TiVo or Media Center

With current technology the VCR is rapidly becoming obsolete. Just take a look in the electronics stores; you'll generally find a very small selection of basic VCRs and much more of a selection of DVD players and TiVos. Each has its place but today I'm talking about TiVo and Windows Media Center.

These two each let you record and watch television but there are some definite differences. The wonderful thing about both programs is that you can be recording and watching a program at the same time. If you have dual tuners you may even be able to watch one channel while recording another. It all depends on your setup. Of course, one of the favorite features of each program is the ability to fast forward through the commercials. This knocks off a big chunk of TV watching time, which is just wonderful.

TiVo is designed for watching television while Media Center is a program added to a computer that is designed for much more. The one that is better for you depends on your needs. I personally prefer TiVos interface.

When using it I find it to be more intuitive and better planned for a television screen. In particular I find setting priorities easier on TiVo - which can be important when you want it to choose automatically between overlapping programs. Media Center can be used just on your computer or you can set things up to work on your television. I haven't yet tried the Vista version of Media Center, in which I understand improvements have been made. It can't be easy trying to program an interface that works both on a large television screen or on a small window on a computer. That difference is where many of the problems with Media Center have tended to come in.

Buttons can look absurdly large on a television but be nicely sized on a computer. One little feature I love on TiVo is the reaction time when you're rewinding or fast forwarding. It jumps back just a little so that you can hit play when you know you're at the end of the commercials. The step back is just about perfect to put you at exactly when the show started back up from the commercials.

In each case you can decide to record an entire series. You can even decide whether you want all episodes recorded or just the new ones. This is really wonderful for those times that you miss that your favorite show is playing on a different day than usual. This feature can't do anything about those times when a program is unexpectedly moved, but for regularly scheduled schedule changes it's wonderful. You either love or hate TiVo's habit of recording shows it thinks you might like. These are deleted before the programs you chose to record are deleted, but the feature drives some people nuts.

Fortunately, if you hate it the feature can be turned off. Pricewise, the better one depends on what you're shopping for. Media Center comes as a part of a computer and is more expensive if you don't want it as a computer. TiVo generally costs far less. However Media Center does not require a subscription and TiVo does. For watching television I really feel TiVo is superior.

It is designed strictly for that and so it does the job extremely well. Media Center as an add on to control your television, music, pictures, etc. on a computer just can't beat it at that game. TiVo also doesn't have to worry about viruses and other computer hazards.

Stephanie Foster runs http://www.comparesatellite.info/ where she compares satellite and cable television offerings. You can find cheap satellite television offerings at her website.

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