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After the honeymoon ... Opinions on Windows MCE boxes please ...

Discussion in 'Desktop & Laptop Computers Forum' started by RhythMick, Sep 6, 2005.

  1. RhythMick

    Standard Member

    Sep 12, 2004
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    Hi all,

    I've been watching various threads about the Artisan and the DMS2 on and off for some time now, through the ups and the (mostly) downs. I've also seen the Reelbox come along and seem attractive and the Sony HX910 seems to be imminently arriving in the UK (?) though it only has one digital tuner :thumbsdow

    There are now a lot of people who have lived with their choice of box for some time and I'd like to ask those people to give a brief opinion as to whether these boxes are really "livable". In other words, I have no problem with the concept of a PC in the living room, but my family would get annoyed if it failed to record a program or even just took too long to switch on so they can play a DVD. So - what are they like to live with ? Setting aside the fact that they can do so much more, in their "basic" functions do they "feel" like consumer devices yet ?

    - from "standby", how long does it take to switch on to a channel and begin watching/recording - or watch a DVD ?
    - do they reliably record what you've asked them to record ?
    - do you find that you don't really use the PC facilities because of the limited resolution ?
    - do they crash during use (like most PC's do) ?
    - how easy is it to burn a DVD from, say, a program you've recorded or photos from your digital camera ? any trouble playing those discs on other devices ?

    You get the picture ...
  2. chrise

    Active Member

    Dec 13, 2002
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    Ok to start I have had a Hi-grade DMS II since April approx.

    Is it a "consumer" device ? - not really but that has a lot to do with the companies selling them not providing full manuals etc.

    I have stopped using it to record and watch TV and reverted to Sky+ for two main reasons.

    Firstly picture quality, the PC is limited to S-video input from Sky+ and the quality of picture through a VGA output to a plasma is not as good to my eyes as using RGB direct. I also found the lack of wide screen switching a pain (not the DMS IIs fault I think rather that Sky do not implement widescreen switching on line 23 on Sky+ s-video output) If I was using Freeview as a source many of those problems would not be present.

    The second reason is convenience as setting recordings in Sky+ is easier and quicker. However apart from a few early problems the DMSII did record what was asked. Did it wake up - yes once I had sorted out the realtime clock and standby glitches - did it go back to sleep? - not always but that was generally due to a dialogue box being opened by another programme in the background.

    From SA3 standby it takes roughly 30 seconds for a channel to load about double the time to start the screen, amp and Sky+ (a Pronto remote is a wonderful thing).

    As a music server it is great, it manages a reasonable CD collection and a wide range of downloaded files in an easy to use manner. It also is great to have game playing ability (limited by graphics card) and Internet Access on the big screen. The usability on this is entirely down to room layout, size and type of screen used and your eye-sight. My set up is running at 1024 x 768 and gives readable text at over 2.5 metres on most webpages on a three year old 42inch plasma. On a CRT that may be different as again on a 3+ metre picture from a decent pj.

    I plan to use it to hold personal video as well. Windows MCE is a good front end and easy to use and does what it says it does. Trials using the front firewire connection have worked well.

    Picture quality as a DVD player is very good to my eyes.

    Does it crash - yes on occasions - but fortunately I have a fairly PC savvy family who are used to re-booting kit. Also the Sky+ box can crash on occasions and it also has funny moments and will lose a few recordings nothing is totally fool-proof.

    Can you burn DVDs that will play - yes the drive is pretty universal (CDR(w) + and - supported) and as long as the DVD player being used supports the format of your disc no problem. If you are using a very old player then you will have problems with a DVD recorder as well. Again the lack of RGB input is a factor in picture quality if you use an external set top box.

    Would a collection of dedicated boxes do all the above better? Yes. Does the PC do more - yes for example webcam chats with kids miles away cannot be done with a DVD recorder. Can you easily monitor security cameras at business premises on a normal TV?

    Do you have to fiddle to maximise performance - downloading files and tweaking settings - yes which I suspect is half the fun for the people who post here. However this does also affect stability.

    Classic case of you pays your money....

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