Around the middle of May, the makers of My Channel Logos and Tuner Salad for Windows Media Center released their new product, My Channel Logos XL. If you aren’t familiar with My Channel Logos, you’re missing out. It places colorful station logos in the Media Center guide where you normally see the channel numbers, replacing the call sign for each channel.
The newer version now available offers larger and more detailed logo graphics. The developer says the logos are 20% larger, 2x the quality, and 20% more efficiently encoded. It’s surprising how such a seemingly small thing can enhance the guide’s appearance, but in fact, they do look great.
The XL channel logos also have significantly more detail, which is more obvious for some channels than others.
Other Features: Some New, Some Not
My Channel Logos XL offers an easy way to load the logos into your guide using an “auto-populate” feature. It will look at each channel’s call sign and match it with a logo. In our testing, nearly all of the channels were correctly detected and an appropriate logo assigned. The handful of channels My Channel Logos XL didn’t match seemed to be regional channels, so it’s not too surprising that it couldn’t find logos for those. By default, the program will periodically check for new logos. You can choose how frequently it looks. You can even manually assign a logo if you find one online. Or if you have an artistic bent, you can create your own logo.
As a new feature in XL, when you auto-populate your guide, you can use the same logos for your HD channels as you use for the SD equivalents. Why would you want to do that? Since you’re not using the space in the logo for the characters “HD” you get a larger area for the graphical part of the logo. If you don’t need a visual cue that the channel is an HD channel, using the regular (SD) logo often gives you a nicer visual.
Of course, you may like the “HD” logos. Being that this is a subjective thing, it’s nice to have the option so you can go with what you like best. You can even select which logo you want to use on a channel-by-channel basis.
Other features include the ability to increase the number of rows in the guide to as many as twelve. This isn’t a new feature, but it’s nice to have. What is new is the ability to display three hours of programming instead of the regular two hours. The grid seems a little cramped showing three hours, but that, too, is subjective, so it’s nice to have the option.
Another of the product’s original options is the ability to tweak the guide, including the width of the logo area, whether to display the channel number or call sign, how many rows to display in the mini-guide view, and the option to center the logos in the grid.
This latest version also works with Windows 8. Our testing revealed no unusual differences or behaviors when running My Channel Logos XL on a Windows 8 tablet.
Pricing for My Channel Logos XL is reasonable. The previous version was available for free, with an option to make a donation if you wanted to. This new version requires a minimum donation of $5.00 or you can choose to donate $10.00. The product is well worth either price, so donate as you see fit.
As for upgrade pricing, previous My Channel Logos users may be eligible for a free upgrade, depending on how much and when they paid for their current version. More information is available in their FAQ.
It’s worth noting that the XL logos are currently only available for the US market. The developer says he’s working on other regions, but no word on when they’ll be available. Also, if you use a third party product to retrieve your guide data (as most users outside of the U.S. do), this may not work for you.
The developer also notes that if you use another application to modify Media Center, such as MCE Reset Toolbox, you may run into issues. In our testing with MCE Reset Toolbox, we didn’t run into any issues, but there are some posts on My Channel Logo’s forum on The Green Button site where users were having issues. It’s notable that the developer is quite active in the forum and has been working to help those people resolve the issues.
If you’re a user of Recorded TV HD (and if you’re not, you should be!), you may notice one minor issue. Recorded TV HD normally displays the logos from My Channel Logos in the recording detail panels, but with My Channel Logos XL installed, they no longer appear. We’ve reported the problem, and the developer says he’s looking into it.
One other minor gripe is that the UI is a bit confusing. On the main logos tab, there are three diamonds that control the options to display color logos, the large logos, and the use of the HD logos.
Each of the diamonds is a toggle button, which is a bit confusing. Standard radio buttons would be more clear. But this is a minor quibble, and they do explain the options quite well on their site.
Should you buy My Channel Logos XL? If you aren’t currently using their product at all, then it’s an unequivocal yes. It looks great and adds a lot to the guide. It’s something we would have liked to have seen Microsoft include out of the box.
If you have the current version, is it worth upgrading to the XL version? We think so. The new logos look great, and the option of using the standard, SD logos in place of the HD versions is a nice, new feature.