Media Centre Box and App

24/10/2013 - no comments.

XBMC – has been around for a long time now and can trace it’s roots back to the first XBOX console, hence the name. I remember buying a copy of MechAssault on eBay to take advantage of an exploit in the games save system to soft mod the xbox. This allowed me to install XBMC to the XBOX’s internal hard drive and get it to boot directly into XBMC on start up. With the added bonus of still being able to play original and not so original games. For many years this was the best way of viewing all your locally stored media and acquired Movies and TV Shows. However over the years the XBOX seemed to tire and show its age against the newer more “advanced” technology’s became available as other manufactures jumped on the Media On Your TV bandwagon. I tried quite a few, hoping that they would offer comparative features to the old XBOX. None of them really stood out unfortunately. Ok, so some of them offered interesting apps or unique features but they were not the same.

Then the XBMC development team had a massive shake up and some of the developers went on to work on a separate project, Boxee. The Boxee app itself was a little clumsy and had features that were, well “whats the point” but it did what the old XBMC did and for a while life was good again. Then the Boxee team decided in their infinite wisdom to build their own Media box hardware with the Boxee app and stop users from downloading it for their PC’s. I guess this could have been a good move and on paper the Boxee Box had some neat features, best of all was the remote. The remote was two sided and came with a keyboard on one side and the app navigation buttons on the other. However they made one big mistake . . . they asked D-Link to build the box for them. Any way I did buy one. Well to tell the truth I bought two, the first one died within a month. I sold the second one on eBay a month latter feeling a little disappointed with the whole experience.

Then came the magical Pi, released to the world as the Raspberry Pi. Which is a strange name as there was no crust on the Pi and came with a bare bones circuit board filling only. When I first looked into this as a replacement for my disappointing Boxee Box I was thought this is cool, geeky and was lulled into thinking this was a cheap replacement. At first glance it seemed cheap at around £40, however you still had to buy a power supply, a SD card, HDMI cable, a remote and the Pi crust itself. All in all it came out around the same price as the Boxee Box. On the plus side you could run XMBC software \o/ Yah! however the Pi runs a little slower than the Boxee, boo but still quick enough not to peeve you off and smile again.

Now to a product that got a real slating when it was released and to be fair to the bloggers out there doing the slating this media box didn’t quite deliver on what it promised on KickStarter. However I personally think that the OUYA box works a foooking treat. I bought my OUYA for £90 a little cheaper than the Pi and Boxee but still in the same ball park. It delivers the speed of the Boxee and the features of the Pi and you can also run the best Media Centre software (in my opinion) XBMC. Without silly flash this poke that installation hacks and work arounds. You just download it for free from the OUYA Discover Store and watch away. Ok, so now for me the blog should be over, OUYA winning outright. Being able to run XBMC was my only requirement – Blog Ended.

But no theres more, OUYA was designed primarily as a Games Console and not a Media Centre. From the same Discovery Store were you download XBMC you can also download games. Titles including the great Final Fantasy III and Sine Mora a super side pounding shooter. So now your thinking, WOW it sounds like the original XBOX, playing games and watching TV, whats the catch? The catch is that these are the only two games worth downloading. About 95% of the games are just plain pants, with no frills and extra crusty spills. So now your thinking if I just bought the OUYA for games as it was designed and wasn’t too interested in the whole XMBC media experience. Then I would be well pissed off, but no you would be wrong again because what they do offer is EMULATORS 🙂 N64, SNES and MAME to name a few. As with all emulators not all games work off the bat and play as originally intended. But that aside what really makes the games stand out on the OUYA is the controller. The controller to be fair was design by someone who I guess must have really tried bless Him/Her but couldn’t quite grasp what gamers actually wanted. So in there wisdom just decided to copy the XBOX 360 controller, which they did pretty well I guess. It’s not as responsive and feels a little cheaper but works more than adequately for helping Mario and MsPacman do what they do best – entertain us gamers from a less fancy era.

In a later post I’ll explain why I think XBMC is the best Media Centre software around. However I’m having a little trouble thinking of ways to explain the best feature without crossing curtain boundaries.

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