Monday, October 15, 2007

Adding a fat PVR - Windows Media Center (MCE), Joost, Snapstream or GB-PVR

Its been eight months since our family of five added a PVR to our list of devices in the TV room. It was more expensive than what some call a PVR, although we believe we've got more out of it than we expected. After much humming and hahing and after having read dozens of articles and website s about them we finally purchased and installed what we a fat PVR, fat because it's NOT:
- a DSTV PVR (cable/satellite decoder)
- DVD with PVR (solid state device)
- USB storage with video
- slimline PC style PVR system, all in one package
- any other 'pre-built' (PC-based) PVR

Our fat PVR was custom built so that it can perform all the functions of the others as well play games that generally use a Windows platform (for the kids :P). The box, a Thermaltake Tenor is a dud but at least keeps things at a cool operating temperature. Once you add the gaming requirement, the specs increase and benefit those looking for better quality display. Games need a better display adapter than those which come packaged in a pre-built PVR. I look forward to an HDTV hi resolution set.

Tough decisions to make was the choice of PVR software. I wasn't sure about Windows Media Center (MCE), mainly because of my experiences with IE (and IIS). From reading many blogs and sites it seemed that MCE was the best choice, so we started with MCE. There were a few issues we found such as:
- giving names to, and setting up TV stations neatly, so they are easy to use
- giving names to TV recordings
- sorting music and dealing with playlists, and
- general functionality or the lack thereof.

We looked for others. I had installed Democracy player but that's something else (so is Joost). We tried Snapstream and kind of used it for a few weeks. We ran out before the time limited license did.

Finally we stumbled upon GB-PVR and we've used it ever since. It does all the things well, has great functionality, works with the Media Centre remote, good functionality and also stores all the files very neatly. It works on Windows and does the job well.

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