Phoenix 2 for Sage TV Now Available!
While SageTV may have been acquired by Google, this has not put much of a damper on a very active user development community. New tools and plugins are still being released for SageTV all the time. The latest new release is Phoenix 2, a sleek, streamlined, and very responsive new user interface that takes advantage of the existing metadata and fan art features provided by the Phoenix APIs while still allowing the ability to build custom content libraries using your own filters.
The starting screen for Phoenix 2 focuses on Television, this being the primary function of most SageTV instances. P2 provides a very functional menu that brings to the top the most important features of SageTV, without offering lots of iterating versions of the exact same menu in slightly different formats.
Going left or right on the remote moves you to other menus for Movies, Music, and Setup. The folder seen at the top of the menu for Current Recordings indicates a dynamic menu item, and only shows up when recordings are in progress.
There are some nice options for configuring the landing zone. One that I found particularly useful was the weather forecast display with matching weather background images. Multiple weather service providers are available to choose from. Weather Underground provided the most advance forecast data.
The TV view is very simple and clean with the ability to have fan art in the background.
Following on that the TV interface is also minimalist. There is just a basic time bar that obscures as little of the image as possible. While not seen here, commercial skip information is displayed on the time bar if you enable that feature in the setup menu.
For the channel surfers out there, Phoenix 2 uses a mini guide that shows both description information for the current show and a preview of the next three shows scheduled to air on that channel.
As seen here in the Movies view, all of the different sub-menus use the same core display structure but tailor the information displayed in the centralized exploded view. My family has found the layout easy to use on the 42” tv in the family room, however the text is a bit small on our 22” monitor at 11” viewing distance in the bedroom. I guess that’s a good excuse to get a much larger tv 😀 Another alternative would be an option to adjust font size specific to each client.
Pressing right on your remote at any of the content specific views presents the user with an Options menu that slides in from the right side of the screen. Phoenix 2 supports playlist management and it’s easy to add a particular song or album to a new playlist and reuse it later. This is a very nice addition for music lovers. The stock SageTV UI never handled playlist management particularly well.
One tasteful visualization is available that displays the artist/album/track information floating on top of images of musical instruments. Album art can be optionally displayed floating around the screen. While quite nice, I would love the option to have the something more along the lines of the old Winamp MilkDrop visualization.
Out of the box, no Photos menu was supplied. This can be added by users with a little setup. The Photo Library also displays if you suspend/screen saver SageTV.
A setup menu is also supplied that provides easy access to all the Phoenix 2 menu options. This setup menu allows enabling two key features that really finish off the experience. These are Comskip playback support and Universal Plug & Play client support. Comskip is key – it just creates such an enjoyable TV watching experience. Universal Plug & Play client support works great with any UPnP server on your network. In our case, it discovered our PlayOn server – which provides access to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon VOD and a host of other services.
Installing Phoenix 2 is as simple as downloading the Phoenix UI plugin from the SageTV plugin repository and then selecting the Phoenix 2.xml file as your STV. Restart your client and away you go.
Phoenix 2 is an excellent new alternative UI for SageTV. Along with Diamond, Gemstone, Phoenix (the original), and Sage My Movies – there are a number impressive, powerful, alternatives to the stock SageTV UI. I highly recommend anyone running SageTV take a few moments to check it out. I found it the fastest, most responsive, fan art enabled UI available for SageTV to date.
For more information and discussion – the Phoenix 2 thread in the SageTV forum