Xbox 360, Bose Cubes, Extended Warranties

Don't Hold Your Breath
I was wondering if you could provide any info about streaming from a Media Center PC to an Xbox 360 acting as a Media Center Extender. I asked Xbox tech support if there are any plans to allow streaming from a Blu-ray drive on a PC to an Xbox 360. I could not get any kind of straight answer. Any info you could dig up would be greatly appreciated and possibly keep me from spending 400-500 bucks on a standalone player.

Matt Zelazny

My contact at Microsoft says there is no legal way to stream the content from any copy-protected optical disc playing on a Media Center PC to an Extender such as the Xbox 360. Microsoft often gets requests for this, and it is on a long list of possible features for future releases. But I wouldn't hold my breath—I doubt the studios will ever allow such a thing.

Not Ideal
My system consists of a 50-inch Samsung PN50A400 plasma, a PlayStation 3, an Onkyo TX-SR606 receiver, and a speaker system that includes five Bose dual cubes, a Polk CS10 center channel, and an Infinity IL100 subwoofer. I do not have the Bose subwoofer module, so I run the cubes directly from the receiver.

I have used the Onkyo's Audyssey calibration, which I believe has adjusted the cubes to an acceptable frequency range. I do know that the cubes will not function correctly without the module, but this is my only option at this time.

I am moving to a new home that has cathedral ceilings in the living area. Aside from buying a new speaker system (which is not feasible), how can I set up this system for the best possible sound? What would you recommend for the proper mounting height and frequency settings for the cubes? And do you recommend that I place an identical Bose cube (I have an extra) for the center channel, or continue to use the Polk?

Finally, what are the best settings for the PS3 and Onkyo to produce the best sound for Blu-ray's high-res codecs? PCM or Bitstream? I am using HDMI cables.

Michael Davila

Last question first: The PS3 cannot send Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD bitstreams, but it can decode these formats to PCM. So you have no choice—you must send PCM from the PS3 to the receiver via HDMI to get the best sound from Blu-ray discs.

As far as the Bose cubes are concerned, I'm sorry to hear that you can't upgrade. No matter how you set them up in your new home, they simply aren't going to sound very good. The best you can do is mount them roughly at seated ear height and use the Audyssey system in the receiver as you did in your current room.

Normally, I recommend using matched speakers in a surround system, which would mean putting the extra Bose cube in the center. But the Polk probably sounds a lot better, and dialog is the most important sonic element in most movies, so maybe the CS10 would be better in your case. Try them both to see which one you prefer.

To Extend or Not To Extend
I'm in the market for a new Samsung 61-inch rear-projection TV and surround-sound system. Do you recommend getting an extended warranty? I know they will try to push this once I agree to purchase.

Doug Eddy

Yes, they will no doubt try to push an extended warranty on you, because this is a big profit center for most retailers. I've even heard stories of salespeople who were told that their jobs depended on selling extended warranties.

This is a form of insurance, and I'm a big believer in insurance, but I normally recommend against buying an extended warranty on consumer-electronics products. Most electronic failures happen in the first few weeks or months, well within any manufacturer's standard 1-year warranty. If the product doesn't fail in that time frame, it's unlikely to in the period of the extended warranty.

On the other hand, a DLP rear-projection TV has moving parts—specifically, the color wheel that filters the white light from the lamp into its red, green, and blue components—and moving parts have a higher failure rate than solid-state electronics. Also, these sets have a lamp that will most certainly die in a few thousand hours, but I very much doubt that any warranty will cover that. (The standard warranty might cover premature lamp failure.)

For another perspective on this issue, see the comment posted by Paul Martinez in "Ask Home Theater" from March 24, 2009. His experience makes him very glad he opted for an extended warranty on the RPTV he purchased from Best Buy.

In any event, be sure to read the extended warranty's fine print to see exactly what it does and does not cover—don't trust what salespeople tell you about the coverage. They might be telling the truth, or they might be saying what you want to hear to make the sale.

If you have a home-theater question, please send it to scott.wilkinson@sorc.com.

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COMMENTS
Colin Robertson's picture

I'll give you a hard reason why you will never be able to stream blu-ray to an xbox 360- your network aint gonna handle blu-ray's bandwidth!

Curtis's picture

Doug:you could try and see if the store you are buying the TV from will give the extended warranty price back as in store credit at the end of the warranty if it has not been used. i did this when i bought a previous TV and 3 years later got a $250 rebate with purchase of $400 or more in store coupon in the mail. its worth a try.

Corey's picture

@ Colin Robertson - The max bitrate of Blu-ray is 36Mbps, which is far lower than the 100Mbps of the 'Fast Ethernet' connection that the Xbox 360 has. So the network is not going to be an issue.Wireless is another story as although it supports 54Mbps, actual throughput is usually much lower, so that would be an issue.The main problem is as stated in the article - MS don't want to be seen as creating a device which promotes what Hollywood view as piracy. Hollywood unfortunately view streaming from your own purchased blu-ray discs as stealing - argh!Hence why even though the 360 already supports H.264 streaming in 1080p, it's limited to <10Mbps and only 2 channel AAC sound in an MPEG4 container.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

Good response, Corey! You beat me to it. One small correction, though: 36Mbps is the max bitrate when spinning the disc at 1x, but all players and computer drives playing video actually spin at 1.5x, so the max raw bitrate is actually 54Mbps, of which 48Mbps is available for audio, video, and subtitles. I got this directly from the Blu-ray Disc Association, so I have high confidence in its accuracy. This is still well within 100Mbps, which is a common Ethernet speed these days, to say nothing of gigabit Ethernet. I agree that WiFi is not practical in this application, even if it was permitted. I did not know that the Xbox 360 is limited to <10Mbps and 2-channel sound, but I can't say I'm surprised given Hollywood's paranoia.

Lucas 's picture

OK so just want to say something about the ext warranty. I am a sales person. My opinion is have you seen the cost of repairs on these new flat panel tv's. $4000 to fix a $1800 tv. I would rather just spend $120 to maybe $400 depending on the cost of the tv. Instead of later on having to throw away your tv or spend and insane amount to fix. If you think extended warranties are bad then you should think car insurance is bad. Its the same thing.

Denny's picture

I used to work at Futureshop(owned by Best Buy) and bought a Toshiba 57HDX81 with a $400 5 yr extended warranty, and am i ever glad i did! About 3 yrs after the fact the TV turned a weird color and i called them in. they wanted me to send or drive the tv 160 miles round trip to Vancouver for repair. The warranty was an In home service so i pressed them and they sent the guy to fix my tv, 1 week later id saved myself $1800. They replaced a tube, CRT RPTV, and no piano movers to transport it! I always buy extended warranties now!

val sammut's picture

My question is that I have an older denon Av reciever 7.1 but I do not have a HDMI hook up I want to purchase a blue ray player I just bought an HD TV 1080 p. but not sure if I need to purchase a certain kind of blue ray player, also what is the best way to hook the receiver+blue ray player to the TV.thanks for your HelpIn KindVal SammutToronto, Canada.

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