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Ask Engadget HD: All-in-one DVR to replace my HTPC?


As much as we love DIY projects, HTPC owners know that from time to time the "yourself" part can be the most frustrating one when things don't work quite right. That's where our friend Chris finds himself on his current project, and he's looking for a way out:
"Last year, I built my latest generation of Windows Media Center HTPCs. They're quad-core beasts w/ SSD OS drives and 1 TB storage drives. 4 GB of RAM, Blu-ray drives, Windows 7, gyro-mouse remote -- the works. I've got 4 total tuners via 2 HD Homeruns connected to 3 separate attic/rooftop antennas. On paper, it all sounds like a dream. The reality is, Windows Media Center has been a nightmare to use and maintenance is a never-ending chore. Codecs, subtitles, driver issues, more codec issues, software glitches, more codec issues, problems with going to/waking up from sleep, poor performance even on these powerful quad-core machines, etc. etc.

Needless to say, I'm in the market for a replacement. Here is my small (and what I think is a very reasonable) checklist.
  • At least 2x ATSC tuner that works w/ OTA antennas. I know a lot of people are convinced they can get everything they need from the web, but when there is free HD video being broadcast, and plenty to watch on the dozen or so channels in my area, I feel like it is a very logical request to have my streamer/HTPC box include tuners.
  • DLNA support. It has to be able to fetch/store metadata and cover art. It doesn't have to get carried away with cast/crew photos or anything..just basic cover art, description, runtime, rating, etc. would do.
  • Netflix/Hulu Plus. These are an absolute must, but it'd be nice to do Youtube and a few other basic streaming services if possible.
(Continued after the break)

You can understand my frustration that the HTPC is the only box that does all this at a realistic price. Moxi doesn't do OTA. Roku, Google TV and the rest of the streamer boxes out there still require a separate tuner STB at best. TiVo requires a subscription, Dune HD is ridiculously expensive. There are a few devices out there for the UK that include DVB-T tuners -- why is England getting all the love? Is it a legal thing? Thanks in advance for any help. My girlfriend dies a little every morning when her workout video freezes and every night when our Office reruns break."
Clearly, Chris is at his breaking point, and you're the only ones who can help. We've all been there, looking for the perfect all in one set top box that's the right mix of easy to use, reliable and not too expensive. Naturally any option has its drawbacks, but we've got to find one Chris (and his girlfriend) can live with -- whether it's sucking it up and finding a way through the Media Center issues, bite the bullet and call in a pro integrator or if there's a reasonable retail solution (or combination of solutions) that can fit their needs.

Got a burning question that you'd love to toss out for Engadget HD (or its readers) to take a look at? Tired of Google's blank stares when you ask for real-world experiences? Hit us up at ask at engadgethd dawt com and keep an eye on this space -- your inquiry could be next.

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