PCs

Poll: Do you use the Microsoft Windows Media Center?

The TechRepublic Windows Blog member poll: Do you use the Microsoft Windows Media Center? What is your opinion of the application?

I make it no secret and make no apologies for the fact that I like to watch movies. Last year, I bought myself a Christmas gift in the form of a 46-inch LCD and a Blu-ray player. I have a Roku connected to that television and, until it died on me last week, a PC running Windows XP. That combination gives me access to a vast library of potential programming, and I was very happy with the arrangement.

However, with the recent death of my media PC, I have been contemplating a replacement or a repair (need a new power supply is my diagnosis). Looking at some of the potential replacements, I have done some research on mini-PCs like the Asus Eee Box. I have not been happy with those offerings because they cost too much for the equipment you get.

I have also wondered about getting a desktop PC that is capable of running the Windows Media Center. I really like the improvements Microsoft has made to the Windows 7 version of that application. It has gotten to the point to where I think I could actually use Media Center. I never used the XP version, because I felt it just got in the way. But with the addition of Netflix and other application interfaces to the Windows 7 version, I am thinking it may be worth it to get a true media-center-capable PC.

So, I am asking for some input from the TechRepublic Community. Do you use the Windows 7 Media Center on a regular basis? Do you like it? Are there caveats to consider? Your help is appreciated, not just by me, but also by your peers who may be contemplating the same sort of purchase in the near future. After all, Geek Gift Guide season is just around the corner.)

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About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

81 comments
SmartyParts
SmartyParts

I link my XBOX to it and stream music/movies.The lack of codecs is really a pain, though.

kevsan
kevsan

To cumbersome, not user friendly, typical MS bloatware and annoying. Most people just want to listen to music or watch either a DVD or a divx video. I use VLC almost exclusively for all media playing.

richmed
richmed

I've been a serious user of WMC since XP, and now with Windows 7 I have reached the goal of making all my remotes and various devices disappear from my media room. So far, my wife is happy, no crashes and the box looks beautiful on the rack, while Hulu, Boxee, RadioTime, Pandora and many others grabs my entertainment time. One black remote and one green button makes our life easier. I'd like to work on making some sales and make WMC a higher percent of usage in all our homes.

Daniel Breslauer
Daniel Breslauer

I only use Windows Media Player (and occasionally other ones, depending on file formats mainly - sometimes VLC; also nice to have two things together).

Zithrob
Zithrob

I have a dedicated PC running Vista Ultimate Edition with Media Center. Mainly, I'm capturing movies from Turner Classic Movies, a number of series from PBS and a few other broadcasts. Playback is to a 32" Vizio LCD TV. Quality is acceptable to good. The Media Center has been a good bridge from "cable only" to a more "self service" programming model. I fear the AppleTV model of $0.99 per episode - I don't want to add yet another entertainment charge to my life. I think the self service model is inevitable, but the cost is too high. Whereas I'm willing to pay for music at $0.99 (or $1.29) per song, I'm likely to listen to a song many times, and many years. Most TV is a single view, so I think the value for episodic TV needs lowered before "iTV" will catch on.

abookcliff
abookcliff

I USE VISTA MC. REGULARLY. IT IS MORE TROUBLE THAN IT'S WORTH FOR RECORDING.

gregoryabarton
gregoryabarton

I love the XP version, this windows 7 version not so much. If anybody knows how to use the XP version in windows 7. Please let me know.

fred64
fred64

I've used an Acer Veritron VL410 Athlon 64X2 4200 for over 3 years as my HTPC with a 56" Samsung HDTV. Its small enough # Height: 9.84" # Width: 2.36" # Depth: 7.60" It plays and edits movies. I use multiple apps including MS Media center 11 and movie maker, VLC. Its slot DVDRW is nice for HTPC, I added an autumn wave GT HD Onair QAM/NTSC USB device. It came with HDTV, recording and editing capabilities, so I can watch or record unscrambled digital and HD Cable or over the air. I also added a Video camera for video phone calls. It hass gigabit ethernet and internal wireless. I use the ethernet for Web, to stream to other PCs and for backups. I upgraded its single 3.5 hard drive to a 1TB. We also use it for Web surfing on the big screen and playing online games for the kids. The only annoying issue was the blue power light, which is too bright for a dark theater environment. It was easy to pull the cover and tape off 75% of the lens. This VL400 (ultra small) series is still available today but with bigger CPUs, even a quad core VL480.

jsalden
jsalden

I used to use it when it was the default for the Vista laptop. My desktop runs XP with VLC. It's there with all the codecs and is very stable.

