Why should I upgrade from Media Center in Vista to Media Center in Windows 8?

For years now I’ve been running a Media Center on Windows Vista and it’s been working like a champ. I even upgraded to an attic installed antenna a while back to get additional tv stations via antenna (discussed here). Last week I had that dreaded moment when I tried to use the Media PC and it was dead as a doornail due to the loss of the hard drive which runs the Operating System (it could have been much worse if it was one of my media drives so I’m not complaining). I decided that if I was going to reinstall it was time to upgrade to Windows 8 Media Center and see what new stuff was out there now.

The following are my assumptions related to this blog post:

  • I have not used the Windows 7 Media Center so I am not differentiating what’s new between Windows 7 and Windows 8 in terms of Media Center. This blog post is discussing what I see as new and relevant since the Windows Vista version of Media Center.
  • There may be additional capabilities that I’m not listing, this blog post is focused on what I see as useful as an end-user of the product on a daily basis.

The Operations System installation went without issue, Media Center installed with no challenges, and my hardware all worked with no additional required driver downloads which was better than I had hoped for.

 

So what are the benefits that I’m seeing after upgrading?

1) New look and feel: The new UI is more intuitive and visually appealing as shown below. It also feels more responsive than the previous version did especially when accessing it via the new UI on an Xbox 360.

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2) More channels!?! I started receiving additional channels on my antenna after the installation on Windows 8 Media Center. Prior to the upgrade I had a listing for 24 stations which translated to about 14 stations which had strong enough signal and were in English. After the upgrade I had a listing for 53 stations, which translated into about 20 stations which had strong enough signal and were in English. Granted, this could have been the result of just needing to rescan available stations but that seems unlikely because I had rescanned a couple of weeks ago.

3) Enhanced integration with NetFlix: On the media pc itself the integration with NetFlix has been enhanced. The integration now shows how far the show is buffered and has a different UI when choosing shows to watch (similar to the synopsis UI shown below). (FYI – the integration with NetFlix still users SilverLight).

4) Details tab: The new tab available when movies or tv shows is pretty cool and provides quick access to the synopsis, actions, other showings, case & crew for the movie or tv show.

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5) HD preferred: On recordings there is a new option available which sets a preference to record on HD if it’s available.

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6) Stop recording X minutes after: This is really helpful if your time synchronization is less than consistent or if you want to over-record for situations such as show extensions which result from various sports running beyond their expected completion time. Extensions were made to the stop option to make this more flexible. The full list of options include: [on time/1 minute after, when possible/2 minutes after, when possible/3 minutes after, when possible/4 minutes after, when possible/5 minutes after/5 minutes after, when possible/10 minutes after/10 minutes after, when possible/15 minutes after /15 minutes after, when possible/30 minutes after/30 minutes after, when possible/1 hour after/1 hour after, when possible/90 minutes after/90 minutes after, when possible/2 hours after/2 hours after, when possible/3 hours after/3 hours after, when possible]

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7) Easier search on media remote: When using a media remote that doesn’t have a keyboard the search option is challenging since you are using the numbers 0-9 to specify letters. They provided a new UI for this which makes it easier to choose the letter that you want which is really helpful when using a remote without a keyboard on it.

 

There may be more, but these are my personal favorites after having spent a couple of days working with the new Media Center in Windows 8!

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