After being endlessly frustrated with the cable boxes available from Time Warner and other providers in my area (not to mention the obscene rental costs and "DVR Fees"), I'm inclined to dip my toe in the HTPC waters. I've had "HTPCs" in the past, but they were clunky and really not usable for more than cuing up digital movie files. But it seems the tech has now evolved to what I actually want/can use.
What I'm envisioning is essentially a home media server. I have 2 TVs (both HD) and I want to be able to have all of my content available on both. I want HD-DVR capability, the ability to play DVD and BluRay movies (both disc and files) and possibly access other downloadable content.
What I'm thinking is a mid-range PC in my "media" room upstairs (where my nicer TV and sound setup is), and a media center extender on my downstairs TV (basic plasma HDTV + soundbar). I plan to control my upstairs TV with a Harmony 900, and potentially the downstairs the same (if I buy another 900). I'm looking at the Ceton Infinitv4 as the tuner, and potentially Ceton's echo as an extender (though open to suggestion). Probably Windows 7 Media Center and a 2+ TB HD for storage.
What I'm looking for here are build suggestions for cases, processors, etc. I don't really want to spend a ton of money, but I don't really know what kind of budget is necessary to get something that will do what I want. I understand that the tuner + extender will cost about $350 between the two, but I don't know quite what to budget for the rest. Also, curious as to whether gigabit ethernet is necessary, or whether 10/100 will suffice.
So, any help, suggestions, criticisms would be great. I do intend to keep Time Warner and just switch to a CableCARD from the stupid whole-house DVR setup I have now.