XP Media Centre - what are its drawbacks?

  funkey_monkey 19:21 14 Nov 2005

I'm going to buy a Dell PC and it comes with XP Media installed as the OS.

I've been told to avoid this version of XP and try to get XP home instead, as it will be better.

I don't intend doing a lot of media related work. Its main use will be for programming and educational purposes - I'm learning C++ so need a machine to learn on.

What are the flaws with XP MC? Is it worth avoiding? I don't think Dell will switch my PC choice to use XP Home instead of XP MC, so I'd like to know if there are any flaws I should know about before I purchase this machine



  Belatucadrus 20:32 14 Nov 2005

I'd be interested to know what your advisor means by "better" as while given the choice I would use XP, simply on cost rounds, not needing the media handling bumph. I have yet to see a genuinely silent PC and as far as I'm concerned that's a fairly terminal flaw in the whole PC media centre concept. I can't however think of anything that XP home will do better than XP Media centre.

  ade.h 21:13 14 Nov 2005

Given that MCE is a pretty cover with bells and whistles, has XP Pro residing underneath and can be turned on and off, I can't see any reason not to have it. Apart from the fact that there is no such thing as a free lunch, so you are inevitably paying more for the priveledge.

It is perfectly possible to build a quite powerful but virtually silent PC (I can't actually hear mine running as I type this) but don't expect a standard build, Dell or otherwise, to be totally lounge-friendly. The quietest MCE PCs that I have seen are relatively expensive.

  funkey_monkey 08:58 15 Nov 2005

See here:
click here

And this from someone I asked:

"Media centre is a modified version of windows XP optimised and adjusted for being part of a home media setup.

Home is faster than pro for a lot of operations because it's less cumbersome, pro has duel processor support and more setting functionality but on the whole it's just more of a pain in the bum.


  Belatucadrus 12:26 15 Nov 2005

I think the style of the Guardian piece is a little OTT, but generally I agree with the sentiment about media centre and the practicalities and costs of making a silent PC. It remains however at heart XP so will do everything you require of it. I'm unconvinced that the additional frills will have a detrimental effect on performance.
As to Home being faster than Pro because of its reduced feature set, I'd like to see figures to support this as with modern PCs I doubt the difference would be detectable to the human eye. I've spoken to people who swear Pro is superior but then again Home is fine for what I do and I've never seen the point of paying extra for features I'm not going to use.
As Dell manufacture to order, I suspect they'd be quite happy to install the OS of your choice, why not ask them ?

  ASTRoberts 12:38 15 Nov 2005

Hi funkey_monkey :)
i considered a system with xp mc os, but i was told :-
1. it would cost about £50 more than with xp home
2. xp mc os was less stable than xp home os
3. if i wanted to use the system mainly as a pc and occasionally as a tv, vcr, dvd & cd player etc i would probably be better off with xp home os
so i went for xp home os and it is great !!!
ps fwiw i think the Kate Bevan review makes some valid points
pps when i rang Dell earlier this year, they said they did not sell systems with xp mc os !!!
hope this helps

  pauldonovan 12:38 15 Nov 2005

...was written by Kate Bevan who frequents these very forums and has posted a topic on this elsewhere. It was meant to be deliberately of the tone it is written in.

I think they are a great idea and I will be getting one to replace a DVD Recorder and various other things as a great way of dipping into a bit of web surfing, showing photographs to family/friends without crouching round my study/desk, setting recording over the net and playing MP3s in the lounge. All in one box.

I am currently reviewing Media Center PCs, there's a good review in PC Pro this month of 10 of them. I don't think Dell actually build "Media Centers" like say Hush or Elonex do. I think they are more PCs with Media Center software. Unless i'm mistaken, it will be as noisy as your 'average' dell PC.

  Stuartli 14:00 15 Nov 2005

But you can do all this by buying a £50 Freeview DTV PCI card such as the TwinHan DTV-ter D+A - it brings in Freeview TV and radio stations, has an EPG, PVR, remote control, can be used to watch and/or record video tapes and games console outputs etc etc.


click here

Works for me with XP Pro and at a fraction of the cost of a Media Centre system - overpriced for what they are.

  pauldonovan 16:55 15 Nov 2005

Yes you can do all that if you i) Like to watch TV in your study/den or wherever your PC is or ii) Want a 'normal' PC in your lounge.

I don't see how a PCI TV card is a subsitute for a 'real' media center (i.e. a small form factor box, built to be quiet, probably built to 'look good' and with remote, XP Media Center, appropriate TV and Sound connections, Dual Tuners, etc. etc.) I agree you can make a PC like that, and probably cheaper than a media center but arguably not easily (to joe public) or as pleasant on the eye if that is your thing.

A media center can be purchased as a kit for 400 quid - I wouldn't call that overpriced. It comes down to what you consider to be a media center. Show me a PC and, as you say, a TV card - and some software i'll show you a Media Center...

  ade.h 20:32 15 Nov 2005

XP Pro slower than XP Home Edition?! Ha! I'd like to see someone tell the difference. If you find either flavour a little on the slow side, it's not the OS that is to blame, per se. More the state of the installation or the hardware that it's running on.

For what it's worth, I find XP Pro to be beneficial so I use it on my office PC and notebook. The family PC has Home Edition; the extra outlay isn't necessary for that use.

MCE less stable? Maybe. I suppose that it stands to reason that there is a bit more potential for instability when a new interface is placed on top and is run with some quite specific hardware. There is a reason why MCE isn't freely available to Joe Average, and that's so that it can be sold with the right hardware. If people tried to build their own and chose even slightly incompatible hardware, they might well blame the OS.

  Stuartli 22:09 15 Nov 2005

I don't want a Media Center per se or even to splash out for one.

I got the TwinHan PCI card because a) it delivers Freeview TV and radio channels so I can watch football etc if the other half is using the main set (Pioneer Freeview set top box) or b) listen to Terry Wogan etc in the morning without taking up valuable bandwidth on my internet connection (this was on dialup before my broadband days).

The card is also capable of being used as a PVR, recording and burning VCR tapes to CD-Rs etc.

The FE has also pointed out in another thread (by Kate B regarding her Guardian article) that Media Center systems have not taken off in anywhere near the manner originally visaged.

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