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.

Windows XP Media Center Edition: The OS


View All Comments

  • jamawass - Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - link

    First post, longtime anandtech reader. MCE 2k5 looks good from all the reviews I've read but at around $170 (with essential remote)is just too expensive as the reviewer pointed out. With the type of hardware you need to run it, you're looking at $1000 at least. With networked DVD recorders with tivo capabilities ( which are much more stable) getting better in the $400 range why would I put mce in my living room? Reply
  • glennpratt - Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - link

    Best solution for mom is to have TV and Computer connected and running at the same time. And yes, if mum can use windows and operate a TiVo, she can use MCE. Just make sure you get nice and stable components. Reply
  • GodsMadClown - Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - link

    You know what? I look at this and see a market for dual-core. Reply
  • tantryl - Wednesday, October 13, 2004 - link

    I'm trying to figure out whether this is something that you could, well, give to mum for example. Or mom as you crazy americans call them.

    Presume a nice setup, 3+GHz or equivalent, Hauppage TV Tuner, 80GB system drive and 200GB storage/video drive, 512MB or 1024MB RAM (not info given by Anand as to what difference this might make?), all MCE approved components, with the necessary remote all set up in a quiet case...

    Would Ma be able to use it? Would she be able to handle swapping between the monitor and a regular TV? Would she be better off having a physical switch that changes the signal from into the PC to into the TV?

    So Anand - you think this is something mum could use?
  • glennpratt - Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - link

    9 & 10 - I have not seen one copy protected file yet and I use both analog antenna and digital cable for over a year. It is up to the station to set the flag to lock the file, which IMO is fair. Also, you can convert the file after the fact to WMV using DVR2WMV. I like the low CPU usage that hardware MPEG2 brings, and if i decide I like the program I can convert it and archive it. Reply
  • Reflex - Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - link

    #10: Part of the 2005 release is that its available to system builders or sites like Newegg for do it yourselfers. I do agree about codecs, but its not a *huge* deal to me. Reply
  • segagenesis - Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - link

    #9 - I would prefer BeyondTV solely for the fact I can do whatever I want with recorded shows. And I dont have to buy a new computer just to get the *software*. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - link

    Windows MCE will never be any use for people serious about video until it allows you to select what codecs you want to use for encoding from all the DirectShow codecs installed on your system. Having to use the proprietary MS stuff with all their DRM garbage is unsuitable. Reply
  • rbV5 - Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - link

    Nice Review Anand. I'll be building one of these shortly using dual eHome Wonder cards and HDTV Wonder (hopefully MS will release the patch soon.) I ordered MCE + the remote from Newegg earlier today, so i should be on it by the end of the week. Reply
  • kurisu - Tuesday, October 12, 2004 - link

    I still think the interface is pretty attractive. I see this doing well in the market.. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now