It is very difficult. I can, from personal experience, say that there are fee-free devices for HD recording you should not buy. I may find more.
Using the generic term "HTPC", you get great fexibility and quality at the price of complexity. I wish I could say something good about fee-free digital home recording devices, but only the Magnavox units come close to the usability of a VCR with extras. They have a great digital playback and are simple to use. But no HD, DD5.1, internet or guide. That's what all those off shore devices give you for twice the price.
I notice the lack of 480i in the French translation. Europe doesn't use 480i of course. Probably part of that 50/60 Hz thing you mentioned. I don't know. I don't know why it's 480 and not 525 either.
So I wait for our knight in shining armor. It would be nice if it was Funai. They have been good to us so far.