So I would like to look into saving money by purchasing a PC-based DVR device for use with Windows Media Center. I would like to get all Verizon FiOS channels I would get with the box. I am guessing that I will need to trade in my HDDVR box for one of those CableCards, right?
In theory this should work if I buy a CableCard compatible TV Tuner, has anyone else had success with this?
Generally, one does not save money in the short-term with a PC DVR for digital cable.
With exception to locals and music channels, all channels are encrypted on FiOS. Encrypted channels require a CableCard to tune and record. At this time, there is only one CableCard tuner product available for the PC -- the ATI Digital Cable Tuner, also known as the ATI OCUR tuner. This single-tuner device costs $200-$250; you'll need two of them if you want to record two channels at the same time, or record one channel while you watch another. Each CableCard tuner needs a separate $3.99/mo CableCard from Verizon.
In 3-6 months, Ceton plans to release a new CableCard tuner product for PCs. This will be a quad-tuner card priced at $400-$600. It will support four tuners with a single CableCard ($3.99/mo) from Verizon.
To use these tuners on an existing PC, you'll need Windows 7 and the Microsoft Advisor Utility. This "Advisor Utility" is not yet available, but should be released in the near future. More information here. Prior to Windows 7, PCs had to have special bios support (or a hack) to use CableCard tuners.
If you have an Xbox360, that can act as an extender for Windows Media Center, so it can display the guide, liveTV, schedule recordings, and view all your recordings, without the need to touch the computer (after initial setup). You can have multiple Xbox360s throughout your home and each can access Windows Media Center on your PC at the same time; each Xbox360 can view liveTV (provided you have enough tuners), schedule recordings, and view different recorded programs.
I previously tried the ATI OCUR solution with certified Dell PC running Windows Vista. Probably 3-4 times per month, the ATI CableCard tuners would stop working, and I had to reboot my PC to restore liveTV and recording. As you can imagine, this resulted in a number of missed recordings each month. This led me to switch to the TivoHD, which has proven to be far more reliable. Based on everything I've read, Microsoft has addressed most of these issues so CableCard recording is much more reliable under Windows 7.
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