Media Center PC World : the Most Recent PC Reviews & News


 

At MCPW, Media Center PC World, you could get all the most recent reviews & news regarding your PC. Media Center PC World kept on top of the latest developments in this exciting field, bringing its readers the latest Media Center PC news, as well as summarizing product reviews throughout the world so you didn't have to.
Content is from the site's 2007 archived pages providing a brief glimpse of the type of information this site offered its readership.

"I am a huge fan of Media Center PC World, and have been ever since I stumbled onto a printed copy while moving from Baltimore to DC. We were moving our office equipment to our new digs and had interviewed a number of moving companies due to the nature of our equipment. We needed to make sure that we could not only insure the equipment, but also trust that there would be no damage or even rough handling during the move. The men handling the move were professional, and took extra care to make sure all the equipment was protected from jolts and they even agreed to travel slowly throughout the entire trip. Hampden Moving gets kudos, and while they are only one of many Baltimore movers in town, we consider them the absolute best. In the new office, someone had left a printed copy of MCPCW in a cabinet, and although it was a couple of months old, I read it cover to cover and had my team subscribe to the online version immediately. It's require reading for anyone in this field." Jason Hecht, SSL Online

MEDIA CENTER PC NEWS

September 30th 2007

Microsoft extends the XP shelf life

Microsoft has decided to extend the life of the Windows XP opera"ting system well into 2008.

The move has been prompted by a less-than-enthusiastic response to the Vista operating system (and its integral media center component).

Some manufacturers are still offering customers the chance to buy PCs with XP preinstalled and some are even selling Vista PCs with the option to switch to XP if the Vista experience is not favourable.

XP was due to be put to sleep early in the new year, but it will now be available to purchase until next June.

Mike Nash of Microsoft explained the decision. "While we’ve been pleased with the positive response we’ve seen and heard from customers using Windows Vista, there are some customers who need a little more time to make the switch to Windows Vista."

He was bullish about Vista sales despite the U-turn on XP. "With more than 60 million licenses sold as of this summer, Windows Vista is on track to be the fastest-selling operating system in Microsoft’s history. And while many large businesses are moving incredibly fast to Windows Vista."

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September 29th 2007

Microsoft releases more detail about its Extender plans

 

Microsoft has revealed that the new range of Media Center Extenders will be produced by Cisco, D-Link and Niveus for a November launch.

 

The extenders will allow music and video being played on the Media Center PC to be viewed on a television elsewhere in the house.

Prices for the Cisco and D-Link devices will be priced at between $300 and $350 with some of the models featuring a built in DVD player.

The price for the Niveus extender has not yet been revealed but it is likely to be higher as the device is aimed squarely at the home cinema enthusiast with 1080p video.

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September 19th 2007

Intel rolls out new chip line

Intel is dipping a toe back into the world of consumer electronics by rolling out a system-on-a-chip code-named Canmore aimed at HDTVs and other products.

Intel has previously attempted to market chips for TVs and other such devices, but largely failed to make an impact.

In the same annoucement, Intel CEO Paul Otellini said that Intel was developing a new faster chipset code-named Penryn. This chipset is based on a new 45-nm microarchitecture.

Penryn will launch for consumers in the second half of 2008, but will be delivered in November 2007 for server use.

"As we speak wafers are moving through the fab in anticipation of shipping to customers for that November the 12th launch," Otellini said.

"We expect our Penryn processors to provide up to a 20 per cent performance increase while improving energy efficiency. Intel's breakthrough 45nm silicon process technology allows us to provide low-cost, extremely low-power processors for innovative small form factor devices while delivering high-performance, multi-core, multi-featured processors used in the most advanced systems," Otellini added.

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September 11th 2007

SanDisk introduces cut price new video PMP

 

SanDisk has entered the PMP market with a new cut price 'video mp3 player'.

 

The Sansa View has a vast array of features and generous capacity marrying MP3 player attributes with full-motion video support (typically found in larger portable media players), a larger screen, long battery life and generous capacity - all in a thin, easy-to-carry package.

Expected to be available in October, the Sansa View will carry a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $199.99 MSRP for a 16GB flash-based player and $149.99 for the 8GB. It's hard to argue with a price like that.

A significant step-up from the company’s award-winning Sansa e200 music player series, the slim Sansa View features music, photos, FM radio and audio books, plus easy video transferring capabilities and hefty memory capabilities of up to 24GB (by using an optional 8GB microSD/microSDHC card).