Jim Johnson
Jim Johnson

I just upgraded tuners to include FM radio - then I was shocked to learn Win7 WMC has no native support for timed recording of FM (or streamed) radio, only TV. I think notebooks with USB tuners work well. Quieter, generally smaller, and much lower power needs than desktops. Many newer notebooks also have HDMI ports.

jody.burton
jody.burton

Blu-Ray support is not native yet (as far as I know.) I resorted to PowerDVD to watch a movie on my laptop. HP thoughtfully pre-loaded that along with all the other junk. :) I use MC for personal and business, but I use it more at home than at work.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Found WMC bulky even on my quad core....

canabalr
canabalr

I've used Media Center on my Win7 PC but now find it superfluous since buying a Web enabled Blu-Ray player (Samsung) for under $200. Its free app inventory includes Netflix, Vudu, Cinema Now, Blockbuster, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Napster and many more. With its USB and RJ-45 ports I can connect to any network attached storage and content. All I'm missing is a keyboard-toting universal remote (coming soon from Logitech). After I have that I can do anything Media Center can do at substantially lower cost and power consumption.

mcquade181
mcquade181

I use Media Center 7 extensively, mostly to record DVB-T TV using two dual tuner Hauppauge HVR2200 cards (I'm in Australia). Works great even using the free to air EPG. The critical and most problematic part of the setup is the tuner cards. Don't get Hauppauge cards, the hardware is great but the drivers are crap. It took them 12 months to get the HVR2200 drivers to work properly under Win 7 and they still have bugs. The only big complaints I have is with Media Center's four tuner card restriction and lack of multi-record support (back-to-back recording and recording multi channels on same stream with one tuner). I also use XBMC (Linux or Live version), but only to watch downloaded stuff as there currently is no live TV support for XBMC. Also have tried MythTV, but it is full of bugs and has limited hardware support, particularly for PCI-E dual tuner cards.

philgo35
philgo35

Seems to support all kinds of TV cards,I have Freeview card and also Free to air Sat card ,seems to actually work in Windows 7 The XP version was rubbish

ultima
ultima

Media Center is my only TV. I have dual Avermedia tuner cards so I can record a program while watching another and stream media to an Xbox on a 55" screen in the family room. I can also pause recorded TV, and pickup where I left off on the 42" screen in the bedroom. I prefer to watch recorded TV so I can skip the commercials.

dimeonsiphlon
dimeonsiphlon

I voted that I use it sometimes, but that's because I work alot and don't have to be at home all the time. However, my wife and I do use WMC in Win7 to stream content to my Xbox 360 in our living room. This works wonderfully for listening to my huge library of music, videos, pictures, & DVD movies. Coupled with third part application My Movies Collection Management for WMC, our dvd collection shows dvd covers, synopsis, actor pics & info, and when connected to the internet, additional movies of the same genre, etc. WMC is an amazing application that is very powerful without internet, but with internet, WMC becomes a central hub of entertainment. I highly recommend WMC for streaming media content to your TV.

FZB
FZB

Hi Mark we must be connected,last night I played with,

tdh2112
tdh2112

Without any previous Linux experience, I built a box to run MythTV. There are plenty of pre-installed iso images out there to make it really easy. Oh, and it looks and works fantastic on my HD set.

TexasJetter
TexasJetter

I use media center along with a dual tuner card to watch all my TV. When output to my 40" LCD TV I get fantastic HD picture and 5.1 surround sound broadcast for free. Media Center not only allows me to watch TV, it also acts like a DVR, pausing/recording live TV, and provides a two week schedule of your channels. Combined with the Netflix feature I also watch streaming of content. As an added bonus, with the PC connected to my big screen I can surf the web at any moment?s notice, want to know where Walla Walla Washington is? Just fire up Google and find out. What was that actors name and what movies has he been in? Just a click away for all to see?

brett e lawrence
brett e lawrence

Once I set it up with a HDHomerun network ATSC tuner, MyMovies plugin, and Netflix, it's near perfect.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

