Pros Can't Find Any For The Money
Cons Too Many To Mention
Summary I couldn't agree with “Dirty Al” more. I also built one from scratch, & spent more time & money getting the system to work correctly than I care to think about. It WAS a complete waste of time & money.
Multiple installs of software & hardware to get it running. I used ATI's HDTV Wonder card, along with EVGA's NVTV Analog card, and there is a precise sequence of installing the software (including ALL the MCE updates that MUST be done beforehand) & hardware that drove me CRAZY! If it isn’t followed to the letter…the system WILL NOT function. And of course, the info on this is not in one place; one has to search the Internet for it all.
And the ATI HDTV Wonder card is for over-the-air broadcasts ONLY. You can not hook it up to a Cable HD connection. And the other kicker about this ATI card is the fact that it also has an Analog TV tuner built into it…BUT…ATI has it DE-ACTIVATED! Ask them why & you’ll get no answer. Another rip-off!
There is not much more this system will do that a DVR, VCR & TV combo won’t accomplish for a whole lot less money & aggravation. It has a LONG way to go.
"I love MCE"on by rocketx2
Pros Does it all tivo, dvd, pictures, mp3 & internet
Cons It's a computer
Summary I bought my 1st PCTV in '98 a Gateway Destination and loved it. Bought my is Tivo in '99 and loved it too. xpMCE has them all beat. Better interface, easier to use, and a full PC too. I also have a MC extender in my bedroom and like it so much I'm getting another one for my home office.
Remember that MCE is a computer and has all the complexities of same... but I have found MCE to be VERY stable and really fantastic.
Pros Great basics and interface for the masses. Although expensive Media extenders are nice feature
Cons Microsoft is watching you. Copyright protection. Networking still a question mark to me.
Summary I've been researching a PC solution for my entertainment system for quite some time but have yet to find what I looking for. So I am providing opinion based on research in the hopes of constructive feedback.
Microsoft has put together a nice package here that makes it easy to manage, video, image, and music files. MCE interface is simple, intuitive, and usefully tied to a remote control. It works well whether viewing on TV, computer monitor, or large screen and provide a decent way of cataloging and searching for all these types of media.
That said, there are concerns over the quality of the video, especially for large screen viewing. While this doesn't meet my desires, it is fine for getting started and will improve in the future, especially if you are someone who is looking for a place to store and show case digital home videos, photos, and music.
Conversely there are other products available that do all this just as well or better.
With regards to TV recording, Micorsoft provides a nice tool for listing and selecting TV shows for recording. However, be warned! This service is offered for free but comes at the price of allowing Microsoft to collect information about all your viewing habits. Once this door is open, there is no telling how far it allows Microsoft peer into your activities on the computer. I also did not get a good feeling from reading the related privacy statement about Microsoft's intensions on sharing this information.
With regards to networking I have yet to get a clear picture on this. Apparently there are some limitations to how this version of Windows can interact with your network. For someone with a large media library like myself where I plan to archive much of my media on a server that is backed up, whether or not MCE can access and catalog this data is of concern.
Lastly, while the built in copy protection is limiting in that you cannot transfer copy protected material from this computer to another, Microsoft has atleast provided a 'media extender' solution to allow you to stream it to other locations in your house. Surprising that this is new technology and yet a VCR and DVR are still less limiting.
Overall, I like the tools Microsoft has provided and it is sure to continue to improve as Microsoft closes the gap between the PC and Xbox as the center of your entertainment. I'm just not sure how I like being watched and policed so closely.
Pros There's nothing else like it. Showing my travel photos to whatever music I want is great. The TiVo-like stuff is great. I love kicking back on my couch and being able to use my computer.
Cons Lack of peripherals like MCE keyboard/mice combos. I wish I could upgrade easier.
Summary I bought a Sony MCE PC, and love it. All my friends and family are jealous. I just wish there was a better wireless keyboard/mouse (mine came with a wired keyboard that only reached a foot away from the computer!! How stupid!!). I bought the nice bluetooth keyboard/mouse combo from Microsoft, and I've gone through hell trying to get the keys to map to Media Center photos, videos, music, etc.
