View Full Version : Media Centres

27th Jul 2007, 16:05
Been searching for info on media centre PCs and WinXP Media Centre.

I have been looking for something to replace my aging hi-fi system, VCR, cheap DVD player, etc and was wondering whether to buy a dedicated DVD/HDD recorder such as the Panasonic DMREX77 and a new DAB radio and CD player or go the whole hog and get a Media Centre PC with WinXP Media Centre.

A couple of visits to the major high street shops revealed a vast ignorance of Media Centres.

Any Prooners with one able to answer a few questions?

1. Can I record TV programs while listening to the radio or music files?

2. Is the OS easy to use?

3. Are the extenders as good as the Microsoft website suggests? ( I had a
play with the on line demo and it looks the mutts nuts! Is it?)

4. Most systems are loaded with VISTA. I have read and heard so much bad news about this, should I go for an older Media Centre that has XP as standard instead?

Thanks in advance.


27th Jul 2007, 23:58
Oh boy, this is so my thing!!

I was introduced to Windows media centre a couple of years back & like you Mr. T, I could immediately see the benefit of getting rid of all the boxes in the front room. I started with XP media Centre & now I've moved on to Vista Media Centre (VMC). So, here's the skinny...
First of all, the general stuff. XP is a fully supported os. Therefore, pretty much any upgrade you drop into your XP box will work straight away. That is not necessarily the case with VMC. There are problems with sound & TV cards in VMC, although this is easing with time. Remember when windoze 2k gave way to XP, the sitch was the same, so ignore the doom/Linux/open source bitter freaks. Media Centre is GREAT!! Whatever flavour you have.
To answer your q's...

(1) Yes you can. And if you drop in a dual TV tuner, you can watch one show & record another. Either way, you can record in the background & do music, pictures, video, online, whatever. You need to decide on digital or analogue as XP MCE & VMC don't support both simultaneously.

(2) Yep. Press the green buton & you're off. Kiddy play. Outside of VMC it's trickier as it's new(er) & a few techy tips help. Essentially, the single biggest help across the board is to avoid getting involved in codecs & codec packs except for FFDshow Tryouts. That will run all video, Audio & TV in either version. If you do nothing else, get FFDshow tryouts. Ignore Divx & all the others. This is THE one to have. XP MCE comes without a TV dedcoder, so you will need to acquire one to view live Tv. I recommend Nvidia pure decoder. VMC comes with an MS decoder, I would still get the Nvidia one. Otherwise, it's all good baby.

(3) Not sure, I don't extend (!) I have heard that for fat data like TV, wired networks are essential, but It's not my bag. www.thegreenbutton.com is the place to suss that out.

(4) Er... done that. XP is mature & easier to work out. However, remember that Vista will install almost all your drivers when you switch it on, whereas XP will require you to work out what's missing & spend half a day getting all the hardware to work. Otherwise, it's windows, so it's easy innit?
Essentially, it's horses for courses. I personally prefer VMC. For my twopenneth, I have a 26" LCD screen & VMC with internet & email too - basically a whole system controlled with one remote, 5.1 surround sound pictures, video, Freeview TV, 1000+ albums, a dozen or so movies, 5 series of Family Guy, every episode of Trailer Park Boys & a Personal video recorder with 1 TB storage & I built it for 600 sheets. not bad really. It's the 2nd one I've built & I can't imagine any other way of doing it, short of a media server...which I am considering...

Pm me for any specifics. I'd be glad to spread the word.:ok:

28th Jul 2007, 12:16
I'm a bit of a fan of Media Centre Edition too, and so far my (albeit limited) experiences of MCE on Vista have been OK.

The really frustrating thing is that MCE does not support DAB Digital Radio, which is incredibly annoying. Microsoft UK keep making platitudinous noises, but nothing has come out of it yet.

I'm rather hoping that some of the USB DAB receivers (MTech and so on) willl get some MCE compatible drivers, and make it look like a Video Tuner source, so you can tune into the DAB, see the DAB visuals and get the EPG data into MCE. But it hasn't happened yet.

28th Jul 2007, 12:45
Very true, but in the UK, you do get about twenty radio stations in digital clarity via freeview tv cards & even more if you hook the thing up to a sky or Virgin box.

28th Jul 2007, 22:43
Thank you both, BT and P/Punter just the sort of info I need.
The DAB bit is a bit of a shock as I was hoping to run with that.
I had a play around with a system at a mates house today and it seemed ok but would sieze up occasionally while it sorted out all the tasks I had (hurriedly) asked it to do.
Most impressive non the less. Think I'll have one. Cheers. :ok:
PS. Parapunter, you still floating around on them floppies or have you moved on to stiffies yet? :E
Turin (part time Stiffy). :O

28th Jul 2007, 23:35
Well infact I acquired a baby & a doer upper house at the same time, so whilst I'm ostensibly still a floppie, I do in fact, shamefully have a Nova Mamboo gathering dust in the corner. besides this summer's been shite for it anyway.
I would say that my media centre is the thing that's kept me sane. Whilst typing this, I'm recording footy on sky & listening to Gorrilaz. I love media centre!
One thing on the comment about your mates mce. The big thing with TV cards is they take a few seconds to change channel - not like ordinary tv's at all, but you get used to it. Apparently it's a buffer thing - bit like streaming video. And, the one thing that irritates in MCE & VMC is that music in particular is not resident in memory by default, so if you have a lot of albums & open music, it can take a fair few seconds to bring it up. There is a fix for this, but it involves using a bit of your ram to keeo it resident in memory & really, is a ball ache.

2nd Aug 2007, 11:52
Thanks, Parapunter, looks like you and I are in the same boat, got a sprog and a house to renovate which means my Avian Amour hasn't seen the light of day since. :sad:

So, the decision is which Media Centre to buy, A couple of digital tuners and the fastest processor/board/ram that money can buy would appear to be the minimum plus a vast hard drive. I've seen one system that can be customised for my personal needs for about 600 which would include a 320G hard drive.

Thanks again. T.

2nd Aug 2007, 13:09
One warning: my next door neighbour bought an all-singing PC with Windows Media Center (sic). She couldn't get TV or much else to work on it, and after lots of (very rude) 0870 helpdesk, asked me to take a look.

It turned out that her particular supplier didn't include CODECs (you had to buy them separately) or a "remote controller". Apparently, you can't do everything from the keyboard - at some point, it demands that you have a TV-like remote control, and will go no further until you do.

I got her the relevant leads and stuff, installed the CODECs, and it can now do most of the things she wanted, but she isn't impressed with how slow it is to change channel, and what a faff it is to record to DVD (you have to record to HD, then copy to DVD). Her TV set in the same room changes instantly, and her separate DVD recorder "just works".

The Media Centre PC is relegated to the conservatory for the children, who are mighty impressed with this. She's planning now to convert the garage to a "children's room" to recover her conservatory from the hordes of teenagers playing games on the Media Center.

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