Ben Drawbaugh at EngadgetHD has a short but information-rich hands-on look at the Vista Media Center TV Pack (aka “Fiji”). The new features are ideal for someone like me, with multiple CableCARD tuners and multiple over-the-air ATSC digital tuners.
Two much-anticipated features are missing, according to Ben’s report: DirecTV support and H.264 file compatibility. Here’s a partial list of what is included:
- Native support for clear QAM signals
- Less stringent DRM, which should allow you to move or copy recorded files from unprotected (non-premium) channels delivered via CableCARD
- The ability to assign and prioritize individual tuners on a per-channel basis
- Per-user favorite lists
- Access to digital subchannels
- Custom channel numbering
Only trouble is, you and I can’t get the updates, which are currently available only to beta testers in time-bombed versions that will expire this fall. [Update, thanks to Joe in the comments: Mary Jo Foley says the version handed to beta testers will not be time-bombed.] That’s when OEMs will get the new bits to include in Vista Home Premium and Ultimate systems. As far as anyone can tell, the new features will not be available as an upgrade, only with new systems. It’s highly unlikely that it will be available as a System Builder package for do-it-yourselfers, given that CableCARD support is currently available only with new systems from OEMs like Dell and HP.
From a support point of view, this decision makes a lot of sense. From an enthusiast’s point of view, it’s a colossal disappointment.