Windows XP Media Center 2005

Review

posted 1/26/2005 by John Yan
other articles by John Yan
One Page Platforms: PC


I’ve been an avid user of BeyondTV but recent problems with the stability of the last few builds has made me look elsewhere for a good PVR program. I don’t have a Linux machine so MythTV was out and Media Portal looks to have potential but I don’t think it’s ready for prime time in my household yet. SageTV is one that I will be looking at next but my subscription with MSDN led me to the availability of XP Media Center 2005. Microsoft has eased up on restrictions to the OS and even has OEM disks for sale at places like NewEgg.com. So today we’re going to go through XP Media Center 2005 and see if it’ll stay on my computer as the main PVR program of choice.

Windows XP Media Center 2005 is really Windows XP with a tightly integrated PVR and multimedia program. With XP Media Center 2005, you can pause, rewind, and record TV. If you have digital pictures, you can use MCE to organize and display them. Music lovers can use the program as a digital jukebox and play all their stored music files. DVDs can also be played with the program as well. A feature called Online Spotlight holds content provided by other providers that are accessed via an Internet connection. For example, you can view ESPN Motion video or watch music videos via AOL Music in this area. New programs can be pushed to this menu at anytime so this section can grow over time. There’s also some third party plugins that people are developing such as weather and DVD libraries. While it’s not as extensive as say Meedio Essentials in terms of customizability, there is some activity for MCE to add functionality to the OS.

So after receiving an OEM copy, I had two setups to try it out on. :

AMD XP 1700+
512MB PC3200 RAM
ECS K7S5A motherboard
120GIG 7200 Maxtor HD
Hauppauge PVR-150
ATI All-in-Wonder 9600XT

AMD XP 2400+
512MB PC3200 RAM
ABIT NF7-S motherboard
160GIG 7200 Seagate HD
Hauppauge PVR-250
ATI HDTV Wonder
Sapphire Toxic X800 Pro


Installation on a clean setup is just like any other Windows OS setup. After installing the two disks, you’re shown a familiar Windows XP desktop with a different color scheme. You’ll have to get some updates as there’s one out there to incorporate HDTV tuners into the OS. And you’ll also need to install an MPEG decoder such as PowerDVD, WinDVD, or NVDVD. Without it, you won’t be able to watch TV or DVDs. With many video cards and motherboards including software DVD players, you shouldn’t have too many problems utilizing one of those for MCE. You can also purchase decoders from NVIDIA as well to use in the system. The first setup was a little more difficult to get to work because of using an AIW card, which is not supported. There are some hacked drivers that you can get to get it to work. Setup on the second system went smooth and without any hiccups.

The magic happens when you press the Green XP button on your remote or if you select Media Center from the startup menu. The first time you access Media Center, you’re taken to a wizard to setup your MCE environment. I will say that setting up the Media Center was pretty easy and by answering a few questions, everything was ready to go.
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