As mentioned, I got a replacement box for my messed up Amitech Windows Media Center (MCE) last Tuesday. Compared to the price, I’m not impressed.
- The box came without an MPEG2 codec installed so it was impossible to watch TV. I had to download and install a codec myself. There was nothing in the manual about this.
- To get a good picture with the right amount of color on the TV is a pain in the ass and I’m still not done tweaking it (yes, I’m using DVI).
- The damn thing just turns itself on without any warning, both in the middle of the night and during the day when I’m at work. I found one program that was supposed to solve this. MCE updates the EPG data every night at five to four and it’s not possible to change this without actually hacking the registry. I did that yesterday, but the box was turned on when I got up this morning.
- It’s only possible to tune nine radio channels, you can’t name them and there is no RDS support.
- There’s a Hauppage TV card in the box. Based on my experience with Happauge cards from work I can only say one thing: They seldom work the way they are supposed to. The card in the box sometimes totally mess up the audio/video synch and the only solution is to restart MCE.
What works well is the EPG and the recording feature, but TV Guide has all the EPG you’ll ever need and even your old VCR can record shows.
In short, I don’t really recommend that you buy an MCE box now. Wait for Vista to be released and try the Home Premium or Ultimate editions, which comes with built in Media Center functionality. At least don’t buy an expensive box like I did and think that the price is a good pointer towards the quality of the solution – it’s not, because MCE is the core anyway.