Originally Posted by vladd
I understand that the R5000 has worked for a lot of people and they are happy with it but I am of the opinion that the HD-PVR is a much more cost effective option with a much better cost to benefit ratio.
The HD-PVR is definitely one of the best options out there when you consider price.
I still much prefer the ability to record the digital stream directly over converted analog though. Plus, my STB would be a pain with the HD-PVR since once in HD mode, it only outputs HD. It also can only output 720p or 1080i (selectable through the setup menu) and it converts whatever the stream is into one of these before converting to analog and outputting through component. Without the ability to simply output using the native format, I am at the mercy of its internal deinterlacer and scaler. It also does a terrible job of both deinterlacing and scaling compared to my ATI HD 2600XT.
If you consider the situation where your STB is locked at outputting either 720p or 1080i, yet the source content is in 480i, 720p and 1080i; depending on the channel, you can see no matter what there isn't a good option. Depending on the output selection, there could be multiple and unnecessary deinterlacing, interlacing and/or scaling steps going on.
As long as you have an STB that automatically outputs using the native format, this isn't an issue.
Do most STBs switch output formats to match the source content, or do they behave like mine and force you to configure it to always output one and only one format through component video?
On the other hand, one of my biggest concerns with the R5000HD is the fact that Media Center isn't designed to handle glitches in the video stream. The HD-PVR will always provide a clean video stream, regardless of signal quality; while the R5000HD currently feeds glitches to Media Center if the signal isn't perfect. I don't know if this will be a problem with the new Media Center drivers, but with FireSTB every now and then I had to transcode the transport stream file manually into a dvr-ms file in order to clean up errors in the stream. With the new driver, it will probably require the ability to somehow detect errors and clean up or send blank video temporarily to Media Center to get around this. The problem is much more significant during heavy rain, heavy snow, sunspots, or when snow builds up on the dish, but even in the best of conditions glitches show up more often than ideal. It doesn't matter how good the image quality is if your wife's favorite TV show isn't watchable because it crashes Media Center...
As far as the argument that the HD-PVR will create smaller files than the R5000HD, I am fairly certain that for similar quality that is not correct. Even though much of the raw digital transport streams use MPEG2, these streams are created using extremely high end encoders and use extremely low bitrates (especially with Satellite providers). The digital streams arriving already in h.264 will be even more highly optimized for compression. On top of that, once it has been converted to analog and re-encoded by the HD-PVR, you'll need to use a fairly high bit rate to not produce additional noticeable degradation to the image. The HD-PVR should still produce decent image quality, but it is impossible for the quality to be as good as the original digital source that your STB receives. You cannot improve image quality by decoding, converting to analog, capturing and re-encoding into a different compression format, so the HD-PVR can't be better than the original digital video.
I think the best way to look at it is the R5000HD is the best solution for image quality and the HD-PVR is the cost effective solution (this assumes both companies produce easy to install and use drivers for their products that work reliably). Competition is always a good thing for the end user.