Metcarob's Windows MCE vs Linux MCE Comparison

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The author of this document (metcarob) is a linuxMCE newbie and as such I am learning how LinuxMCE works and how I can get it working for me.

I have both a Windows XP Media centre PC and a LinuxMCE PC set up in my living room attached to my TV. I am hoping to replace the windows Media centre PC but before I do this I need to ensure that LinuxMCE is up to the job of replacing it. I am hoping the LinuxMCE community will be able to assist me with advice on how to get LinuxMCE performing the way I want it. For this reason I have created this page comparing the two highlighting areas where the LinuxMCE set up is not currently living up to my requirements.

--Totallymaxed 17:41, 3 May 2009 (CEST) Firstly I do agree that some of the UI slickness ('eye candy' mostly I have to say) is not there in LinuxMCE. However you really need to understand that LinuxMCE is not just a 'MediaCenter' replacement...Media playback/recording/management is just one part of LinuxMCE. LinuxMCE is a whole House home automation system wgich allows you to manage media of all types, Control/manage lighting and monitor energy usage, control/manage your heating system, integrates a full VOIP PBX, manage security using PIR's, door/Window sensors, Smoke/Gas sensors, IP cameras and many other things too... and it does this in multiple zones in an integrated fashion using a number of different control devices to suit your requirements. Windows MediaCenter just does the media part...and only in one location.

--metcarob 12:57, 5 May 2009 (BST) Thanks for your comments and help. I have posted in the forum and since writing this I have learnt more about how LinuxMCE operates and this has helped with some of the issues. I fully understand that LinuxMCE is not simply a windows Media Centre alternative but an entire home automation platform. It has many exciting features which I want to use which is why I am trying to get to grips with it. I do however feel it should be Windows Media Centre (done right) + Home automation features. I want my LinuxMCE system to replace my Windows system and I think it's valid to compare the functionality in the Media Centre Area between the two systems. The way media is arranged in LinuxMCE is impressive my issues are with the fact it is taking me 10 or more button presses to get at the functions I use. E.g. Finding the TV show I want to watch, Queueing up music without intrupting what is currently playing, deleting the TV show I have just finished watching. I am hoping to find out more about tagging media and I might look at the UI designer to see how it works and if it can solve any of my issues. In the mean time I intend to update this article to reflect my progress.

Base Systems

Windows Media CentreLinuxMCE
Manufacturer Eversham - EBox (Eversham have gone bust now) Built myself
Operating System Microsoft Windows XP
Media Centre Edition
Vesion 2002
Service Pack 3
LinuxMCE DVD Install
Motherboard Abit AA8-Duramax
Processor Intel(R) Pentuim(R) 4 CPU 3.00Ghz Intel(R) Pentuim(R) 4 CPU 3.60GHz
RAM 1Gb 1Gb (2x512Mb Sims
Graphics Card PCI Express Card
GeCube RADEON X550 256mb
NVidia Geforce 6600GT
External Network Card On Motherboard On Motherboard (1 x RJ-45 GbE LAN Connector)
Internal Network Card None PCI Card
EtherFast Lan Adapter SP2500RS 10/100Mbps Auto-Negotiation
TV Capture Card 1 PCI Card PCI Card
Hauppauge WinTV Nova-T500 Dual Digital Tuner
Not the diversity model
TV Capture Card 2 PCI Card
Exactly the same as TV Capture Card 1
Hard Disk Seegate Barracuda 7200.8 500Gb

TV Output, resoultion, etc.

My TV is an old Sony TV. The only output device connected to the computers is the TV (Both Audio and TV outs are connected via a scart lead.) Both systems connect to the same TV via Scart and for the comparision I am using a switch box which switches from one to the other.

