Help appreciated. I promise I looked and I'm just overwhelmed and don't have weeks of free time to research this much. Recently, I tried a Logitech Revue thinking it would be a nice cheap solution because of the price drop. Unfortunately, for my use, it had some showstopper issues. But it also had a lot of things I liked.
I have an old laptop that I converted to a cheap HTPC. It is a consumer HP model so it has built in IR but it's LOUD and overheats and stutters while streaming HD Netflix.
I would like something quiet that plays Netflix, downloaded movies and MOG music player.
I would like a way to VIEW cable TV HD content through my HTPC so I have a somewhat unified interface like the Revue. I do not care about recording because I have a Time Warner DVR that works fine and I almost never record cable shows anyway. <--This is the part that I'm confused on. Is it possible? Can I view and control the cable channels through my PC?
I would probably use WMC7 or XBMC. Having tried both, I have no allegiance but would really like a consistent user experience.
DO NOT WANT:
This will NOT be used as a gaming rig. At the most, I might use it for a MAME emulator. Hardcore 3D games aren't important here.
I DO NOT care about recording the HD stream onto the HTPC.
I DO NOT need a multi-petabyte NAS storage system.
I don't need 7.1 audio. 5.1 would be more than enough. 2.1 would probably be fine. I live in a tall building and it's close quarters.
I already have speakers and Windows 7 Ultimate (with WMC7), BT keyboard and mouse. Additionally, I have a programmable WR7 Universal Remote but no IR receiver or blasters.
My budget is super tight. Probably about $300 with a *bit* of wiggle room. I'm not afraid to build if I can meet the above items. But, I was thinking about buying a Zotac or equivalent mini and using some sort of HDMI to USB pass through dongle but I don't know if this will give me what I'm looking for.
Again, I've done research I just don't have money to burn. Any advice is very much appreciated.
(wow this post became longer than I expected. Sorry about that)