ExtremeTech reviews media front ends -- applications that have a "ten foot interface" suitable for running on a TV.
ExtremeTech considers the following to be the "must have" features, and that is what they used to evaluate the programs:
- Play back stored video (WMV, AVI)
- Play back stored music (WMA, MP3, WAV)
- Display digital photos
- Show and time-shift Live TV
- Be programmed to record live TV
Read on for links to the four applications tested and some thoughts on this segment.
It seemed a bit crazy to me that in addition to the programs tested, you also needed to be running Windows XP plus 5 other external applications. They used an ATI Remote Wonder that comes bundled with their graphic card to control the apps (with varying degrees of success).
While there is, as Greg mentions, a "gold rush" going on in this segment, I don't think it will take off until there are more fully integrated applications that do everything. In my opinion, Linux is still a much better choice here, because of everything from stability to low-cost. The only thing holding it back is lack of driver support for specialized hardware (like remotes).
The reviewed applications were:
- myHTPC: free!
- SnapStream: looked at before
- ShowShifter: got good marks except for the fact that it uses TitanTV in a browser for its EPG
- SageTV: Java-based client/server, but it only supports a very small number of hardware tuner cards
The final thoughts don't really pick one stand-out winner, but I think "free" definitely makes myHTPC the most attractive. Round two is going to look at apps which depend on specific hardware configs.