What Do You Think of Windows 7 Media Center?

This weekend I installed Windows 7 on my Media Center and
thought about writing a review.  However,
I think Ben
successfully did that already
so rather than try and recreate it I’d rather
know what you think.

Looking through Ben’s list of new features and changes, the
one thing I noticed was that the vast majority of them are visual changes to
the UI or straight up eye candy.  Sure,
they add additional functionality but channel logos, TV show images, colored
coded EPG, and fancy fading in/out only goes so far when there are dozens of
useful features still needed to make Media Center the center of the home.

Features like HomeGroup are great, but once again it doesn’t
work with protected CableCARD content and some
people aren’t too happy with that
.  Several
of the other cool features existing in the TV Pack, so if you managed to get it
stable enough to use you will see less “new” features in Windows 7 than those
who have been using Vista w/o TV Pack.  Overall I’m happy with Windows 7 for my personal use; however
it fails to make further inroads into any market except the existing enthusiast

What’s your opinion? 
What do you like and dislike? 
What features are missing?

18 thoughts on “What Do You Think of Windows 7 Media Center?

  1. I’d love it if Windows Vista Media Center would just work. I made the downgrade from XP MCE 2K5 to Vista MCE about two months ago and I can say that’s it’s a loser. The Microsoft USB remote control doesn’t work reliably after coming out of standby – I’ve applied SP2, done the ForceHCResetOnResume registry edit, sacrificed a chicken, etc. The only thing that has worked was to install an externally powered hub between the remote and the PC. Even with a 3.2GHz P4 w/4G RAM, ATI PCI-X Video card, Hauppage 500 Tuner, freshly formatted SATA II HD on an Intel D915PBL mobo, Vista MCE is a P.I.G. pig. Recorded and live TV routinely has glitches and sometimes recordings are split into two or more pieces at it’s whim. Windows XP MCE 2K5 just worked – can’t say the same for Vista MCE. I’m glad that I didn’t pay for the downgrade – other than to buy 3X more RAM and a new HD – I won Vista Ultimate as a door prize at the local .NET Developers meeting. Sorely tempted to upgrade back to XP MCE – that’s why I saved the original HD. I can see why Microsoft is not competing in this product area – MCE is going to become another partially complete, half-working feature that will eventually disappear.

  2. I like the not having to install additional codecs to play my media content. XviD/Divx files play great. The ability to natively play Quicktime files is also fantastic. Thumbs up also for native support of m4a files.

    I installed the RTM last night (Connect and Technet subscriber) and the only additional thing I needed to install was Haali Media Splitter for playback of MKV containers.

    7MCE and Media Browser pretty much ruled my house during the beta and now continues into the RTM. Just need Dish to release a dual-tuner for MCE. The single tuner during beta isn’t enough.

    The DRM lockdown for single machine DVR playback needs to go away. I want to feed that content to other machines in my house without having to go through some transcoder.

    What is missing is the support for FLAC playback. This SOOO needs to be added.

  3. It just seems like they’ve included all the bits that were left out of vista. Not sure exactly how the ‘movies’ tab works just yet (only seems to pick up dvd video files, not avi’s etc) and not sure if it can get movie meta data for that section – so will keep on using mediabrowser. I’ve also noticed that when i run it thru the 360, the graphics quality of the interface is shocking – like everything is rendered, text, graphics etc.. although love that i dont need to install transcode 360 anymore to playback those filetypes on it.

  4. If you like that review just wait until you see my post tomorrow.

    BTW, I emailed you the other day Chris, did you get it? If not email me at bjdraw at google mail.

  5. I’ve been using 7100 for awhile and like the upgrade from VMC. The transcoding support, although still imperfect, is a nice addition.

    I am still disappointed in the fact that many things, including newly added stuff like the upcoming Netflix addition, will not work on extenders. If MS really wants to convince people this is a souped up DVR for the whole home (which is one of the biggest benefits), there needs to be no functionality differences between the main PC and any of the extenders.

    The only recurring problem I’ve had so far is that sometimes with the machine comes back from sleep, MC has the wrong screen resolution. I’m hooked up via HDMI through the receiver and then into the TV, so it might be sensing the display incorrectly through that chain. Still investigating.

    Is this a mass market product? It’s still a bit tweaky. It *really* needs to have a cable card solution that works with any PC that you can walk into Best Buy and buy to really get mass market adoption. Either that, or a more “server” focused version that’s nearly plug and play for setup needs to be offered for use with extenders (and by extenders I mean 360s).

