I recently built a media center. Actually, scratch it — I’ve built two. One is a compact device (my Raspberry Pi) running the RaspBMC XBMC distribution. , while the other is a traditional home build HTPC media center in a slim PC case with an added TV card.

At this stage, I have not quite decided which system I will stick to in the long term, so there is a kind of competition between them. Covering everything from hardware and extra storage to useful add-ons and online play, I’ll pick exactly the device that I think will have the best chance of playing it all.

So how do you build a computer with a media center that can play anything? A device that can deliver as much good quality and free TV as possible?

Well, you need to make sure you have the right hardware, the right storage options, and the best media center platform before you make it stand out with plugins and extras that will give you the TV experience you’ve been looking for.

The hardware side of things

There are many different hardware that you can use to build your own PC. build your own PC. from the Xbox 360 to the Nintendo Wii, all the way to standard PCs and dedicated TV boxes for Android devices and Raspberry Pi computers. Regardless of which platform you end up choosing (see below), the hardware you choose must be network-capable, powerful enough to handle HD video, and have enough storage space for music and video.

For my own purposes, I need an optical drive device as I watch DVDs regularly. USB ports and a card reader are also required to view photos, music and videos.

Whatever hardware solution you choose, don’t forget the remote control! This can be a game controller, keyboard and mouse, or a smartphone with the appropriate remote app.

Choosing the right platform

There are many media center platforms for Windows, Mac, and Linux, but XBMC is currently the most popular. Originally released for the old Xbox gaming console, XBMC is available for all major desktop computer platforms and is capable of playing the vast majority of media formats.

build PC media center

Its user interface is simple, offering sections for music, videos, and images (as well as updated weather reports!) and complemented by a large selection of add-ons that provide new features and online channels to subscribe to. is free.

You can check out 5 great Media Center Linux distributions to transform your TV for more information on the various media center platforms. However, if you’re not using a game console, I would recommend XBMC — which is what I installed on both of my media center candidate devices.

Extending your platform with add-ons

The beauty of XBMC (versions for Windows, OS X, Linux, Apple TV, iOS, Ubuntu, Android, and Raspberry Pi are available from the XBMC download page) is that it can be greatly expanded with a large selection of official and unofficial add-ons. There are many uses for these add-ons, from streaming TV and managing torrent downloads to gaming and creating user interfaces.

While the basic XBMC package will let you watch DVDs, video files, listen to audio CDs and sound files, enjoy photos and check the weather, with add-ons you can:

  • Integrate TV channels from your TV card with the MythTV add-on
  • Stream Live Sports
  • Live TV broadcast
  • Internet radio access
  • Watch YouTube on your TV
  • Enjoy video feeds from popular sites like Wired
  • Much, much more!

The options are considerable and add-ons can be easily added to XBMC via Menu System > Add-ons > Get Add-ons . A good list of additional add-ons can be found in the list of unofficial XBMC repositories — you should download them in ZIP format and save them in your media center.

Installation is via Settings > Add-ons > Install from ZIP file. After that, the selected add-on will be available in the menu » Get add-ons», as mentioned above.

It’s no exaggeration to say that you can access any TV program, movie or sporting event and stream it with the right add-ons. The Bluecop repository is a great solution, offering impressions from various subscription channels such as CBS, SyFy and History Channel, as well as output from Hulu.

Network play, DLNA and UPNP

specialized media center

The ability to play media over a network is very important. This is supported by most media center platforms—for example, you can stream video and music from your PC to your Xbox 360.

With the XBMC platform, other computers on the network can be accessed so that they can be transferred to media. If you have a large selection of video clips on your desktop PC, they can be sent over the network to your XBMC device for enjoyment — the same goes for images and audio clips.

In the meantime, iPhone users can use AirPlay to send videos from their device to XMBC if AirPlay is enabled in » Settings»>»Network»>»Services» .

In addition, DLNA and UPnP has limited support, allowing you to wirelessly send video from XBMC to a TV (albeit one that natively supports the streamed video format).

Time to cut the cable?

We all watch TV differently. That’s why XBMC is probably the best media center platform available, and when combined with the right choice of hardware, can provide the best results: a media center that will play any file you want with minimal fuss and no file conversion first.

build PC media center

If you manage to get everything you need to watch TV through XBMC and the storage solutions you’ve added, then it might be time to ditch expensive cable TV in favor of watching your own collection of videos and streaming—and last but not least, up-to-date—TV from the Internet. .

Is XBMC the solution for you? Does it tick all your boxes, or do you have an alternative that is even more flexible and offers better add-ons? Do you have a better media center solution that will play even more formats? Write to us in the comments!

As for me, I am still evaluating the pros and cons of a light, small and easily secreted Raspberry Pi with a more traditional HTPC all-in-one storage solution…

Image Credits: Flat Screen TV Home Theater System via Shutterstock, Electrician Cutting Cable via Shutterstock, wikien2009, Zsigus

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