I’ve been using Windows 7 Media Center as my dedicated media hub for the last few weeks, and it’s been a nice upgrade from Vista Media Center. Some improvements include support for up to 4 tuners for each type (QAM, ATSC, etc…), a lot of interface improvements, and HD support to name a few. It can even play AVI/DivX files natively without needing any add-ons.
Windows 7 Media Center does support HD content, but it isn’t able to handle Matroska files (with the MKV file extension) which is disappointing. The MKV format, for those of you unfamiliar with them, has become the chosen method for people ripping Blu-ray videos to their machine. Since those files aren’t supported the videos are treated just as any other file on your computer… they do not show thumbnail previews and, more importantly, are not playable.
The solution is easy though. DivX Labs has introduced a “tech preview” of what they call Project Remoulade. Part of the project is a simple download that adds support for MKV files to Windows 7. Once installed you’ll get thumbnail previews in Windows Explorer (including details like movie duration), you can watch the videos in Windows Media Player or Media Center, and it can even be streamed to UPNP devices like the Xbox 360 or other extenders. Their most recent release also added support for 64-bit versions of Windows 7 in addition to the already supported 32-bit.
It’s still not 100% perfect yet, and I’ve particularly noticed issues when streaming to my Xbox 360. For example, some movies that play on my computer will not play on my Xbox. Installing the free AC3Filter and Haali Media Splitter, however, made the rest of my videos work. I’m sure the DivX add-on will continue to get better, and I’m just happy to see them working on an easy way for people to play MKV files on their machines.
MKV Support on Windows 7 (Windows 7 only; 32/64-bit; Freeware)