Extending Media Center Into The Bedroom

For the last several years I’ve had a media center PC in my living room. I’m not sure how people get along without it.

Now that we’ve recently ditched paid cable, we’re down to four or five stations in the bedroom. No biggie, and it means we read more, but sometimes I’d like to watch a video in the bedroom.

I’ve looked at the WD Live (http://www.amazon.com/Western-Digital-Network-ready-Player-WDBAAN0000NBK-NESN/dp/B002KKFP9Y), which has gotten pretty good reviews. Near as I can understand things, I should just be able to use it to browse shared directories on the media center PC and plan whatever. That’s good.

However, I can also just get myself an Xbox 360 Elite for under $200. It is unlikely that I’d play any games on it (possible, but unlikely), but it does have a DVD drive in it for the occasional disc.

What else can the 360 do for me? Is it worth the price difference? What have other people used in similar situations?


Well the 360 has pretty good integration with netflix, but if you’re not going to play games then I can’t think of much else. One other thing to keep in mind is that although it works great as a media extender, they’re notoriously noisy, which is one of the main reasons I stopped using mine and bought a HTPC. The newer models might be a little quieter, but definitely check it out before buying.

The XBOX is notoriously unreliable and very noisy.

The XBOX360 can be an interface for Netflix On Demand. Although I haven’t found it to be noisy at all (we have one in the bedroom)l, you can also buy a Roku device, which does the same thing without the gaming capability for $99.

The other thing to remember if you want to use an XBox for Netflix streaming is that you need to maintain an XBox Gold membership: $40 or so a year. I have other devices (Tivo, Blu-Ray player, Play-On) that do it for free.

The LG BD 390 Blue-ray player I’ve got can stream from a PC; stream from Vudu, CinemaNow, and Netflix; stream from a Mac; and play Blu-Ray and DVD disks for about $300 without requiring a subscription to anything (except the streaming services you want to use), and it gets updates with new functionality fairly often.

My PS3 handles most of my media center needs too.

The Media Center Extender functionality built into the Xbox 360 is actually very nice if you like the Microsoft “Media Center” interface on the PC. It basically runs the exact same software on the server (the existing media center pc) but displays it on the Xbox. This is nice for a couple of reasons: first, when you are watching a show in one room and you decide to go finish watching it in bed, it just picks up exactly where you left off, and second, when you delete a show from one, it’s deleted from both, so you don’t have to go sifting through stuff you’ve already watched just because you watched it in a different room than you’re sitting right now.

I’m sure other networked media player devices have these options, too, but I think the way Media Center and Media Center Extender does it is particularly slick.

It used to be. Not so much anymore. Microsoft has finally seemed to pinpoint the problems and new Xbox 360s are pretty hardy. And to think it only took them a billion dollar loss to extend the 360 warranty for RRoDs to three years.

Regarding your idea, I actually currently use my Xbox 360 as a media center for my bedroom’s TV. I don’t have a coax jack in there so I actually have a TV tuner on my PC in the living room that sends the TV signal through my network (wirelessly) that ultimately allows me to watch TV in my bedroom. It’s pretty nifty. It has the added benefit of if you’re a Netflix subscriber you can stream all the “Watch Instantly” movies to your TV through the Xbox as well.

A word of warning if you want to use an Xbox360 to extend Media Centre, try and have a wired connection between the Xbox and the PC, wireless is slow and clunky in my experience.

So…coming back to this a couple weeks later and I may have shafted myself.

I got the top-end Roku. Set up in minutes with no problem. My main concern was getting my already-downloaded movies from my HTPC to my bedroom via a set top device.

I’m hosed, eh?


Not necessarily. It is specifically the combination of Media Centre interface and a wireless connection to the Xbox which is slow. When I’ve used the Xbox with a wireless connection using the Xbox’s own interface instead of Media Centre, it has worked a lot better. In short, try it out and see how you go.

