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  #1  
Old 03-08-2009, 09:46 PM
Brent Brent is offline
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Roundtable Podcast: Windows MediaCenter vs. SageTV

UPDATE:
Okay folks. The podcast is complete and ready for a listen if anyone's interested. I joined four others in a debate/conversation on the merits of SageTV vs. Windows Media Center.

Hopefully I didn't misstate anything in the podcast, but if I did point them out by commenting here or on the HTPCentrc podcast website.

There is no way to really cover each difference with pros and cons of the two in an hour long podcast, but we covered many of the high points. I'll do a followup blog post next week on GeekTonic to get more detailed.

You can listen to the SageTV vs. MS Media Center podcast here

ORIGINAL POST:
Hi guys! I'm preparing to participate in a podcast this week where I debate several Microsoft Media Center users compared to SageTV. I've used SageTV for over a year and am very happy with it, but would love to get any other SageTV users input on their top-5 (or 10) advantages of SageTV over Vista Media Center and/or Windows 7 Media Center.

It should be noted that I'm a HTPC enthusiast first. So I'm not anti-MS Media Center by any means. But I do use SageTV for my home HTPC setup and that's where I think the best HTPC solution exists.

So if you can, tell me what you think is an advantage over VMC or W7 give me your opinions.
And if you have some good MS Media Center things that are advantages over SageTV those would be helpful for me to be prepared for as well.

I'll post a link to the podcast once it's up - I expect it to be a good one

Here's my compilation of SageTV Pros over MC thus far:
  • The SageTV HDExtender handles all media formats, can view ripped DVDs (VMC can’t as far as I know) and is cheaper.
  • Vista Media Center uses a proprietary format to record and so does W7
  • You can make your own “extender” using SageTV Client. Microsoft had promised they would come out with this and called it “Softsled”, but backed off of that promise a long time ago and we haven’t seen anything since. I have on server that has all of the tuner cards and hard drives in it that runs everything. Then I have a smaller HTPC that is quiet and fits in with the AV equip that actually runs the playback. It’s just an extra layer of flexibility.
  • SageTV is not dependent on any one OS. You can run it on Windows, Mac or Linux.
  • SageTV has much faster turnaround of beta cycles and is adding improvements, bug fixes and new features much more often than MS or Snapstream does.
  • Vista Media Center (if you buy it pre-packaged this way) has CableCard. Even with CableCard's warts, I know this is a huge advantage VMC has over the competition although this could be changing soon with the Hauppauge HD-PVR device (crossing fingers and toes for luck here)
  • Playback on Vista Media Center seems much more responsive and smooth than SageTV (with very powerful hardware, I still can't get SageTV to run smooth in VMR9 so I've resorted to Overlay)
  • Vista Media Center has a nice Sports Lounge feature that shows a "real-time" scoreboard of sports that you can click on and either read more about or even tune directly to that channel (I really wish Sage had something like this!)
  • SageTV easily supports >2 total tuners out of the box. I believe Vista Media Center only supports 2 but may support more with some crazy registry hacking.
  • SageTV supports Online Services such as Youtube and podcasting out of the box

Last edited by Brent; 03-13-2009 at 08:43 AM.
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  #2  
Old 03-08-2009, 10:46 PM
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MeInMaui MeInMaui is offline
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  • SageTV has placeshifter and extenders have placeshifter mode
  • SageTV doesn't support any form of broadcast flag, so no risk of recordings being blocked, intentionally or not.
  • I don't think cable card is such a big advantage since it requires purchase of a complete system.
  • SageTV can play Blu-ray main movie via HD200
  • SageTV can record satellite in HD via HD-PVR. (Where is that DirecTV tuner again?)
  • SageTV supports the R-5000 mod.
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  #3  
Old 03-08-2009, 10:51 PM
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mcaron1234 mcaron1234 is offline
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SageTV is interested in input from its users and addresses bugs quickly.
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  #4  
Old 03-08-2009, 11:05 PM
topperdude topperdude is offline
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Disclaimer: I do not use SageTV or Vista/W7 Media Center but am following SageTV with great interest, especially for its Blu-Ray playback capabitlity (already in Beta) and Hulu (hopefully coming soon).

