Mac equivalent of Windows Media Center?

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Lion (10.7)' started by siritalks, Jan 26, 2012.

  1. siritalks macrumors member

    Oct 19, 2011

    My brother is debating whether or not to buy an iMac or Macbook Pro, and he is wondering if Mac have an equivalent of Windows Media Center?

    As far as I'm aware, he wants to record and watch live TV, and be able to stream video and music to several TV's around his house.

    Any suggestions would be great.

  2. siritalks thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 19, 2011
    Can you do all those things through iTunes, and control it by a remote control?

    I should add, he's based in the UK, so UK TV.
  3. tyche macrumors 6502

    Jul 30, 2010
    Windows MCE is just software. The equivalent on Mac would be something like Plex or XBMC. I'm only familiar with streaming from 1 machine to one tv don't know about multiple tv sources at the same time.

    This gets a little trickier when you want to record live tv, you need a tuner card. On the Mac there's things like EyeTV by Elgato. They also have a few other products that might be better like the HDHomeRun. Again, things are tricky depending on your tv source. Is it over the air, encrypted sat feeds, etc.

    Depending on how modern your tv's what other devices are connected to the tv you might be able to access things via dnla and stream that way.
  4. siritalks thread starter macrumors member

    Oct 19, 2011
    What about Apple TV? Can you hook it up to several TVs in the house somehow, or would you need one per TV? And could you run them all from the same computer library?

    On further investigation he is now not so bothered about being able to record live TV. It's more about being to watch content on demand (either from his hard drive) or from programs such as BBC iPlayer, or 4 OnDemand.
  5. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    For recording there are big issues; basically anyone that provides content doesn't want you doing it so it's a complicated process no matter what you use. EyeTV is the best on the Mac for that for some channels.

    Plex or XBMC are the home theater applications for the Mac. I know Plex has an iPlayer plug in. You might also look at Boxee. They also do all kinds of other stuff.

    Unfortunately these days you have to look at each software and/or hardware platform to see what works with the content you're after. It's a mess.

    Frankly, I think all the computer options kind of lag. Generally you'd either have to watch it on the computer or an attached HDTV; more than one extra monitor is a hassle.

    AppleTV isn't the greatest either. It seems like a frontend for the iTunes Store IMHO. If you get a lot of content there, fine. It does NetFlix, and you could stream iPlayer from an iPhone with the app installed. We are hoping AppleTV is updated to do apps and become more useful, but who knows.

    Then there are Rokus. Good for some stuff, not others. And then PS3s or other boxes.

    There are media streamers. For example Playback can stream video and music from a Mac to all kinds of devices. But note that you'd need something to receive streaming to each TV: a PS3, computer, etc. Not as easy as you'd think.

    Frankly, I'd go with whatever's cheapest. With a iMac you're paying a lot for something that is only partly suited to being a home theater center. If he really wants to stream content all over, some of the dedicated boxes would be a better idea.
  6. scottsjack macrumors 68000

    Aug 25, 2010
    I'll weigh in. I'm a Mac user who has switched much of my work back to Windows. Office, Photoshop CS5 and (no surprise) Quicken work so much better under Windows than under Mac. Add that to Lion's beachballfest and Windows is the obvious answer to me. Both of my Macs are "faster" under W7 than they are under Lion.

    Then there is subject of playing media. While not an expert on WMP, WMC or Zune I've tried setting up simple song and movie lists with help from PCWorld and similar sites. So far my opinion is that Windows completely sucks for the things that are often so easy on a Mac.

    Microsoft just doesn't get it that people don't buy computers because of an OS, they buy them because of what they'll do. iTunes, iDVD and QT X are unbeatable for music and movies. iPhoto is so far beyond any of Microsoft's Essential junk that it's shocking. Mac-only RipIt and iRip are excellent.

    So far W7 only has two media advantages. WMP plays FLAC after I downloaded some codecs and of course BluRay is supported with the addition of third-party software. That's it.

    I use EyeTV almost daily for watching, recording and editing. While the EyeTV hybrid is now supported by WMC it's (typically) clunking to use and the viewing screen is as ugly as the rest of WMC. On a Mac EyeTV is great. The menu system, station guide and editing windows are excellent.

    I usually rip BluRay to MKV and MPG. Either of those operations can be done on either Windows or Mac. Each system plays MKVs via VLC. While I work on Windows I definitely play/enjoy on a Mac.
  7. r0k macrumors 68040


    Mar 3, 2008
    I ran Plex briefly on one of our Mac Minis but shut it down when it kept the fans going 24x7. Right now I do all my streaming from a Synology DS212J and I have 2 TVs that understand DNLA so things tend to "just work".

    I've given some thought to Apple TV and iTunes but I haven't really given it serious consideration. The same TVs that support DLNA also support Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime.

    I haven't got a solution for live TV just yet but I'd consider Elegato EyeTV if I didn't have Comcast which scrambles pretty much everything but the shopping channels so I'd have to buy an expensive cable card compatible tuner and pay $10 a month to Comcast for "cable card rental". These Comcast issues are probably no different for Windows or Linux versus OS X so I'm probably not going to get serious about any Live TV solution until I find a way to get away from Comcast.

    With its HDMI output and superdrive slot, a used 2010 era Mac Mini makes an excellent candidate for a HTPC. I got a refurb me alert the other day when one showed up on for under $500. It was still there when I went to take a look but I don't "need" one so I didn't click. Maybe next time...
  8. scottsjack macrumors 68000

    Aug 25, 2010
    That's a good point that I didn't mention. I'm a TV minimalist on Cox Basic. The combination of standard analog channels, ClearQAM SD digital channels and ClearQAM HD channels are just fine for my use. Definitely EyeTV will not decode encrypted digital cable TV.
  9. clifmeister macrumors newbie

    Feb 7, 2012
    The EyeTV HD does not decode encrypted digital cable but will recieve signals from a cable set top box, works with Time Warner cable and AT&T U-Verse for sure.

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