Last week the Raspberry Pi foundation made available mpeg-2 and VC-1 decoding options for the Raspberry Pi, the mpeg-2 decoder priced at £2.40 with the VC-1 licences costs an additional £1.20. Previous to the codecs being available the Raspberry Pi was unable to play Windows Media Center Recorded TV files meaning the files have to be transcoded or converted for them to play on the Pi. With the decoders purchased and the codes added to the config.txt file I used the latest build of Raspbmc and I tried streaming recorded TV files from my main Media Center system to the Raspberry Pi.
My first test was a standard def recording from Channel 5 which previously would only play the audio, with the decoder enabled it played back perfectly including the option of subtitles. Playback was very smooth and I had no problems at all with it.
Next I tested a HD recording from Channel 4 HD again I had no problems with the playback it was great quality with smooth playback. When I tested a BBC One HD recording I found this stuttered on playback, BBC One HD uses a higher quality bitrate than C4 HD so this could be a problem with network bandwidth or the decoding performance of the Raspberry Pi, more testing is need with this.
I also tested one of the sample WMV files that ships with Windows 7, this also played back perfectly so the possibility of using the Raspberry Pi as a Media Center extender looks good. The SD channels play perfectly as does WMV so it means that you may not have to transcode Media Center files to watch them on the Raspberry Pi (I should point out that DRMed files will not work).
I will be bringing my Raspberry Pi to our user group in September if you want to have a go with it in person.
In this video I try some of the Media Center Recorded TV formats