Windows 7 Media Center Review

Windows Media Center

You’ll find no shortage of software that will turn an ordinary PC into a TV-friendly media center. From MythTV and Freevo for chronic TV recorders, to Boxee and XMBC for Hulu and YouTube fanatics, any machine can morph into a set-top box with the right software aboard.

But for total integration with an OS, Windows Media Center has been hard to beat. The large-print, remote-friendly interface for Windows started off as an offshoot from Windows XP, grew into its own with Windows Vista, and has taken on an even more impressive suite of features with Windows 7. While we ran the new OS through a slew of benchmarks, testing and performance comparisons for our Windows 7 Road Test, we didn’t have a chance to fully poke and prod all the new Media Center features Microsoft has slid in along with its other updates. So without further ado, here’s what Windows 7 brings to the scene, and some of our own impressions from toying with the impressive new tool.

Internet Video, Take Two

Or as Microsoft calls it, “Internet Video, Beta 2.” Microsoft technically introduced the feature as Beta 1.1 with Vista, but it has revamped access to this content with Windows 7. While the categories (News, sports, movies, etc.) will look familiar, the menu system has changed to deliver a fuller overview of all options. Main categories, for instance, no longer spread across the top of the screen in an outrageously large type size that pushes non-selected items to the very periphery of the screen, and the side-scrolling effect has been done away with. The result may be less artistic and striking, but seeing all options right from the start makes finding what you want significantly easier.

Unfortunately, the selection of content (culled from MSDN) remains as it always has been – rather weak. Although we found full episodes of Arrested Development and a few other gems, the majority of the content remains in clips, putting it far behind providers like Hulu. Microsoft also conveniently continues to snub Google-owned YouTube as a rich source for content.

Internet Video
Windows 7 Internet Video

Turbo Scroll

Nothing’s more annoying than sorting through a list of 2,458 titles when all you have to work with is a back and forth button, which is why Microsoft has developed Turbo Scroll. Hold that scroll button down and titles start flying by – until they turn into a quite literal blur. Fortunately, it’s an intentional visual effect, and Microsoft layers over a couple letters from each entry on the whizzing list going by to clue you in as to when it might be time to stop. It works with both media loaded on the server, and other obtuse lists, like days’ worth of TV listings.

Turbo Scroll
Windows 7 Turbo Scroll

The Fade

Windows Media Center (and even most cheapo cable boxes with guides) have always allowed you to browse while you watch TV with picture-in-picture style video playing beside menus. Windows Media Center takes it a step further with a classier technique, which lays whatever you’re watching over the menu system in a semi-transparent gradient as you perform other tasks. Besides scoring some definite style points, the new way of cutting away from active video leaves it much larger, making it much easier to watch when you actually divert your eyes from the menu. Unfortunately, Media Center still reverts to picture-in-picture for some crowded menus that just weren’t built to have a additional video layered over them (like the Internet TV browser).

The Fade
Windows 7 gradient fade

5G is the swift kick VR and AR gaming needs to come to fruition

There's a lot of hype surrounding augmented reality and virtual reality, but is it really the next big thing? We take a look at where the new mediums stand, as well as how 5G is poised to help them break into the mainstream.

Samsung Galaxy S10e vs. iPhone XR: Cut-price flagship showdown

The Samsung Galaxy S10 range has been revealed, and it heralds a new age of powerful technology. The Galaxy S10e packs the new power and design into a cheaper price point. But is it better than the iPhone XR?
Home Theater

Make the most out of your new Apple TV with these must-have apps

If you're looking to turn your fourth-generation Apple TV or Apple TV 4K into an all-in-one entertainment powerhouse, we can help you get started with this list of the best Apple TV apps you can download.

Xbox's app lets you access your console while away from home. Here's how

Microsoft's Xbox allows you to access your profile information and launch media content directly from your mobile device. Check out our quick guide on how to connect your smartphone to an Xbox One.

Here's our guide to how to charge your laptop using a USB-C cable

Charging via USB-C is a great way to power up your laptop. It only takes one cable and you can use the same one for data as well as power -- perfect for new devices with limited port options.

Get the best of both worlds by sharing your data on MacOS and Windows

Compatibility issues between Microsoft Windows and Apple MacOS may have diminished sharply over the years, but that doesn't mean they've completely disappeared. Here's how to make an external drive work between both operating systems.

Potentially malicious WinRAR vulnerability patched after almost 20 years

WinRAR, a piece of Windows software for managing archival formats, has been harboring a vulnerability for nearly two decades, potentially allowing malicious software to insert items into a computer's startup folder without user permission.

Is Ice Lake coming soon? Here's what we know about Intel's future chip design

Intel's Ice Lake may end up launching before the architecture it was supposed to replace. With hints of more announcements about the chip design in the very near future, here's everything you need to know about Ice Lake.

Apple is reportedly set to showcase a new Mac Pro at WWDC 2019 in June

Our Mac Pro 2019 rumor roundup covers all the news, leaks, and rumors about Apple's new machine, set to be announced sometime in 2019. Here's what Apple has said, what the experts think, and what we're likely to see with the new Mac Pro.

Learn to uninstall a Steam game and clear some space on your PC

Looking to learn how to uninstall Steam games? You've come to the right place. In this guide, we walk you through the process step by step, whether you want Steam to do it for you or handle the process manually.

Prone to web surfing? Google Chrome’s new Focus Mode fights internet distractions

Finding yourself distracted by the web when you need to get work done? A new flag in Google Chrome could hint at a new Focus Mode. The feature may allow computer users to block distracting websites or notifications.

Intel expects Apple to transition Macs to ARM processors in 2020, report says

It has been rumored for some time that Apple could transition away from Intel to ARM processors, but a new report now claims that Intel is aware of the decision and that it could happen in 2020.

Still miss Windows 7? Here's how to make Windows 10 look more like it

There's no simple way of switching on a Windows 7 mode in Windows 10. Instead, you can install third-party software, manually tweak settings, and edit the registry. We provide instructions for using these tweaks and tools.

Dodge the biggest laptop-buying mistakes with these handy tips

Buying a new laptop is exciting, but you need to watch your footing. There are a number of pitfalls you need to avoid and we're here to help. Check out these top-10 laptop buying mistakes and how to avoid them.
1 of 2