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Author Topic: topview recorder or media center pc  (Read 4302 times)

nudone

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topview recorder or media center pc
« on: January 25, 2006, 04:26:13 PM »
i'm trying to decide on whether to get a 'topfield topview' for about £250 http://www.superfi.c....cfm/Product_ID/2379 or go for a Windows Media Center pc system which will cost about £1000.

i've never seen a media center pc in the flesh (i've seen laptops with it installed but i don't think they offer a good example of what the system should be capable of) so it's difficult to know exactly how 'good' these machines are.

to me, the 'topview' box is the more practical but it's also less powerful than a top of the range media center pc. i'm wondering how smoothly a media center pc will work.

there are plenty of questions to ask about this sort of thing and i know this isn't the right place for them really - i'm just hoping someone out there is already familiar with these kind of devices and has concluded which is the right path to take. if you are out there, please let me know your opinions.

f0dder

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Re: topview recorder or media center pc
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2006, 04:32:40 PM »
humm. I think Windows Media Center could easily be "the future" - but I wouldn't go out and get one right now, even if I had an abundance of cash. It still seems a bit flakey from what I've read, although the features are of course pretty nice. But sometimes you still get windows error messages and whatever popping up, ruining the whole "integrated" feel.

If you do go for a WMC machine, be sure to get one that's entirely passively cooled. There was some danish company that offered a pretty sweet one: http://www.zitech.dk...tails.aspx?ID=159766 . It's a bit sad that you can't get a not-so-beefy box, since WMC machines are mostly software based they do need some grunt to be able to handle DVD playback and HDTV smoothly... not to mention harddisk recording. And you do want that, if you go for a media box.
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nudone

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Re: topview recorder or media center pc
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2006, 04:55:41 PM »
thanks f0dder. i'm of a sceptical nature so i thought that there would be problems with a media center pc. certainly wouldn't be much fun having to keep getting up and walk over to the machine and reboot it or whatever the error message requires.

i'm probably leaning towards the topview - i just keep holding out as i was hoping they would release a version with a built in dvd recorder. i've recently seen that Sony now do a machine that does everything, i.e. records 2 channels from DVB to hard drive (like the topview) but also has a DVD recorder on board. how Sony can charge £500 for this machine, simply for adding a dvd writer i really can't understand - and i mean, i really can't understand.

but then i suppose paying £1000 for a glorified video recorder isn't that sensible either.

as for windows media center being the future - if this viiv thing gets of the ground i'm sure some future version of wmc will be ubiquitous.

f0dder

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Re: topview recorder or media center pc
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2006, 06:17:55 PM »
Hrm, sony based stuff?

I'd stay clear of it, keeping in mind how sony has an affair with anything DRM.
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nudone

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Re: topview recorder or media center pc
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2006, 01:14:24 AM »
ah yes, i never even thought about what Sony might be doing on their machines. good point f0dder.

app103

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Re: topview recorder or media center pc
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2006, 01:51:36 AM »
I regard these 'media center' pc's as an alternative to the clutter of having a tv and a pc and a stereo and a dvd player, etc in a bedroom. I wouldn't go for something like this as my main livingroom media center. If you are tight on space, go for a media center. If you have the space, go for something with better specs for your buck. You can get a great system and whatever else you need to create your own 'media center' as add-ons, as you can afford it.

mouser

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Re: topview recorder or media center pc
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2006, 01:59:17 AM »
i can't really give a good opinion about the different options; however what i can say is as a longtime owner of a Tivo digital video recorder (www.tivo.com), i can say that the advantage of such a system over a standard vcr is unimaginable until you actually use it.  it's a whole different level of convenience.

Carol Haynes

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Re: topview recorder or media center pc
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2006, 03:00:36 AM »
Never used a media centre pc, but I have tried using software on normal windows that is supposed to allow hard disc recording etc. and am not too impressed.

If you keep the system really (and I mean really) clean then my experience is that Windows based PC recorders seem to work OK, but not as good as dedicated HD recorders. For me the picture quality on normal TV is just not good enough - can't imagine how well it would work with HD-TV in the future.

The biggest problem I have had is that if you use the system for any other purpose I get frames dropped, codec clashes and generally very poor performance from DVR which makes it pretty unuseable for anything important to me.

I'm sure WMC works better as it has more standard components to do the job, and some of my problems may come from using an ATI Radeo All-in-Wonder card but I still wouldn't trust a PC at the moment to be the only method of doing this sort of recording.

There are some really nice DVD-VR and DVD-RW recorders out there with very large hard discs and great quality - have a look at Pioneer's range for instance - which are cheaper and excellent quality. Check out what's on www.webelectricals.co.uk and www.hifibitz.co.uk.

I have a JVC DVD recorder (without hard disc) which I am now pleaseded with (they swapped the box after a lot of problems with my particular model and it now works fine). The DVD picture quality is excellent and surround sound support is good.

If I had £1000 I could spend on this personally I would buy the best home cinema surround sound system with the facilities you want - I think it would deliver much better quality than any PC is capable of yet.

For the moment the whole area is in such a state of flux, and price freefall, I would go for something cheap and cheerful that does the job, and wait until some of the new HD-DVD/Blu-Ray systems appear down the line.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2006, 03:03:22 AM by Carol Haynes »

nudone

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Re: topview recorder or media center pc
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2006, 07:07:05 AM »
i have to agree with you, Carol.

i would rush out and get a media center pc (one that has been recommended by a magazine group test or something) but i've had my fair share of troubles trying to record video with various capture cards (and tv cards) in the past - so, i'm still doubtful that these 'cards' or usb devices work that well.

even recently released DVB cards that have had glowing reviews in one popular magazine have appeared elsewhere online being described as nothing but a nightmare to use - the usual dropped frames and lock ups.

this has given me the overall impression that if you are lucky enough to find a capture card that works, regardless of it's age, then it's best to stick with it. the information that is printed on the back of the boxes for these kinds of devices appears to be rather spurious to me also. often claiming to capture at a particular resolution when in truth they capture at a lower res and then scale it up. maybe it's just me and i keep buying rubbish.

i've seen how temperamental DVB signals can be (on some receivers) and how vhs video can send some capture devices crazy. combining this with what i've seen in a couple of other forums i'm not filled with the greatest amount of confidence about a windows media center pc.

i made this post in the hope that i would be convinced otherwise and that i'd hear of media center machines that justify their price tag.

i'm still not 100% decided on what to do...

mouser

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Re: topview recorder or media center pc
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2006, 07:15:47 AM »
build your own pvr: http://www.byopvr.com/
homebrew pvr: http://www.mythtv.org/
from makezine: http://www.makezine.com/extras/4.html
wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia....sonal_video_recorder
godzilla pvr: http://blogs.snapstr.../01/18/godzilla-pvr/ (you have to check this one out)
snapstream/beyondtv: http://snapstream.com/
« Last Edit: January 26, 2006, 07:45:43 AM by mouser »

nudone

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Re: topview recorder or media center pc
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2006, 07:19:54 AM »
thanks for the links, mouser. i'll check them out later when i return home.