I have a 50" DLP, so the image is big enough to do regular computing on it from across the room. I'll never go back to using my PC at a desk.
Pros I tried hard, but found none even worth mentioning...
Cons S--L--O--W in almost every possible way...Doesn't work with satellite tv...oh, did I mention S-L-O-W?!?!
Summary So, I was looking for a new computer, the last time I bought one was nearly 4 years ago (a Dell 2350, 1.80 GHz CPU, 60GB Hard Drive, I upgraded to 300MB+ of RAM...just for sake of comparison) and improvements are made on computers and their components so quickly that 4 years is more than 3 years too long...
I went to Dell.com and decided to buy a Dell, I found them to be pretty durable and of nice quality...so I built a custom computer (the specs are: Dell model E310 with a 160GB Hard Drive, 2GB 533MHz SDRAM, Intel Pentium 4 HT 3.20GHz Processor with a 2MB cache...). By looking at the Specs, the new computer is more than 2x faster than the old model 2350.
So, I receive the computer...set it up...yet, hmmm...something's missing...OH! How stupid of me, of course Microsoft didn't include any cords with the TV Tuner and Remote set...NO R/L Audio cords, NO Composite Video Cord, and NO Audio Adapter... --that's okay, though, I'm very patient...Off to Radioshack...
Hours later I return home with all the necessary cables and adapters...I set up the TV tuner to my satellite dish (DirecTV) and I turned on the computer...
...Tick...tock... --what seemed like 5min+ later (though still quite patient), yay...a desktop...which after a few more minutes, had still not completely loaded...I tried to ignore the long startup time and tried to remain excited and clicked the icon on the desktop to run the Media Center and start configuring the TV tuner... (Internet-yes (DirecWay>>Now HughesNet)...preferences... done...configure remote...okay...now to set up the guide...zip code, check...television provider, check...now to download the guide for my area...) Here's where my time started getting eaten away---not only was the tv tuner extremely slow, but my internet connection was going more slowly than on my 4 year-old Dell 2350, and the guide didn't download. (ERROR CODE 13...Failure Attempting to Download New Guide Data...--which I later found out, had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with my firewall, proxy settings, or the fact that my internet connection wasn't being used to it's full potential...) I double-checked everything and configured the media center 3+ more times and then searched the internet for help.
I used Google.com and every other search engine I could think of, I tried every suggestion I found...I tried disconnecting wires and re-connecting them, installing updates/bug fixes for Windows MCE 2005, I searched every forum...every troubleshooting guide...every source I could possibly find...only to find out (from Microsoft's own Windows MCE forum) that it seems that A LOT of other people are having this problem too, --unless you have a SPECIFIC type of cable television, your tv programming guide for the media center doesn't work (there's no problem with the connection or the cables, it is just a fatal flaw...an extremely LARGE BUG in the software that has not, to my knowledge, been fixed at all)...now my question was, what is the use of a Media Center PC that you don't have a programming guide for?? You can't schedule things to be recorded...you can't see what's on next...(At this point my immense patience had jumped out the window and I was left wondering WHY I had abandoned my trusty VCR, and HOW the heck Microsoft could get away with selling such an expensive and useless product...)
I continued to search for help all night, slowly...until about 4 in the morning...with not one problem solved...(***slowly, because I compared the new Dell E310 computer with Windows MCE to my old Dell 2350 with Windows XP SP2, and the new one was MUCH SLOWER!!!!)
Despite the hassle that I knew I would have to go through to return it (not to mention the +$60 I wouldn't be refunded for the return shipping...and possible 15% restocking fee?!?!), I returned it anyway...and I am SOOOO glad I returned it!!! >>I know how much of a hassle it is to return something (especially with a busy schedule) so, PLEASE, save yourself a lot of disappointment and just stick with the original Windows XP Home, or Windows XP PRO......