As a SKY customer in the UK I can watch most of my my channels over the internet via the Media Centre or just over the web. Media Centre gives a better experience however. For example, say I'm way on business and the hotel's in house TV service is poor to non existent, no problem...just turn on the laptop.

ian
ian

I used to use media center regularly to watch freeview tv on my pc via the TunerFree MCE plugin however since the rise of both catch-up and live tv streaming sites I rarely load it anymore. BBC iPlayer, ITVPlayer, 4OD and TVcatchup.com are all very accesibly these days without integration with media center.

tedassur
tedassur

I replaced all of my A/V equipment with an HP HTPC that I upgraded hardware-wise and then installed Windows 7 Home on. WMC now powers my home theater and it is phenomenal as long as it doesn't crash. Install Boxee TV, ZincTV, and HuluDesktop (all free), and it really is a media monster. I can't go back.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Am I misunderstanding the purpose of this application? If I want to watch something, I fire up a television set.

mrjohn98
mrjohn98

Yes, I tried it at my daughters bday party and it was great for all ages. I used photos and mp3's. Once combined in Windows Media Center I didnt touch it at all except take in all the compliments.

gcannon47336
gcannon47336

With the introduction of the Ceton InfiniTV4 tuner, the landscape will change this next year. Couple that with the relaxation of CableLabs on Digital Tuner sharing and now you can toss your cable DVR and have a FANTASTIC system that can record and play content (movies, DVDs, HBO,etc) anywhere in the home. Life is good with Windows Media Center.

Migration Expert Zone
Migration Expert Zone

Been a user for years and years, but I almost cut bait after the cable companies' digital switchover (which rendered analog tuners mostly useless). I was about to abandon it for good, but finally the Ceton CableCard adapter arrived. Now it's the best thing this side of TiVo.

tbdad
tbdad

Windows 7 with media browser is a very easy and elegant way to display your movies but then I tried XBMC and all else seemed to fade away. No lag no hiccups it just works. Sorry Media Center and Windows 7. XBMC on Linux Mint 9 Great combo!

robo_dev
robo_dev

Boxee is pretty, and just 'works'. It was the only app I found that really plays well with Windows XP, and is fourteen light-years beyond XP-Media Center Edition.

Jdrabik
Jdrabik

Gave up on pathetic Windows Media and tried first a Tivo (still have it, my wife uses it), and then MythTV. MythTV rocks, and I recommend it above the other products. Very well done, open source, and without the spyware and nanny aspects of the others.

Tim Norman
Tim Norman

Just add a tuner card ( I have 4) and it becomes a PVR - the big benefit is the recorded program is a file on your hard drive that you can edit (remove commercials) and save or convert (i convert the .wtv file to .dvr-ms remove the commercials and then convert to .avi and save on my nas box) I have built a large collection of movies and tv shows over the years (can't do that with a cable company DVR)

TexasJetter
TexasJetter

As I understand the website, you just plug this gizmo up to your antenna and LAN, then you can use it as the tuner for any PC on your LAN? If that is the way it works then it opens a whole new host of opportunities. I would not have to worry about getting a tuner card or antenna signal to whatever location I want to put a Media Center... my wheels are turning now :)

gaylla
gaylla

I do not have a standalone "TV set"...I have components controlled via a computer with a silicon dust card - OS:Win7 with WMP and a browser....multiple TV programs recorded if wanted with access to movies and music on the home network...not to mention hulu and other entertainment options on the web... TV set..no thanks

TexasJetter
TexasJetter

It is hooked up to my TV. Using Media Center to watch live TV (I get HD over the air broadcasts) you can record/pause live TV, TV scheudles etc.

robo_dev
robo_dev

I have a PC hooked into the VGA port on my TV and also have a remote control for it. I use an app called Boxee which runs on XP. With Boxee I can watch YouTube on the TV, watch slideshows of photographs from the home lan server, as well as playback video or music stored on the home network...all on the TV. And since it's a PC, I also have a wireless keyboard/mouse so I can surf the web on my TV. A friend of mine has something like five Terabytes of movies on his home server, and he can watch any movie he likes on his Windows 7 media PC.

