Using XBMC with your HDTV


1st - Article Overview

First of all, the purpose of this article is to educate the masses on what XBMC is, what it can be used for, and especially how it can be used with the large number of HDTV's out there.

Myself being a recent newbie in this area, I found general information to be someone lacking in this area, so I thought I would post the knowledge I have acquired to make it easier for others.

I've organized this page with four short simple posts, which you can simply scroll down to read:

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2nd - What is XBMC?

For those of you who don't already know (from wikipedia):

Xbox Media Center (XBMC) is a free feature-rich open source media player / jukebox for the Xbox™ game-console - XBMC software program which plays video, music and displays pictures/images from the Xbox DVD-ROM drive, built-in harddisk drive, local-area-network or the Internet.

Simply put, if you're looking for a HTPC (Home Theater Personal Computer) that can play pretty much anything you can throw at it (including any video/audio file format on DVD, CD, or even on a network share) then why spend hundreds of dollars on building a HTPC? All you have to do is drop $100 on a used Xbox from eBay, do a softmod, and you're up and running in no time!

The purpose of this page is not to educate people on how to mod an Xbox, since there is an abundance of material on the net already covering this. However, if you're interested, please feel free to check out the following links:


3rd - XBMC and your HDTV

Not only does an Xbox with XBMC work amazing with a regular old CRT television, but the Xbox also works miracles with HDTV's.

For only $10 - $20 you can pick up some component cables off of eBay and the video card in your Xbox will beautifully display high definition 480p, 720p, or 1080i video. Although DVD's are only 480i (480p when upscaled), watching DVD's through XBMC will now allow your Xbox to automatically act as an upscaling DVD player for your HDTV. Buying a standalone DVD player that will do this can cost hundreds of dollars!

Another common feature that XBMC allows for is to stream DVD image files from a network share. This allows people to simply store their library of DVD's on a networked computer, instead of physically inserting the disk into the DVD drive of the Xbox.

A common misconception among people is that because the Xbox only has a Celeron 733 processor, it can only handle lower resolution video. This is not true. In fact, the Xbox can handle up to 960x540 resolution video! (HRHD - Half Resolution High Definition)

Using an excerpt from, this following chart shows the supported video formats and resolutions:

Codec / Resolution 352x288 480x576 720x576 960x540 1280x720 1920x1080
MPEG-1/MPEG-2 1 2 3
? 4
MPEG-4 ASP (XviD, DivX)

5 ?
MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) without Cabac & Deblocking


MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) with Cabac & Deblocking

6 7
WMV9 (Windows Media Video v3)


? = Undetermined (the Xbox-hardware may or may not be to slow to decode at an acceptable frame-rate)
1. aka PAL VCD - More Info
2. aka PAL SVCD - More Info
3. aka PAL DVD
4. aka TS (Transport Stream MPEG-2 Video Stream) - More Info
5. aka HRHD (Half Resolution High Definition) - More Info
6. aka Quicktime 720P HD
7. aka Quicktime 1080P HD

Therefore, now knowing this, I arrive to my main and forth point!


4th - Understanding TV scene tags

What is HRHD, you ask? A quick search on wikipedia will tell us:

HRHD (High Resolution High Definition) (also HR or HR.HDTV) is an acronym, often seen as part of the filename of TV shows shared on the Internet.

It refers to a standard of encoding video, meaning that the video signal was ripped directly from a HDTV broadcast, then down-sampled to approximately 960x540. While the horizontal resolution of 960 remains constant the vertical resolution can fluctuate up to 5% to provide clean cropping.

A HRHD encoding for a 40-55 minute TV show should be approximately 700MBs. It contains the original AC3 sound, which is often 5.1 channels, instead of the reencoded MP3 stream found in 350MB releases.

For example, if you missed this week's episode of Lost, you might look to download the episode via BitTorrent. However, many people do not realise that the most popular releases online often only have a video resolution of 624×352, and an MP3 audio stream of roughly 128kb/s. As we now know, this is hardly taking advantage of either your HDTV or your Xbox!

To help you understand, there are multiple common formats for TV scene releases. They usually include (

TVRip: Recorded from analog TV, lowest quality of all TV rips

DSRip: Recorded from Digital Satellite, good quality rip

PDTV: Recorded from Pure Digital Source, but not HDTV. The quality is similar to a DSRip

HDTV: Acceptable quality. Recorded from an HDTV source. Good video and sound quality. The video resolution is often 624×352, and the audio stream 128kb/s MP3. A 45 minute show is usually 350MB.

HR.HDTV: Very good quality. Recorded from an HDTV source. The video resolution is often around 960×540 which is half the size of the original HDTV broadcast. A 45 minute show is usually 700MB.

720p HDTV: The highest quality possible. Recorded straight from an HDTV source at 1280x720 resolution. A 45 minute show is usually 1400MB. XBMC will not be able to play this due to it's limited processing power and RAM, however, a higher powered HTPC or home computer should be able to display these higher resolution videos.

So now that you know your Xbox can handle HR HDTV, next time you miss that favorite TV show of yours, you'll be able to watch a much higher quality version of your missed show!

Thanks for reading!

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