Is there a decent alternative to XBMC?

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tomfumb Offline
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Post: #1
I've spent a bit of time trying to get XBMC working on either XP or Ubuntu but unfortunately my hardware (IBM Thinkpad X31 - 1.6 ghz, 1.5 gb, ATI Mobility RADEON M6C-16h) just doesn't seem up to the job.

My graphics card isn't up to much and it seems that the CPU can't make up the difference without maxing-out and dropping frames when video is full-screen at 1024 x 768. The CPU is very close to 100% utilised idling in the 'home' screen. What's irritating is that VLC can play video in full-screen using only 15% of CPU with no trouble. From a little reading it seems like a fundamental issue with a 'game loop' that is maxing out my CPU (although I didn't think this should affect video playback, but the process monitor doesn't lie).

I have looked into XBMC alternatives but most seem to be either just PVR-focused or forked from the original XBMC, and therefore have similarly high hardware requirements. The only reason I want decent media center software is for the interface and the ability to queue video and audio from network shares / online without using something like WMP or Winamp.

Can anyone suggest an alternative to XBMC that has similar functionality but doesn't have such outrageous hardware requirements?

Thanks, Tom
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fallenae Offline
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Post: #2
Get rid of the antique and buy a cheap core 2 with couple of gig
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jhsrennie Offline
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Post: #3
XBMC will run on pretty low end CPUs. On a Revo 3600 with a single core 1.6GHz Atom it works fine. Even without hardware acceleration it will play 576p videos and some 720p depending on how it's been ripped. You should be able to get it running reasonably well on the Thinkpad.

You don't say what resolution the videos you have are. It's not the laptop screen size that makes the difference, it's the resolution of the video. If you're trying to play 720p or 1080p videos then you're probably out of luck, though you could configure XBMC to use VLC as an external player.

XBMC for Windows requires DXVA2 for hardware acceleration, while (I think) VLC uses DXVA1. That's probably why VLC will play videos while XBMC won't.

High CPU in the home screen is probably related to the video driver. Search the forums for "vsync" or just shrug and ignore it. High CPU at the home screen shouldn't affect video playback.

fallenae's reply is a bit flippant, but basically I agree. There comes a point where you have to concede that an old laptop is more use as a doorstop than a PC.

JR
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tomfumb Offline
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Post: #4
fallenae Wrote:Get rid of the antique and buy a cheap core 2 with couple of gig

First off, I appreciate your input, but did you by any chance have a hand in developing Windows Vista? In my opinion the answer to power-hungry software isn't new hardware, it's different software. That being said I think that XBMC is an excellent project, and it worked like a dream on my old Xbox, so I'm willing to spend some time trying to figure it out.

The resolution of the video I was testing with was 576 x 432 at 29 frames/second, so it REALLY shouldn't be necessary to fork out for a dual core machine just to play it. I'll spend some time looking into jhsrennie's suggestions and post back here if I have any joy.

Thanks, Tom
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cold_realms Offline
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Post: #5
Grab a cheap atom 330 or 510 ion based pc and that will run just fine. These are not in anyway outrageous hardware requirements. A Lenovo Q150 comes with an OS for what $400? A Zotac with ram and hdd and free linux should run you ~$250...

To really answer your question no there really isn't anything as good as XBMC. When you have an issue with it you have a few choices..
1) Live with it, maybe int he future something will change
2) If possible buy new hardware that meets the minimum specs for what your hoping to accomplish.
3) Learn how to code and submit a patch.
(This post was last modified: 2010-08-10 22:15 by cold_realms.)
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Hannes The Hun Offline
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Post: #6
the XBMC GUI needs openGL acceleration, VLC doesn't.

XBMCbuntu Frodo --> Foxconn Netbox 330i --> Onkyo TX-NR709 --> Sharp Aquos LC-46XD1E
XBMCbuntu FAQ <-- answers 99% of your questions.
Forum Search answers the rest.
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abfmdf Offline
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Post: #7
Your problem comes from your graphics card as others have pointed out. Personally I would wait a couple of weeks as Dharma should be released soon, which has a number of improvements which could make the difference
http://trac.xbmc.org/roadmap

Failing that I would look at numerous threads directly related to ATI graphics cards, as that obviously is not being used to its potential. I seem to remember reading somewhere that acceleration was possible but not in XP.

Worst case scenario if it fits your laptop, buy a crystal HD decoder off ebay
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cyberwizzard Offline
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Post: #8
Assuming you run linux I'd put my money on the video drivers: I had an on-board ATI 4XXX (or similar) and the Windows drivers are able to play 720p video without a hitch.

