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PVR bling — continued

ATI TV Wonder Elite continued
Cyberlink PowerCinema
Instead of bundling the TV Wonder Elite with its own Multimedia Center software, ATI includes a copy of Cyberlink's PowerCinema 3. Fortunately, the Cyberlink software's user interface is designed for viewing on a TV, and it's a lot smoother and more responsive than Multimedia Center.


The TV-friendly user interface resembles the original Windows XP Media Center Edition 2003 interface. It features links to TV, video playback, picture browsing, and radio capabilities. However, the PowerCinema suite lacks music ripping, music playback, and DVD playback capabilities, all of which are simple necessities for a home-theater PC.


PowerCinema's PVR capabilities are also relatively primitive. While time-based recording works, the app functions more like a VCR than a TiVo. With time-based recording, users have to manually input the date, time, and channel for each recording rather than selecting the program from a program guide. PowerCinema can't automatically record all episodes of a favorite show or automatically adjust a recording schedule based on changes in a program guide.


Strangely, ATI doesn't bundle a program guide with the TV Wonder Elite, nor does PowerCinema include one. Usually, when PVR applications lack an integrated enhanced program guide (EPG), a third-party solution like GemStar's Guide+ is included. No such luck with the TV Wonder Elite. Instead, PowerCinema has a TV preview feature that shows a single frame from every available channel. This feature isn't particularly useful for programming recordings, and it doesn't help identify shows during commercials, making it less useful for channel surfing. A fully featured program guide would have been a much better and simpler solution.