Review: MSI Media Live HTPC
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Reviewed by Ryan McLaughlin on 03/08/2008
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  • hginsburg

    Your article is great. I’m currently researching a setup almost identical to what you put together. The only thing you don’t list is the make and model of the TV tuner card. What did you go with?

    Thanks,
    -Howard

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  • http://www.justechn.com Ryan McLaughlin

    I used the Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-500. I wrote a review about it a while ago and it has been working so good I thought I would give it a try in my HTPC.

    I should also take this opportunity to add an update to the review. After using the MSI case for a couple months I discovered a problem with the IR receiver. The IR receiver that is built into the front of the case does not always work very well. If I am sitting off to the side it does not work at all. I have to be right in front of it and fairly close. Sometimes I end up having to hold down the button on the remote for a few seconds before it picks up the signal. The oddest part is that there is a red light that comes on when the case gets an IR signal. That red light comes on whenever I use a remote, but the machine does not respond. I have tried the remote that came with the WinTV-PVR-500 and a Harmony 880, both are the same.

    I ended up using the IR receiver that came with the WinTV-PVR-500 and it works much better. I can use it from just about any angle and any distance. However, before it would work I had to disable the receiver on the case. So far I have been using this for a month and it is working perfectly.

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  • mamikel

    Thanks very much for taking the time to publish this article I was keen to get some user feedback on this case as it ticks many boxes on paper.

    It is odd that MSI don’t publish the PSU wattage and the video chip given that these are such critical components.

    Do you know the wattage of the PSU? I couldn’t find it on the MSI site. That might also be a concern particularly if the O/S chosen is Vista – I much prefer XP MCE but I’m in the minority . :)

    I wonder if I should stick with my original idea of using a laptop. It’s hard to go past them – they have the low power consumption, inbuilt wireless and plenty of connectivity not to mention if the power goes out, you have a good couple of hours of battery life and of course an inbuilt monitor in case you need to work close up. :)

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  • http://www.justechn.com Ryan McLaughlin

    You are correct that MSI does not publish the PSU wattage, but they do publish the Video chipset. I looked up the PSU and it is 300W, and on the MSI website they list the Video chip as a GeForce 6150LE.

    I cannot argue with the idea of using a laptop as long as you get one with a decent graphics chip. That is my biggest complaint about the Media Live, it has a weak graphics chip. I was forced to run XP MCE 2005 because the video chip could not handle Vista Ultimate.

    A laptop would not have the display that is on the front of the Media Live, but after having mine for a while I find that I hardly ever use it. I also never use the buttons that are underneath. The other negative to using a laptop is having an external tuner. Having an internal tuner with a decoder card built-in is great because it takes the decoding job away from the CPU and puts in on the card. This leaves the CPU free to do other tasks, like making up for a weak video chip, processing audio and running the OS. If you don’t have built-in decoding I would recommend a high end dual core CPU.

    A laptop would have the benefit of not taking up a lot of space and having a built-in keyboard and screen. If you can I would avoid wireless. Whenever I have tried it the performance has been less than wired. Since you would be streaming video and audio, possibly HD, a wired connection is needed for the bandwidth.

    If you do use a laptop I would be interested in your experience.

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  • Linetic

    Hi. Thanks for a good review. I just bought one and a got the same first problem sa you had, the desktop does not fit on the screen. I’m using the HDMI 1080i connection. Have tried all I can think of with the driver but nothing works. The closest thing was with the resolution of 1768*960 or something like that. Then it fitted on the screen but the lower half of the screen just looked like the rainbow. What did you do to make the screen fit? By the way, I use Vista home premium and it plays video very well without problem. I have 4 GB ram 800 MHz and a AMD Athlon 64 X2 5400+ 2,8 GHz. Thanks in advance from Sweden.

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  • http://www.justechn.com Ryan McLaughlin

    If you open up the display properties and go into the advanced settings there should be some settings for stretching the screen. I know this is not the best solution, but it was all I could find. In addition, my screen is not completely filled. There is still a bit of black on the left side of my screen.

    I also noticed that different TV’s handle the input from the device differently. If you are seeing rainbow effects this may be a problem with your TV. Are you by chance using a DLP TV? Rainbows are fairly common in some DLPs. I am using an LCD and I have never seen rainbows in the display.

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  • http://www.justechn.com Ryan McLaughlin

    I just wanted to let you all know that the power supply on my Media Live just recently died and I had to send it back to MSI for repairs. The process went fairly smoothly. I had to remove all the hardware that I had added before I sent it back, which is a big pain. The turn around time was really quick I sent it in on Nov 4, and it was returned on Nov 14. 10 days is not that long, but I certainly missed it while it was gone.

    Because of this experience I have decided to buy a different case for my future needs. I have purchased a Antec Fusion Remote and so far I am really impressed. I was able to get this case and a motherboard and it is actually less expensive than the MSI case. I will be writing a more detailed review later, but for now you may want to check it out.

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  • Dave B

    I’ve been looking around for information about this case and found the review quite useful but thought I’d add this for anyone thinking of running vista using this chipset. It seems that a lot of stuttering video in vista is caused by the mpeg2 decoder which can be resolved by using a 3rd party solution. See http://forum.msi.com.tw/index.php?topic=117821.msg898047

    Hope this helps

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  • Murad

    I am running Windows Vista Ultimate with Media Center and it works very well. I have 4 GB of RAM though, Vista seems to like that. Mine is also getting really hot. I have a Athlon X2 5000 CPU, changing that to a 45W CPU now might cool it down I hope.

    Now the PSU seems to have died too, the machine is just dead when I try to turn it on. Did you return the full case w/PSU or just the PSU?

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  • http://www.justechn.com Ryan McLaughlin

    Because it was all packaged together I returned it all together.

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  • Dave

    Ryan,

    Can you tell me if these units can “upscale” SDTV up to HDTV? like 720i/p or 1080i/p?

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    • http://www.justechn.com Ryan McLaughlin

      I don’t think there is any hardware that upscales the video.

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