Windows Media CentreLinuxMCE
Video Connector used Video connector S-Video connector (PAL-I)
Video Resolution 1024 x 768 1024 x 768
Color High (32-bit)
Refresh 60 Hz 60
Audio Connector used Motherboard Stero out going to a splitter going to Scart lead adapter Motherboard Stero out going to a splitter going to Scart lead adapter


Windows Media CentreLinuxMCE
IR Reciever Reciever built into the case. I believe it's one that came with the windows MCE controler USBUIRT
IR Remote Windows Media Centre Remote USBUIRT
IR Keyboard Microsoft Remote Keyboard for Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition - Keyboard - wireless - infrared - integrated mouse, integrated remote control None (PS2 keyboard used for testing)

Other Input Methods tried for LinuxMCE Machine

Web Orbitor run from my laptop
Windows Mobile Orbitor installed on my XDA Orbit 2 Mobile phone
Windows Mobile Orbitor installed on my XDA IIi (my old mobile)
Wii Mote - I gave up on this quite quickly


Picture Quality

DVD Playback

Windows Madia Centre

The DVD drive on the eBox is tempromental and works intermitently. When it does work and play back the DVD the playback and picture quality is fine with no juttering and bright colours.


I have managed to play back DVD's both direct from disc and after being ripped. I was impressed that ripped DVD's retain the full DVD structure including menus etc. Playback is fine with no juttering. Unfortunatly the picture quality it not that good. The resolution is fine but the colours are all washed out and not bright at all.

--Totallymaxed 17:26, 3 May 2009 (CEST) You are using S-Video for output. I would suggest moving to DVI or HDMI you will see a massive improvement.

Recorded TV Playback

Windows Madia Centre

Most of the time the playback is fine. However sometimes the playback is jerky and completly unwatchable. I think this is when the program was recorded when both tuners were in use. The colour is normal.


Again the colour is very washed out. I have not come across any other problems with playback.

Live TV

Windows Madia Centre

Watching Live TV has always been fine, except sometimes when both tuners are in use. When this happens playback is jerky.


Watching Live TV works fine.


General Control

Windows Madia Centre

General control is via the windows media centre remote.


The main method of control is via the media centre remote. I have also got an orbiter working on my laptop. I am having problems getting my XDAIIi and Orbit 2 working via bluetooth.

Listening to Music

Windows Madia Centre

Music can be listed by Album, Artist, Playlist, Songs, Genres and Search. You browse albums by flicking through the album covers and it is all pretty easy. You can select a album and play it all of select an individual song on the album. The default option for selecting a song is to simply play it but personally I would have had 'add to queue' as the defauly option as I keep losing my playlist I built up by accidently selecting a song to play rather than add to queue. Playlist management is not so good. You can't add a song to an already saved playlist easily. I would have designed it so thatyou can open a playlist, make edits and have them saved automatically. Once you have music playing you get a now playing box in the bottom left corner which you can select, alter the playlist, move between songs and save the playlist.


For the most part I didn't apreciate how good the Windows Media Centre 'My Music' UI was untill I started to try and use the LinuxMCE one. Album art only seems to have appeared for one or two my albums. Unlike MCE where you scroll through the album covers you scroll through a list of music on the right. The album covers appear but in an unused area of the screen. The UI is not nearly as pretty. There is also no 'Add to Queue option' Once you select one song and start playing it you are able to select aonther song and play that. That has the effect of adding it to the playlist but it will then stop playing it and start playing what you have selected. I havn't been able to find a way around that. When you select a play list that you have saved it opens it up and starts playing it. You can select more tracks to play (again this untrupts playback) and then you are able to save the playlist. Unfortunatly just like with Windows Media Centre it dosn't remember the playlist name and you have to re-enter it. I don't understand why they can't give you save and save as options.

My Prefrence

Neither UI is exactly what I want but I prefer the Windows way of doing things over LinuxMCE because:

  • It looks much better
  • You scroll through actual album covers not the songs
  • There is an add to queue option (Althogh this should be the default behaviour)

Watching Recorded TV

--Totallymaxed 17:32, 3 May 2009 (CEST) All the comments related to TV here are as far as i can see related to MythTV and its intergration into LinuxMCE...vdr in most cases addresses the functional critique leveled...but it still will not look like Windows MCE.

Windows Madia Centre

When you press the recorded TV button you see a list of recorded programs. This list can be viewed:

  • Grouped and sorted by Title -> When you go into an item you see all the recorded shows then into the item
  • Sorted by Date recorded -> Selecting takes you direct to an item

Once an item is selected you can see information about it including play and delete options. At any time during the program you can press the i (more) button on the MCE remote. This brings up a mini menu which includes Restart and Delete This makes finding and selecting a program to watch very quick and easy and once you have finished watching it deleteing it is very easy.


