Vista Media Center is severely lacking

Stop using Vista and move to Windows 7.

Update: This post refers to Beta 2 of Windows Vista. It remains for reference purposes, however is most likely innacurate in the context of the released product.

The first stage of my enthusiastic upgrade push was to upgrade my Media Center box to Windows Vista Ultimate. The install experience was great. Vista is great. The included build of Media Center is somewhere between appauling and utterly pathetic.

  • Launching Media Center from the Start menu or the official remote results in me seeing a black screen (not even a mouse cursor) for about 30 seconds with no sound. Eventually I see and hear the Media Center UI appear. The used to load almost instantly in XP MCE even though the machine had 256MB of RAM instead of the 1GB that I installed in preparation for Vista. The graphics card has another 256MB of video RAM on it so there shouldn’t be any delays there either.
  • It can’t even play an MP3 file smoothly – it stutters and jerks every 15 to 20 seconds.
  • It took almost 3 hours to add 14 MP3 files to the library from a local folder.
  • All of my movies (XViD and DivX format primarily) play fine in WMP11, and both Windows Explorer and Media Center display thumbnail snapshots (which are generated separately instead of being shared), however they won’t play in Media Center. I get a black screen and audio … nothing else … not even an error message so I can start diagnosing the problem.
  • The user interface feels like a serious step backwards, but that’s just my subjective feeling.

Overall, my experience with Vista has been great so far. I haven’t had a single crash / bug, even though I quite willingly expected to see 1 or 2 by now. My experience with Media Center leaves much to be desired, and I’m currently reformatting back to XP MCE again so that I can actually watch TV. We shouldn’t be seeing issues as deep as this by the second beta.

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Update: My XViD and DivX movies now play properly. The DivX codec seems to be incompatible with this build, but the XViD codec can decode both formats. Having DivX installed kills both formats though – wierd. I still consider this to be a bug on Microsoft’s side as it wouldn’t report the codec error at all like WMP does. Most of the time it shows a scrambled screen (because of the transition effect) that is meant to be drawn over by the movie but just never does. I’ll see if I can stay on this platform after all … but most likely not considering it still can’t even play an MP3 file.

7 comments

  1. Hmm

    what build are you using? I find that Media Center doesnt have a clue about xvid movies when I add a folder, what is your secret ??

  2. I am sure I tried that first as it was the first thought that came to my head. I have read on the newsgroups for beta 2 that media center won’t read anything other than WMV’s and other MS formats…

  3. Haha. I like this post. You make it very clear that it’s time for people to move on. But sometimes, that’s just not an option. For me, Vista will have to do for a little longer–until I am ready to buy a new laptop. And I don’t want to invest in upgrading to Windows 7 for a laptop that I will only be using for a few more months. Thanks for the chuckle though!

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