The Ultimate Set-Top Box (DVR) to Rule Them All?

Image created by PC World and Brian Christie Design.
The pitch: Our ultimate set-top box/high-def DVR is a home theater PC--hey, we're PC World--that's quiet and turns on in seconds. (That's not an impossible dream either: Microsoft has thought about it, and ASrock has motherboards that use an advanced standby state to boot Windows in around 4 seconds). A PC-based DVR lets you hand-pick and upgrade hardware (drives, tuners, CableCards), manage codecs, and use add-ons like DVRMSToolbox, ShowAnalyzer or ComSkip to automatically detect and skip commercials. We'd follow the lead of MythTV and make ad-skipping standard.

Our interface blends the slick look and networking chops of Windows 7 Media Center with TiVo's ease of use; the latter already runs on PCs via Nero's Liquid TV kit.

Wireless keyboard, streaming features: The concept you see pictured (rendered to our spec by Brian Christie Design) includes a keyboard for PC tasks and Internet use. Our SlingLoaded DVR also lets you schedule from, and stream to, any Web device. Further options: Use a remote server to record or stream shows (inspired by actual Cablevision plans), or share live TV with friends (as on Monsoon's HAVA boxes with SociableTV).

Detachable touch remote: Though influenced by Asus's Eee Keyboard PC, our touchscreen also functions as a detachable remote control/minitablet that communicates with the DVR through Wi-Fi or infrared.

Touch display: Interface to adjust settings without a TV, to display the program guide, and more. Can be switched off.

Media drives: Blu-ray/DVD to play movies, back up recordings (within DRM restrictions), and rip discs. Portable media drive has HDMI and works with the remote.

Parts List (Inspiration)

Luxa2 LM300 Touch Pro
Luxa2 LM300 Touch Pro

What we took: Stunning bare-bones case to build your own DVR; has a 7-inch touch LCD. More

Okoro Media Systems GX100
Okoro Media Systems GX100

What we took: High-end prebuilt HTPC is controlled via a bundled Nokia Internet tablet. More

Asus Eee Keyboard PC
Asus Eee Keyboard PC

What we took: We borrowed design cues from this Windows XP computer-in-a-keyboard. More

Popcorn Hour A-110
Popcorn Hour A-110

What we took: Portable media drive/streamer with HDMI, Wi-Fi, and built-in BitTorrent. More

Follow Danny Allen on Twitter: @danny_allen

What would your ultimate set-top box include?

Brainstorm with us by posting a comment below.

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