Popcorn hour vs XBMC, battle of the century?




I know there are a lot of people who are currently running XBMC on an original XBOX and as a recent convert from XBOX+XBMC to Popcorn Hour (PCH) my experience is a bit mixed, here’s a short list of stuff I’ve noticed during the transition which you may find interesting:

Things XBMC does better than PCH (these obviously only apply to SD content where relevant), also note that some of these can be solved by installing and customising your own themes and indexes

  1. SMB Navigation and general menu speed is WAY better in XBMC, the PCH seems to read from a share every time it accesses it so if you hit a share with a lot of files it takes a while to show the contents, scrolling up and down long lists of files is also noticeably slower than XBMC. 
  2. Skipping during play back. The PCH does have the number buttons which skip 10%, 20% etc but the up/down/left/right buttons on XMBC to skip 1/10 minutes is much more responsive. 
  3. Music playback + visualisations, PCH only has a simple album art screen, no shuffle function, no traversal of subdirectories and no ability to create playlists. 
  4. Screensaver – I really miss being able to use photos from a network share as the screensaver. 
  5. Shuffle play – does not exist in a standard PCH, there are themes which you can install which enable a shuffle of sorts, I’ve had mixed results with this on the PCH but will persist until it works because this is an important function for me. 
  6. No limit on SMB share connections – You can only configure a total of six SMB/NFS shares on the PCH, this can be overcome somewhat by install the media streaming app on your home PD (myiHome
  7. Audio configuration – I haven’t yet seen an option in the PCH which lets you offset the audio and video for files which are out of sync, although, I am yet to encounter a file with this problem (perhaps it auto corrects?)

Things PCH does better then XBMC

  1. HD content, of course, the XBOX can’t play any HD content. I’ve had a few issues with skipping and the unit hanging up on certain files but I think it’s entirely to do with heat, I was first testing my unit during a heat wave with 40c + temperatures. 
  2. Very quiet, no fans, minimal HDD noise but does run quite hot with a HDD installed (probably about the same heat output as the XBOX) 
  3. You can turn it on and off with the remote. 
  4. PCH has all the file operations you have with XBMC (delete, rename) with the addition of being able to move files and create folders. 
  5. It’s tiny, about 1/3 the size of an XBOX. 
  6. Very good firmware and community support (so does XMBC, I know). 
  7. With a HDD installed you can use it as a torrent client (which has an associated web gui), web server, NAS or even as a media streamer. 
  8. It has a (slightly flaky) web interface for all config options. 
  9. Easy upgrade to a new/bigger HDD, support for external HDD’s, USB sticks, USB keyboard, Wireless adapter (don’t try streaming HD content over wireless). 
  10. Community created content for browsing movies/music using a jukebox type interface are mature and easy to use and look great. Community created themes and custom indexes are also quite good (XBMC has these too, I know).

There are more but these are the major ones.

My ultimate plan was to replace my SD TV set top box (I’ll play back content which is recorded on my PC), XBOX and DVD player (PCH can play DVD ISO/VIDEO_TS) with the PCH and I’m not quite there yet. I can live without the music playback and photo screensaver and the rest of the problems I can live with or solve with some customisation. If it’s any indicator at all, I’ve had the old XBOX unplugged since the PCH arrived and have only has one occasion when I felt the need to turn it on (admittedly this was when I had the PCH in pieces on my desk while transferring files to the HDD).

Overall I can see the PCH doing everything I want it to and while it has (and continues to) taken a long time to configure and set up thinking back to when I first modded the XBOX, setting up XMBC took just as long to get exactly how I wanted it. So overall the PCH is a winner.

One other thing, this speaks more to the service I’ve received from www.mediaplayersandmore.com.au (where I bought the PCH) than anything else, but the power supply on my PCH died the day after I got it and has been intermittently alternating between working and not working since then, it seems like a dud, shit happens, so I contacted Ross at www.mediaplayersandmore.com.au and he was very responsive and has already sent out a new power supply which should hopefully solve the problem, I couldn’t ask for more than that.