Windows Media Center HTPC users have had the relatively same recorded TV interface for a few different versions now. I doubt that many users have complained due to the ability to sort and view their recordings in several different ways. There was a bit of customization there but it has always been limited. That said, just because there are no complaints about something, doesn’t mean it can’t be improved and Recorded TV HD from MJT Software and Services does just that. It takes what was a normal and highly usable experience, keeps the usability and transforms it into something special.
The features that Recorded TV HD brings to the table are numerous. Even more so with the latest version:
- Fully automatic metadata download
- Custom backdrops and images
- Favorites list
- Genre sorting
- Commercial break viewing (with other 3rd party software)
- Ability to customize menu strips within Media Center
First, metadata. If you’re an HTPC user, it’s part of what makes your setup special. No satellite or cable box can give the layout that proper metadata and images do and Rec. TV HD does this automatically. From backdrops to screen captures, it downloads from thetvdb.com and themoviedb.org to provide you a gorgeous backdrop to view your recorded shows. It’s the automatic part that is the best with Recorded TV HD however. Most other software will require some sort of tweaking in order to get everything right. While the option to override metadata is available, I have yet to need it. It has been totally accurate each and every time.
Favorites and Sorting
Favorites has to be my, well, favorite feature of Recorded TV HD! With myself, my wife and two children, lists of recorded shows can get quite long. It can take a good bit of time to find the show I want to watch. With Recorded TV HD however, that's no longer an issue. Once installed, taking the time to setup favorite lists is one of the best things you can do to improve your experience. Now, when I want to watch something, I only see a list of the shows I want to watch. The same goes for my wife and sons. They can jump directly to a list of their shows.
It doesn't seem like such a big deal but it completely changes the experience. When you go from scrolling through 40+ listings to only having to scroll through five, you can find what you're looking for a lot quicker which means getting the goal that much faster. Anything that lets me start watching my favorite show sooner is better in my view.
Recorded HD TV takes sorting to another level by building in genre and movie sorting by default. If you record a lot of movies, you can jump directly to that list. Genre sorting allows you to find the show you're in the mood for. Again, all of this metadata is pulled from websites so it's only as accurate as they are but I haven't had any issues yet.
Commercial Break Viewing
If you’re a Show Analyzer user, you know that at times, it can skip part of your show. I know it never happened often for me but it can happen. With this software installed however, Recorded TV HD will show you where commercial breaks are right in the Media Center scrub bar. While not useful for everyone, it’s a nice feature that can help you know when the next break is coming.