After waiting for over a year for vsync support (I had heavy tearing in almost any material DVD size and up) and decent openGL acceleration (the menu was slow as hell) I gave up on ATI.

They do not seem to want to supply decent drivers to unix customers. So I bought the cheapest nvidia card (23 euros) and found out that the menu was not supposed to be slowly animated: I suddenly had smooth animations and lo and behold: all tearing was instantly gone (without trying to tweak obscure settings in files all over my system as ATI requires). Not to mention that by simply flipping a switch in XBMC I suddenly had VDPAU acceleration...

Now I know that a laptop is fairly hard to upgrade and as such my story is not that helpful but as a suggestion I'd go with a different system altogether (I have no experience with GFX over USB but they seem expensive and most likely have poor performance).

Looking around I'd say the smallest budget system with an NVidia card would probably do it.
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zilexa Offline
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Post: #9
for less then 60 euros you can get a 780G based (or 785 or the newer 8xx) motherboard + mem + cpu wich will use less energy then your current setup and can play HD fine.
Your complain about power hungry software is correct I agree completely but it doesn't have to do with XBMC itself wich can run on slow and old hardware. High video resolutions is another story. There is so much you can do making software more efficient.
Your videocard does not support hardware acceleration, therefore the software (CPU) will have to do the work. But your cpu wasn't even suppose to be able to do that stuff.

Seeking for an alternative software to XBMC is not the solution to your problem... since XBMC doesn't have harsh pc requirements. You just want higher resolutions then your hardware setup will ever be capable of (I'd suggest 800x600 or lower).


edit: XBMC is also suppose to give a great home theater experience. I just read that you can play video fullscreen with VLC. Why do you want to use XBMC then? If you want software that can do more than just be able to play a video, it's not weird the software expects more from your hardware.

Did you try XBMC DSPlayer build? It has MPC-HC players method for video playback, but better.
(This post was last modified: 2010-08-12 15:46 by zilexa.)
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topfs2 Offline
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Post: #10
As many have stated here your problem is probably just the GPU. We use it both to present the GUI but also to offload some heavy lifting in video playback, namely YUV to RGB transformation and scaling of the picture. All of these can make any CPU crumble if you don't have either a GPU that can handle it or bad drivers (normally opengl falls back to software and cpu for stuff it doesn't have acceleration for).

So my suggestion is the same as other, try to check if your drivers are correct. Or if your on linux, try windows and install proper drivers.

If all of those fail and you really need an alternative I only know of a handfull which doesn't require GPU acceleration, my favorite is Enna but its very limited in terms of features compared to XBMC but a really nice upcommer.

Others are MythTV and Freevo but all of these are linux based. I've read that Elisa / moovida is supposed to run without GPU acceleration but I have a hard time believing this Smile

Cheers,
Tobias

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(This post was last modified: 2010-08-12 16:16 by topfs2.)
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softhunter Offline
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Post: #11
Dear all,

I have an old computer (Toshiba Equium S5050) with following specs:
- Pentium4 2.66GHz
- 512MB RAM
- Intel 845GV chipset/video
- HDD 40GB, SD video files are resided on a NAS
- 100Mbs LAN
- DVI output

Is it good enough to accommodate XBMC? Please enlighten me as I am hoping to put a new life onto the aging PC. Thanks.
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divingmule Offline
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Post: #12
softhunter Wrote:Dear all,

I have an old computer (Toshiba Equium S5050) with following specs:
- Pentium4 2.66GHz
- 512MB RAM
- Intel 845GV chipset/video
- HDD 40GB, SD video files are resided on a NAS
- 100Mbs LAN
- DVI output

Is it good enough to accommodate XBMC? Please enlighten me as I am hoping to put a new life onto the aging PC. Thanks.
Should do O.K. for SD, not so much for HD.
You should start a new post in the hardware discussion sub forum if you want any advice.
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fdlsys Offline
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Post: #13
I have 3 old Dell desktops with 2.8GHz P-IV, but they all have 2Gb RAM. I think that video chip is the same. They are all on Ubuntu and play EVERYTHING including h264 mkv @ 720p, without any very noticeable (upsetting) frame drops. No lip-sync problems either. Pure bliss.
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cable_guy Offline
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Post: #14
tomfumb Wrote:First off, I appreciate your input, but did you by any chance have a hand in developing Windows Vista? In my opinion the answer to power-hungry software isn't new hardware, it's different software.

I just want to say, I loved that Laugh
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