SageTV: Some Thoughts On What’s To Come

by Damian on July 19, 2010 · 10 comments

in News

I have always had a love/hate relationship with SageTV. On one hand I think it has the most potential out of all the Media Center front ends. This includes true Windows Home Server integration and a very robust client/extender relationship. When I say Windows Home Server integration what I am talking about is the ability to use Windows Home Server as the central point for all SageTV clients/extenders (thus only needing to have your Windows Home Server + Client/Extender in use turned on). With Windows Media Center this is not the case. To use Windows Media Center on an extender such as the Xbox 360 you actually have to have a PC running Windows Media Center on as well. What this means is  that you now have 3 machines turned on at the same time  (Windows Home Server, PC running Windows Media Center, and the Xbox 360), which in Windows Home Server land is a big no no. SageTV’s Windows Home Server integration comes along with other benefits such as the ability to use Windows Home Server as a TV Tuner farm, the ability to start a movie on one SageTV client/extender and resume on another, the ability to play a  DVD/Blu Ray disc inserted in your Windows Home Server machine on any client/extender, as well as many other features. The SageTv HD 200 Media Player is small, quiet, and energy efficient, which makes it the perfect media extender, especially when looking to have multiple media extenders throughout your house.

You may be asking with this and many other benefits why is it that I don’t use SageTV? Well, some of  the main reasons are/were a terribly outdated UI (which has been mostly resolved with SageTV 7 although still in beta) and what I felt was a process to install plugins/enhancements that required too many steps and was too prone to user error (which has been mostly resolved with the new Plug In feature with SageTV 7). With regards to the HD200 there were two major flaws (in my opinion) that made it unusable in my house. The first is the inability to bitstream HD Audio (DTS-MA and TrueHD) which without this feature means that the HD200 had no chance of replacing my HTPCs in my family room and bedroom. The second issue was the HD200′s inability to downmix to stereo HD Audio. Most if not all TVs cannot decode HD Audio. Since the HD200 cannot downmix the HD Audio to stereo for the TV to process what happens is that when the HD200 is connected directly to a TV you are left getting no sound when you play back a file with HD Audio. The only solution was to include a secondary AC3 audio track to switch to, but this is not ideal, especially since I had tried to set my Mom up with the HD200 and explaining to her that if she gets no sound she needs to switch audio tracks is like explaining physics to Mike Tyson! The downmixing issue is particularly troublesome because I could see purchasing multiple HD200s to place throughout the house, but requiring a Receiver at every location just to get HD Audio playback is quite excessive.

So what is the purpose of this post? Well, with SageTV 7 being released and hopefully an HD300 is the works, I thought this would be a good time to come up with a wish list of what myself and the readers thought SageTV needs to do to really make it the Media Center/Extender to own. I spend a lot of time on AVSForum and there seems to be common themes amongst the members, so here are the things I have in mind and from what I have read:

SageTV Media Player/Extender (HD300?) Hardware:

  • HD Audio bitstreaming from standalone mkv/m2ts and Blu Ray folder structures (this would be both a hardware and software feature)
  • HD Audio downmix to stereo (this would be both a hardware and software feature)
  • Stick with IR Remote as using an RF remote is not optimal for the many users who use a Universal remote
  • Not critical but the ability to add an IR Extender so you can easily hide the HD300 but still operate with the remote
  • Netflix integration (right now you can get this through a 3rd party software like PlayOn, but native integration would be ideal). I guess this could be hardware or software related, but from what I have read Netflix requires you to have certain hardware implementations to even be considered
  • Keep same fanless case as the HD200 (see below screenshots of HD200). I don’t need anything fancy, I just want something that is quiet and feels solid. Maybe add an eSATA port on the back and remove the S-Video port?

