Friday, February 04, 2005

Coming to your living room soon.....oooooh shiny

A Media Centre or, more to the point a PC running the 2005 version of Windows Media Centre and wrapped up in DVD style box.

It's a nice idea for anyone who doesn't want a clunky looking PC but would like to be able to browse the web and watch and record TV (and watch the recording while it's still recording). And a load of other stuff like play games, listen to music and look at your digital photographs etc

Personally I wouldn't bother spending £900 on a set top box but I am tempted to cram my old PC components into one of these and then if I purchase a TV tuner card and a remote control and a copy of Windows Media Centre (which is now available off the shelf) then I'd have myself a stylish set top box for a fraction of the price. It's the future.


Merg said...

Media Center 2005?

Been running it since December. Works nicely with my cheap OEM DVB card. No need to "capture" video, it just rips the broadcast mpeg2 stream off the air, tho' obviously that's no help if you're wanting to grab cable channels.

However, those looking for a media PC solution are probably better served with Freevo, MythTV (both Linux-based) or Media Portal or GBPVR (free Windows apps).

I plan to build a separate box running Freevo or Myth when I get time. I would have already but none of my existing spare mobos are suitable, since my DVB card (and most) requires PCI 2.2, and the unused mobos I have are PCI 2.1. The analogue card you mentioned might not suffer that problem -- I have an analogue card already (but without mpeg encoding hardware) and it works fine in every system I have.

Media Center Edition will set you back around 90 quid with hardware (OEM only), but it's just basically XP Pro without Domains support and with the MCE apps. It's nice enough but not really worth the price unless you're buying a copy XP anyway. The system requirements are rather excessive.

Annoyingly, MCE doesn't support the radio stations currently available via DVB, but that's not a problem with the card you point to (talking of which, doesn't that card come with a remote? Tho' it may not be MCE compatible, I think it works with all the above apps...)

Dogs said...

Yes, I did spot the £90 price tag, which is obviously taking the piss but, not having used any Linux OS, I'm tempted to just stick with what I know.

What bothers me is that when I've used TV out on my 9700 Pro, which is the card I'd be squeezing in to the media centre, the picture quality isn't the best and I haven't noticed an option for widescreen output on the ATI drivers. And even if I get a widescreen desktop I haven't seen any games offering widescreen output.

Merg said...

GBPVR and Media Portal are both Windows solutions, so no Linux involved if you've already got a version of Windows you can use. They don't have the excessive requirements, either.

There's a few brain-dead Linux installs for stuff like Myth too, such as Knoppmyth. If you're willing to spash out 90 quid rather than tinker, you're way overpaid :p

Of course, you can always ask me.

Widescreen - nothing needs a widescreen mode. It's down to resolution -- 1024x768 is 4:3 with square pixels, but, say, 1280x720 is 1.78:1 with square pixels. Your software renders to your output res. and the shape of the output device determines the aspect ratio. Since such software (for TV cards) uses VMR9, the video card takes care of the resizing from the native res of the video, with the result that extra processor overhead is negligable. You can use Powerstrip to define custom resolutions in Windows. It's also pretty trivial to do that in Linux.

For games, that is more pixels to render, but that's also true if you use, say, a 1600x1200 display. Bigger display areas need more pixels.

I've not seen the video-out on the 9700 (damn you for having a throw-away card better than my primary!) but my GF4's is okay. Not wonderful, but that's composite for you. It does look a lot better when watching video content than when viewing games/desktop/etc. though.

The biggest problem with the GF4's tv-out is it tends to suffer either slight black borders or excessive overscan.