Yeah…the part where I quoted you was just me being lazy. I got the Roku, and while it seems really neat, it seems like 98% of what I wanted it for (viewing stuff of an HTPC) is something it definitely doesn’t do.


Question: I have a PS3, but I think this might be similar. My PS3 is hard wired into the router. But my media is stored on my laptop which is connected wirelessly. Is this most likely why my video is streaming kind of clunkily?

Or is it a video card issue? What should I check to see where my bottleneck is?

It’s worse than that, it’s practically unusable with wireless.

Here’s my crazy situation:

I have a cable internet modem that goes directly to a wireless router.

My PC has a wireless network card. So does my Xbox 360. So does my Blu-Ray player.

My PC wireless? Flawless.
XBox Live? Flawless.
Streaming Netflix through the Blu-Ray player? Flawless.

Now it gets weird.

I can set up Windows Media Center just fine. PC sees Xbox, vice versa, everything seems happy.


When I try to use WMC on the Xbox (streamed from my PC) the whole thing chokes. Usually it times out trying to find the network connection. On the rare occasion I do connect, even browsing WMC from the XBox is impossibly slow - as in click, wait 60-120 seconds, then the cursor moves.

It gets even weirder.

If I simply share a file on the PC, I can connect and play it from my Xbox just fine. If I try to access the exact same file from WMC from the XBox - choke and die. It’s really bizarre.

WMC just simply doesn’t work wireless to wireless, even when simple fire sharing wireless to wireless does. And I have spent probably 4 hours tweaking different router, pc and xbox settings to try and make it work.

It’s just bad software at this point.

Yes, I was being generous. I haven’t had much to do with it really. I’ve tried streaming music from my PC to my Xbox using Window Media Player’s sharing function. It all worked very well except that WMP doesn’t see my itunes purchased music. I’ve done the same using TVersity on the PC to control the sharing and it worked fine. But when I try and use Media Center, it hangs just trying to scroll through the interface. My impression is that the Xbox actually uses the PC’s interface and there’s a lot of information transfer devoted just to the interface. It sucks and I wouldn’t recommend anyone use an Xbox as a Media Center extender unless they had a hard wired connection between the PC and the Xbox.

In other words, I agree, it’s software related.

I’m no expert on this stuff but I’d try connecting the laptop with an ethernet cable and see if that improves things, if it does then your bottle neck is the wireless, if not, you have other issues.

It’s not that you need a hard-wired connection, it’s that you can’t have two hops that are wireless. You have PC -> router that’s wireless and router -> Xbox is also wireless. That’s a recipe for disaster for network-intensive applications. The recommended setup is having the PC wired and the Xbox wireless (since the PC is generally in a location more conducive to running a wire).

I’ve used Media Center Extender over wireless extensively with no problems, but you need to follow the recommendation to only have one network hop be wireless.

That may be part of the problem, but I can play music with no trouble at all using a PC-wireless-router-wireless-Xbox connection as long as I’m not using Media Center for the interface. I can’t even browse my music library using Media Center, the software definitely bears some responsibility for the problem.

Another option is a dedicated Media center extender. They are rare though, but are usually cheaper than an xbox.

You can also build a small form factor PC just for video for $300, or go with a netbook that you can hook up to your PC and control with your remote control.

I would be inclined to use a PC instead on an Xbox, so I could watch Hulu.

The video card is irrelevant as the laptop is just sending data - it’s not doing anything that it knows is video related at all. Laptops also tend to have slower spinning hard drives for power efficiency, but with subsequently lower transfer rates.

If you’re just looking at SD video, then plugging the laptop into the router should fix your problem. If you want HD content then you may find you need to serve the video from elsewhere.

And in a general response to the OP, I’d go for a WD media device over a 360 any time. It’s tiny, purpose built and will play most video formats (aka codecs) out the box, plus it can be hacked to do other stuff too. The 360 is somewhat limited in what video formats it’ll play without having a meaty PC to transcode and serve the video to the 360.