“The Sansa View is a new video MP3 player that combines all of the great characteristics of a MP3 player with the video capabilities of a PMP, and packs it into a pocketable device,” said Eric Bone, vice president of marketing for SanDisk’s Sansa audio/video product line. “What’s more, we’re once again showing that category-leading technology can still be very affordable.”

SanDisk’s Sansa View video player innovates beyond the typical video loading procedure, making it easy for consumers to transfer videos natively using widely available software. Most popular formats are supported via embedded player functionality (H.264, WMV and MPEG4), or via a one-time software download of the Sansa Media Converter which quickly transcodes numerous video files, including DivX.

Consumers can purchase and insert one of SanDisk’s microSD/microSDHC cards to play up to 24GB of music, video and photos on their Sansa View. (Today, SanDisk has announced microSD/microSDHC card capacities of up to 8GB.) In addition, the microSD card allows users to easily move their content to a cell phone or other mobile device.

A MP3 player at its core, the Sansa View device comes equipped with all the soup-to-nuts features typically found in the Sansa audio line. The smooth, backlit scroll wheel and vibrant 2.4” widescreen display make it easy to navigate to: a music library; video collection; digital photos; digital FM radio with 20 pre-sets; an integrated microphone and voice recording, and Audible audiobooks.

The device supports many music download and subscription services, including Rhapsody To Go®, Napster, eMusic and others.

The Sansa View player will come in two capacities—8GB and 16GB—and is expected to be available from retailers in the U.S. in early fall with other regions to follow shortly thereafter.

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September 9th 2007

Niveus Media announces extender

 

Niveus Media has introduced the Niveus Media Extender, a hardware device that gives users the ability to enjoy the Niveus Media Center experience throughout the whole home.

 

While dealers and consumers continue to embrace the robust functionality of Niveus’ 2007 Windows Vista Ultimate-based Media Servers, Niveus has shifted focus to create a superior solution for distributing the Niveus Entertainment Experience through the entire home.

By connecting the Niveus Media Extender to any TV throughout the home, users are granted access to live and recorded TV, digital photos, digital music, home video, and exclusive online multi-media content, including downloadable music and local weather – all accessed through and stored on the Niveus Media Server. The Niveus Media Extender offers users a full fidelity experience, uncompromised 1080p video, digital audio, and the same amazing 3D user interface found on the award-winning Niveus Media Center.
In addition to the intuitive on-screen experience, the Niveus Media Extender features the proprietary Niveus Glacier Passive Cooling system for cool and quiet performance and a sleek and stylish A/V form-factor, designed to blend seamlessly into any zone of the home and flexible enough to be installed into a rack-mount solution application.

Niveus Media’s whole-home entertainment system enables independent content control which makes it possible for a person in a Niveus Media Extender zone to access one digital entertainment feature while someone at the Media Server or separate Extender zone accesses another. Niveus currently offers Extender support for up to five zones.

“We are excited that Niveus Media is announcing Niveus Media Extender to deliver the Windows Media Center experience throughout the connected home,” said Dave Alles, General Manager for eHome at Microsoft. “This is a high-end device clearly targeted at the CEDIA channel and broadens the options available for custom installers building on Windows Media
Center.”

“The Niveus Media Extender provides dealers with ability to take their Windows Media Center installs to the next level,” states John Trimbach, Vice President Sales, Niveus Media. “Currently, there is no other manufacturer in the channel offering an extender solution with such audio
video performance capabilities and we are proud to be the first to provide dealers with a
profitable and high-performing Extender solution.”

Technical specifications, pricing, and availability will be announced on September 27, 2007.

Niveus Media’s 2008 line of Windows Vista Ultimate-based media centers including the Summit Series Rainier and Denali Editions, and Pro Series n4, n7 and n9, are capable of storing, managing, and playing TV, music, movies, and photos while offering the highest level of media center performance.

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September 9th 2007

Niveus Media to support four cable tuners

Niveus Media is taking DVR functionality to the next level with their announcement to support up to four digital cable tuners leveraging CableCARD technology.

Through a Windows Vista Ultimate-based Niveus Media Server and the Niveus Digital Cable Receiver, customers will now be offered robust DVR functionality for the enjoyment of four different premium HD programs accessible from anywhere in the home. Optimized for HDTV recording, the Niveus Digital Cable Receiver enables users to watch one premium HD program while simultaneously watching or recording up to three others.

“The quad CableCARD tuner implementation in Niveus’ systems, which are designed specifically for custom installers, is further evidence that Windows Media Center is evolving to meet the needs of the CEDIA channel,” said Scott Evans, Group Manager, Microsoft Entertainment and Devices eHome Division. “Quad CableCARD is the kind of cutting-edge application that clearly will leverage the know-how and vision of the custom installer.”

