The Pitch: Our ultimate set-top box/high-def DVR is a home theater PC 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...
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 and rip discs. Portable media drive has HDMI and works with the remote.
Parts List (Inspiration) 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
What we took: High-end pre-built HTPC is controlled via a bundled Nokia Internet tablet. More.
Asus Eee Keyboard PC
What we took: We borrowed design cues from this Windows XP computer-in-a-keyboard. More.
Popcorn Hour A-110
What we took: Portable media drive/streamer with HDMI, Wi-Fi, and built-in BitTorrent. More.