XBMC Media Center review

XBMC – what does that stand for? Best to get the inevitable question out of the way quickly, we think, because it’s an acronym for XBox Media Center. Yep. This software was originally an open source application for Microsoft’s PC hardware-based games console. Don’t let that put you off though – it’s now a cross-platform, award-winning media marvel and a suitable replacement for Front Row on any Mac OS X machine.

Like the Mac’s default media centre, XBMC takes over your interface when running – and is designed to be viewable at 10 feet. Bucking the open source trend for substance over style, XBMC has both. The interface is slick, colourful and easy to navigate. In fact, we’d go as far as suggesting that it’s an improvement over Front Row’s rather generic look and feel. No matter if you don’t agree with us though: XBMC is skinnable, meaning you can change the theme if you’re not keen on the default. Among those available to download is a spot on clone of Front Row.

XBMC has substance too, with DVD, digital video and audio playback all at your fingertips via your Apple remote control. As an open source project, media format support is typically widespread. You can play DVDs, VCDs and audio CDs. Esoteric audio formats like OGG and APE are supported alongside MP3 and AAC. Of course, it’ll handle QuickTime media formats, but also AVI and WMV.

OUR VERDICT

There are a handful of open source tools that we think are close to essential – including vector drawing program Inkscape and NeoOffice. We’ve just added XBMC to that list. An ideal tool for repurposing an old Mac mini as a media centre PC.

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