Question about Plex/XBMC/Nito

Ok, so I now have ATv Black installed on my AppleTV. 

What extra features do Plex, XBMC and Nito provide that ATv does not?    I don’t want to install stuff if it doesn’t give some useful functions. (And read that Plex

sometimes causes crashes, etc)


Thanks for any information.

I’ve never used Nito, so I can’t speak to that and since I just bought my Apple TV (yet to receive it), what I say may not be entirely accurate. But I have extensive experience with Plex and have done some research on XBMC so there’s that…

The primary advantage of ATV Black (in my mind) is that it integrates the media experience with the traditional Apple TV experience. This is a far simpler end-user solution (which, if for nothing else, is prefered by your less tech-savvy family members who might use the Apple TV). ATV Black is built solely for the Apple TV and is thus more ideally suited for Apple TV integration. XBMC and Plex are more general applications.

Plex and XBMC provide a completely different user experience, but at the moment might be viewed as more mature software than that provided by ATV Black (which, for example, doesn’t scrape TV metadata yet, although my understanding is that this is planned for future releases). While I’m not sure about XBMC, Plex also let’s you add various extras like the Daily Show, Hulu, Pandora, etc. which might not be available on ATV Black.

My plan is, in the short run, to use XBMC until ATV Black has all the necessary features I require at which point I’ll switch.

I’m not sure how familiar you are with XBMC or Plex, so I’ll delve into that a bit.

Plex was originally forked from XBMC although these days I’m not sure how much of that remains. The user experience, however, is still clearly inspired by XBMC. I run Plex on my Macbook Pro and, in my opinion, it’s the best HTPC software available right now. It’s not without it’s share of annoying bugs, but it provides a lot of flexibility in meta-data scraping not currently available on XBMC or ATV Black.

Before delving further into Plex, I need to highlight that it is what is termed a “thin client.” That means that the actual server software has to be running on a Mac/PC on your network. This offers a number of pros/cons (this is far from an inclusive list).


  1. More processing power means greater capability of the server software. The Plex Media Server is capable of transcoding and delivering practically all your media to your Apple TV, IPad, IPhone, etc. (including both MKV and AVI files).

  2. More uniform experience across multiple clients. Start a movie on your computer in your home office. Pick it up on the Apple TV in the bedroom. Watch some of it on your iPad right before falling asleep. Finish it on the way to work on your iPhone/Android (with port forwarding, you can watch your media over 3G). All of it will have the same metadata.


  1. Requires server software to run. If it’s not available on your network, you can’t access your media with it. Moreover, if someone wants to use your computer to play games while you are watching a movie, that could become a problem.

In fact, this con is why I bought the Apple TV in the first place (I was considering buying a Mini, but this is far cheaper). I was tired of hooking up my MBP to my TV to watch movies and then being unable to do other work on my computer at the same time. And while I could still use it as just a server for the Apple TV client, I’d rather not tie up any processing power. For this reason, I’ll initially use XBMC on my Apple TV (which is a full client) until ATV Black is ready for prime time (I’ll continue to use Plex for other tasks, such as watching movies on my iPhone).

Sorry if this is more info than you cared to get, but I hope it helps.

Thank you udermensch!   Excellent information…  Just what I was looking for. 

I definitely do not want to rely on having a Plex server running on my main home computer in order for media files to be useable on my AppleTV, but I understand that the extra CPU would help with transcoding more file formats.     So it looks like, so far, ATv is really all I need at this time.  I agree that better metadata scraping would make it look nicer, but for now, I have access to all my movie files connected to my Airport Extreme via USB harddrives.  Which is why I bought the AppleTV in the first place  (Best $20 I have spent on software in a LONG time…  right next to ComicBookLover)

Anyway, thank you very much for the details.  

My wife and I are testing out going cable-free this month, so we cancelled our AT&T UVerse TV subscription, hooked up an HDTV antennae to the TV, bought the AppleTV and will see how it goes.  I fear that my wife will mostly miss her HGTV, A&E shows, as well as the DVR capability, but in the end, I think it will make us watch less TV (which is a good thing) and when we do, it will be stuff we really enjoy instead of mindless drivel and channel surfing. I have TED/TV Shows downloading the TV shows we like and I make them available to the AppleTV via ATv.  Any advice on this new project is appreciated!!!

Thanks again.  

EDIT: Didn’t see you responded to my post when I wrote this. No need to delete though, so this is what I had written…


So to be more explicit on why you might want to install XBMC for now:

  1. TV Show metadata tagging. Right now, this is the biggest shortcoming of ATV Black in my opnion.

  2. There may be some videos you have that ATV Black cannot currently play but XBMC can. This might (although I’m not sure) mean better support for surround sound audio as well.

  3. XBMC handles multiple audio tracks and subtitles I believe.

  4. Better metadata tagging.

  5. You might prefer the feel of XBMC to that of Apple TV’s software.

  6. Stream web content from XBMC that you might not be able to access via ATV Black.

Unfortunately, there’s no clean solution and since I’m not familiar with your viewing habbits, I can only make general suggestions. You may still be able to get access to most of what you’re missing, but it won’t be as convenient as cable or always strictly legal.

If you want to go the strictly legal route, services like Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, Amazon VOD, Crackle are decent options.

Hulu can often be a decent resource, but its content is limited and for various reasons, the content doesn’t show up until many hours after the episode has aired. Also, HGTV, for example, has episode replays on its website. With Plex you might be able to stream the content directly to your Apple TV (HGTV is a plug-in for Plex, but I’ve never tested it), but again it would require one of your computers to stream the content directly to it. has a lot of links to TV show episodes that people have put online. You won’t be able to watch them on your ATV I think, but you can watch them on your computer.

And of course there are resources like BitTorrent, UseNets, Storage locker sites, etc. from which you can download shows (although, I’m not sure how much niche content is on there). There are ways, for example, to set up BitTorrent to automatically download new episodes of shows once they become avaiilable.

Let me know if you find something else that works for you.