TiVo may get all the headlines and they certainly have a rabid following, including geeks who modify their units, add additional hard drives, and perform other tweaks. But I'll tell you, I would not trade my Microsoft Windows Media Center Edition 2005 PC for a TiVo. I'm hooked baby!
Especially when you consider that TiVo decided to betray their customers by ADDING their own commercials -- check out the storm of controversy in the tivocommunity.com forums. I believe TiVo adds popup ads AS YOU FAST FORWARD through commercials. If I spent >$300 for a lifetime TiVo subscription (or pay their monthly subscription), I would be pretty peeved that TiVo decided to change the rules, when one major purchasing factor is the ability to fast forward through advertisements.
And speaking of subscriptions, that's another reason why I love my Windows Media Center Edition 2005 PC - NO MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTION FEE! The TV guide listings download for free via the Internet to an XML file which the MCE PC is able to display.
One of the "knocks" against the MCE 2005 PC is that it's too big - no one wants a bulky PC in their living room and they want something that easily slides into their entertainment system. Well, there are two solutions for that.
One is to use a Linksys Media Center Extender (pic below) to wirelessly transmit the video/audio from the MCE 2005 PC to your TV.
The second option is to use a small footprint MCE 2005 PC, such as ones from Alienware (pic below). Actually, there are quite a few small footprint MCE 2005 PC's now that look very good in a home theater environment.
Alienware DHS 2
Another company offering a small footprint MCE 2005 PC is HP, with their cool looking HP Digital Entertainment Center z545, as seen here:
HP Digital Entertainment Center z545
Well, now Samsung is offering a small footprint MCE 2005 PC. Other than Sony, Samsung is the first "consumer electronics" company that is entering the Windows Media Center market. It looks like Samsung's DM-T40/H300 hasn't made it to the U.S. yet, but it is shown on their Korean website.
With so many small footprint Media Center PCs available, there is no excuse for anyone to claim that Tivo is better due to its size. Besides, can you browse the internet on Tivo? No!. Can you check email on Tivo? No! Can you have a slideshow of all your pictures on the TV? No! Can you stream your favorite Internet radio station on Tivo? No! Can you skip past commercials with no ads? No! Can you play MP3s on your Tivo? No! Can you play Half Life2 on your huge 65" TV via Tivo? No! Can I have a videoconference on your TV using Xten or inititiate a VoIP call using Skype? All of these things CAN be done with a MCE 2005 PC. Case closed!
The only reason why you may want to go with Tivo is price, PERIOD! I do admit MCE 2005 is more expensive, but hey, you get what you pay for - a heck of a lot more features than Tivo.
Heck, if you are in the market for a new or second PC anyway, you may as well buy a MCE 2005 PC and get the PVR functionality as an added bonus (amongst other cool features). And if you're worried about the PC being used for the TV and not being able to use the PC while someone else is watching TV, you have a few options.
1) Buy a really old PC - doesn't matter if it's Win98 or Windows XP. Then use the Remote Desktop client (uses RDP protocll) to connect to the MCE 2005 PC remotely. (It's similar to PCAnywhere) MCE 2005, like Windows XP supports multiple clients to connect using the Fast User Switching feature. So basically, you can access your fast MCE 2005 PC using a slow PC to surf the web, check email, etc. The only thing you won't be able to do is play high FPS games over the RDP protocol. The RDP protocol was not designed for high-speed video motion.
2) Buy a long VGA cable, long keyboard cord, and a long mouse cord (or just go wireless keyboard/mouse) and then just extend these to a 2nd room. You may need to install a 2nd video card to be able to access the Windows Desktop while someone is watching TV though.
All in all, MCE 2005 rocks and all the naysayers trashing MCE 2005 are just jealous in my humble opinion.