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Living With Media Center: Recording TV

The main driver in moving my family to a Media Center system was for the perceived advantages over the DVR supplied by Time Warner Cable (our cable provider) or over buying a Tivo.

The advantages I expected to deliver to my family were

  • Recording without regard to space
  • Smart/keyword series recording (i.e. record all “sports” with “University of North Carolina”)
  • Easier series management
  • Record once, watch anywhere

So far I would say that we have definitely realized these advantages, but have discovered a disadvantage or two along the way.

The hard drive space that we have is shared with all the content, not just recorded TV.  So for the most part we can record TV without thinking about space or without deleting other content first.  I currently have 12 HD movies recorded, 10 episodes of the Daily Show, 10 episodes of the Colbert Report, 4 episodes of House (HD), 5 episodes of Hell’s Kitchen (HD), 6 episodes of Desperate Housewives (HD) and other shows in HD and standard def.  This does not even account for shows that I have archived with the myTV plugin.  There is no way my Time Warner cable box can compete.  They are just now allowing an external hard drive to help with the storage situation.

My Old Time Warner Experience Video

The series recording and series management has some great convenience features.  One unexpected convenience is the default series recording settings.  For 99% of you recordings you usually want to record only new episodes only.  Now this can be the default for all series (along with other settings).  Next time you set a series to record you do not have to deal with the series recording options.

Another quick convenience is setting a series to record from the guide.  If you see a show you want to record on the guide just highlight and press the record button.  This will record the one episode.  If you want to record the series just press the record button twice and the series is set using the default settings.  Quick and easy!!

The most used convenience is the record once, watch anywhere.  I can now watch any TV that I record in the office on the Media Center PC, in the Master Bedroom with and extender or in the living room with the Xbox 360 extender.  Long gone are the days of wanting to relax in bed and watch some recorded TV but not being able to (unless I had 2 DVR’s and recorded the show twice).  Once you have this option you will never want to go back.

Media Center – TV Experience Video

UPDATE: Ok so all of that is great but what are the disadvantages?  The disadvantages we have seen are live buffer recording and Cable Card.

There have been a few times in which I was watching something (usually the news) and then wanted to record it for my wife to see when she got home.  This worked great on the cable box since it would record everything that you had in the buffer for that show.  The media center does not do that.  It starts from the point you press record.  This has burned us a few times.

The second disadvantage in the new system is the Cable Card stability.  Both of my ATI Digital Cable Tuners work great without the cards and the cable signal has been tested and is very strong even after I attach the splitter.  One of my tuners works perfect with cable card 100% of the time.  The other tuner sometimes loses signal on specific channels. 

For example, we record The Daily Show every day.  Comedy Central, channel 52, unfortunately is one of the channels that the Cable Card loses signal on.  To fix that I need to tune to another channel close by (53 or 54) and then tune back to Comedy Central.  After that it works and it works the Daily Show and the Colbert Report right after it. 

Luckily with the Daily Show if I am not alerted in time to manually fix it at 11pm the Media Center will automatically reschedule to record it at 1am.  If it was not a show that was repeated, I would have just missed it.

To help alleviate this situation as much as possible I have gone into the registry and reordered my tuner preferences so that the tuner that works 100% of the time is the primary recording tuner and the other tuner is the primary viewing tuner.  It helps but has not fixed the issue.

So the advantages severely outweigh the disadvantages and I could not imagine going back to a regular cable DVR.

Next post: Music

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3 Responses

  1. You mentioned disadvantages in the first paragraph. What were some of them?

  2. Thanks for pointing that out Kevin! I just update the post.

  3. It’s funny that your positives were actually a part of the original STB DVR’s (definitley ReplayTv, and I think Tivo allowed all you say except for “extenders”).A lot got stripped out of cablebox DVR’s that MediaCenter puts back in, and it looks like Uverse and others are coming around to.Now if they all could add commercial skip….

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