Pros Good for watching TV only...but for all that money? No!
Cons Highly restricted by copyright protection.
Summary Are you looking set up a digital replacement for your clunky
old VCR? Are you looking to copy live TV to your hard drive
for editing and burning to recordable media? Well Windows
XP Pro Media Center Edition is definitely NOT for you!
That's what I thought I was gonna do, so I spent quite a wad
building a new system. It's mandantory that you do that. You
absolutely must have a super-charged CPU, a large-capacity
SATA hard drive or two, an MCE-compatible TV tuner card
and a special Microsoft MCE Remote Control. (The system
laughs at you if you try to configure it with only a mouse)
Everytime you buy something new, it turns out you still don't
have enough. The end result is that you find out the whole
project was a big waste of time to start with! The shows that
you copy to your HDD you'll find are in a format you've never
experienced before (.dvr-ms) which is totally unfriendly to
people who want to save their favorite shows and movies
onto recordable digital media.
It seems that Microsoft has joined in with this copyright-protection
frenzy that has taken over the world of entertainment. And
I mean they have joined in with a vengeance! They don't give
a rosy rat's ass what their customers think about it either. This is
really ironic, considering the fact that Bill Gates got started in
the computer business by copying other people's software.
Whether or not you personally think these new laws are valid,
the fact remains that people have been copying live TV for
about three decades now, for their own domestic use and with
no thoughts of piracy or profit. But now that we've graduated
from VHS to DVD, for some reason the industry moguls have
gone livid with paranoia, certain that everyone who breathes
is trying to "steal" from them. Forget that practically nobody
sells the stuff they record.
Well, save a televised movie to your new expensive SATA
HDD and then try to transfer it to DVD-R, +R, RW, or whatever.
You can't do it! You can only view the saved content through
Media Center, as long as it's still on your hard drive which, as
we all know, can fill up pretty dang rapidly.
The unprotected shows can be recorded to DVD, but you're on
your own to find the software you'll need to re-encode DVR-MS
to regular MPEG first. The first program I found cost 40 bucks
and took over two hours to encode a half-hour episode of
Malcolm in the Middle. And that was only after I re-set it up
from three initial crashes. Then I had to find more software to
help me cut out the commercials which the first program
dishonestly claimed it could do. Luckily I already own DVD
authoring software, so I didn't have to purchase that. But then,
after all that work and expense, I found out that the end product
really and truly SUCKS. The video is actually worse than VHS.
And, speaking of VHS, try to transfer your old tapes to DVD using
this piece-o-junk system. It would take too long to relate all the
gory details here, so just trust me that it's not worth the immense
trouble to even try it.
Do yourself a favor. Buy a standalone DVD recorder to connect
to your cable or satellite receiver in place of your old VCR. It'll
be much cheaper and simpler, not to mention the fact that the
end result will be much higher quality and, most of all, it works!
I wish somebody had told me all this stuff before I spent all that
dough. My only consolation is that I now own a really kick-ass
"Yes MCE works"on by rbuschman
Pros Install was not a problem
Cons It's still Windows OS
Summary The program does indeed work well as a truly functional and user friendly DVR as long as you have two TV tuner video cards in it. So you can get some where near the full function of the unit. The ability to watch 1 channel and record another!The FM tuner option in some cards makes that option available to you the user as well. Adding a program like Shrink DVD makes archiving what you rent a real possibility.
The improvement in picture ( of my non HD TV )impossible to miss, as soon as the tv was turned on.
The chance to copy 20 + music CD's to it was a real benefit and meant, the cd player went away from the "pile" next to the TV along with the Tivo!
Having a full GIG of memory in the box was in my personal opinion a wise choice, for the performance of the pc. A 3.0 processor driven box would in opinion be wise, to get full use out of the box you buy.
Pros Consolidating all your media
Cons TV image quality is good but could still improve.
Summary I got my HP media center about 6 months ago and have been amazed at how quickly I was able to consolidate all (and I mean ALL) of my media. Thanks to MCE 2005 and the software that was preinstalled on the PC, I was able to do all of the following:
-Convert all VHS material I wanted - tossed all those clunky space-consuming tapes.
-Scanned all those old quickly decaying photos and negatives (hp photo scanner).
-Store all my favorite TV shows on a personal media drive (can slip the drive into the bay or via USB to any computer).
