YES to Home-Theater PC, NO to Cable/Satellite…

In the past 4 years, I have become disillusioned of cable/satellite television subscriptions (though we have DirecTV at the house), and I have discovered five things about my television habits:

1) I have scaled-back the amount of television I watch,
2) I spend more time playing video games and watching DVDs/Blu-rays than television,
3) Most of what I watch is available online anyway (via Hulu, Netflix, Revision3, Clicker, Crackle, Vudu, YouTube, network websites, etc.),
4) I can watch same-day-released movies for a single one-time rental (or purchase) fee on Vudu and Amazon VOD, or some older movies for free on Hulu, Crackle.com, and other legal sites (rather than paying the additional monthly subscriptions for premium movie channels from Cable/Satellite companies.
5) I no longer mind waiting from a few or many hours for a program to show up online, I just want to be able to watch the episode on-demand (WENT I WANT TO).

Option 1: Acer Aspire Revo AR3700-U3002
Option 2: Acer Aspire Revo 100
Through some research (thank you Lifehacker and Tekzilla), I discovered that the best result for my situation was to invest in an HD antenna (for free broadcast TV), a single high-speed internet connection (costing between $30-$50/month), and a home-theater computer, or HTPC, with a TV tuner (costing between $300-$450), and avoid the high costs and rental fees for lesser-capable cable boxes/recievers.  Granted that there are lesser-priced dedicated set-top boxes that address some of these needs (i.e., the Boxee Box, Roku Box, Apple TV, etc), but they all lack deep customization, and — more importantly — a TV Tuner.  With an HTPC (preferably with Windows Media Center, or “WMC”) I can utilize a TV Tuner to watch and record live over-the-air broadcast television as well as access to multiple online streaming on-demand services for television shows and movies.
The Home Screen to Windows Media Center

For online-streaming needs, I can use WMC to watch Netflix instant-streaming video, online content from network television web sites (Spike, ABC, CW, MSNBC, etc.) and online-exclusive programs (Revision3, The Engadget Show, etc.), and through the use of 3rd party plug-ins I can seamlessly access and watch videos through Hulu (after installing the Hulu Desktop program), Vudu (though the 3rd party Boxee app and program), YouTube, DailyMotion, ESPN3.com (live and archive games), and more.  Plus since the HTPC is, well, a PC, I can still access any of these online-streaming video services via a web browser (Google Chrome is my personal preference).  While most of the content is free, some will come with a subscription price.  Hulu is free (but limited), yet its Hulu Plus premium service is $7.99/mo.; Netflix’s instant streaming service is also $7.99/mo.; Vudu’s service is free, but to watch movies and television you’d pay $0.99 to $5.99 per rental and $9.99-$19.99 per digital purchase.

Money, money, money, monnnnn-ey!!

All in all, aside from the one time cost of the HTPC, I would be spending most of my money on the high-speed internet connection ($30-$50/month) and the premium subscription services like Hulu Plus and Netflix would cost an additonal $7.99/each/month, however I’d be using the internet and those services on a myriad of devices: the HTPC, my laptop, my online-enabled video game systems (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation Portable), and my phone.  Also, if I wanted to access and watch my HTPC content in another room, I can purchase an old Xbox 360 (for $50-$80) from a pawn shop and use the 360’s WMC Extender function to do so. In the end, by ditching and totally avoiding subscribing to cable/satellite, I’d be saving $55-$90/month ($660-$1080/year).  Hooray for my soon-to-be obese wallet!!

[Lifehacker: 1, 2, 3, 4; Tekzilla/HD Nation: 1, 2, 3]
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