XBMC Media Center 10.1
What XBMC Does Great
XBMC has an easily accessible library of plugins that allow you to further customize the application for your home theater needs. Want to easily watch YouTube or Vimeo videos from XBMC? How about listening to tunes via GrooveShark? Skins and plugins are downloaded and installed from within the application itself, no extra web browser or relaunching of the application required.
You can add your favorite media stored on network shares or available via a streaming server elsewhere on the network. Combined with XBMC’s ability to playback video from favorite streaming websites gives you a ton of entertainment choices.
XBMC’s strengths lie in your ability to customize it. While the default Confluence skin offers an easy to navigate menu right off the bat, browse the skins directory (found under System – Appearance – Skin) to see if there are any that suit you better.
Tips for New Users
Browse through the various Add-ons (found under System – Add-Ons) to find add-ons that enhance your media experience. Some good ones under the XMBC.org Add-Ons menu include Album Information and Movie Information, which allow you to connect to services that can serve you information about the media you are playing as you select them.
Where XBMC Needs Improvement
XBMC’s media management leaves a lot to be desired. While you can queue media to play, you can’t create individual playlists. You can sort media via filename and date and choose display via list or thumbnail, but XBMC does not by default offer a way to either clean up or create display names for media.
XBMC’s menu driven layout works well for dedicated home theater PC’s but isn’t so great for controlling via keyboard and mouse. Media playback is clear but media controls can be somewhat maddening on a standard keyboard and mouse set up. For example, you can fast forward or rewind with the on screen button — which is fine if you have a remote but if you’re used to adjusting where you are in the media stream with a mouse by clicking on different parts of the playback stream, you’ll be disappointed.
XBMC excels as a home media center, able to handle all of your favorite media file types, local network streaming, physical media as well as web based media. However, the features that make it great as a home theater system make it a cumbersome choice as a standalone media player. If you’re looking for just great media playback, stick with VLC.
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