The Top Reasons why Media Portal is the Greatest HTPC App (1 Viewer)

Steve Warner

Portal Member
July 16, 2005
I began building my HTPC about a year ago in the Summer of 2004. I started out with MyHTPC software, which was highly configurable and well supported, but sorely lacking in user-friendliness. When it was discontinued, I switched to Meedio, but the lack of TV support eventually sent me looking for an alternative. I found SnapStream's BeyondTV and Beyond Media to be rock solid programs that offered a terrific balance between high-end features and ease of use. But the lack of integration and cooperation between the two programs (for example, BeyondTV recordings would lock up the computer when played back in Beyond Media) coupled with some glaring function oversights sent me once again on the quest for better HTPC software.

I found GB-PVR next. GB-PVR was like a combination of Beyond TV and Beyond Media. And while it had successfully integrated the PVR with Media Player features, most of its features were half-baked and felt incomplete. That led me to Media Portal.

Media Portal is without a doubt the finest HTPC software available. It trumps all other programs, both open source and commercial. I am writing this post as a thank you, and as an encouragement to users of other HTPC software who are considering Media Portal. Here, then, are my top reasons why Media Portal is the greatest HTPC application available.

1. Successful PVR and Media Player integration. Meedio and Beyond Media users, I'm talking to you. Meedio promised a television module shortly (i.e. one month) after Essentials launched. And yet more than half a year later it still doesn't have a functioning TV program. It is, for all intents and purposes, just like Beyond Media. Speaking of which, Beyond Media has seen little development in the past year, with only a 0.1 upgrade being released to fix minor bugs. Users on SnapStream's forum are now asking of the app is dead. While the top two commercial HTPC companies struggle to provide users with a unified HTPC solution (which will undoubtedly cost users $$$), Media Portal has already done so in a stable, solid package. Bravo, Media Portal. You've done what the big boys seemingly can't.

2. Active development. While the development of most other PVR and Media software seems to be stagnating, Media Portal's development is unquestionably alive and well. The newest release ( offers a wealth of new features, and a list of what is planned for the next upgrade is already on the table.

3. Attention to detail. There are things that you might like about your existing HTPC software, but until you try out Media Portal, you have no idea what you're missing. For example, movie and television show descriptions which are longer than the available viewing area will automatically scroll to accomodate reading. When I first saw this, I almost fell off my couch, I was so impressed. Likewise, long file names will scroll, allowing you to see exactly what you are viewing. Other apps cut these file names off, leaving you wondering what you're doing. Remote control in Media Portal is more robust than any other HTPC software I have encountered. While most apps simply patch the IRRemote.ini file for the Hauppauge, Media Portal actually has internal support for this and other remotes. And the support isn't limited to the available buttons. For example, the blank button on the Hauppauge remote is used as a Function button, switching the actions of other buttons on the remote. This not only extends the control you have over the software, it ensures that your initial investment does not become dated just because a new remote appears. The list of tiny details which make you say, "I've always wanted my other HTPC software to do that!!" and make your HTPC kick TiVO back to the stone age is longer than the feature list of HTPC software.

4. Configuration without the headache. Of the commercial apps, Beyond Media is is perhaps the easiest to configure. However it sorely lacks the ability to customize and tweak its settings. Meedio offers just the opposite. You can customize just about everything, but setting it to do even simple things (like recognize the contents of a new CD or DVD) is a major pain. GB-PVR is easy to configure, but it some of the most basic configuration settings (such as screen position and overscan) are surprisingly absent. Media Portal provides the best of all worlds, offering a wealth of options for those who wish to tinker coupled with the ease of Configuration Wizards.

5. The Best Media Player. You'd think it wouldn't be hard to provide a competent media player with your HTPC software. Features such as recognition of multi-part files, resume of partially completed files, automatic recognition of source aspect ratio and support for external players should constitute the basics. But for some reason, other programs simply can't get this worked out. Meedio offers many of these features, but unfortunately, before media files can be played, they must be added to the program's database. You can't just pop in a DVD with a few Divx files and expect Meedio to handle it. On the contrary, you must tell Meedio to add the files on the DVD to its database by manually placing a button out on the main interface. Only then will Meedio Essentials be able to see the contents of the disc. Beyond Media has a respectable media player. It offers multi-speed fast forward and rewind as well as volume control right in the media player. But unfortunately, it does not support multi-part files. And worse, its navigation interface has a tendency to disappear altogether, and a total reboot of the system doesn't always bring it back. GB-PVR has an adequate media player. But it will not recognize the aspect ratio of the source file and aspect ratios (such as anamorphic widescreen) must be manually entered into the config file by deciphering the x and y screen coordinates. Media Portal is the only software out there that delivers all of the expected features. It takes the best aspects of every other media player and completely elimates the bad ones. And if that weren't enough, it goes 10 steps further by providing features that I've yet to see or even *hear* of in other software. Variable FFWD and RWD up to 32X. Chapter points for all media files (not just DVDs). On-screen brightness, contrast and color adjustments. The ability to jump to a specific point in a movie simply by typing the hours and minutes in with your remote. Variable length forward and back skip (i.e. skip forward 15 seconds at the click of a button). Movie info and cover art at the click of a button. The list goes on and on. I defy the user of any other HTPC software to name a better media player. And since so much of an HTPC's purpose is media playback, I'd say without hesitation that the media player in Media Portal is reason enough to ditch your current HTPC software.

6. Reliability. I'll never forget last week. I installed Media Portal's pre-release of And then I saw that the final release version would be available on July 17th. "There's no way," I thought. I've been on the beta team of several different software companies. And I've seen how delivery dates go. You set a target, then you miss that target by about 3 to 6 months. And even then, the software is buggy and has problems. So I probably don't have to tell you how stunned - literally stunned - I was when on the 17th, a message appeared on the Media Portal website saying that there was a slight delay (for which there was an apology) but that nonetheless, the final release would be available later in the day. I have NEVER heard of anything like this. I simply don't know what to say. While other developers continue to make hollow promises of new features or updated software, Media Portal is out there getting the job done and putting those features in the hands of its users. Amazing. Simply amazing.

7. Free forever. If you look at the commercial market for HTPC software, you'll find programs like SageTV, Meedio, Beyond TV and Got All Media. Yet all it takes is to download and try the demo for these programs to realize how poorly they compare to Media Portal. When you consider, then, that Media Portal is free, not just for a trial run, but really free, and when you consider that it not only does what the commercial programs do, but it does those things *better*, you will come to the conclusion like I did that Media Portal is the single greatest HTPC out there.

Media Portal is already the most robust, easy-to-use, and full-featured HTPC software out there. Period. And as its feature list continues to grow, Media Portal will continue to leave the competition in the digital dust. I want to say thank you to all of the people who have put so much effort into making this software. You have my greatest respect, admiration, and thanks.


Portal Pro
December 7, 2004
United Kingdom
Excellent stuff Steve!

It would be awesome if you were to consider using your writing skills further to prepare a magazine article perhaps?


PS Number 6!!! ;)


Retired Team Member
  • Premium Supporter
  • February 23, 2005
    Tulsa, OK
    Home Country
    United States of America United States of America
    Well written post.

    Steve - Will you be working on any skins? I think with your 3D talent it would be great to see some "interesting" images on a new skin design!


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