  6. Been using it for months. Definitely the best Media Center so far for what I use it for. The plugins I use are Media Browser(the new HD trailers feature is awesome), and DVBLogic + Hauppauge HDPVR for premium cable HD. Works great.

  7. What’s missing?

    1. Softsled
    2. Elimination of DRM
    3. Extenders (other than the Xbox360)
    4. Inability of MC to run on WHS
    5. Built-in support for Hauppauge HD-PVR.

  8. It works better for me, no need to install additional codecs, the movies library is better. Only thing is playback of DVD from harddisk has an audio out of sync problem which does not occur in WMP.

  9. I don’t have Win7 running yet (and I won’t until someone can tell me how I can upgrade now, and apply my official upgrade key later without a re-install), but from what I’ve read, it seems that WMC is still really missing the boat in aggregating, managing and displaying on-line content.

    And by that I mean native YouTube support (heck, my mobile phone has native YouTube support!), native Hulu support, social music support (Last.fm), and maybe most importantly, native RSS feed management.

    Though, not RSS feed management like we technically-minded folks think of it. But rather a “content explorer” concept that uses RSS, but really abstracts it behind managing a catalog of great online content to subscribe to, with the ability to add your own, and even display “socially popular” feeds submitted by other WMC owners.

    I have an app on my Windows Mobile phone, Kinoma Play, that really gets this concept down pretty well. It’s not perfect, but it’s a huge step in the ‘experience’ department when it comes to locating, aggregating and displaying online content feeds (audio, video, photos, etc.).

    Yes, Big Screen(bigscreenglobal.com) has done a nice job providing some of these much-needed tools in the WMC toolkit, but they’re not native, which means that users a) have to find them, and b) buy them, c) install them, and d) unfortunately learn another UX.

    If Microsoft would bundle online content feed management as base functionality, can you imagine how great it would be? Not only would we be able to create tick lists of our favorite online content, organize it into topics that matter to us, so that we could play back on-demand, but developers could use this core functionality to build out custom apps that rely on this technology as well.

  10. I tried it out for a few weeks and went back to Vista. And then found out that my recorded TV shows were in a completely different file format that Vista MCE didn’t recognize 🙂

    Anyway, that’s not the point. The improvements were pretty nice, but a couple of plugins I use didn’t have mature Windows 7 updates yet.

    The main disappointment for me was that Win 7 MCE has good codec support, but it’s functionally useless because REW/FF doesn’t work properly and I have to go back to the same plugin I was using with Vista, which requires a codec pack.

    Actually, Windows 7 in general has given me a pattern of “oh, I thought I’d be able to do this…” followed by disappointment that I can’t. Remote Desktop, for example, locks the PC after you disconnect your remote session? That makes it useless for an MCE and I pre-ordered Professional with the expectation I’d be able to use it for remote admin but will instead have to go back to VNC or something like that.

  11. Media Centre needs to support more PayTV providers, in particular Sky HD in the UK.

    Until then it is a glorifed Freeview box. A very pretty one at that though 🙂

  12. To my mind online video services becomes more and more important part of media centers. I think having a good DVR functionality is great, but I think is already fading technology. There are already some companies offering online DVR’s where you subscribe the service and e.g. videos through RSS feeds to your media center.

    I think Windows 7 Media Center will be rivaled by e.g. Boxee and Plex due to lacking online video services.


  13. I like it mostly. The music portion seems to have to refresh all the data when first entering on a session. NOT COOL. Why isn’t the music saved and simply get new tracks in the background like in Vista?

  14. After trying Vista MC for a few months about 2 years ago, I wrote it off and the entire platform. On the same box that ran MCE 2005 perfectly, I couldnt run VMC for 20 minutes without it glitching and eventually crashing. How did they screw it up so bad? I was so angry that MS broke the one really good thing about Windows. Not to mention that VMC wouldnt run on my extenders. I started using a mac after that.

    3 months ago I started experimenting with 7MC and the HD-PVR and I have to say, I think under the hood it must be a complete rewrite – I love it! It is running on a quad core, 6GB machine – but its still cheap hardware. With 2 HD-PVRs recording HD content and 3 xbox 360 extenders moving it all around the house, I’m finially happy with Microsoft again. With the TV Pack and all the under the hood enhancements, Im so happy to see MS putting some real time into this product again. After Vista, I half expected it to drop out of the product line all together (like all other MS features that are no core to Windows)

  15. I agree with Bill M, not having FLAC support is embarrassing, it’s not like it isn’t a format used in the industry.

  16. I’m not happy with the new fast forwarding. The initial speed is too slow and I don’t need to hear audio while fast forwarding. The second speed is way too fast. Please give us a way to use Vista’s fast forwarding speeds.

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