Niveus thoughtfully designed the Niveus Digital Cable Receiver as a modular device to provide proper cooling, a superior level of performance, and upgrade potential; offering compatibility for
existing Niveus Media Center owners to upgrade and incorporate this functionality into their system while allowing for the add-on of additional receivers for support of up to four digital cable tuners. Easily connected to a Niveus Media Center via a single USB 2.0, each modular Niveus Digital Cable Receiver is built with two internal ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable (OCUR) Tuners and is housed in a complementing and proprietary Niveus black anodized chassis.

The Niveus Digital Cable Receiver with the Windows Vista Ultimate Media Center TV function enables unprecedented DVR functionality including: quad HD recording; access to the interactive electronic program guide (EPG); snapshot thumbnails of every show from the recorded TV library; a free movie guide that allows users to browse movies "currently on", or "on next"; and movie synopsis & cast/crew details.

“We are very excited to be one of the first companies to offer quad CableCARD support,” states Tim Cutting, CEO, Niveus Media. “We’re really focused on extending the Niveus Entertainment Experience into the whole-home and this takes digital TV capabilities to the next level, offering greater levels of convenience and performance.”

As with most high-performing devices in the home entertainment channel, Niveus’ systems are intended for custom installation by a qualified and trained integrator. To increase Niveus Authorized Dealers’ familiarity and professionalism in installing the Niveus Digital Cable Receiver, Niveus plans to offer a comprehensive digital cable installation training and certification program beginning this Fall. The program will include both a web-based and
“hands-on” component and will provide installers with the expertise necessary to properly setup and configure a multi-tuner digital cable solution.

Support for four digital cable tuners and the Niveus digital cable training program will be
available Q4 2007. Niveus Media’s 2008 line of Windows Vista Ultimate-based media centers
including the Summit Series Rainier and Denali Editions, and Pro Series n4, n7 and n9, are capable of storing, managing, and playing TV, music, movies, and photos while offering the highest level of media center performance.

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September 6th 2007

Apple TV Functionality to Be Available on an OEM Basis

 

C2 Microsystems and Orb Networks have announced a new reference platform that delivers digital media from the internet or a consumer's PC, to the TV.

 

The open design is expected to be licensed on an OEM basis by set top box, Cable, Satellite and Media providers and deliver consumer TV and media options far beyond those offered by Apple TV or Sling Media.

The integrated reference platform connects the C2 Micro-powered set top box, embedded media center system, networked portable media player or networked TV, with a PC running the Orb Media Platform. The result is seamless access on the TV to users' personal media, as well as branded content coming from the home PC or the Internet.

In addition, providers and operators can configure a service where the TV signal -- digital, pay or satellite -- can be directed from the STB to the PC, leveraging all of Orb's media management and consumption features, providing the maximum flexibility for the user, including the ability to watch the TV signal on a remote computer or mobile phone.

"We have brought the best of our technologies together to offer the OEM and service operators a breakthrough in cost/performance. Now users can consume ALL their media -- branded content and personal content -- in a single, friendly system", said Herve Utheza, VP & GM, TV Properties at Orb Networks. "And Orb's advanced sharing and media management features are unmatched in the industry, making it easy for you to send to Grandma, on her TV screen, the pictures of the kids."

"The MFB reference platform is capable of handling media decoding, encoding, transcoding and transrating at a fraction of the cost of the incumbent designs," said Jinxiang (Gene) Liu, Ph.D. CEO from C2 Microsystems. "We can now offer extremely high performance for designing PayTV or retail products capable to serve, playback and stream all sorts of media. Orb brings to this offering two key pieces of solution: future proofing for the life of the hardware product, as Internet formats will continue to evolve, and a simple media management solution for the consumer to pick the media they want, and enjoy it on the screens they like," he added.

The MFB reference platform is a programmable solution with extremely high density which offers video processing computing at a fraction of the CPU cycles, thus allowing for high end transcoding, post-processing and decoding / encoding capabilities. It has already shipped in retail products and has already been chosen by leading CE and STB manufacturers around the world.

"We believe that hardware manufacturers are the ideal people to integrate best-of-breed reference platforms," added Utheza. "We saw in the MFB platform a very powerful design which can cost reduce existing designs faster and accelerate the delivery of the ConnectedHome in both retail and PayTV environments," he concluded.

