After personally going through all the craziness to setting up an HTPC with XBMC, I have to say yes, it’s worth it.
Well I have a smart TV, but the functions are limited and the onscreen functionality is quite limited, along with the fact it SLOWLY opens everything. Same problem with the bluray player – it has some of that functionality, but it’s slow as molasses.
My HTPC zooms by everything – because, well, it’s a full computer. It can run streams like it’s nothing, pause play and fast forward with ease. No jerkiness or other issues at all. I can access pretty much any audio stream, or video stream on the internet. That includes zShare, Youtube, Vimeo, anything really. Live feeds can also come through on my HTPC. XBMC has a plugin for Hulu, so I can watch TV shows from there as well as FOX news and any other feeds around. All while I’m sitting on the recliner.
I once dreamed of a day where all PC video content was available on my TV. With XBMC + and HTPC that dream has come true. I also have my Android phone setup with the XBMC remote app, this makes it very easy to input text when I need to while still having a “remote like” experience.
If you really want to go all out and have a TV subscription or other things of the like you can feed all that stuff through to your HTPC making it 1 Box for everything. Pop in 6TB of storage and you can completely get rid of all your movie racks. (Bluray might be a little more difficult, but if you convert them to X264 it’s not as much space.. but for now you might want to hold on to your blurays for optimal quality.)
If you want to play games on your TV that’s also possible if you build it with that in mind. It can be truly an “all in one” system, just like a PC is.
It can also grab stuff from usenet automatically with Sickbeard, Sabnzb, Couchpotato, and Headphones – a truly automated experience. If you just have Internet + an HTPC + Hulu and maybe usenet with other plugins you get something that can truly rival or beat cable.
The trick is setting it up. This can be quite a pain especially since PC’s aren’t designed to do this – even if you get a prebuilt machine that’s made to be an HTPC, there’s still quite a bit of setup involved. Another thing you have to consider is if you’re going to setup a hard drive server along with your small form factor HTPC or if you’re going to just throw the hard drives in your main HTPC.
It really can be quite daunting when you’re unfamiliar with the whole thing. It’s great once it’s setup, truly is, completely customizable, but as with most things, if it’s REALLY customizabe, it’s going to take a lot of work to setup.
I will be writing some guides in the future for setting up an HTPC – but I’m only going to touch on the basics to start with. Once you go all out crazy with hooking in sabnzb, android phones, sickbeard and other things it starts to get complex. It took me a bit of tinkering before everything worked seamlessly because there were errors I had to deal with, and guess what? I’m well versed in these types of things. I’ve setup servers, bitcoin mining machines, I even ran the original XBMC on my Xbox from the IRC channel Xbins. I’ve setup multiple hackintoshes. Modified ROMS for my Router, yea, I always run those. I also run modified kernels and such on my phone. So yes, I’m familiar with experimental software and server setups.
I’m also well versed in Linux. If it took me a couple hours to setup – it might take you much longer, but maybe you won’t run into errors and program issues like I did. Anyway, it’s just something to consider before you go deep with HTPC setups. I personally think it was totally worth the setup time, but as I said I’m very much used to these types of things.