XBox360 as a Media Extender
Getting Past the Hype About What the Xbox360 Extender Can and Cannot Do
It’s a natural tendency to believe exaggerated claims regarding the capabilities of new technology, such as the new Media Center Extender. You look over the system requirements and see how easy they are to fill with an up-to-date PC, and read about the list of capabilities and it’s easy to let your imagination slip away.
A media hub for your Home Theater system and a great gaming machine to boot, what’s not to love?
There are many interesting functions you can perform with the Xbox360 Extender. As well, there are a few minor wrinkles consumers should be aware of. The Xbox360 is incapable of playing back DVD movie backups. However, this is an annoying problem that can be worked around. When accessing the Media Center through your Xbox360, it’s important to note that you’re running a separate instance of the operating system. You’re not really piping into it like a Remote Desktop or VNC connection. The settings on the Xbox360 Extender are unique and won’t carry over to the PC and vice versa.
Let’s look at some of the features of Media Center and what you can do with the Xbox360 Extender.
Digital Video Recorder (DVR)
A Media Center PC will require a tuner card to record TV. Xbox360 will do nothing in the way of recording TV. Even though it has a hard drive, you can only add media to it through Xbox Live.
A hardware PC/DVR tuner card is the best for recording. This means you won’t need Windows XP Media Center at all. Windows XP Media Center provides only a software solution for Digital Video Recording. A hardware solution will save system resources on your Media Center. The added benefit of using a PC/DVR tuner card is that it is compatible with any PC.
HD PVR Problems
The only way to record HD content through a PC is from an over air broadcast. You can record HD content from a digital cable or satellite receiver’s firewire (IEEE 1394) port, but only the local channels. You won’t be recording HBO movies in HD through your PC anytime soon. If the AACS (Advanced Access Content System) has the final say in it you never will. At this time, Windows Media Center doesn’t allow you to record in HD even if it’s available. However, your hardware PVR/PC tuner card can. There are very few available, but ATI makes one called the HDTV Wonder. Regular NTSC broadcasts and programming can be recorded and played back through the Xbox360 as Mpeg2 video files.
- Streaming Video
Media Connect (the service that allows streaming video from Media Center to Xbox360) will only stream .WMV and MPEG2. It will not stream any other form of video, including DVD. With Windows Media Center you can simply copy any DVD’s VIDEO_TS folder to the hard drive and play it back as a DVD. This media, however, will not stream to your Xbox360. If you attempt to stream a backed-up DVD and Xbox360 will product the following error message:
Video Not Supported
Video cannot be viewed in media center from a remote desktop connection.
This may seem to make no sense at all because as we know DVDs are just Mpeg2. We’ll cover the workaround to this problem in the next section "Stream DVD to Xbox360".
Media Connect will stream WMV (Windows Media Video) and, more importantly, HD WMV files. The HD variety are high definition video files capable of Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Unfortunately, there aren’t very many HD WMV files available.