[quote=Fallen Kell;16657055 If you really want full Blu-Ray capable system, you will also need an Asus Xonar 1.3 (normal or Deluxe) sound card as it is the only sound card which can really output HD audio without down-converting it, but again, unless you have a high end receiver/pre-processor for surround sound, this is pointless.[/quote]
You can still do 8 channel analog out and not need an expensive ass sound card that frankly isn't worth it.
For software, if you want the full audio, you will need TMT3 Platinum, which will set you back a few benjamins, and as said, doesn't really work well with Media Center
Have you even tried it? it adds a "plug-in" for media center, which yes its not integrated into media center, but makes it seamless to transition to and from media center into TMT3.
So not sure what you are talking about there.
, which is why I recommend using Media Portal and not Media Center for your interface. Media Portal is free, but not very intuitive to setup and configure (because you can do too much with it, it is simply complicated). Read the thread about it in here for the basics. I personally love it.
Media portal is fugly frankly. and isn't as user friendly if you ask me. plus if you are using vista or win7 like you recommended above "technically" media center is free too
2) Correct, if you have premium content channels, a tuner will not replace a STB. You will still need a HD STB from the cable company if you want your HTPC to capture the premium stations (and HD premium stations). You might be able to use the cable card capture devices, however, you will have to first find one (and they are hard to get on their own since they were not meant to be sold to consumers but to system builders to integrate into their complete computers), and then you have to contact your cable company to have them install their cable card into the device.
I bought a cable card tuner off of ebay, and then had comcast come in and plug in the cable card, it honestly wasn't that hard at all. The hardest part is doing the "hack" which is pretty well documented
out there already.
The hard part is justifying $150 - $300 for a single cable card tuner. I ended up selling mine, because I only purchased it for testing purposes and also because it is summer time, I dropped my premium cable package.
call up your cable company and just tell them you are setting up a Tivo Series 3 or Tivo HD and they will know what you want to do. You don't have to tell them it is for a media center pc, all you need is the cable card.
Your best solution is currently the HD-PVR from Hauppauge if you want premium station content
Issue with that, that I have, as well as many others, is that you are still paying a money cable box rental fee.
If you don't need premium stations, the HDHomeRunner works very nicely. With a STB, you will need a device on the HTPC that can transmit IR signals (see below for more info on that), and the capture/control software will need to be configured so that it uses that device to send the proper IR codes to change the channels.
SageTV, Myth TV, Beyond TV, GB-PVR, want more?
The MCE USB IR receiver/blaster or the USB-UIRT.
I can say that going HDMI to the TV and using SPDIF from the sound card to the receiver should work. The downside being that you may or may not be able to send audio to both the HDMI and the SPDIF at the same time and thus would need to have the receiver on for any type of audio (this is how my setup works).
No you can't do both hdmi audio and spdif at the same time. windows unfortunately doesn't work that way, as well as all the dvd apps only allow you to allocate a single audio source at a time.
Now a LARGE part of this is all about the software. You need a good interface to the system which works well with just using a remote control for inputs. Again, I like Media Portal + StreamedMP plugin. I also have it configured to use "Zoom Player" for watching recorded TV, and DVDs, and Total Media Theater 3 for Blu-Ray disks. Now that said, I don't actually use Media Portal to actually schedule and record my TV shows because it doesn't fully support the HD-PVR (it works fine for stereo, but not for S/PDIF for surround sound). For recording I use SageTV. You can simply use SageTV for everything and not configure Media Portal. I did for years, but I have grown to love Media Portal and their interface and plugins (Moving Pictures and MovingPictures-TV) for their awesome eye-candy and information. SageTV will set you back around $80 if you want to use that. I think you can use the included software from Hauppauge to schedule recordings, but I don't know how well it works since I have never used it. I know with SageTV, I simply tell it what shows/series I want, if I want only new episodes, or new+reruns, and what specific channels I want it to record (so you can say record the HD version of the show, not the SD channel). Media Portal doesn't do as good a job getting the channel lineup (from my experience, well, it can if you subscribe to a website for getting your channel listings, but there is no real good free website out there). And from my understanding, you simply tell it to record a specific channel at a specific time on specific days. While this works (and works the same way our VCRs did in 1980's), I would rather it let me say, record this show whenever it happens to be on, on whatever channel it happens to be on (checking if I already recorded that episode or not).
problem with above is, it is not very "noob" friendly, way way too many pieces to configure and to go wrong there.