Linksys Extender Review Part 1: Media Center & PC Setup

Update: Skip to
Extender Review Post

Between Microsoft and Linksys I’ve received a whole package
of Media Center related goodies to test.  Instead of this being just a review of the
Linksys DMA2200 Extender, it will also cover the overall Media Center setup process
from PC to wireless.  Most of the time
when I review something Media Center related I use my own PC which has
generally been configured exactly how I want, and for the most part how it
should be.  This is not always the case
with your standard OEM PC, so I’m taking a step back and beginning the process
closer to how a first time Media Center and Media Center Extender user would.

Hardware used is listed below.

HP
Pavillion dv6500 Laptop

  • AMD Athlon 64 X2 TK-55 (1.80GHz)
  • 2GB of RAM
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
    (32-bit)
  • 3.6 Windows Experience Index
  • VGA and HDMI Outputs

Linksys
WRT600N Wireless Router

  • Dual-Band Wireless-N
  • Draft 802.11n support
  • Gigabit Router

Linksys
DMA2200 Extender

  • Included DVD Player
  • HDMI, Component, Composite,
    S-Video
  • Stereo RCA, Digital & Optical
    Outs
  • 10/100 Ethernet
  • Dual-Band Wireless-N

TV Tuner/Other

  • HP ExpressCard Digital/Analog TV
    Tuner
  • Used ATSC (OTA HD) in testing
  • HP ExpressCard Remote Control

General PC Setup

I started my setup by looking at the Linksys WRT600N
Wireless Router.  Linksys has done a
pretty good job over the years of providing end user software to basically
automate the whole setup process (for those who don’t want to use the router
configuration homepage).  Setup was
pretty simple, I just connected my Ethernet cable from a switch into the
router’s port marked “Internet.”  Most
people will make this connection directly from their modem; however in my test
environment I just used a live connection through my switch.

After this basic setup I moved onto the laptop which was
where I encountered my first problem. 
Upon first bootup I had connected to my existing home wireless network
(non-Linksys) and everything worked fine. 
However, now wanting to connect to my newly setup wireless router I came
to find that Windows didn’t detect any wireless adaptor.  Ok, first stop was the device manager to make
sure it wasn’t disabled.  It wasn’t even
listed.  Next step was Windows Update to
see if it has the drivers.  No luck.  On to the box to find the product CD, no
go.  Finally I checked out the C: drive
to find a Drivers folder with a WLAN folder inside.  Ran the setup, rebooted and now I was in
business.  Of course, I did this to later
think through that I still wanted the PC connected over hardwire for the best
HD streaming experience.

I picked up the HP ExpressCard Digital/Analog TV Tuner and
slide it into the card slot.  The drivers
were already installed, however if they had not been I had the setup CD sitting
next to me.

Media Center Setup

The next step was to setup the TV tuner and related Media
Center bits.  To start the setup of the
TV tuner and Guide I simply selected the Setup TV option that was already on
the Media Center Start Menu.  It walked
me though the setup including downloading the Guide data, selecting and setting
up my TV source, etc.

I choose to use the recommended automatic TV source scanning
feature in Media Center which found that I was using a Digital TV card with a
single antenna connection.  Setting up
the Guide was equally simple and just involved entering my zip code into the
wizard.  About two minutes later Media
Center had downloaded two weeks of Guide data and I was presented with the
signal strength for my digital tuner.  To
my surprise, the HP ExpressCard and small included antenna yielded excellent
signal strength on all my local channels. 
At this point, I was ready to start watching and recording some of my
favorite shows.

For those of you new to Media Center, you can see what the
UI looks like here.  The exact same UI is remoted to any Media
Center Extender, of which five can be connected to the PC at once.  The PC can still be used independently either
for traditional PC tasks or hooked up to a display running Media Center.

Product Shots 

Related:

Linksys
Extender Review Part 2: Extender Experience
 

Linksys
Extender Review Part 3: Wrap-up

5 thoughts on “Linksys Extender Review Part 1: Media Center & PC Setup

  1. “Of course, I did this to later think through that I still wanted the PC connected over hardwire for the best HD streaming experience.”

    Not sure exactly what you mean by that Chris. Does that mean you’re not going to test over wireless? I hope you’ll give that a shot. Important info. for those of us without wired network throughout the house.

  2. I tested with the Extender connected to the wireless network (and hardwired).

    What I didn’t do was connect the HP laptop to the wireless network, instead it was connected directly to the router as it really should be in any setup.

  3. Thanks Chris, makes sense. Of course it would be nutty to have the Media Center PC itself connected via wireless.

  4. Overall how would you rate the out of box experience on a scale of 1 out of 10?

    What could Linksys, MSFT or HP do to make it more complete or intuitive?

    Thx,
    C

  5. I’m not sure there is any key thing that can be done to improve the out-of-box experience. One thing that is annoying is the key setup process, I don’t really want to key upstairs to the PC to complete the setup. It’s not a deal breaker, just kind of a pain. Out of 10 I’d give it a 9.

    I didn’t have many, but network issues seem like the one thing that needs to be improved on. Between wireless issues that people still have and even hardwired connection issues, the network aspect needs to be looked at the most from a setup perspective.

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