Another CableCard tuner on the way - now a choice!

I've had a media center box for years, and fully intend to write up my experiences with them. Currently, I'm dead set on replacing the garbage Motorola DVR loaded with Comcast's horrifically buggy, slow, and janky software with a home theater PC. To do this, it needs an HD tuner, and since I'm interested in watching the premium content I pay Comcast for, a regular over-the-air tuner won't do. This is where CableCard tuners come in.

If you aren't familliar with CableCard, it's the only other way to get the HD content you pay for (not the broadcast channels you get for free) from your cable provider besides getting their DVR or set-top box. Many HDTV's have a CableCard port that you can plug one of these baby's into and be able to watch all of your premium content. They're available from your cable provider, Comcast in my case, for a few bucks a month. This is a great solution, since I find it emotionally scaring to pay $15 per month for a DVR that doesn't even know how to record to the very end of a show.

Until just a few months ago, the only show in town was the single tuner ATI branded board by AMD. These are hard to come by, are intended for OEM's, and end up eBay for near $300. Since you need a bare minimum of 2 tuners to have a usable media center, this is a really expensive solution. But then came CES 2010 and the quad CableCard tuner from Ceton. This used multi-stream CableCards, letting you record up to four HD programs at once. Although this card is $400, that's only $100 per tuner. Check out Ben Drawbough's review of this one. I'm pretty much sold on it, but it's not yet available. Well, it almost was

Today, Engadget broke the news of a new three-tuner solution from HDHomeRun. This is exciting since 3 tuners is still quite reasonable and the cost per tuner is down to a little over $80. Expected ship date is sometime around 'the holidays', so I'm not holding my breath. At least the Ceton tuner is a slam dunk, this could be a slightly lower cost option.

Until one of these companies starts to ship boards, we're stuck with lame analog tuners or excessively overpriced solutions from AMD. Sadface.