Completely CONFUSED about tuner/recording options (in & out of HTPCs)


Sep 8, 2009
Trying to spec my first HTPC ... that thread is here (for background & complete specs) ... but this less-comprehensive (less-overwhelming?) thread is to focus on this specific topic. I am so frustrated with banging my head against all this for months watching each day go by feeling no closer to ordering. PC parts I get; it's the acronymic sea of entertainment tech that's killing me.

Of the many things I want my HTPC to do, I'm struggling most in understanding the h/w options necessary to accomplish these Usages:

U1) playback my most favorite Verizon DVR'd shows and rerecord them (over component) into the HTPC to offload them (VZ DVR is now almost full/unusable!)

U2) pop my 14 & 11 yr olds' childhood camcorder tapes into my VCR, hook that up to the HTPC, and digitize them (before something happens to the originals)

U3) record new HD shows directly into the HTPC (NOT into the Verizon DVR) but easily make the file sizes reasonable

U4) pause live TV without the VZ DVR via these options I've made up ...
U4a) trade the VZ DVR for a VZ non-DVR Set Top Box (saves 50% the rental cost @ a lower h/w price)
U4b) trade the VZ DVR for the CableCard, placing that into any number of appropriate internal or external devices (saves 75% of rental cost @ higher h/w price)

Q1) What's What? How does anyone know what kind of signal they are getting per cable channel: NTSC, ATSC, ClearQAM, non-ClearQAM? I'm just now learning about these concepts, but if I knew how to find out which channels are which, I can better tell my restrictions based on my family's habits. e.g., I have zero premium channels and if my family had Disney, Nick, NickJr, and Univision/Telemundo, they'd probably be happy.

Q2) External: If I found/got a Hauppauge 1212 PVR, would it only record the channel coming out of the STB, so I'd be stuck watching what I'm recording, like back before we understood VCRs to watch one/record another? Or does it have the ability to "get in there" and record a different channel? Does anyone know? I truly can't tell through all the console gamer reviews and marketing hype.

Q3) Internal non-CC: Is the Hauppauge Colossus 1414 the appropriate internal replacement for the 1212? Or is it the Hauppauge 1129 WinTV-HVR-1850? Or even something else? Does anyone understand the real differences/limitations through the tech speak? e.g., since neither seems to need a CableCard, which one can record encrypted channels being decrypted by the STB but without having to watch that channel? (assuming there are any encrypted channels we actually watch, appropro Q1)

Q4) CableCard based: I'm aware of the Ceton and the upcoming HomeRun, but are these the best options for my usages? Yes, then I'd be able to easily accomplish U3 & U4 above, but what if I only watch ClearQAM? Maybe something in Q3 will do? And what about U1 & U2? Would I need an additional card for that? If so, which one (while avoiding redundant functions)?

Obviously, I want to limit the # of cards I put in the HTPC, but I don't want really more external boxes either, so how can U1-4 be accomplished "right" both efficiently and economically? I've read A LOT of posts, but none trying to do these 4 things at once.

Or am I just asking the wrong site/forum? If so, where else should I go to quickly get knowledgeable advice about this foreign land (to me) without spending more months of my scavenged free time reading review after post after review? Thanks!