A media center PC installed in your home theater network gives you access to a huge selection of internet available streaming video content, news, and weather, as well as being able to show your own photos, and video content. It does not require a high powered computer, and the XBMC software you will be using is free. Here’s what is needed to get the media center PC running:
XBMC media center software will be used. The following specs are the suggested hardware requirements as listed from XBMC (Note: data updated 1/20/2015):
Windows: For detailed hardware requirements under Windows, click Here.
Mac: Runs on only Mac OS X 10.6 and newer, and only on Intel powered Macs. Power PC Macs are now excluded.
Linux: For detailed hardware requirements under Linux, click Here.
- Assuming you are connecting your PC to a HDTV, the video card on your PC should have either DVI or HDMI output. Though there are several differences between the two outputs, both carry a digital video signal. The HDMI output on your video card should simply connect to the HDMI input on your TV. If your video card has a DVI output, then use a DVI-to-HDMI adapter. There are inexpensive DVI-to-HDMI adapter cables available (at the time of this writing, a 15 foot cable is about $10.00). HDMI also carries audio, and DVI does not. If you are using your TV audio, and your video card supports HDMI, you may not have anything else to connect to get your audio. Another option is run the HDMI to your Home Theater Receiver, or use digital fiber optic from your sound card to either the HDTV or your receiver (this last option is your only choice if you have a DVI connection on your video card).
- If you are going to be some distance from where you placed your media center PC, you might want to consider a wireless keyboard and mouse.
- We will not need a TV tuner for the PC, nor a PVR, as this setup will stream a good deal of its content from the internet. As a result, a broad band internet connection will be needed.
- If you decide to use another computer as a media server, you will need a home network to stream content from the server to your media center PC. Do you want to build a home computer network? Here are some “how to” articles found on this website:
XBMC is an open source and cross-platform media player. Because it is open source, there have been a number of “spin-offs”, including Boxee, and Plex, as well as in software operating the TVs in many hotels around the country. XBMC is well sorted out, easy to install and setup (for Mac OS X and IOS, setup has boiled down to a “one click” operation). The software can play and up-convert video at: 720P/1080i/1080P.
One of XBMC’s strengths is that it is flexible, allowing plugins to expand and vary its functionality. With these plugins, you can view movies, TV shows, sports, news, and international channels (note: the use of some of this content may violate local copyright laws, so make yourself informed before you install or use the plugins). Once installed, the addons update themselves automatically.
UPDATE: There have been some important changes since this article was first published in October, of 2012. XBMC changed it’s name to Kodi, in December, 2014. Kodi became more stable, and a lot has changed “under the hood” as well. These changes have been for the better. Not that XBMC was “bad”; it’s just that Kodi is “better”.
In addition, XBMC Hub, a supplier of add-ons and repositories for XBMC, also changed their name, and has now become TVAddons. Here is updated access information to both Kodi and TVAddons:
- You can get the software (free!!!) at: kodi.tv
- The Kodi Manual, including installation instructions can be found at: kodi.wiki
- To configure your new install with current tweaks, add-ons, and repositories download the Config Wizard at: tvaddons.ag What is the difference between an addon and a repository? Think of an addon as a program, and a repository as a suite of programs.
For audio, use an adapter plug with two female RCA plugs on one side, and a 3.5 mm plug on the other, run a standard RCA cable to an available audio “in” on the back of your stereo or Home TV receiver. Now plug the cable ends into the appropriate “Left” and “Right” plugin on the adapter. Next, plug the male 3.5 mm plug into an audio “out” port on your computers sound card. Finally, go back to your receiver, and set the playback to the name of the available port you plugged the stereo RCA cables into.
Follow the instructions from Kodi, and install the media software. Next, if you haven’t done so already, hook the PC and the TV together with your HDMI or DVI to HDMI cable. Boot up your PC. On your computer, go into the operating system’s Settings section, and set your video resolution. For 1080P the resolution will be 1920 X 1080, for 720P it is 1280 X 720, and for 480P it is 852 X 480. If you are good at 1080P, try watching some movies, if you have dropped frames, or jerky motion, drop the video on your PC to the 720P setting.
The very last thing to do is to find a video to watch, sit down, put your feet up, and enjoy!!!