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A Cord Cutter’s Guide to Open Source Media Centers
One of the perks of being a cord cutter is that it often makes you look outside the box. Seeking out a cable TV alternative naturally forces you to think creatively, and many of us start to like it. If you’re the kind of person looking to expand on their cord cutting arsenals, one of the best places to start is the home media center.
A drawback to the digital revolution is that companies like Google and Apple don’t like you sharing purchased content between competing devices; and if you have (for example) an Apple iPhone and an Android tablet, that can be very annoying.
What is a Media Center?
Media centers allow you to access any video, music, or image file from any device connected to your home network. So if there’s a movie on your iPhone that you want to watch on the Android tablet, you will be able to effortlessly stream that movie to your tablet.
Sounds cool right? Well it gets even better; most digital media centers are FREE. No monthly fees, no subscriptions, none of that junk. If you’re thinking about setting up your own media center, here are a few free ones that you should consider:
Windows Media Center
If you have an older version of Windows (IE not Windows 10 or 8), then your computer automatically comes with one of the best media centers around: Windows Media Center. Built with ease of mind, Windows Media Center is both simple and intuitive. It can read most media types and has very little difficulty in sharing content accross all your devices; including gaming consoles.
It’s also incredibly easy to set up a TV Tuner card with Windows Media Center; which allows you to watch and record OTA television from your computer. If you have Windows Media Center on your computer, you definitely need to play around with it and see what it can do.
Formerly known as XBMC, Kodi is one of the oldest active media centers and has been hailed as one of the first open source media centers. Kodi was originally designed to work with the first Xbox and has since branched out to almost every device on the market (although ironically not the Xbox anymore).
Kodi has a wide array of bells and whistles in the form of extensions and can even integrate the popular gaming platform Steam. It’s not quite as simple as other media centers but it also is not as difficult either. If you want something stable, tested, and capable of a number of tasks; give Kodi a shot.
Want to learn more? Check out: Cord Cutter’s Guide to Using Kodi as your Open Source Media Center
Plex is a program that initially started off as an XBMC off-shoot that later developed into its own full blown media center. Plex is perhaps one of the most polished media centers on the market; both in design and scope. It is also one of the more difficult media centers to setup. But once set up, Plex performs admirably.
In addition to the standard features of a free media center, Plex also offers a premium subscription that gives you access to a slew of extra features. If you’ve got the patience, and a penchant for premium experiences, give Plex a perusal.
To learn more, take a read through our Plex Overview article.
MediaPortal is an up-and-coming media center that allows people to watch and record live television, access RSS feeds, check the weather/news, and more. There’s also a vibrant and helpful community behind MediaPortal; which is invaluable if you run into trouble with the program itself.
MediaPortal has also been optimized to run on slower machines; so if you’re looking for a junker PC to act as your media hub, MediaPortal will serve you well.
Choosing the Perfect Media Center
When it comes to choosing a media center, the most important aspect is how it will help you aggrigate the different tools you use to enjoy content. For some, Kodi might serve their interests best; but others may favor MediaPortal instead.
What matters most is YOUR satisfaction; so be sure to check out the media centers on today’s list and see which one suits you.
Sound off! Which media center do you prefer? Plex, Windows Media Center, or something else? Let us know in the comments below or send a message on social media!