When Microsoft first launched Windows XP Media Center Edition around two years ago it was honestly a very impressive first attempt by Microsoft. By the time MCE 2005 rolled around, you honestly couldn't get a better looking, more responsive and well rounded PVR interface from anyone else. Harnessing the power of today's extremely fast CPUs, Media Center Edition could not be beat - except in one key area: HDTV support.

 

When Microsoft updated MCE at the end of 2004 they finally added HDTV support, with one caveat: it only supported OTA (Over The Air) HDTV signals - in other words, only HDTV channels you could get over an antenna. There was no support for premium HD channels such as HBO HD, which meant that MCE's HDTV support was basically useless.

The lack of any real HDTV support kept Media Center Edition from being a viable option for many. Sure it looked good and was very fast, but for around $10/month you could lease a HD-DVR from your cable company and get more functionality than from your fancy $2000 PC.

Microsoft had originally promised to fix the HDTV support issues in the latest update to MCE, but concerns over DRM protection on HD content was raised and Microsoft's hands were forced into delaying the support until Windows Vista.

If you've been following Vista at all you will know that there will no longer be a standalone MCE OS, rather the support will be bundled into a couple of versions of the OS. Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate Editions will both feature media center functionality, and both of those will finally have support for recording of live premium HD content. The HD support itself shouldn't be news to you, but the hardware that enables the support is what we're here to talk about today and the only company that's currently demonstrating it is ATI.

Introducing ATI's OCUR
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  • Furen - Thursday, January 05, 2006 - link

    Hah, seriously. The only problem I have with Vista's DRM is that (its rumored) that it will need a special monitor to output HD quality stuff and that I can just see a time limit being imposed on content recorded by the media center PC (then again, archiving stuff recorded from TV IS illegal...). Reply
  • mino - Thursday, January 05, 2006 - link

    maybe in the US of A, for instance in DE it is explicitly allowed since anything freely broadcasted on the air is since then considered public, you cannot record and sell it, however you could archive it as long as you like.

    I too kinda don't why undestand archiving TV shows is illegal? It's the same nonsense as making illegal archiving newspapers you bought. Maybe the US media machine just doesn't like people to remember what some peple told in the past.
    That way proving someone is a liar is illegal. Funnny if it was in was not for real ;(
    Reply
  • mino - Thursday, January 05, 2006 - link

    that typing, that typing ;) Reply
  • BPB - Thursday, January 05, 2006 - link

    How do you do this? I've never been able to get my Motorola dual HD tuner to work properly via firewire. I get output, but it's never usuable. If I could get it to work properly I would definitely agree with you. Otherwise, this ATI setup is of real interest to me. I do connect and use a driver that makes it look like a digital vcr, but I can never play the output. Reply
  • GoatMonkey - Thursday, January 05, 2006 - link

    If you've got an extra computer anyway it doesn't cost anywhere near $2000 to build a PVR out of it. You don't need a fast computer to do it. My PVR uses my old AMD 2100. I added a Hauppauge dual tuner card and Snapstream Beyond TV. Now it isn't a HD recorder the way I have it set up, but it could be with the addition of a HD tuner. My total cost was less than $200. Saving money is not really the point anyway, it's just fun to do.

    Reply
  • Calin - Thursday, January 05, 2006 - link

    For 10$ a month, you would need two years to cover that $200 investment. I think any way is just as good (but one has the advantage of less clutter and the other the advantage of keeping the PC usable for anything else (including heavy loads) Reply
  • GoatMonkey - Friday, January 06, 2006 - link

    Yeah, but DIY is always cooler.

    Reply
  • imaheadcase - Thursday, January 05, 2006 - link

    Hear hear! DRM has to change drastically before i even consider Vista. Right now most people i know with TV tuners are just not getting vista because of the terrible DRM. Reply
  • AndyKH - Thursday, January 05, 2006 - link

    I'm hoping ati will release a dual-tuner version (being able to tune 2 analog or digital channels at once). I will most likely buy an external version as it would be nice to stow away the (dual tuner) box by the tv-outlet and then just route the two video channels in one usb cable. Just to bad I would need to use repeaters if the distance is more than 5 metres - a gigabit ethernet version would certainly be better. Reply
  • tuteja1986 - Thursday, January 05, 2006 - link

    yeah i been wanting a cheap decent dual tv tunner : ) i will just have to wifi bridge it if a ethernet is provide in the final cheap product Reply

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