So, for quite some time, I’ve been using Windows Media Center and have generally been very happy with it. Sure, the remote is ugly as hell, and the recording format is a bit impenetrable, but as a user experience it’s really very, very good, and it generally works exactly as you’d expect. Combined with an extender like an XBox 360, and it’s really quite a slick bit of kit.
However, lately I took delivery of a second-hand Mac Mini from work, and I thought I’d put it to service as a little media box under the telly. Everyone keeps telling me how wonderful Macs are, so I left OS X on it, and shelled out for a copy of EyeTV so I could use it as a PVR, too. Well, it turns out that’s a mistake because, compared to WMC, EyeTV is utterly terrible.
For example: Even though Freeview in the UK has a perfectly serviceable set of programme guide data, EyeTV instead defaults to fetching programme information from an company called TvTv – which seems to lack a bunch of random channels, and although you get a year for free with EyeTV, it actually charges for the data after that. You can use the over-the-air programme guide, but you have to select that for every single channel manually, and it seems virtually impossible to get full details for a programme, even though they’re visible on my TV’s built-in EPG.
Or how about recording? Tonight, I had QI scheduled to record at 9:30pm. Naomi wanted to watch Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas, at 8:00pm, but was marking books, so I set that to record too. Just before 9pm, Naomi finished work, and I switched to EyeTV and zipped back to the start of Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas, and we started watching it, assuming that as it had recorded, we’d just be watching the recording, and EyeTV would record QI at 9:30pm, as scheduled. But oh no – EyeTV assumed that because we were watching the channel it was recording, we wanted to continue recording the channel we were watching, and it did so silently. So, instead of recording the programme I’d asked it to, it silently continued recording whatever was on after Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas, and totally failed to record QI.
And that’s not even beginning to mention the picture quality – which is, frankly, poor compared to Media Center or even my TV’s built-in tuner. It’s washed out, and the de-interlacing is awful.
It’s bad enough that I’m on the verge of wiping OS X from my Mac Mini and replacing it with Windows 7, just for Media Center. As a PVR, the Mac Mini with EyeTV really doesn’t cut it.