Anyways, so here goes:
1. SageTV seems to have better QAM support - Vista only seems to have this with TV Pack and W7 might have better support IIRC. Although Vista has CableCard support, I am not sure if its a big advantage for MS - it might be an advantage for people with Cable TV whereas the SageTV/HD_PVR solution would work for both Cable TV and Satellite TV customers (once it is setup correctly, I guess).
2. SageTV seems to have better support for a wider variety of tuner cards, including those that use software encoders compared to Windows' media center solutions (although I am not sure if my old All-in-Wonder Radeon would work with SageTV).
3. I vageuly remember reading a thread in these forums that SageTV can be configured to stream pretty much any online audio/video content (similar to XBMC's .strm files containing URLs of the online a/v feed?). OTOH, Windows MC does not allow this.

One thing I think Windows might have an advantage over SageTV could be better integration of WindowsMC with software/plugins for control of other devices such as lighting, security system, etc?

Just my $0.02 from the top of my head!
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  #5  
Old 03-08-2009, 11:28 PM
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SageTV is FAR MORE agile in terms of getting new features and hardware support to beta than MS ever has. It is one of the main reasons I left the MCE/VMC fiasco.
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  #6  
Old 03-09-2009, 06:25 AM
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- HD100 and 200 are silent. (vs. loud XBOX)

- If you do not like the Sage UI you can alter it or completely replace it.

- VMC UI is perceived by many to be "prettier", "more modern", etc. You did not mention that but obviously are aware of the argument.
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  #7  
Old 03-09-2009, 06:30 AM
PLUCKYHD PLUCKYHD is offline
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Just coming from media center used since 2002 I believe (whenever it first arrived) here are the pros and cons.

ps- windows 7 ultimate and tv pack ultimate support 4 of each tuner type without any hacks

pros to sage

1. no drm- I had the cable card solution and yes wasted money on a oem system only to be bitten by the drm bug. Sage has no drm plain and simple
2. The ability to playback more formats on the extender on sagetv(windows 7 is allot better at format support but allot of it is transcoded and then sent to the extender we will never see native dvd or blu ray support end of story. hell they don't even have native blu ray playback on w7. Cyberlink has a new plugin for w7 but far from native)
3. The extenders are small in comparision and quiet on sagetv ( I don't consider the dma 2100 a valid extender doesn't support h.264 and mpeg 4 for livetv and it is terribly slow compared to xbox 360)
4. the customizabilty of sagetv, the ability to skin however you want and put buttons wherever you want huge advantage. WMC might look better but it is not customizable by any means. Menu mender got it somewhat customizable but windows 7 broke that.
5.online tv is actually usable on sagetv. The online section of WMC is a joke no native youtube or others.
6. Microsoft seems to treat WMC as it's evil little stepchild putting it second to the xbox 360 needs constinently. The xbox 360 has native hd netflix support but that doesn't work in media center and it supports more codecs outside of the media center interface then in it. (This is changin a little in W7 but still.)
7. This is the barn burner for me no integration with WHS like sagetv. I mean come on due to the lack of softsled I guess is their man reason, but still not even an option for people like me that use 100% extenders, but then again I see Microsoft's thinking why make 2 things that work together

now the cons
1. Channel changing is slower with the hd-pvr than cable card even the hdhomerun tunning seems slower than wmc. Don't have my r5000 tell the end of this week so I can't say there but I read it is slow as well. (this doesn't bother me too much as 90% of my viewing is recordedtv.)
2. No real native support for hdtv in it's purity unless using the r5000 mod. (but then again the only native in media center is cablecard and the drm shoots that down)
3. I do miss the sports feature of WMC. I will probably really miss it during the basketball tourney. Sage needs something like this the ability to watch one game and have all the scores in real time around the screen is nice.
4. The instant netflix hd support on the xbox 360 was nice although not integrated into media center (that is microsoft putting media center second again)
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  #8  
Old 03-09-2009, 08:45 AM
Clift Clift is offline
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1) SageTV has the network encoder. So, theoretically, any source that can be represented in a graph in graphedit can be a tuner. This is huge for security cams, web cams, etc as well as new capture sources that may or may not be supported.