Orb software is a free application which consumers use to manage and access their favorite media from any screens, allowing for more media consumption, targeted media up-sell, and more.

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September 6th 2007

ControlThink Introduces Z-Wave Enabled Platform for Mass Market Windows SideShow Enabled Remote Controls

ControlThink today announced its new ThinkRemote platform, providing PC and accessory manufacturers the ability to create mass-market Microsoft Windows SideShow-enabled remote controls using Z-Wave, the industry-standard wireless technology for home control and automation.

PC and accessory manufacturers can now create affordable Windows Media Center remote controls as well as other Windows SideShow-enabled devices -- while leveraging Z-Wave wireless mesh technology to deliver personalized information such as weather and stock quotes to anywhere in the home.

"We're excited that ControlThink and the Z-Wave Alliance are bringing to market a platform that will help CE manufacturers around the world take advantage of Windows SideShow technology while enabling a new price point for devices," said Bill Mitchell, Corporate Vice President of the PC|3 Division of Microsoft.

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September 6th 2007

Alienware Unveils Breakthrough High Definition Media Server

 

Triggering the latest evolution in digital entertainment, Alienware has introduced the new Alienware HD Media Server.

 

“CEDIA attendees have the privilege of witnessing firsthand the newest entry to Alienware's digital home line: the HD Media Server, which fulfills the demand for an easy-to-use, high definition content storage and distribution device in next-generation digital homes,” said Marc Diana, Product Marketing Manager for Alienware. “In addition, the event provides a chance to see how the addition of Blu-ray Disc further elevates our acclaimed Hangar18 system.”

The ultimate media server for the digital home of tomorrow, Alienware's new HD Media Server comes loaded with up to four terabytes of hot-swappable hard drive storage. The system enables the recording and playing back of high definition content at up to 1080p via an HDMI output, supports internal cable card (OCUR), and features a Dolby Digital 7.1 preamp output.

 

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is Windows XP Media Center Edition?

Windows XP Media Center Edition (or XPMCEfor short) is a special version of MS Windows XP designed for use on a monitor or television screen and with features targeted at home entertainment such as storing pictures, music and video. It can be controlled with a remote control instead of a mouse.
www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/mediacenter/default.mspx

Who builds Media Center PCs?

Most major PC manufacturers build one or more Media Center PCs, such as Sony, Dell and HP. However, with the release of XPMCE 5, Microsoft has relaxed the licensing allowing many more manufacturers to build PCs based around the OS
www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/mediacenter/howtobuy/default.mspx

What’s the alternative to XPMCE?

Most of the functionality of Windows XP Media Center Edition can be replicated by standalone software packages. However, for ease of use XPMCE is a good choice.
 

What changed between XPMCE v4 and XPMCE v5?

A redesigned interface, support for HDTV, built in DVD burning, Media Center Extender support and syncing to portable device....amongst other things.
 

In what countries is XPMCE available?

Australia, Austria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Switzerland, USA and the UK.
 

Can I use my Media Center PC as a normal computer?

You can do everything with your Media Center PC that you could do with Windows XP - word processing, playing games and of course, listening to music. Remember though that if you are using a TV screen you may find it difficult to read small text.
 

Buying XPMCE

Where can I buy XPMCE?

Windows XP Media Center Edition is not available as a standalone product. You must buy it pre-installed or bundled with a Media Center PC.

Hardware

What makes a Media Center PC special?

A Media Center PC must be relatively high spec to cope with the demands placed on it - typically a fast processor, high capacity hard drive, fast graphics card and advanced audio card. Many Media Center PCs reject traditional beige styling for a modern look that doesn't seem out of place in your living room or in your home entertainment stack.
 

Do I need a TV tuner card to be able to use XPMCE?

Your Media Center PC will need similar inputs and outputs to any other AV device, so yes you will need a TV tuner card if you intend to capture a signal from a TV aerial. Make sure you get a TV Tuner card or plug-in device that is XPMCE certified if you want to use XPMCE.

Using XPMCE

How much TV can I record?

The answer depends on the size of your hard drive. XPMCE can record at four levels of quality - Fair, Good, Better, and Best. The better the quality, the more space the recording will take up. Microsoft say that 'Fair' uses up 1GB per hour and 'Best' uses 3GB per hour, with the others somewhere in between.
 

Can I play recordings made by XPMCE on other software?

Not at the moment. The file format used is called DVR-MS and is based around MPEG-2 with some extra meta data. It is exclusive to XPMCE although Microsoft claim to be working with other software manufacturers on allowing them access.

 

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