Well folks, the time has come to retire my beloved and trusty Phillips Series I TiVo as my primary PVR. It’s sad, I know… especially since I bet I’m something like subscriber 1000… I clearly remember my friends and co-workers making fun of me when I bought and hacked my TiVo. They didn’t understand it actually revolutionized television watching… they did, however, figure it out a couple years later.
When Microsoft released their first Media Center, I was quick to install and test, but to be honest, it just didn’t feel right, it wasn’t even close to replacing my TiVo. It wasn’t polished, it had driver and stability issues, it just wasn’t reliable enough. As soon as MCE 2005 was released, I upgraded my MCE 2004 box, upped my RAM to 1GB, CPU to 3GHZ, added two OTA HDTV cards (ATI HDTV Wonder & VBOX 151), two regular CATV Hauppauge PVR-250’s and a couple 200gb hard drives. The end result, a stable HDTV PVR that allows me to record TWO HDTV channels while recording TWO regular CATV channels… I know, it’s over kill… but think about it for a bit… this box will act as my whole house media server. So if I have guests over, they can watch anything they want without it affecting my recordings or what I’m watching. The best part about the whole system is that I don’t have to hack the OS or run command line tools to pull the videos off the hard drives (like with TiVo). Also, you don’t need to pay monthly fees to add a way to watch recorded shows in other rooms… with the Media Center you can buy a Windows Media Extender or an XBOX with the Media Extender Kit!
I’m going to try out the XBOX Media Extender kit as soon as I find some time. I think this is also the most cost effective method… for a bit over $200, you can get a XBOX with the Media Center Extender Kit which you can place in a bedroom or family room. The only drawback (haven’t confirmed this myself) is that you can’t playback HDTV video thru the extender (I hope this is something they will enable soon).
I have to give Microsoft a standing ovation for this release. They actually made enhancements that a videophile would love but still kept it easy to use as a TiVo. I would have loved to see TiVo doing this months ago, but apparently they didn’t have the expertise or the resources to do so.