The advantage with these devices is that the household's primary computer (hosting Media Center) can be physically setup in a location more appropriate for its role, instead of being in the living room. Additionally, with an Extender, the Media Center can be accessed at the same time by several users. The Xbox 360 gaming console is a very popular example of a Media Center Extender.
Version 1 Extenders only support Media Center versions up to Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 Update Rollup 2 - they cannot support the version of Media Center incorporated in Windows Vista Home Premium/Ultimate Edition.
The server software, which runs on the host PC and streams the media, is built into Windows Media Center. An MCX device must be paired with the MCE software before use; this is done by pairing the MCE software with an identifying number generated by the MCX device. The MCE software makes the user interface available via the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP, which is also used by Remote Desktop client). All processing done by the MCE software and plug-ins happen at the computer, its only the user interface that is streamed to the MCX devices. As such, the device can render the interface even though the Media Center-specific software (or the plug-ins) might not be installed there. However, the media files are streamed over a different protocol. To render the media, the Extender needs to have an implementation of the codec used to package the media locally installed on the Extender; having the codec on the host computer is not enough.
All Version 1 Extenders have been discontinued and are not supported in Windows Vista.
Microsoft eventually announced the v2 Media Center Extenders from partners (Linksys, D-Link and Niveus Media) on 5th September, 2007. Version 2 capable Extenders boast animated transitions between screens and additional capabilities of Windows Vista to handle newer video formats, notably, DivX, Xvid, Windows Media Video HD and H.264. They can stream HDTV (including 1080p) through HDMI like the Xbox 360, can stream protected content and many incorporate draft 802.11n wireless connectivity.
In addition to these updates, Extender manufacturers will be able to integrate Extender technology into other popular consumer electronics devices. Examples include DVD players, HDTVs, HD DVD players, Blu-ray players, etc. However, a major hindrance is that the V2 Media Center Extenders only work with the Windows Vista Media Center version. Windows Media Connect and Windows Media Player Network Sharing are able to connect to them on Windows XP, however they do not work with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 as extenders. Xbox 360 is the only device that can work as an extender with both Windows XP Media Center as well as Windows Vista.