Microsoft is set to release their Release Candidate of Windows 7 to the public within the next week or so, which of course means it’s already out there if you look for it.
One of the coolest new features of Windows 7 is the highly revamped method of media playback, and a new version of Windows Media Player. WMP12 will include support for many more codecs right “out of the box” which means you no longer have to mess around with community codec packs. As you know, these can be a headache to manage. Now with Windows 7 and WMP12, you can easily play an XviD AVI file immediately. Want to play an MP4 video file? Yup, that too. Even Apple’s MOV files will work right away, without having to install the buggy, bloated, poorly designed Quicktime player.
For gamers who use their systems to stream media, this also introduces a huge advantage. No longer will you have to install special REG files to ‘trick’ Windows into streaming video to your PS3 or XBOX 360. And no longer will you have to use UPnP media servers like TVersity that transcode video, severely reducing quality and cause unnecessary CPU load on the server.
Nope, all of this should ideally work out of the box. That’s why we obtained an advance copy of Windows 7 RC from Microsoft, and put it to the test! We tested streaming capabilities of both the XBOX 360 and Playstation 3. The 360 streams video with both UPnP (using the dashboard to browse files) as well as Microsoft’s proprietary Windows Media Center Extender format, so we tested it both ways. The Playstation 3 streams through UPnP.
We tested the following video formats:
- AVCHD (.M2TS) – a standardized video format based on Blu-Ray, created by Sony and Panasonic. It uses h.264 for video, and AC3 5.1 for audio. This is the format most commonly used by HDTV camcorders.
- MP4 – This container format is natively supported by both the 360 and PS3. The most common codecs used are h.264 for video, and AAC for audio. We tested both 2-channel and 5.1-channel AAC audio.
- MOV - This is esentially identical to MP4, but sticks around thanks to Apple. Anyone who has used Quicktime software knows how much it sucks, so adding native support to Windows is truly great. Since it usually contains the same MPEG-4 codecs as standard MP4 files, you can usually just rename the file to .MP4 to get it to work with players that haven’t paid for the Quicktime license.
- Xvid/DivX – Both consoles added MPEG-4 Part 2 support with system updates. XBOX 360 uses the XviD codec, while Playstation 3 uses the proprietary DivX Pro codec. Both are functionally identical.
Read on for the results!
Windows 7 RC Media Streaming to XBOX 360 & PS3
|WMP12||XBOX 360 UPnP||XBOX 360 MCE||PS3 UPnP|
|AVCHD (h.264 w/ AC3 5.1)||OK||Does not play||OK||OK|
|MP4 (h.264 w/ AAC)||OK||Does not play||OK||OK|
|MOV (h.264 w/ AAC)||OK||OK1||OK||OK2|
|1 = Only works with stereo AAC audio|
2 = Must rename file to .MP4
As you can see, video streaming support is already very good with Windows 7 and Windows Media Player 12, with a few caveats. MOV file support only seems to work when the audio is in AAC format (and in certain cases, it must only be in stereo). I think this should be fixed by the time Windows 7 goes gold. Clearly, XBOX 360 will require a dashboard update to properly support WMP12, but they have a lot of time to work that out before Windows 7 is released to retail. Hopefully they can work things out before that time comes.