XBMC 13 Beta 1 released, adds limited 3D support, hardware decoding to Android devices

Team XBMC has unveiled the first public beta of XBMC 13.0, its open-source, cross-platform media server and center. Version 13.0, codenamed "Gotham", ships after more than a year of development, and is packed full of new and improved features.

Chief among these are limited support for stereoscopic 3D rendering, improved touchscreen and UPnP capabilities, Android hardware decoding and what Team XBMC terms "dramatic" audio engine enhancements.

3D film buffs will be pleased to learn that XBMC 13.0 supports a number of passive 3D movie formats encoded in SBS, TAB, anaglyph or interlaced. Note hardware acceleration is not provided for FullSBS/TAB movies, meaning users will need high-powered multi-core CPUs to render them effectively.

Gotham also ships with Android hardware decoding support, the single-most requested improvement since July 2012. Two separate builds -- for ARM and x86 devices -- have been made available. In tandem with this are noticeable speed improvements on lower specc’d Raspberry Pi and Android hardware.Touchscreen users will find XBMC now supports swiping controls for navigation and gesture controls during playback, while Gotham also ships with improved UPnP capabilities, allowing different instances of XBMC to talk with each other throughout the local network. Also added are library browsing from different devices, allowing users to use their tablet or phone to browse the UPnP library and send a video direct to another device.

XBMC 12 introduce a new audio engine, which was subject to various teething issues. The engine has been reworked to be simpler, faster, more reliable and better quality. Users may have to reconfigure their audio settings to make this work.

Speaking of Settings, these have been overhauled too in XBMC 13 to make them more intuitive and simpler to use for beginners. This has been achieved by introducing a new button that lets users switch between beginner, standard (the default setting), advanced and expert modes, with various tools shown or hidden depending on the level selected.

In addition, the default Confluence skin now provides a description for each setting when it’s selected, while a Reset to Default option has also been added for each settings tab, allowing users to reset one group of settings -- say audio -- without affecting any others.

Other changes in version 13 include improving the Subtitle Search tool, extended Python and JSON-RPC API for developers that Team XBMC envisages leading to even more powerful add-ons being developed.

There is also an updated to FFMPEG 1.2 for audio and video playback, stereo audio can now be upmixed to 5.1 and sent through optical/SPDIF devices and various other improvements. One final change sees support for Windows XP dropped, no doubt driven by the fact XP is fast approaching End of Life.

XBMC 13.0 Beta 1 is available now as a free open-source download for Windows, OS X, Linux, Android and Raspberry Pi. Also available is XBMC 12.3 FINAL.

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