MCE's PVR software

The PVR software in MCE is very much like TiVo… you can search for content by genre, channel, time, or thru a guide. MCE can search by keywords, but TiVo’s Wish List is much more powerful. MCE is stronger on movies, as it goes to the internet and pulls down everything you could possibly want to know about a movie. It even pulls the chapter names from your DVD, so it displays a description rather than “Chapter 3 of 25”.  It pulls the movie poster, director, plot and actors, even actors with minor roles that don’t even appear in the credits. You can hyperlink around all day, seeing what other movies a particular actor has been in, etc.

The software that comes with the Hauppauge cards is ok, but it’s not very appliance like. What makes MCE so great is that is operates trouble-free like an appliance and integrates with ALL your media, not just PVR stuff.  Use one MCE remote to play compressed videos (Divx Xvid, WMVs), DVDs, MP3s, internet radio, channel surf, and even play games. There are some minor usability issues that TiVo does better, but MCE is like 95% there and is way better than any other software PVR, IMO. Sure Snapstream has a few nifty features (like showing you in a timeline how much of the program is left), but you have to pay for extra add-on features that MCE gives you for free. Once you get used to MCE you’ll never look at the standard software again – it’s just very polished.

Also the Hauppauge remote you use may not work with every PVR application.  MCE is becoming part of a system… Xbox and Xbox360 can be used to watch anything from MCE over your network, including live TV.  When you buy an MCE remote you KNOW it will work with MCE.  If you buy Snapstream (and the Firefly remote that works with it) and then decide you don’t like SnapStream, then the remotes you have may not work with the other PVRs you experiment with.
I hear MythTV is supposed to be real awesome and stable, but it takes a major Linux-geek to install it, plus the remote testing and everything.
I can hear the flame-war starting now… “you can setup this and that to be much more flexible than MCE…”.  Yes you can, and there are packages, and software that can do a better job, but you’ll waste lots and lots of time researching, experimenting and figuring out what you want and don’t want.  I’ve played with alot of them, and I’m telling you: save yourself a huge headache and use MCE. 
Alan is a web architect, stand-up comedian, and your friendly neighborhood Grammar Nazi. You can stalk him on the Interwebs via Google+, Facebook and follow his ass on Twitter @ocmodshop.