The "U" Word

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Xbox can play Media Center PC content? Now I gotta buy a Media Center PC...

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Stan Spotts turned me on to the Xbox Media Center Extender Kit. This sucker will let you use an Xbox (up to five of them!) to watch video content recorded on a Media Center PC.

Now, I've avoided the Media Center PC until now. I rolled my own PVR at home; I started with a Happaugue PVR250 but abandoned it last year in favor of an ATI All-In-Wonder 8500 DV. I've been happy with that, but I really wanted a solution to play back what I'd captured on the TV in the family room. (My PVR system is a noisy beast with five hard drives and four fans; it lives one floor down from the TV. :-)

I'd looked at the Prismiq MediaPlayer, but it got enough bad consumer reviews that I wasn't gonna plunk down $250. There's the SoundBlaster Wireless Music widget, but that's the same price and only does audio.

XMCEK is exactly what I want. No new box in the living room. Only problem is, I have to buy a Media Center PC. I like playing with technology; I build my PCs from parts, and I like it that way. I like being able to burn honest-to-gosh DVDs from the video I capture using my homebrew PVR. And I don't want to pay the profit overhead implied by a fully packaged Media Center PC.

Sigh. Maybe I'll just keep waiting.

  • Considering overhead, you're going to pay it whether you buy the components or the whole PC. Assuming Big Computer Company gets has more buying power than indie component vendors, chances are they're paying less than you would and thus the addt'l overhead should be minimal. Of course you can't pick and choose your components, which might just be the deal breaker.

  • It is indeed the picking and choosing of components, and re-use of stuff I have lying around (e.g. CD burners, etc.), that makes me prefer rolling my own. Not only that, but purchasing components on the web lets me get the same volume buying power as the mid-tier guys; buying parts and doing my own labor does save some money.

    More than that. It's not the money. I *enjoy* building PCs. It's still fun for me. But I admit, I'm weird that way. Sue me.

  • I'm completely with you on this one. Media Center looks like a killer product once the Extender Kits hit the market. My X-Box is already connected wirelessly with my home network for X-Box Live.

    I really don't understand why Microsoft won't put out the Media Center Edition as a standard OS. I would already be running it if they had. Otherwise, I'm currently not willing to but the whole PC, I want to build it myself.

    Looks to me like they could make a killing just selling the OS bundled with IR and remote control. Point us in the direction of the right video cards and raise the minimum specs up and we're in there.

    Oh well

  • I asked a member of the Media Center product team that very question when the first Media Center Edition PCs came out. The explanation I got made a great deal of sense: it's not just about the IR receiver and remote control.

    As you and I both know, getting a homebrew PVR working exactly right is hard; getting the hardware configured right, getting a stable set of drivers, getting stuff tuned properly. Heck, I'm still having trouble with audio distortion on recorded video content, and I've been tweaking this stuff for months.

    MCE is, as near as I can tell, built on a very constrained HCL; it's tested with very precise driver versions and configs. The software relies on exactly those behaviors; any change and you wind up with a product that doesn't behave like an appliance (instead, it behaves like a PC).