  • Upgrade to HDMI 1.3a (HDMI 1.4 would be optimal but not sure how cost effective currently)
  • Possibly create two players, a base HD300 and a premium HD300 that includes a Blu Ray player (definitely not critical but a SageTV Blu Ray player with Netflix integration would really shake things up)

SageTV Media Player/Extender (HD300?) Software – Standalone Mode:

  • Videos (i.e. Movies) – multiple views with support for fanart/metadata. What I am thinking is that the standalone UI should have a few views (Wall, List, and Coverflow) and be able to read metadata. To get a sense of what the stock UI looks like for videos see two bullet points below for the Stock Music UI as it is essentially the same.

Alternate UI - Wall View(Based on Rapier Skin)

Alternate UI – Wall View I (Based on Confluence Skin)

Alternate UI – List View (Based on Confluence Skin)

Alternate UI – Coverflow View (Based on MediaStream Redux Skin)

  • Videos (i.e. Archived TV Shows) – I am talking about individual episodes similar to what I documented here. The current HD200 does not break out but instead groups it along with all other videos in the Videos section. Same concept as movies, the UI should have a few views (maybe List and Banner) and be able to read fanart/metadata

Alternate UI – Banner View (Based on Rapier Skin)

Alternate UI – List View (Based on MediaStream Redux Skin)

  • Music – same as videos with support for multiple views (Wall and List).

Current Music UI

Alternate UI – Wall View (Based On Media Browser Music Plugin)

  • Main Menu – Redesign UI to look more like the stock SageTV 7 UI or Other.

Current Main Menu UI

SageTV 7 Main Menu UI

Possible Alternate And Sharper Main Menu UI (Based on Aeon). I prefer a horizontal menu versus vertical

  • Support for Blu Ray Menus (this could be a feature only for the “premium” HD300, as Blu Ray Menus require a licensing fee which means the cost of the player will increase)
  • Support for PGS and Hi Resolution (i.e. 1080p) IDX/SUB subtitles in mkvs (I believe PGS support has just been added to the HD200)
  • Hopefully new hardware would mean much faster navigation
  • Netflix integration and continue to work on bringing premium Online content

Now keep in mind that there may be hardware limitations of an HD300 that would prevent a more dynamic UI, but I thought it worth throwing some ideas out there of different views. I believe that most people who purchase a Media Player want an HTPC experience without the HTPC, which the stock UI on the HD200 does not deliver. Also, some may say that an easy way to get a more dynamic UI is to use the SageTV HD Media Player in extender mode, but two potential issues with that is it would require the purchase of SageTV Media Center Software which some people are not going to want to spend the money for (a one-time cost of $79.99) and some people are simply going to want to attach USB/external drives to the HD Player without running SageTV software.

SageTV 7/HD300 (in Extender Mode):

  • Implementation of an Archived TV Show View. With SageTV 6 there were add ins such as TV Explorer, but currently there is nothing for SageTV 7, which is one reason why I cannot use it in my house.
  • Development of the XBMC skin porting feature. This would be huge as I don’t know how many times I see requests on AVSForum from members who are looking for a media player that has an XBMC interface
  • Support for Blu Ray Menus (possibly not critical as this would increase the cost of the software due to licensing costs)
  • Support for PGS and Hi Resolution IDX/SUB subtitles in mkvs
  • Hopefully new hardware would mean much faster navigation
  • Fix bitstreaming issue with SageTV internal mkv splitter (this is purely a SageTV 7 + W7 HTPC issue, I have already submitted this as a bug)
  • Development/public release of Media Manager/UI plugins such as SMM, Ortus, and Phoenix

Final Thoughts:

Now is the chance to open it up to all the readers. Assuming that an HD300 is in the works (this is just pure speculation on my part based on the fact that SageTV 7 was just released and the HD200 is in desperate need of a refresh), what do you want to see happen? What do you consider your ideal media player/extender and what does SageTV need to do to grab your attention and introduce a truly “next gen” media player? Who knows, maybe the folks at SageTV will be listening!!!

FYI – if you are not familiar with SageTV I would highly recommend checking out Brent Evan’s Geektonic Guide To SageTV.