2) SageTV listens to the needs of their customers/adds features that are relevent TODAY

3) SageTV runs on Windows Home Server

3) Upgrading SageTV does not necessitate purchase of a completely new Operating System. This is relevent TODAY because even though Windows 7 will (maybe) support the HD PVR, it will require waiting until August at least AND the purchase of a new Operating System for those of us who don't acquire software from unscrupulous sources.

4) Tech support response times are exceptional

cons:
1) UI is not as nice. It took me a long time to get over that, and I wasn't even using VMC

2) I hate the fact that when watching LiveTV the program stops before the next one starts. Where I live, it's pretty routine for programs to end late and start on time, so the switching is a pain because sometimes important info gets cut out.

3) The playback isn't as polished when using an HTPC (this is not an issue when using the extenders)
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  #9  
Old 03-09-2009, 09:03 AM
wayner wayner is offline
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MS has never supported OTA ATSC for Canadians even though we use the same system as the US and most Canadians can receive US based OTA channels.

CableCards only work for US customers - here in Canada cable companies will not give you a CableCard so the only way to get cable channels into an HTPC is with an HD-PVR or a R5000 modded box.

Addins for Sage (Comskip,Transcode, SRE, etc.) can be much better integrated into the system.
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  #10  
Old 03-09-2009, 11:38 AM
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GKusnick GKusnick is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PLUCKYHD View Post
2. No real native support for hdtv in it's purity unless using the r5000 mod.
Not true. Sage has built-in support for direct digital HD capture from ATSC and clear QAM sources.
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  #11  
Old 03-09-2009, 12:23 PM
PLUCKYHD PLUCKYHD is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GKusnick View Post
Not true. Sage has built-in support for direct digital HD capture from ATSC and clear QAM sources.
It is true I just didn't clearify premium hdtv (non encrypted)
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  #12  
Old 03-09-2009, 12:54 PM
Brent Brent is offline
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What an awesome list so far guys. I'm always impressed by the SageTV community. Obviously a good number of SageTV users are former users of some other HTPC software so your input on the pros and cons are perfect for helping me prepare for the podcast.

Keep em coming if you think of anything more. I definitely know there is no one perfect HTPC solution so I'm open to not only the advantages SageTV has as well as the warts.
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  #13  
Old 03-09-2009, 12:57 PM
wayner wayner is offline
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It might be an idea to develop a matrix of characteristics to compare the main PVR software. The only problem with that is that some features are FAR more important than others and it is hard to get that across in a big checklist of features - for example I would not even consider a system without hardware extenders.
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  #14  
Old 03-09-2009, 12:59 PM
Brent Brent is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wayner View Post
It might be an idea to develop a matrix of characteristics to compare the main PVR software. The only problem with that is that some features are FAR more important than others and it is hard to get that across in a big checklist of features - for example I would not even consider a system without hardware extenders.
I've started a comparison matrix more than a few times - and every time I do it, I get so caught up in the details that I never finish. That and the fact that many features change faster than I can keep up.

But I still hope to do a good one eventually. It is an excellent idea indeed.
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Old 03-09-2009, 02:20 PM
mikesm mikesm is offline
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I'll try not to duplicate the ones listed before:

Pros:

Multiplatform - Sage is one of the few DVR media center packages that run on Macs, a big win for all apple users.

