Alienware's new Hangar18: HD Entertainment Center (announced at CES) fires a direct shot at Sony, Velocity Micro, and the other PC vendors still hanging on in the home theater PC game. Equipped with a built-in 200-watt surround sound amplifier, an HDMI output, 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi, and a Gyration Media Center remote (the keyboard costs $50 extra), the Hangar18 looks about as well-stocked as the competition. It even trumps both Sony and Velocity Micro by giving you the option to upgrade to two over-the-air HD tuners and two analog tuners, for a total of four cable streams from which you can watch or record video. Velocity Micro offers only two tuners, and Sony's XL3 has only one (although both use digital cable tuners, aka CableCard, which the Alienware lacks).
The Hangar18 starts at $1,999, although you can go much higher, depending on the amount of hard drive space (up to 2TB) and the various other options. Alienware also told us that it's going to add a Blu-ray drive "soon" for between $600 and $700. It will also add a DirectX 10 graphics card upgrade along with the Blu-ray drive. Right now the standard chip is an integrated Nvidia GeForce 6150LE, with an upgrade option to an older GeForce 7600 GS card if you want 1080p HD output.
We're eager to take a look at the Hanger 18, but one thing irks us right off the bat. Fifty dollars for an HDMI cable? Come on, Alienware. Both Velocity and Sony throw one in for free, and you can get 'em for $15 if you have half a brain and an Internet connection. No one likes a nickel-and-dimer.
Update 6/5: Velocity Micro informs us that as of this afternoon, you can now configure up to four tuners in its Cinemagix Grand Theater systems.