I've been running Windows Media Center (WMC) for Windows 7 and now Windows 8 Pro for a while now, and it has bothered me that the video quality seemed to be much lower when you view in a window. Even if you have WMC running in a window just a tiny bit smaller than full screen, you can see jaggies everywhere despite viewing 1080p or 1080i content.
Some background information- I'm using a Time Warner CableCARD with a Cisco STA1520 Tuning Adapter, and watching on the Dell U2713HM 27" monitor via Dual DVI-D connection. BTW- I do wonder though if users see the same issue under other providers such as Verizon FiOS. My system is an ivy-bridge Intel i7-3770 with AMD Radeon 6950
So I really wanted to investigate things further. I was wondering- maybe the video feed from the CableCARD is not HD like it is supposed to be, like 480P or something. I poked around but just could not see any setting in Windows Media Center that will display the current video format being displayed- 1080P, 1080i, 720P, etc.
But- it turns out that there is a "secret" diagnostic screen in WMC. You activate by it by pressing 411
, and then the Control-D
key combination on the keyboard (or the info
button on a WMC remote if you are using that instead). You then use the right arrow key and go all the way
to the last screen that appears. It is called "DEBUG: Presentation", and shows you the video feed data including the audio codec, video compression method, and what I'm interested in the most which is the feed format/resolution. That info is presented next to Native Size
As you can see from the screen shot above, the feed is 1920x1080- not sure if it is 1080p or 1080i, but the Display Size
is set to 962x540, or 540p. The weird thing is that no matter how big I resize the window (and my the 1440p Dell 27 WQHD monitor, I can resize the Windows Media Center window to even greater than 1080p), the Display Size is stuck at 962x540
. This explains why video quality is crappy no matter how large the non-maximized
Windows Media Center is. it seems that the 1080 signal is squeezed down to 540p, and then rescaled upwards to the size of whatever resolution of the window is.
When I run Windows Media Center in full screen
, the Display Size jumps to 2560x1440- video looks so much better and text is sharp without any jaggies. Scaling apparently is done by software or the AMD Catalyst drivers, and looks very nice. I do wish I could view in a 1920x1080 window, however.
I'm not sure why windowed WMC is stuck at 540p, but it is likely by design. I definitely wish that Microsoft can put in a feature where the Windows Media Center can "snap" to resolution/format of the video feed. For instance, it would be great to view 720p content in a window (and not scaled down to 540p) while being able to utilize other parts of the Windows desktop!