I have had quite a mish mash of different home wide media solutions over the course of time and each one seems to get a little better. This time I think it’s about as seamless as it can get and I have to say I am very impressed. Two of my co-workers had been singing Media Center’s praises for quite some time, but I was still remembering how it was in XP and had never given it a honest try connected to our Xbox 360.
It wasn’t until I decided to try out this media center PC I had bought as an actual Media Center for the purpose of watching TV, that I started getting interested in what it can do. Now that it’s all set up, it’s quite impressive. I’ll give you the lay of the land, and then describe some of the features that have already got me loving it.
The Computer it runs on is a non-stock HP Media Center PC m8227n. It has been upgraded to Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit edition as well as an additional 2GB of Ram for a total of 4GB. I have also added a nVidia GeForce 8800 GT with 512MB of Video Ram and connected a tiny 15" LCD to the right of the hulking 24" LCD. Why would I do that you ask? I actually use this computer too. So it’s nice to have media center running on the smaller display as an office TV and not remove the ability to actually use the PC. It works like a charm.
So there is an Xbox 360 upstairs, connected to our home network via WiFi G. It’s a recognized Media Center Extender for this PC and I had already used it in this capacity recently to play music during a poker party we had. Now I am able to also watch video stored on the Media Center PC as well as shows I have recorded.
Speaking of recorded shows….I have remote record enabled, so if I am at work, I can log into MSN TV, sign in, and remotely set up recordings and the PC will dutifully carry them out in the background. I can come home and watch them in my office or upstairs in the living room through the Xbox 360. Now that is convergence.
The guide that ships in media center shreds the Comcast guide you get with the cable box. Sure I am missing on-demand and some of the premium channels from upstairs, but as a convenient system that doesn’t occupy more space like another TV would, it’s fantastic.
I am still digging to learn what all it can do, so far I am impressed. I will get the guys at work to show me how to really make it shine and follow up with more details.