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9 posts

Wannabe Geek

Topic # 26924 7-Oct-2008 14:43
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I'm thinking of getting a modded Xbox (first gen) with large HDD and XBMC installed to use as my media centre, but thought I'd see what other's experiences with it were (questions at the bottom.)

In early 2006 I bought a new GIgabyte HA91 HTPC running XP MCE but it was always buggy, and after a few months I gave up on it and sold it.

I then bought a 2.5" HDD Enclosure Media Player like this, which is what I've been using for the last 2 years. The Remote and the OSD/menu's were pretty useless, but once it was playing it was fine.

Unfortunately that died last week (the enclosure, not the HDD) so we're now stuck with no way to play any divx files. I'm sick enough of the HDD-player that I don't really want another one, so am now looking at what to do instead.

Other Info:
I don't watch much live tv (my wife & toddler will have it on during the day) so Freeview and recording/pausing live tv aren't high on my priorities (though they'd be a nice to have.)

I know the Xbox can't handle true HD, but I'm not an AV-buff, or an audio-buff, so that type of thing doesn't bother me much.

32" Panasonic LCD TV; Wii (so not that interested in the old xbox for gaming); Old Dvd-recorder that seems like it might be dying too, though we hardly ever use it any more.

Also, I'm a tightwad (aren't we all?), so don't like spending any more than I have to, so I'm reluctant to spend $1000+ for a decent HTPC if an xbox is going to work ok.

I had a look at the Asus eee box which was nice and cheap, but it seemed like it would probably be a bit under-powered.

So I figure my options are:
-- Go back to the HDD-player - $160
-- Try out Xbox+XBMC - $300 (w/ 320gb drive)
-- HTPC - $1000-$2000
(-- DVD-Recorder w/HDD, but then the divx files all get mixed together, and its a hassle uploading from USB)
(-- Theres also a geekzone forum for the Popcorn Hour, but seems like its a similar price to a HTPC, and not a lot more benefits.)

Have any of you upgraded from the xbox+xbmc to an HTPC? Why?

Any of you still using an Xbox and happy with it? Why?

Any other cheap-ish options I should consider?

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20800 posts

Uber Geek
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  Reply # 169746 8-Oct-2008 00:39
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You should be able to do an xbox for way less then that, and you already have a hdd from your existing player that you can reformat to use in it.

Look on trademe for ones with broken dvd drives, then borrow a working drive for the purpose of getting it working. Since you use network or the HDD from then on, you never need the drive again, or you can swap it out for a regular drive post modding.


307 posts

Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 169773 8-Oct-2008 08:21
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No 1080p..

The end..


285 posts

Ultimate Geek

  Reply # 169775 8-Oct-2008 08:23
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It actually sounds like XBMC would be perfect for you.

It's user interface and reliability are both superb.

the weaknesses of the XBMC are:

Can't handle 1080p (but will do 720p or 1080i).  Even with 720p/1080i it's ability to play back Hi Definition videos is limited by the lack of processing power.

No ability to watch TV with it.  It would be brilliant if they enhanced XBMC to act as a client for Mediaportal but I very much doubt that will ever happen.

FYI I used XBMC for years -I primarily used it to stream DVD's backed up to the hard-drive on my PC, and I also used it to play Music (I backed up my entire CD collection to my PC, and again, streamed the music to the XBox).  I also used it to listen to Internet radio stations.  BTW XBMC has some amazing "Visualisations" that you can run while playing music.

I would recommend you pick up a pre-built system off trademe (rather than modding yourself) and save yourself a lot of hassle.

It is simply amazing what they have done with this "old-old-old" hardware.

ps. if you have a hidef tv the xbox will upscale dvds to 720p or 1080i and it does a fantastic job of it.

Heck, one more thing.  To take full advantage of the xbox's hi def capabilities you will need the Hi Def AV pack, which is basically a small break-out box that allows for compnent video connections and optical SPDIF for Dolby digital 5.1

These boxes are hard to find, though if you are happy with analog sound, the Xbox component cables are easy enough to get.

Make sure you find out what type of connections you are getting with the xbox you purchase (if you decide to go for it).

