Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005: Feature and Performance Investigationby Anand Lal Shimpi on October 12, 2004 12:19 PM EST
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As impressed as we were with Windows XP Media Center Edition when it first launched, it's no surprise that the Microsoft OS has not taken off by storm.
Distributed only to OEMs for use in custom built systems, this wasn't an OS you could go out and buy. Even though some managed to get it (through MSDN and other less legal routes), there were relatively steep hardware requirements keeping that barrier to entry nice and high. You had to have a hardware MPEG-2 encoder card, which at the time of the release of MCE was far from common (since then times have changed, mostly thanks to MCE). You had to have one of the fastest CPUs available on the market, which at the time was around a Pentium 4 3GHz. And you had to have the MCE remote control setup, which also wasn't readily available to end users.
Things have changed however, and while it was still difficult to get a hold of the copy of the OS, the rest of the items became much easier. Places like Newegg began selling the Media Center remote control, with the stipulation that you had to buy it with some sort of hardware to make it look like you were buying a PC with it. And the price of CPUs went down, as the power of CPUs went up. The introduction of the Athlon 64 provided a nice, very powerful, very capable alternative to the Pentium 4 with one very important feature - an on-die memory controller. The on-die memory controller would prove to be very helpful in making the Athlon 64 an extremely high performer when it came to Media Center PCs.
In between MCE's maiden launch and today, Microsoft released a much-needed update to the OS: MCE 2004, which provided bug fixes, performance enhancements and introduced a few new tweaks and features to the OS. But it was clear that MCE 2004 was not an example of perfection, rather an example of the direction Microsoft was going in. There were still numerous features missing from the MCE equation, things like HDTV and multiple tuner support were left unaddressed, only to be serviced in the latest version of Microsoft's Media Center OS - MCE 2005.
Today marks the official launch of MCE 2005 and although there have already been reports on what's new in the updated OS, we've taken an in-depth look at it to not only evaluate the changes made to the OS, but also to finally investigate the performance of the OS and find out how fast of a system you truly need to run this beast of an OS. There are many details within and tons of screenshots, but we strongly suggest that our read our original article on Windows XP Media Center Edition as we will not be rehashing most of the information covered in that article.