gcannon47336
gcannon47336

With the introduction of the Ceton InfiniTV4 tuner, the landscape will change this next year. Couple that with the relaxation of CableLabs on Digital Tuner sharing and now you can toss your cable DVR and have a FANTASTIC system that can record and play content (movies, DVDs, HBO,etc) anywhere in the home. Life is good with Windows Media Center.

nwallette
nwallette

I want software that will let me do what I want. Microsoft is in the position of having to play it straight. MythTV and Boxee don't have to worry about crossing the DMCA. If WMC upset some major studio, MS would either be in court, or in bed with them. Since it doesn't, it has imposing limitations I'm not interested in dealing with. I'm not a pirate. I don't steal content. I just want to enjoy media on my terms. I would gladly pay for that privilege. That's just not possible with high-visibility commercial offerings.

tinyang
tinyang

We use mythtv also and love it. There is also mythdora and freevo if you try mythtv and decide it's not for you.

randallcummings2358
randallcummings2358

One of the changes in WMC 7 was the .wtv format from .dvrms. VideoReDo can remove comercials, but only supports .dvrms (I think an upgrade is on it's way to support .wtv). There's also MCE Buddy, but I haven't played with it much to know how it works for removing comercials.

brett e lawrence
brett e lawrence

Yes, basically that's how it works. You can even have multiple units for increased channel viewing/recording capability.

nwallette
nwallette

It's such a cool device that I want one, even without really having the problem it would solve. Unfortunately, all my broadcast content comes from a satellite provider. And since I live in the US, where media conglomerates thrive, there's no way in hell I'm going to see a network-capable 3rd-party tuner like this. If all I had was OTA, I'd buy two. :-)

Chilidog67
Chilidog67

I have one and it does an excellent job (with a good antenna). Easy to set up as long as your home network has solid connections. I used to have it hooked up to my cable tv system too - worked great until the cable company's switch to the Digial Transport Adapters (DTAs). If you're a cable subscriber and your cable company uses DTAs it won't work.

terry.floyd
terry.floyd

I have Boxee running on my Ubuntu Linux machines as well as on my 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate computer. Given a choice between the two, I almost always default to Boxee. I like the interface much better, it does everything Media Center does and much more, including some social networking features lacking in Windows Media Center. In Boxee, you can share your ratings of movies, TV shows and podcasts with other Boxee friends and see their recommendations as well. It is a great way to discover new artists, writers, directors and internet media creators you might never have known about if you were limited to the major media providers. It is truly the internet media experience for the new century, freeing you from enslavement by the major Hollywood entertainment congolmerates.

nwallette
nwallette

I have 4x2TB disks in a RAID-5 in my "network closet". It stores all of my music, DVDs, Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs, and photos. I use a standalone media player -- not technically a PC, though the only distinction is that the main CPU is a SoC manufactured by Silicon Image, rather than a generic CPU. It's a mini-ITX form-factor motherboard and can reinstalled into a standard case, but the OEM case looks nice in an entertainment center. Anyway -- for me, I like having all my media in one place, selectable through a menu system. No shuffling discs, no worries over getting a $30 movie caught in the drive tray or having the kids I don't have scratching it up, etc.. It takes a little time to extract the content and maintain the NAS, but if you're a techie like me, that's part of the hobby and absolutely worth it. All of my purchased media is in storage containers. Legally owned, but out of sight and out of mind. Every now and then, I'll point a conversion app at my movie library and re-encode a couple movies in SD MP4 format to take on my iPhone. For me, this a great improvement over traditional formats. I can stream stuff (Netflix, etc.) I want to watch once, or store stuff I'll watch/listen to repeatedly. I only have a Dish subscription because of the sig. other. Traditional "TV" pales in comparison, even with a DVR. Though I guess it's useful as a discovery mechanism. :-) If only the entertainment industry would lighten up a little, this stuff would be mainstream.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I use the DVR that came with my Dish Network service to time shift programs a day or two. I'm not a Youtube or social networking user, don't watch movies much, and don't have any content on my computer besides vacation photos. I can't see buying another computer to do those things.

PoppaTab
PoppaTab

My TV near the computer is about 4 inches bigger screen than my monitor, so no big deal there. I watch a movie or two on the PC, but TV is for TV and PC is for PC stuff. Call me old fashioned.....