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Computer-Based Systems

You didn't really think that Microsoft would sit around idle and get locked out of the home entertainment market, did you? Of course not. Which is why Microsoft has introduced the Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. This special edition of Windows is designed to run on Windows Media Center PCs, which are available from a variety of manufacturers, such as Dell and Gateway. The Media Center PC allows you to record and play live TV; burn and play DVDs; play Windows Media video, music, or radio; and view photos—all controlled via a remote control. It really is a PC that happens to go in your home entertainment center.

So what's the drawback? Well, cost is a big one. This really is a PC, and it costs as much as a PC. Actually, because of all the special features, typical Media Center PCs cost a little more than the average PC, which can put a serious dent in your movie and music budget.

Another PC-based offering comes from Sony: the Sony Vaio RoomLink Network Media Receiver. The RoomLink allows you to access all your music, video, and photos stored on your PC, and send them over the wireless network to your TV. However, in addition to the cost of the RoomLink receiver, which is not inexpensive, you need a Sony Vaio PC running Sony's Vaio Media software. If you're a devotee of all things Sony, this might be an option, but if you like a little more choice, there are much more flexible alternatives.

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