I wanted to reply to this thread with great details, but instead I want to give the brief story of my exploits with about the topic of HTPC.
I did build my own, and at one time had two HDTV tuners off and antenna, one FTA receiver hooked to TiVo, and Comcast cable through one tuner. This all worked pretty well, but I owned three working Tivo's at that time. The TiVo units were all standard Series 2, standard definition, including one original series 1 with lifetime on it.
So it is with much experience, and the fact that I work in the computer field, that I shoot HTPC from the hip, right between the eyes.
I eventually progressed to HD TiVo, and after a few years of having it replaced at $150 cost to me each year, I can say that I no longer have any contract service on a TiVo, and I am very happy with my current setup.
Here are the facts, as I see them.
First there is the money. I never considered the cost of what I was doing. The cost of the HTPC, however, exceeded many, many years of cost cost of running multiple Tivo's with TiVo service on them. So building an HTPC should never be about saving money, because you won't save anything. If you do it right, it is expensive, if you spend less, you will exchange the lower cost with either, inferior abilities, or lots of man power, and down time.
This next issue is about the hardware. The truth about HD recording, is not as harsh as the truth about HD-
DVR recording, which is where you capture a stream of roughly 30 minutes, along with any programs you want along the way. The beating that hard drives take is tremendous, and they fail on a pretty regular basis. On my HD TiVo, which came after I experienced failures on my HTPC and gave it up, came at a cost of $159 per year to TIvo company, on top of the monthly fees I pad them for service. Each year, I would start getting problems with the recording, and or play back. If I ignored it, it would turn into failures of both, then a total failure. In the days of my swapping TiVo hard drives, and always keeping a backup, we're left behind when I moved on from series one TiVo, to series 2 ,and 3.
It wasn't so much about the money, because I really love the TiVo way, it was about losing a year of saved TV and movies, and having to start over each time my HD TiVo bit the dust.
We have since went to Comcast for a long while, right up until they gouged far too much money out of me for service. We paid ComCast $180 per month for cable Nd Internet. We has two pay channels, HBO and Showtime. The last straw with ComCast came when I called and wanted to watch Showtime, and HBO in the guest bedroom , and it was going to cost me another monthly fee. I told them that I would stop my service before I paid them another penny for something that's feel I am entitled to.
The Comcast retention rep told me that he would take my disconnection order if I wanted to do that. I was drop- jawed, and to,d him that I would have to call him back as soon as I settled on new service with some other company, and the. I hung up on him.
I had experience with Dish Network, for a number of years, many years before, so we're was no special deal waiting for me, since I was not a new customer. Plus, I never really liked Dish much anyway.
I ended up with two HD DVR's with whole house viewing, and recording on either. And 3 other HD receivers. I have the top level programming that gives me every channel they offer. every pay channel, spots channel and so on. The service plan on all of it is a grand total of $7 per month. Not $7 per receiver, just $7 for everything. Knowing the odds of having a failure on one of the DVR receivers told me that this was amazing. I did have a failure of one of the DVR's in the first three months. It could happen, so it didn't surprise me, what did surprise me was the customer service at DirectTv. After some troubleshooting on the phone, they sent a new receiver, and sent a pickup for the one that failed. Try to get that from TiVo.
It has been right at one year, and we are happy with the cost in relation to all that we get, and how much we like it, and it is still less than Comcast, even though our Internet is still with Comcast, and we add that cost to DirectTv for the true comparison.
There were lots of lessons learned in the past 5 years, which included a couple of years of HTPC.