"There is no way to Peace -Peace is the Way" (A. J. Muste)


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  Reply # 169792 8-Oct-2008 09:44
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I am a xbmc feind (one might say) Ive used it since wayyyy back when it was xbmp in 2002. My crystal modded xbox gets used every weekend for music videos and divx movies. Ive had no sucess at all playing 720p movies so im not sure how Quidam has managed this?
However just recently i installed xbmc for pc (they have ported it to linux, windows and mac os-x) So the ability to play 720p and even 1080p is now possible if required. I brought a ps3 months ago hoping to be able to install xbmc onto ubuntu on the ps3, this isnt going to happen anytime soon so my tosh laptop is my new xbmc client, hooked up to a microsft mce remote, all is working great! You dont need an overly powerfull machine to use xbmc (as the xbox can attest too) so u could build a fairly cheap pc as an alternative, xbox1 really is at its e.o.l and parts are going to be almost impossible to find in the commin years.. In saying that its almost time to sell off mine!

72 posts

Master Geek
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  Reply # 169794 8-Oct-2008 09:47
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I've been a long time lurker here as I was interested in building an HTPC as well.

Simple fact is XBMC on xbox is cheap and will work fine for what you want.
I still use my xbox everyday as I don't need Live TV either and it hasnt missed a beat. 
My xbox boots from Off to XBMC in less than 15seconds, its quiet (I have my fan set on auto temp control so fan spins at 2% speed) and it just works.

You definately should buy the "Hi Def AV pack" or component cables for it - I got mine from TradeMe if they are not there, should be on eBay and will enable you to run the interface in 720p. I would also recommend you buy the DVD remote kit for this well so you dont have the xbox controller cable running across the floor.

XBMC have also recently released "Atlantis BETA2" which is now cross platform.
I have tried the "XBMC Live CD/USB" it works really well on my laptop and PC - plays 720P without any issues, but starts to struggle a bit with 1080P (need a 3ghz+ CPU for this apparently)

The best thing is that its still being developed and tweaked - although it seems they have reached the limits of what they can do with it on the XBOX - it still has a future with the other platfroms still being developed.

I'd definately recommend running the Media Stream skin:

285 posts

Ultimate Geek

  Reply # 169856 8-Oct-2008 13:31
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Uber Geek
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  Reply # 169868 8-Oct-2008 14:07
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Quidam: Can't handle 1080p (but will do 720p or 1080i)

I just misunderstood that line thats all. Yea I have the advnaced av pack and have used the enigma video switcher to get ntsc and therefore 720p, The xbmc front end looks like bollocks in SD on my 42".. HD all the way! I have also heard about re-encoding the videos to get HD playing but havnt done so myself as im moving away from the xbox, the laptop is the new xbmc client, im hoping that some bright person can code xbmc to powerpc so i can run it on the ps3 tho or ill be flicking the ps3 off on trademe in the not so distant future!

9 posts

Wannabe Geek

  Reply # 169873 8-Oct-2008 14:39
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Thanks everyone.

@Richms: yeah, its $300 because it includes a 320gb HDD

Last night and this morning I've had a look at second-hand PC's on trademe, and ended up finding a shuttle with big HDD, tv tuner, and other nice-to-haves for $400, so I think I'll go with that. (And hope its not a lemon!)

Hard decision tho... garvani's point about xbox's heading towards being obsolete in few years was one I hadn't thought of. Everything else I'd heard elsewhere was similar to what everyone here has said: that the xbox just works. In the end I figured I may as well spend the extra $100 to get the extra benefits of a PC.

Thanks again.

246 posts

Master Geek
+1 received by user: 38

  Reply # 169875 8-Oct-2008 14:54
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What about an Apple TV running the new XBMC Apple TV port?

$498 for the 40Gb model


9 posts

Wannabe Geek

  Reply # 169883 8-Oct-2008 15:28
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@Tockly - Good suggestion - that was the type of thing I wanted to hear about.

I don't have an ipod or mac, but if I did then an AppleTV might have been the way to go. I did actually look at their store a few days ago to see how much they cost and couldn't find it then. (But I see it now.)

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