-Store my entire CD inventory on the hard drive (or media drive).
Now from the couch (with the MC remote), I can listen to any song from my CD library (download a sond or CD), any FM radio station, view home video, photos I've taken or downloaded, watch TV live or recorded (and record another while I'm doin it), watch a DVD, or browse the internet, not to mention answer and use the phone. With a decent video card (bought separately) I use dual monitors - one's the big screen TV, the other a flat panel mounted by my recliner - I often play Call of Duty or Battlefield II, while my wife watches a DVD, looks at the latest pics I've taken of our daughter, or views a show we've recorded.
I'm sure that many of these things can be done with other devices/programs, but I doubt one can put ONLY their TV, PC and a 5.1 speaker system in the living room and enjoy any and all of their digital entertainment. This thing is a godsend - no DVD player or DVR, or VCR, or stereo receiver, etc to plug in, no massive bundle of wires to manage.
Perfect for a someone looking to simplify their entire media/communication life.
Pros Very nice when its all setup properly
Cons setup can be a bear! hardware requirements.
Summary I build PC's. I had the luxury of getting a licenced copy of this OS to play with. The key has expired but the install disc lets me install it with 60 days of use. I have experimented with this OS for about 9 months now. I will go into detail about what I have learned from this OS.
All the systems had 1Ghz of DDR 333Mhz ram and a GeForce fx-5200 agp8x 128M DDR ram.
I have used 5 different CPU's.
1. 3.06Ghz/533/512L2 P4 w/HT
2. 2.8Ghz/533/512L2 P4
3. 2.4Ghz/800/1ML2 P4 w/HT
4. 2.4Ghz/533/512L2 P4
5. 2.13Ghz/400/512L2 AMD Athlon XP 3000+
the P4's: the 2.4HT, 2.8, and 3.06 were used in a HP D530, the 2.4 and 2.8 were in a HP D510. The AMD was in a ECS KT600A.
I was using a 40G ata133 HDD for the OS and a 160G ata133 for recording tv and time shifting. The 40G was strickly for the OS and installs. This did make a difference in performance, if I used the 40G for time shifting the performance was weaker. I experimented with a larger drive for the OS and found the same conclusion. If you use pata hard drives use loose performance if you use the OS drive for time shifting. Therefore dont waste money on a big HD for the OS 40G - 80G works very well.
After i figured that out I experimented with the cpus and motherboard combos. I was thinking I would get the best performance from the HP D530 with the 3.06HT. The D530 also supports dual channel ram...cool.
But the winner was the AMD with the ECS KT600A. It ran flawlessly for 48 straight days before it glitched. And it was a minor glitch the video card got a bit hot because the fan died on it. The glitch was unstable video when watching TV or anything.
The D530 with the 3.06HT was second and the D510 with the 2.8 was just as good as the D530. The D510 does not suppport HT or dual channel ram. The KT600A does not support dual channel ram. So I assume that the MCE part doesnt care about the HT or the dual channel, it didn't make a performance difference. When I say the AMD won, it was a very close race. I am thinking if I put the 3.06HT in an ASUS or other mobo it will probably do better than the AMD, due to the chipset.
I also recommend putting your music on different drive than you use to record TV.
I put my music files on the OS drive it worked fine from there. And your able to record tv while listening to music without taxing your cpu. If you have a lot of music you may want to get that big drive for the OS then.
Overall the OS works well, the license is very strict if you change any part of your system it may ask to renew.
Since this OS can be purchased by itself now I recommend it for the PC builder.
Once you find a Hardware combo that works well, clone it and make 2 pc's for the cost of one OS.
And don't forget to make an image when you install it, it save you time when the setup has to be repeated.
Pros Convenient, easy to use with nice tv guide system
Cons some small bugs with display and crashing
Summary Great overall. I didn't expect it to work so well but I could schedule all my shows and it records even if Media Center is not actively running. Even controls my Voom satelite perfectly. Setup was simple. I did find that it has some small bugs with display. For some reason I couldn't see the tv picture when ever I fast forwarded or upped the volume until the on screen display timed out. Then the picture would come back. It's intermittent and has seemed to work fine for the past few days. I also agree with another review on this site that the music menu system is confusing but my 2000+ songs were located and displayed correctly. My system is a Sony VAIO.