MSI ATI Theater 550 Pro PCI
PowerCinema 3, And A Pearl White Remote
Getting the drivers for the ATI Theater 550 Pro, and the PowerCinema software installed took no time at all. As with most software these days, just put the CD in the drive, follow the on screen instructions, and in a few minutes, you should be good to go. The PowerCinema software, on the outside, seems clean, functional, and easy to navigate. However, that's not entirely the case. Whenever we get new software, one of the first things we do is look at the options and settings. While PowerCinema gives you some level of control, such as being able to choose recording quality(good, better, best), audio recording formats, and color profiles, there isn't the level of functionality found in rival software. There's no ability to turn off timeshifting, or change your saved media folder/drive. There is also no channel listing available, so keep that TV Guide close.
PowerCinema 3.0 allows you to watch TV, listen to FM radio, and record both. Unfortunately though, all of these actions feel a big sluggish. The software, while certainly not terrible, could respond a little quicker. We noticed slight pauses when just clicking through the menus, and experienced even longer pauses lasting a few seconds when trying to record. To make sure it wasn't the tuner, we tried another all-in-one media center program, BeyondTV 3.5. We received none of the delays that are found with PowerCinema. While these annoyances certainly won't cripple your media experience, it can get annoying after a while. Even more so if your trying to do something in a hurry. PowerCinema version 4 has recently been released, and while we did not have the chance to use the software, we couldn't find any complaints similar to the ones we had with PowerCinema 3. However, if your interested in PowerCinema 4, we suggest doing some research on it before you're purchase (it is NOT included with the MSI Theater 550).
We've come to enjoy the remotes packaged in today's TV Tuners, and this one compares favorably with its competitors. Quick link buttons are placed on the top of the remote, allowing you to quickly jump from viewing your pics, to watching TV, and then listening to the radio. The bottom half looks like any other TV/DVD remote. Keep in mind that with timeshifting, you can use the Fast Forward, Rewind, and Pause buttons while watching TV. The remote requires two AAA(Triple A) batteries to run, which MSI has included (everything you need to get going is found in MSI's package).