Thanks for the detailed summary review. I got one of these the day after your posting, and after four frustrating hours trying to get the DVD DD 5.1 working, I finally saw your post, which tipped me off to the online manual with detailed instructions for sound setup. Be advised that this is not an issue of the manual being updated - I got the same "Entertainment Guide" that you did. That book is still valid - our problem is that the detailed "User Guide" was simply not shipped with our units. This is inexcusable, in my opinion, and if I decide to keep the unit, I will make Sony send me a paper copy. Note that my brother also got one on the same day, and his was also missing the User Guide. Anyway, after following the instructions, the DD 5.1 now works for me (although there are some drawbacks, which I'll talk about later).
I have to say that overall this unit is impressive, when it works. Unfortunately, for me I have about a 50% chance of the unit working as designed.
I have experienced frequent crashes of the Media Center application, which freezes with the screen totally black. I can then get to Windows using the keyboard, but have to kill Media Center, losing whatever I was doing, and then restart. This happens to me frequently. I have only had the system set up for about four days, and I have visitors which means that I have not used it for more than, say two hours a day. Yet, I've experienced this "black screen freezes" 1-3 times per day.
The first two days I had frequent "black screen freezes" while using the basic My DVD changer function, with only a few discs loaded. I've also been able to load DVD's without the software realizing I added discs. These particular problems were solved temporarily by cycling power on the DVD Changer. But eventually it happens again. The DVD Changer seems very flaky.
Out of the, say, ten times that I've added an individual disc to the changer, nine of the times the changer locked my machine while discs were added to the library. You get a little popup asking if you want to scan the new discs and add to the library, and the popup states that you can do other things in Media Center while the changer is updating. But, for me, all but one time, the complete Windows machine was totally locked while the discs was being added - I could not do anything until the disc scan was complete. It seems that the entire machine, and not just Media Center, was locked. Only once have I been able to do other things in Media Center while the disc was being scanned.
I have installed all Sony online updates, in the required order, and it has not changed the situation.
The first time I ran any of the "Create DVD", "Click-to-DVD", etc. I experienced the "Black Screen Freeze" of Media Center. That doesn't happen any more - at least not every time.
While initially I thought that only functions related to the DVD changer were causing the black screen freezes of Media Center, I've now used the system long enough to determine that these freezes happen during other functions too. I.e. it's not necessarily the DVD changer that is causing the freezes in Media Center.
Frankly, this unit so far has been an embarassment. Now I don't even use it during the day until after my visitors go to bed. A couple of days ago we decided to watch a DVD disc that my friend had brought, I loaded it into the changer, but Media Center did not detect the addition, did not ask me to add it to the library, etc. The Media Center froze, I had to reboot, etc. Took me 15 minutes just to get the disc out again so that I could put it into my ancient, seven year old DVD player so we could watch it.
I'm also having a lot of trouble now coming out of Standby. The system is designed so that you don't shut down the machine, but instead put it into Standby by pressing the power button on the remote or on the front of the machine. For me, the last two days, when I bring it out of standby I usually get an error box telling me that I need to be in 32-bit color mode, and I can see that I running in only 16 colors and in low resolution, despite the fact that everything was fine when I went into Standby. This is happening every time now. Sometimes it wakes up to the black screen, and while I can see that the computer is powered up (green light) I get only a black screen through my TV, and there is no way to get a response from the unit. The only solution is to hard power the machine down (by holding down the power button for >4 seconds).
Last night I watched a football game that I had previously recorded in MyTV. I watched this for about 1.5 hours with no problems. The DVR functionality is impressive - easy to use and looks great. I then decided to go to bed and watch the remainder of the game in the morning. So, after going back to the main Media Center screen, as designed, I pushed the power button on the remote to put it into Standby. I pushed the power button on the remote this morning to wake the machine up and resume viewing. Note that prior to waking up the machine, I turned my TV on and set it to the HDMI input - just in case this was a factor in the video screwing up on wake-up from Standby. Anyway, when I pressed Standby on the remote, the machine woke up, but then almost immediately the screen switched to the Windows "computer now going into Standby" screen, and the machine immediately went back into standby. (Note that I did NOT press the power button twice!) From that point, I could not get the machine to wake up from the power button on the remote, so I held the power button down on the unit for a hard reset. I then powered the system up, waited for it to boot and load completely up. Once at the Media Center screen, I found that the machine will no longer respond to my remote control. The keyboard works, but not the IR remote. I shut down and repowered up the machine, which loaded up fine, but, again, the IR remote (which seems to be working, based on the red LED on it lighting up) will no longer work to navigate through the Media Center menus. At this point, I powered down the machine and, as I've done so often the last few days, went back to pretending that I don't even own this machine. It's just too embarassing to keep trying to use this completely flaky unit in front of guests. It's rediculous how bad this system is...
And that sums up my experience so far with this unit - an embarassment that I am afraid to even use in front of other people. When this unit works, the features are amazing. The problem is, I literally can't sit down and use the machine for an hour without expecting some kind of major malfunction. And that's if I'm lucky enough that it will even work for an hour, or that I can get it on in the first place.
When you build a machine like this that is supposed to replace consumer electronic equipment, it should be similar in reliability, as that is the customer expectation. Expectations are much lower when you are talking about a computer, as they are never as reliable as a consumer electronic component (e.g. DVD player or TV). In reality, this unit ranks at the bottom of my list of all the PC's that I have ever owned in terms of flakiness. I don't get it - I even got my mom a Sony Vaio laptop as a present this season, and it seems to be working fine, despite all the Sony bloatware and advertisements that come preinstalled. I have never, ever, come across a computer that was as unreliable as my Digital Living System.
I'm very fluent in computers, build my own PC's, etc., and am actually very tolerant of errors and bugs, as they are to be expected. But this Digital Living System is so bad that it is totally unusable for me for it's intended purpose. Imagine if you only had a 60% chance of your TV turning on and tuning a program when you sat down to watch a show. Or your DVD player had a 50% chance of playing a disc when you rented it, that it took over a minute to load into the player, and there was some chance that it would disapper into the player and take a lot of time and effort to get it back out. This would be completely unacceptable if it happened once a week, but this is a continual experience with the Digital Living System.
Note that I'm using it with a KD-34XBR960 through HDMI, and audio through Toslink to an ES receiver.
I apologize to all if you find my "review" not useful. I really, really want this system to work - it just doesn't. I've actually found some interesting details to add to eddicus' observations, but I'll save them for a later time - right now I'm just so frustrated with this unit that is so flaky that I can't even use it...