Vista has gone gold, technically, but I'd describe the Media Centre features as being a particular shade of brown. Here's are the top 5 features you won't be getting.
I now have my hands on an official RTM copy of Vista Ultimate -- the same code you'll be buying on your Vista PC in January. I've also been playing around with a swag of digital tuner cards.
I'm unimpressed with how the final version of Windows Media Center (WMC) on Vista has turned out.
It will only be available on the more wallet-walloping Vista Home Premium and Ultimate editions and I'm still confused about to what exactly the incentive with MCE is here.
Two tuner hard-limit
I discovered that even if you use DTV card drivers that don't conflict with other brands of tuners, you can plug in as many tuners as you like. However, this has no bearing on WMC; it recognises the lot, but you are permitted to select for use only two at any one time.
So, if you're TV-batty and wish to record two shows while watching a third, you're fresh out of luck.
Aside from being able to record multiple shows at once, another big reason for purchasing multiple tuners is picture-in-picture.
Well you can forget about it. Have a fancy new digital dual-tuner card that flaunts PiP support? Tough. There is no such thing in the WMC world.
If you really want it, you'll have to bring out the usually unstable and interface-unfriendly TV tuner application that was thrown in the box at the last minute.
Poking around online, this is one of the most requested features of a future Windows Media Center. This only makes this all seem rather odd.
There is no immediately obvious reason as to why such an ordinary feature on most half-decent home theatre suites isn't included.
No Australian tuning frequencies
In order to quicken setting up the system, tuning can be done away with on this new version, theoretically. In fact, the wizard asks to confirm not only your country but also your zip or postcode to deliver the precise set of frequencies available in your area.
Well, no. Down-under, reality takes a whiz on that neat concept, as this feature isn't even partially available in Australia.
It gets better, though. And by 'it gets better' I mean 'the franken-monster has mutilated offspring.'
No Australian program guide
The new WMC has the ability to download a program guide and use this in conjunction with the time-scheduled record function. Fantastic, but I haven't tried it, because that's also missing in Australia.
Sure, it's not Microsoft's fault, given the TV networks' wrangle over copyright on TV guides, but it's still no consolation for WMC users who miss out on a major piece of functionality. Meanwhile, users of Linux media centres and some dedicated PVRs are happily sucking down TV guides from a variety of unofficial sources.
Just to rub salt in our eyes, if a certain Wikipedia stub is to be believed, Australia was among the first countries in the world that had an online telly guide. This was back in 1994 on this scorched rock -- you know, when electricity was still in its infancy and the 80's thing wouldn't die fast-enough?
A quick look over at the UK Media Center discussion forums and it appears our monarchy siblings are equally miffed.
To top off the pudding, we have closed-captions, or rather, we don't. Neither teletext nor DVB subtitle services are supported.
What's going on here? Considering the premium coinage it demands from Aussies, Microsoft ought to make the new Media Center worthwhile. Its representatives were unable to provide comment for this story, but we'll keep you posted.
Sure, competing with free must be difficult, but at least match the damn features before charging.
|Vista's Media Center close option: One of its useful features.