora
of skins are available, including some that almost identically match XBMC's
offering. Nevertheless, the default GUI will be enough to put off many users
before they invest the time to explore MediaPortal's more advanced features.
If you are a true video or audiophile,
neither WMC or XBMC give you the codec and encoder flexibility that media
portal does. Within the configuration half of the application, you can set
discrete options for different kinds of video files, and have access to a
wealth of other options that are simply are not offered by competitors.
MediaPortal's proponents regularly describe XBMC as a choice for "DivX
watching newbies", and it's an argument that isn't entirely without merit.
The interface may seem daunting, but for those prepared to invest the time in
learning its nuances, the reward is an unmatched level of customisation and
TV channels on Client Terminal
The TV tuner aspect of MediaPortal puts it
on a different level to XBMC, and to a certain extent, WMC. A single computer
on your network can be configured to act as a TV server, allowing all other
connected MediaPortal systems to watch TV channels as well. Again the setup is
far more involved than the simple 'scan for channels' facility offered by WMC,
but aside from Xbox media extenders, that application cannot be used to share
TV functionality in the same way between multiple PCs on the same network.