The Skip forward button skips forward about a 30secs at a time which is perfect. The skip back button skips back about 10secs (or something like that) This makes back tracking easy, you skip forward until you are past what you want to see then you skip back. You usally only have to end up watching 5 or so secs before you are back in the program.


LinuxMCE is quite diffrent. Pressing the recorded TV button brings up a list of all the TV and films in the system. Unfortunatly the Films are listed here. (It would be nice to have them on a sepreate menu.) You have more options for filtering content. LinuxMCE does not group the items by title. So I have set The Simpsons for seris record and I have pages on the list where every single item just says 'The Simpsons'. This makes getting to the content far more difficult. I thought I could lessen the pain of this by sorting by date recorded. Unfrotunatly LinuxMCE only has options to sort by:

  • Recently Used
  • File Name
  • Title
  • Preformer
  • Genere
  • Director

This makes finding the show I want to watch time consuming. When you select an item you see a menu with:

  • Play
  • Close
  • Delete
  • Move

options. You then select Play and the show will play. Unfortunatly while you are watching the show there is no way to get directly back to this menu. I like to watch a show then delete it afterwards. To do this I need to go back to the recorded TV guide and navigate through the menu, refind the show and select delete. This is a pain and it is easy to accidently select the wrong show. This is a pain espically when you have a lot of shows that just appear on the list with the title "The Simpsons" and you need to work out which you watched and want to delete. LinuxMCE has a 'unviewed only' option which does help but sometimes I want to keep something I have viewed.


Skip forward and back use the same interval. I hadn't realised how useful the Windows Media Centre way of doig it was until I tried to use LinuxMCE. Skiping back the same amount means that you generally have to put up with 20/30 secs. I havn't got the advert skipping feature working. The playback bar dosn't look very good either. It's a bit to complicated.

My Prefrence

Grouping recorded shows by title makes finding the program easy. Not having this in LinuxMCE is a pain. I am excited about the advert skipping but on the whole the Windows way is far far beter than what I have got LinuxMCE doing. It's just such a pain to select a program. It also dosn't look nearly as good, the screen is cluttered.

Watching Live TV

Windows Madia Centre

I usally select a channel from the guide. This is quite easy, you just press the guide button, use the up and down arrows to select what you want to watch and press ok. The guide takes up the whole screen and whenever you go into it is starts you off at what's on now.


The guide button dosn't do anything until you first press the live tv button. Once you are in live TV the guide button works. I reset the guide to display 10 chennels which made it far easier to use. For some reason the guide lets you scroll into the past. I don't see why this is useful in fact it's sometimes confusing. I also can't seem to select a channel direct from the Guide. I have to remember the number then type it in. I can't understand why.

My Prefrence

Again I prefer window to LinuxMCE it's not easy and the UI is annyoing almost all the time. It's hard to get it to do what you want.

Scheduling Recordings

Windows Madia Centre

This is best done from the guide. You can press the record button the controller once when the program is selected to record that showing. If you press again you record the whole series and if you press once more it cancels the record. You can also search for the show and record that way. Although I never use this feature.


I have selected my recordings form the guide. I am impressed by the range of options but I am still confused as to which series record option I should use.

My Prefrence

I like the range of functions availible in LinuxMCE but I wish the default ones would just be the ones that I want.


Windows Madia Centre

I have been running this machine for a number of years. In order for windows media centre to recieve the guide listenings automatic updates must be turned on. The computer remains on standby for most of the time. Every now and again the automatic update or antivirus require a reboot. There have been a number of occasions where the update has effected the system problems with playback started after an update.


I have only had this system up and running for a couple of weeks but there have been no stability issues so far.

What my mate said

I had a friend come over who was very intrested with what I was doing with my LinuxMCE computer. I gave him a side by side demo of LinuxMCE and Windows Media Centre. To say LinuxMCE didn't impress would be an understatement. Due to the issues listed above he thinks I'm wasting my time with LinuxMCE.