Open-source media players are a rarity these days. In the past decade, the entire tv viewing experience has transformed, thanks to the introduction of smart TVs. However, an astounding 90% of the US population is still reliant on Cable and Satellite TV television as opposed to the streaming service. This means that there are millions of people in the States that rely on media centers for entertainment.
Be it a Home Theatre PC experience or exhibition demo machine, an open-source Media portal is one software that you don’t want to miss out on. People around the world have added a MediaPortal to the living room. Why? Because it does more than just playing DVDs and photo slideshows. You can record, watch a simultaneous program and use the TV card. I’m sure all of this might sound a little ancient to you but the majority of the population around the world still consumes media in this fashion.
What is MediaPortal?
MediaPortal is an open-source media player and digital content recorder. It’s a project similar to that of Windows Media Center. It provides a proper media experience with typical functionalities such as playing, pausing, recording live TV. Other than those tasks, you can play DVDs, music, videos, pictures and use it for other purposes. Similar to JRiver, MediaPortal is compatible with online video and music platforms such as Last.fm and thus you can consume content from that particular network.
Fun fact, did you know that Media Portal’s source code was inspired by Kodi’s earlier version known as XBMC. Nonetheless, the code has been rewritten and the platform has been returned to work specifically for Microsoft Windows. Unlike Kodi and MythTV which are popular for their cross-platform functionalities, MediaPortal is quite close-ended because of its commitment to Microsoft Windows.
Why should you use MediaPortal?
MediaPortal has plenty of appealing elements that lure the viewers towards it. However, today, I’m going to highlight a few of the points which make it a cool service.
Complete Media Management
MediaPortal isn’t a basic software that offers an ordinary experience. It’s open-source software that allows users to tweak settings as per their preference. It’s much more dynamic in its media management. You can connect it directly to your TV or any other displays. You can watch photos, listen to music or watch movies on a wide range of devices.
You can watch, record, and schedule live TV. You can play videos, DVDs, Blu-ray discs, you can stream radio, media, and TV connected to your network. You can control the HTPC using a remote. All in all, Mediaportal transforms your PC into a comprehensive media solution.
With MediaPortal, you get access to the platform in over 30 languages. You don’t have to install a third-party plugin or any additional software to choose your preferred language. This feature, in my opinion, is one of the standout features helping you connect with the service right away. Just choose your preferred language and you’re good to go.
Plugins & Skins
Though MediaPortal is just designed for Windows, it is not restricted when it comes to third party plugins & Skins. Part of what makes this platform great is its extensive plugins library helping you alter your media center is countless ways. For me, skins are more than just themes and wallpapers. They help personalize the entire experience – from display to user interface. MediaPortal has over dozens of skins for you to choose from. Each one integrates smoothly and can be updated using extensions.
TV & PVR Support
MediaPortal allows you to amplify your TV viewing experience through the most popular TV Engine and Personal Video Recorder (PVR). Though PVR has been effectively replaced by DVR in this day and age, you can still make the most of this service. Using the TV cards, you can go to everything that you’d normally do with TIVO, for free.
How to access MediaPortal?
Accessing and downloading MediaPortal is quite easy. Search for the term ‘MediaPortal’ in the search engine and you’d likely find the software on the first page of your search result. Alternatively, you can also use the link on the left, to access the website directly. In order to download the software, all you have to do is visit the website. Click on the download section and choose the software you want. The actual software is about 141 MB in size so it wouldn’t take more than 20-25 minutes to access it.
The design approach on MediaPortal is way better than what we saw on JRiver. Though the approach is outdated, it still feels leagues ahead than JRiver. The light blue, violet combination with white text looks quite cool.
The header section has a logo on the left and seven options on the right. These include ‘Home’, ‘Products’, ‘Contribute’, ‘Download’, ‘Documentation’, and ‘Forum’. Above these options, you can find a search bar. You can use this to find skins, plugins directly. Above the search bar, you have the Register/Login panel alongside language preferences. All these options are exactly what you’d find on modern streaming and DVR websites. It’s just the 3D logo on the left which makes it appear a little outdated.
The hero section on the website has eight different banners. I really like this particular section as you can get a lot of information about this service just by paying attention to the banners. The first section gives you a glimpse of the interface and thus you already know what to expect from the 141 MB package that you’d be installing later. This is way better than what I saw on JRiver. Towards the right, you have various sections such as ‘Latest News & Blogs’ and ‘Updated Plugins & Skins’.
The body section of the website has a short summary, helping you learn more about the service. Towards the right, you’ll find a GDN banner under which there’s a ‘Featured Screenshot’ section and ‘MediaPortal on Web’ section.
To elevate the user experience, there’s even an explanatory video under the summary to help you get started with the service. WHO AM I KIDDING? It’s just a video-ad which seems so tempting that you’d end up clicking it. At the time of writing this review, Google was pushing ‘Adobe’ on the network. I’m sure it’ll keep changing from time to time.
The reason why I’m not upset with this section is that the software is free. Unlike other top software that requires you to shell out $60- $100, MediaPortal is free.
The footer section of the website is divided into three sections. Towards the left, you have the ‘About’ section. At the center, under ‘Quick Navigation’, you have six options – ‘Home’, ‘About MediaPortal’, ‘Bugtracker’, ‘Download’, ‘Contact Us’, and ‘Our Partners’. Finally, towards the right, you have the ‘Support MediaPortal’ section with a link to PayPal where you can contribute towards this project.
You can access the inner pages by clicking on any option on the homepage. My favorite inner page is the Download page. Herein, you’ll find ‘MediaPortal 1’, and ‘MediaPortal 2’. This section will provide you in-depth information about each software. This is a helpful page where you’ll find a lot of useful resources along with the download link. And if we were to judge this by heatmap, this page would certainly be a hotspot.
Hardware & Network
MediaPortal is designed to work with various Windows configurations. You just need to connect the software to your TV and sound system. You don’t need any fancy or expensive device to be able to open MediaPortal. The functionality is quite similar to any other software that you’d usually use on your laptop or PC. You can even set up a separate Home Theatre PC (HTPC) if you feel like it.
MediaPortal is supported by a wide range of remotes. You can even use your own remote and configure it as per MediaPortal. You can assign keys and actions based upon your preference. MediaPortal’s IR Server Suite (IRSS) allows it to be used with 28 different remotes. From Wii to MacMini and iMON, the support extends to a variety of platforms.
Being able to customize your media center is the best feeling. You can choose from various skins and plugins and make the most of the software. On the home screen, you can choose between Home and Basic Home. You can customize it as per your needs. In either of these choices, you’d have considerable flexibility in regards to layout and style. You can add other helpful features such as weather forecasts, RSS feeds to the home screen.