MEDIA CENTER PCs While A/V enthusiasts await the high-def Blu-ray and HD DVD disc formats, computer mavens are already recording HD programs off the air to their spacious hard drives and even archiving some shows to DVD. If you have a 3-GHz or faster computer, you can add a DTV tuner card and software yourself. Or you can buy a ready-to-record Windows Media Center PC such as HP's z557 Digital Entertainment Center ($2,600) or the Niveus Media Center-Denali Edition ($4,799). Both have dual-layer DVD recorders that can save a 1-hour HDTV show already recorded to the PC's hard drive to a DVD+R Dual Layer disc. (You can't record directly to the DVD.) A DL disc holds 8.4 GB - enough for The Tonight Show but not a movie. Since the recordings are in the Windows Media Video-High Definition (WMV-HD) format, you can't play them on regular DVD players or recorders.
Earlier this year, I recorded episodes of Arrested Development and Star Trek: Enterprise on the Niveus system. I copied them onto DVD+R DL discs and played them on the HP PC. The quality of the copied programs was identical to those on the hard drive. (But two other Windows XP computers I tried couldn't read the discs at all.) Unfortunately, you can't use a Media Center PC to make recordings from your high-def cable and satellite receiver.
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