It was almost two
months ago today that we booted up our HDTV-capable
Windows Media Center PC
. Since then, we've tested streaming high-def content via 802.11g
and 802.11a with moderate success
, but we've got some
more tricks up our sleeve. We also wanted to give you an update after using the system for 60 days, because we use it
every day and figure you would too if it worked well. So does it still tickle our HD-spot? What's next on the agenda
for our cobbled-together system?
The short answer is yes, this solution is working very well for us. WMCE has a solid Electronic Programming
Guide that allows us to record our DTV and HDTV via an over-the-air ATSC tuner. We can record individual shows or we
can record a series of shows, which is quite handy. We still don't get programming recommendations similar to TiVo, but
we're waiting in anticipation for a Windows Live
software Gadget to add that function
So we can pull in and record our high-def via ATSC, but what about
the streaming? There's absolutely no question in our minds that a 100Mbps direct or hard-wired connection is the way to
go. Unfortunately, that's the least desired option for us because we didn't plan ahead when our unofficial "HDBeat
Lab" was built; hence the WiFi attempts. The 802.11a is working flawlessly about 95% of the time for us, so we're
almost at wireless HD nirvana. Based on a note we got today from Ara Derderian and Braden Russell of the "HDTV and Home Theater Podcast
", we might get to 100% without running cable through
the walls and floors.
Ara and Braden
indicated that they just tested the new Netgear XE104
and it shows some promise for streaming digital audio and video through the home. The XE104 is
based upon the HomePlug1.0 specification, which means it pumps network traffic through your existing electrical system.
The device is rated for bandwidth throughput up to 85Mbps. We already know that these ratings typically deliver up to
half of the advertised rate, so we should still be OK to shoot MPEG-2 high-def at 19.39Mbps.
We're in touch
with Netgear on some review units, but we might get itchy trigger fingers and order two of 'em soon. Either way, you can
expect a full HD test once we have them. By the way: Ara and Braden already used these to push a ripped DVD over their
network with very few issues. It appears that these units require no configuration, since they're simply Ethernet
Even without a 100% solution for our streaming, we can summarize our feelings with one statement:
this set-up works good enough for us to cancel our local DTV subscription through DISH Network, saving us $5.99 a month
going forward. Yes it's true that DISH will join DIRECTV in beaming locals in high-def, but our location combined with
the Windows Media Extender functionality of the Xbox 360 does the trick.
Stay tuned for updates on the XE104
testing as well as future upgrades to the system once we finally get CableCard 2.0 support. We also just received a full
HDTV review kit of Beyond TV 4 and tuner from SnapStream, so we'll be yanking some guts out of the WMCE machine to try
their HDTV package
. Thanks to Ara and Braden
for the heads up on the Netgear units as well.