Article by

Hi, my name is Damian, and I'm tech gadget addict! Although I always had some interest in technology, it wasn't until I got my EX470 and more importantly found, that my interest became an addiction. My goal, aside from world domination and to see the Mets/Broncos win another championship, is to set up the perfect digital home where all my media is available at the click of a button. When I am not writing for you can find me over at my blog at or follow me on twitter


Pluckyhd July 19, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Nice writeup. You don’t like me horizontal menu ? ;)

Damian July 19, 2010 at 8:30 pm

@ PluckyHD,

Haven’t had a chance to install your horizontal menu yet, and already had the Aeon screenshot on my desktop to use. Why are you talking pirate to me?!?! :-)

awake July 19, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Sage-TV is a fantastic solution for a whole house DVR, specially if you have a WHS system already available.

Version 7 has removed many of the limitations and UI issues that existed in previous versions, and it really should be considered by anybody running a WHS system. In V7, the biggest change is the removal of the special hard drive formatting of 64k blocks, so now you can use any WHS system without special drives attached.

I use SageTV talking to a dual tuner HD-Homerun, via a low end HP Mediacenter 195, and it works flawlessly. Records two channels at once, and has a web interface add-on so I can access and manage the scheduling from any computer. Does automatic transcoding to smaller formats in case you need smaller files for portable devices. And MOST IMPORTANTLY, records in standard MP4 files rather than the damn encrypted format that WMC uses, so you can actually watch TV shows on non WMC systems, such as ANYTHING that will play MP4 files.

If you already have a WHS system, and you are looking for DVR capabilities, and you have ANY kind of computer TV tuner (USB or HD-Homerun), install the Sage-TV V7 add-on, you will not regret it.

Wickchucker July 20, 2010 at 7:33 am

Does the current model Sage HD200 downmix old 5.1 audio (dvd era) like DTS core and DD AC3? Example – would I get audio on DVD rips or scene release downloaded files that have DTS (not DTS-MA from blu-ray) if I had the HD200 hooked up directly to a tv with no AVR?

Damian July 20, 2010 at 8:32 am

I don’t think it downmixes the DTS core. DD AC3 your tv can decode so that will work fine. What happens with DTS(MA) is that the SageTV HD200 sends through the core track (DTS), so when connected directly to a tv it is sending through DTS (of which I get no sound).

Techvet July 20, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Excellent commentary Damian. I’m still using version 6.x, but dabbled with Version 7 when the beta first appeared. My wish list is pretty close to yours. I’d like to see Netflix, Satellite radio (Sirius and XM) and your choice of metadata (mine is DVD Profiler) fully integrated or least easily brought in via add ins. That being said, SageTV is a pretty slick solution for serving up one’s multimedia library.

Fuzzy July 21, 2010 at 10:07 am

Wickchucker – The HD200 does downmix Dolby Digital (AC3) audio to stereo for the RCA outputs on the box. DTS, on the other hand, is only passed untouched out the SPDIF, so you’d need an external decoder.

Damien – Regarding the ‘archived TV view’, BMT 4.3 does feature the ability to tag your ‘archived tv shows’ as just that in sage, archived tv shows. This will put them in the main recordings screen, which is much more suited to episodic content (especially the malore screens). Using the malore screens, you can do as I have and set up a separate view filter for archived content, which would seperate out your imported tv shows.

PLUCKYHD July 22, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Come on fuzzy you know after seeing those screenshots Damian agrees with me the malore menu’s look like horses ass ;) and it still really isn’t as integrated as XBMC or WMC addins offer.

He will get what he is wanting in phoenix or ortus…which comes first the phoenix or the ortus…wow that was a bad pun.

Damian July 22, 2010 at 7:13 pm

“which comes first the phoenix or the ortus”, haha Plucky, hitting the special sauce already this afternoon???

Pluckyhd July 22, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Maybe so I will be here all night ;)

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