website hit counter Linksys Extender Review Part 1: Media Center & PC Setup - Chris Lanier

Linksys Extender Review Part 1: Media Center & PC Setup

Update: Skip to Extender Review Post

Between Microsoft and Linksys I’ve received a whole package of Media Center related goodies to test.  Instead of this being just a review of the Linksys DMA2200 Extender, it will also cover the overall Media Center setup process from PC to wireless.  Most of the time when I review something Media Center related I use my own PC which has generally been configured exactly how I want, and for the most part how it should be.  This is not always the case with your standard OEM PC, so I’m taking a step back and beginning the process closer to how a first time Media Center and Media Center Extender user would.

Hardware used is listed below.

HP Pavillion dv6500 Laptop

  • AMD Athlon 64 X2 TK-55 (1.80GHz)
  • 2GB of RAM
  • Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit)
  • 3.6 Windows Experience Index
  • VGA and HDMI Outputs

Linksys WRT600N Wireless Router

  • Dual-Band Wireless-N
  • Draft 802.11n support
  • Gigabit Router

Linksys DMA2200 Extender

  • Included DVD Player
  • HDMI, Component, Composite, S-Video
  • Stereo RCA, Digital & Optical Outs
  • 10/100 Ethernet
  • Dual-Band Wireless-N

TV Tuner/Other

  • HP ExpressCard Digital/Analog TV Tuner
  • Used ATSC (OTA HD) in testing
  • HP ExpressCard Remote Control

General PC Setup

I started my setup by looking at the Linksys WRT600N Wireless Router.  Linksys has done a pretty good job over the years of providing end user software to basically automate the whole setup process (for those who don’t want to use the router configuration homepage).  Setup was pretty simple, I just connected my Ethernet cable from a switch into the router’s port marked “Internet.”  Most people will make this connection directly from their modem; however in my test environment I just used a live connection through my switch.

After this basic setup I moved onto the laptop which was where I encountered my first problem.  Upon first bootup I had connected to my existing home wireless network (non-Linksys) and everything worked fine.  However, now wanting to connect to my newly setup wireless router I came to find that Windows didn’t detect any wireless adaptor.  Ok, first stop was the device manager to make sure it wasn’t disabled.  It wasn’t even listed.  Next step was Windows Update to see if it has the drivers.  No luck.  On to the box to find the product CD, no go.  Finally I checked out the C: drive to find a Drivers folder with a WLAN folder inside.  Ran the setup, rebooted and now I was in business.  Of course, I did this to later think through that I still wanted the PC connected over hardwire for the best HD streaming experience.

I picked up the HP ExpressCard Digital/Analog TV Tuner and slide it into the card slot.  The drivers were already installed, however if they had not been I had the setup CD sitting next to me.

Media Center Setup

The next step was to setup the TV tuner and related Media Center bits.  To start the setup of the TV tuner and Guide I simply selected the Setup TV option that was already on the Media Center Start Menu.  It walked me though the setup including downloading the Guide data, selecting and setting up my TV source, etc.

I choose to use the recommended automatic TV source scanning feature in Media Center which found that I was using a Digital TV card with a single antenna connection.  Setting up the Guide was equally simple and just involved entering my zip code into the wizard.  About two minutes later Media Center had downloaded two weeks of Guide data and I was presented with the signal strength for my digital tuner.  To my surprise, the HP ExpressCard and small included antenna yielded excellent signal strength on all my local channels.  At this point, I was ready to start watching and recording some of my favorite shows.

For those of you new to Media Center, you can see what the UI looks like here.  The exact same UI is remoted to any Media Center Extender, of which five can be connected to the PC at once.  The PC can still be used independently either for traditional PC tasks or hooked up to a display running Media Center.

Product Shots 

Related:

Linksys Extender Review Part 2: Extender Experience 

Linksys Extender Review Part 3: Wrap-up

Published Sun, Feb 24 2008 22:12 by chrisl

Comments

# Chris Lanier reviews Media Center Extenders and PC setup

Chris Lanier has started a review of the Linksys extenders and he walks through the setup process including

Monday, February 25, 2008 7:56 AM by Ian Dixon's Blog

# re: Linksys Extender Review Part 1: Media Center & PC Setup

"Of course, I did this to later think through that I still wanted the PC connected over hardwire for the best HD streaming experience."

Not sure exactly what you mean by that Chris.  Does that mean you're not going to test over wireless? I hope you'll give that a shot.  Important info. for those of us without wired network throughout the house.

Monday, February 25, 2008 9:58 AM by Chriscic

# re: Linksys Extender Review Part 1: Media Center & PC Setup

I tested with the Extender connected to the wireless network (and hardwired).

What I didn't do was connect the HP laptop to the wireless network, instead it was connected directly to the router as it really should be in any setup.

Monday, February 25, 2008 10:01 AM by chrisl

# re: Linksys Extender Review Part 1: Media Center & PC Setup

Thanks Chris, makes sense.  Of course it would be nutty to have the Media Center PC itself connected via wireless.

Monday, February 25, 2008 2:28 PM by Chriscic

# re: Linksys Extender Review Part 1: Media Center & PC Setup

Overall how would you rate the out of box experience on a scale of 1 out of 10?

What could Linksys, MSFT or HP do to make it more complete or intuitive?

Thx,

C

Monday, February 25, 2008 3:35 PM by Carlos

# re: Linksys Extender Review Part 1: Media Center & PC Setup

I'm not sure there is any key thing that can be done to improve the out-of-box experience.  One thing that is annoying is the key setup process, I don't really want to key upstairs to the PC to complete the setup.  It's not a deal breaker, just kind of a pain.  Out of 10 I'd give it a 9.

I didn't have many, but network issues seem like the one thing that needs to be improved on.  Between wireless issues that people still have and even hardwired connection issues, the network aspect needs to be looked at the most from a setup perspective.

Friday, February 29, 2008 8:47 AM by chrisl

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