Ok, I’ve got my new MCE box up and running and connected to my living room via my X-Box Media Center Extender.
My wife and I purchased an 80 hour TiVo Series 2 a number of months back for $299 at our local Fry’s electronics. I had been hungering for a DVR for quite some time, yet I was unable to justify a 2K family investment in a dedicated MCE box for the living room. I have to admit, the TiVo has performed spectacularly. It literally changed the way we dealt with TV, making the whole experience convenient, personal, and in many ways outright fun.
Still, the experience was not without its downsides. For one, TiVo didn’t support WMA which made nearly our entire encoded music library useless for listening to in the living room. It also didn’t support 802.11g and even had issues when connecting to my 802.11g WAP when it was running in hybrid 802.11b and g mode. This necessitated borrowing a dedicated 802.11b WAP strictly for use with the TiVo – ouch! Even after borrowing the WAP, the bandwidth at 802.11b was marginal. Photo slideshows would hang occasionally and MP3 playback was quite choppy. I eventually fixed this problem by running a dedicated CAT5 line to my living room and going with a wired connection.
When Santa Wife green-lighted a hardware upgrade to my home machine for Christmas, I decided to build it as an MCE 2005 box from the start. So far, I’ve been extremely pleased with the results.
Here’re some things that are important to know:
Now, after I’ve had a fair amount of experience in both systems, I’d like to offer up some thoughts on the strong and weak points of both:
TiVo’s remote control is excellent. It’s ergonomic and well laid out. The MCE remote is kinda clunky by comparison.
No WMA support in TiVo. Windows Media Player play list support in MCE is great! Support for visualizations is also really cool.
The usability of the image viewing application in MCE is much better. Also being able to create CDs or DVDs from the interface is cool.
TiVo’s guide is more refined and easier to use. The MCE’s lack of “Favorite Channel” definitions results in users having to scroll through more data than they’d really like to. Also, the “Categories” search should include an “All Categories” section. I’d also much prefer to search by time and/or channel. On the other hand, MCE has a fantastic “Movies” option which includes rich and full featured browsing of movies which even include a cool title thumbnail.
Auto Recording/ User Ratings
TiVo has the edge here.
MSN Radio plus is cool and works seamlessly.
Camcorder / Non DVR recording viewing
TiVO doesn’t include the ability to view your non TiVo based recordings such as your home movies.
MCE supports displaying caller ID as the phone rings.
TiVo has a monthly charge per device - MCE doesn’t.
Repurpose of data
Recording on MCE can be viewed in Windows Media Player and burned and transferred to other media seamlessly.
TiVo hardware hacks/tweaks are legendary. But come on, what is more expandable and tweakable than your PC! Tossing in a larger hard drive is a complete no-brainer!