Can a Media Center TV really replace a TIVO?
November 4, 2006 7:45 AM   Subscribe

Hi, Does anyone use a Media Center PC as their "Tivo-like" box for recording television and seeing on your actual television?

I actually pay $12.00 a month for replay tv and I was thinking I'd rather get a Media Center PC to do the same stuff.

However, my problem is that I can't know for sure that Media Center PC's handle channels above 125 (so for most cable boxes you're missing a lot of channels, namely premium channels).

And, while the added benefit of viewing pictures and music through your actual tv/stereo system exists, is using a computer energy inefficient for this process?

I appreciate any help here. I can see where consumer-techies believe that the PC will be the media hub, but I wish it were clearer as to how to do that.
posted by skepticallypleased to Technology (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I use Media Center PC, but only have my basic analog cable hooked up to it. However, you can hook up your cable box from your cable service provider (to get the higher up specialty channels) by connecting the video out from the cable box to the media center pc (instead of your TV). To change channels with media center, however, you would need an "IR blaster" type of device that you would place in front of your cable box that would send the command (from Media Center) to the cable box to change the channel (replacing your cable box remote). Hope that helps.
posted by omair at 8:13 AM on November 4, 2006

yes except i am running mythtv on linux.

as far as energy efficiency is concerned, if you could build a system out of a mobile core 2 duo, it would be very energy efficient. i think is is now possible, but most of the compatible motherboards are mini-atx and i need a full atx motherboard. also the mobile c2d is pretty expensive.

in my case i have the desktop core 2 duo in a machine with 4 disks, and at idle it burns 90W. i have it set up to wake up, record, and shut down again, so for total energy consumption its probably way, way less than a tivo or similar which is on all the time and burning in the neighborhood of 60-70W. its probably on 1-2 hours a day, tops.

don't know about cable, i just do over-the-air HDTV.
posted by joeblough at 8:33 AM on November 4, 2006

Best answer: I have a Windows Media Center PC and yes, it can handle channels above 125, and I think using it to view pictures and listen to music is awesome and definitely not a waste of PC resources.

As omair mentioned you will need the IR blaster in order to control the cable box (in my case the device came with the PC when I purchased it). If you wish to view your recorded TV on your TV, as opposed to your monitor, you will also need to invest in a Media Center extender such as the one here. Extenders can operate wirelessly (802.11g or higher, 802.11b does not have enough bandwidth) or via a wired ethernet connection. Xbox 360's also provide the capabililty to act as an extender.

I have an HP extender that connects to the Media Center PC wirelessly from my bedroom and I also have a 360 that is wired directly to my router.

If you decide to enter the market for a Windows Media Center PC and run into problems or just have questions you will want to go over to the boards at either or, they are an invaluable source of information for Windows Media Center PC owners.
posted by caflores22 at 10:36 AM on November 4, 2006

The only question: Are you going to be doing more with your MCE box that will justify the cost? (The 12$ per month)

A decent MCE system can run from $600-1200 depending on form factor and quietness. They are *NOT* power efficient. It's not worth the trouble, hassle, install issues if you just want to replace your replay TV.

I use mine because it has 2 tuners and OTA HD, as well as using it as an upscaling DVD player (TheaterTek+ffdshow), plus it extends to my xbox360.
posted by mphuie at 10:47 AM on November 4, 2006

Response by poster: Wow -- thanks for the answers. If the PC guys really expect us to use the PC as a home TV/media storage and distribution device they are going to have think twice about the energy consumption issue. Thanks for the boards ca22 I'll definitely look to them also.
posted by skepticallypleased at 6:29 PM on November 4, 2006

This thread is likely dead, but I'll add that an extender is not necessary if you have the PC hooked up directly to your TV. I have both a monitor and TV hooked up to mine.

Most(all?) tuner card will only allow you to get the analog channels that you would get by plugging the cable directly into your tv. That is, digital channels that require a cable box will be unavailable unless you actually have a cable box.
posted by stovenator at 3:10 PM on November 5, 2006

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