Supports multiple storage volumes for recordings, which really healps for dealing with large storage volumes. VMC is really not very good at this, and forces the NAS to deal with volume management and moving recordings around, which is also problematic with DRM'd recordings.

Excellent hardware support for IR and remote hardware - you are pretty much stuck with the microsoft remote functionality with VMC - not too bad unless you'd like to assign hard buttons for lots of other functions, or take advantage of soft buttons on a harmony remote. Sage lets you assign a ton of extra functionality to buttons which would have to be accessed through menus in VMC

Automatic transcoding of media for playback - helpful not just for video but for playings different audio formats on extenders and laptops so they don't have to have all the relevant codecs used.

Full integration of automatic commercial skip without a plugin being required.

On the VMC side:

Much better 3rd party developer support. Just look at the plugins for Netflix, PowerDVD (for Bluray playback), photo printing, home automation, etc... Users build the plugins for Sage, but the vendors do it for VMC.

Better UI for viewing tons of DVD's and better support for discovering album art and automatic mounting of .iso's for DVDs and BR's with MyMovies (heck, MyMovies alone drives a ton of people to use VMC).

Much better support for internet audio, and subscription music services. Online music support on the Sage platform is sorely lacking.

Better framework for developing "pretty UI" in plugins (I know this is controversial, but part of the reason VMC plugins look good is that it's easy to make a plugin that looks good - SageMC is a big step in the right direction, but at the same time fragments the developer community into building on two very different UI platforms, a bad thing given it's such a small community to begin with).
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  #16  
Old 03-09-2009, 02:33 PM
cncb cncb is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikesm View Post
Better framework for developing "pretty UI" in plugins (I know this is controversial, but part of the reason VMC plugins look good is that it's easy to make a plugin that looks good - SageMC is a big step in the right direction, but at the same time fragments the developer community into building on two very different UI platforms, a bad thing given it's such a small community to begin with).
I disagree unless something has changed. When I looked into creating plugins for VMC they offered no re-usable UI elements. For example, if you wanted to just "use" a thumbnail list like they have in various parts of the UI you would have to build it from scratch using the "hard-to-understand" (my opinion) MCML programming.
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Old 03-09-2009, 03:14 PM
mikesm mikesm is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cncb View Post
I disagree unless something has changed. When I looked into creating plugins for VMC they offered no re-usable UI elements. For example, if you wanted to just "use" a thumbnail list like they have in various parts of the UI you would have to build it from scratch using the "hard-to-understand" (my opinion) MCML programming.
I am pretty sure there are a fair number of examples out there, from MSFt and others that you could use as a basis for making a plugin. Just googling founda a couple within 5 minutes. It is much simpler if you are using VMC only, and not trying to be compatible with MCE 2005, plus the developer toolkit for windows 7 MC just got released and comments seem to indicate it's an improvement as well.

In any case, we have existence proofs for a ton of plugins that all seem to have very compatible look and feel and are regarded well by users. But I am not a developer so what I heard is 2nd hand info.
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  #18  
Old 03-09-2009, 03:54 PM
cncb cncb is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikesm View Post
In any case, we have existence proofs for a ton of plugins that all seem to have very compatible look and feel and are regarded well by users.
I don't dispute that there are a lot of plugins out there but that doesn't mean it is "simple" or "easy". I'm sure the vendors put significant time and resources into creating plugins and many of them charge money for the end user. In my opinion, Sage is easier to create a consistent-feeling plugin. Maybe Win7 is different, though.
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  #19  
Old 03-09-2009, 04:00 PM
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Jeff Kardatzke (and the rest of the SageTV dev team) vs Microsoft bueracracy/politics.
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  #20  
Old 03-09-2009, 05:25 PM
tpboyce tpboyce is offline
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1) Sage listens to customers
2) Support for HDTV without cablecard
3) Extenders that work
4) DVD streaming to extenders with menus
5) True HD/DVD quality.
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