I'm a longtime fan of Windows Media Center, which I've used as the hub of my entertainment center for many years. It's vastly underrated as a DVR; indeed, I'd say it's better than TiVo.
Just one problem: the only available CableCard adapter (a vital component for watching and recording cable TV) was Ceton's InfiniTV 4-- a great product, but expensive and compatible only with desktop PCs.
Finally, there's an affordable, external solution. The Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650 is a dual-tuner CableCard adapter that plugs into a USB port. Pair it with a Windows 7-powered desktop or laptop and an M-Card from your cable company, and you've got the makings of a mighty sweet HD DVR.
Hauppauge sells the WinTV-DCR-2650 for $149, plus $10 for shipping. That's already a killer deal, especially compared with the InfiniTV 4 (which originally sold for $399 but now runs $299). If you're not in a major rush, you can pre-order the WinTV-DCR-2650 for $135.05 shipped. That's from an outfit called Bottom Line Telecommunications, which reports having 10 units on order.
Meanwhile, Comet Supply is taking preorders at $127.26, plus around $6 for shipping. That's the deal to beat, though it's classified as a "special order," so there's no way to know for sure when you'll receive your unit. (The WinTV-DCR-2650 is a brand-new product, and Hauppauge itself started shipping only a couple weeks ago.)
Lucky duck that I am, I've got a review unit in-hand--and it's working like a charm. Using a Comcast CableCard and a reasonably powerful laptop, I've been able to record two HD shows at the same time (even premium channels) while watching an already recorded show--just like with a TiVo.
But without the monthly fees. Microsoft levies no additional charge for using Windows Media Center's excellent program guide. Trust me: you will not be disappointed.
Even at $150, this thing is a steal. If you're looking for an inexpensive way to bring digital cable TV viewing/recording to your PC, there's never been a better option.
Bonus deal: The early bird gets the worm. And today only, you can get Early Bird for iPhone and Early Bird for iPad absolutely free. (It's normally 99 cents and $1.99, respectively.) This crazy-cute physics game is all about flinging a little bird in the direction of the worm, collecting bonuses along the way. (If you like this kind of thing, be sure to check out Contre Jour, which I reviewed yesterday.)