Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
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I agree with the above posts.
My question, do you have a spare PC desktop or laptop around? If so, what kind of outputs does it have? My thinking, why go out a buy something new when you can recycle something you already have. It'll really keep your costs down. Plus, if you wife gets use to the idea of using a PC instead of those outdated, and crappy, cable/satellite boxes, you may be able to approve for a high budget limit and can keep something that may fits your needs and wants better, rather than just the bare minimum. I know this may not meet your "blend in" requirement, but it may be a good idea to test. Basically, what I'm eluding to, why not test the function first, before worrying about form.
Plus, what shows are the wife's must haves. Are they available with the OTA offerings or other means such as Hulu or Netflix? She's not going to be happy if he her must see shows are no longer available. At the same time, you'll both adjust your viewing habits to your available content. It'll just take some time.
The rest is just more about personal preferences, space, and ports available. I personally use and like the Silicondust's HDHomerun network attached tV tuners. It may be worth keeping on out for upcoming, HDHR4, which will have four tuners and have build in transcoding and DNLA. May be more forgiving for network lack of bandwidth. It looks like they're working on an app(s) for live TV on mobile devices as well. May include some integration into media center for setting DVR functions such as show recordings.
Probably the biggest thing you need to have or get is Windows 7 home or better. It includes Media Center. I would suggest getting the upgrade version. Just look up the registry hack for clean installs. It's not hard, but you do need to edit one setting in the registry and do the rearm. Should only take about five minutes or less to complete. This is if you have to buy a copy. Windows 8 doesn't come with Media Center, but it's only $10 addon. The registry hack may work for Windows 8. There are other DVR suites, but Media Center is most popular and well established. There are plenty of mods for it such as short cuts for Netflix. You may want to check out XMBC. Their lastest release has DVR functionality build into. I don't know how well it works or what kind of EPG may be available. I believe MythTV has a windows version too.
Hardware failure will happen at some point. This is just a fact of all hardware. Just buy equipment from manufactures you're comfortable with and are known to build better quality. This should give you a few years of worry free operation. I find that I usually can go a good five years before I have major hardware issues with my machines that basically run 24/7.