Some of us find ourselves without a signed and stamped Windows Media Center Edition PC. At least, that’s the situation I find myself in. Without built-in features like TV-tuning and remote control, I am left to search for third-party solutions. Intervideo wants to help and offers one solution, the broadly named Home Theater package that claims to “Turn your PC into an entertainment center” by helping you watch TV, DVDs and other videos while listening to music and viewing pictures. And no, not all at the same time.
Does it do that? Well, not quite. First of all, the TV tuning (TV tuner card not included) is buggy. You first must make sure your card is supported. For instance, an Encore brand card had sound issues, while ATI cards worked well. The quality of the TV is solely up to your card, because Home Theater just hijacks the stream and does not perform the decoding itself. One of the biggest draws of additional TV software is scheduled recordings. Essentially, Home Theater claims to turn your TV into TiVo. This feature would not function. While it found all my channels, on the schedule screen, it would not let me input a channel to record. When I clicked “Finish,” it went back to the list of scheduled recordings with no changes. This was disappointing because otherwise the software works fairly well.
The biggest benefit Home Theater offers is a media library. While other programs do this, its interface is specifically designed for browsing media with a remote. Initial setup lets you add folders to automatically scan for music, movies, and photos making it easy to watch videos or play a slideshow. There are some silly quirks though, like not being able to remove My Videos, etc., from the watch lists.