What didn't you like about WMC via extender? Was it just that you were using the XBox? If so you could try the Ceton Echo. While they seem to still be working out the bugs on playing MKVs and such, it seems the Live/Recorded TV is working fine.
I considered the Echo, but I was hoping to get away from Media Center. We mostly watch movies in that room, recorded TV is sort of a bonus.
As mentioned, nothing but WMC supports copy once recordings. That might not affect you though. Honestly, I think you're going to have a really tough time finding a better device for live TV and recordings than a WMC extender. If it doesn't play well with you're other video files, you might want to consider getting an additional device like a WD TV Live or Popcorn Hour. Or you could try your chances with a WD TV Live and Plex, although that won't support live TV.
The good thing about the slim is that they are dirt cheap... $150 or less in some cases. Also, they play games if you're in to that. If you want to pay for Live ($50 a month, give or take a few), you can use your xbox for netflix, hulu, amazon, espn, Internet Explorer, etc.
The biggest negative is the footprint and electric usage compared to the Echo.
My biggest fear is MS pulling the MCE software off of the 360 sometime in the future... I don't ever see that happening with the Echo.
Totally quiet. I had one of the first "Pro" models back during release times... it sounded like a lawn mower. It eventually RROD and that was that.
On black Friday, I got one of the new slims and was blown away by how quiet it is. These days, you can even install a game to the hard drive which keeps the disk from spinning, further reducing the noise. They've come a long way.
Metadata doesn't work worth a bean for the recordings because on the file naming conventions of media center. On top of it, your experience is going to depend on your device you use. When I've done on a PC with the desktop client, it's was ok. Trying skip through commercial was more challenging. The Roku, it goes back to the beginning when I try.
For me, it didn't give the biggest hoot because most of the stuff recorded is a watch then delete situation.
If you really want to go away from media center extenders, you may want to look for another DVR/Live software. If you're trying to recorded encrypted channels, you could try XBMC. I don't know what file format it records to, but it may more device friendly; maybe MPEG4 or MPEG2. If so, then you'll have a lot more options for set top boxes and software to use.
FWIW, I haven't used my 360 in almost a year for any TV viewing. It's too darn loud and gets way too hot, even with the newer slim model. I can't imagine using one in my bedroom. The Echo is completely passive and only gets warm to the touch.
The extender experience, at least with my xbox, was very hit or miss. It was super slow to load the index of movies and/or TV shows. Some times my m4v movies would play, other times they would not. Literally minutes apart at times... I'd play a movie, stop it, try to restart it, and it wouldn't play.
I had that issue with the movies, but never any issues with the Recorded TV listing.
Echo is not the way to go then, especially if you have anything in intact formats.
Not to hijack your thread here, but you guys are discussing something I've had questions about. Does the Xbox 360 as a media center extender have the same video format limitations as the 360's video player app? Ie, 4gb max, mp4/m4v? If so, are there any reliable transcoding solutions for WMC?