Whole-Home HTPC / DVR / Media Server

I'm here to source the masses of people with more knowledge & experience so I can do this right the second time. I want to replace my current HTPC (AMD E-350 on ASUS E35M1-I Deluxe board with 8 GB G.Skill DDR3 1333 RAM) which isn't quite cutting it for all that I want it to do.

Here's design objectives, in order of importance:
1. Record HD television from digital OTA signal, up to 4 simultaneous programs
2. Store large amounts of recorded TV
3. Stream recorded TV shows to other computers and/or HD media players around the house
4. Energy efficiency (as low consumption as possible while still meeting the other objectives)
5. Headless operation; set up recordings from other computers (and maybe tablets/smartphones?)
6. Future-proof (incorporate latest technologies like SATA III and USB 3.0)
7. Price efficiency (willing to spend a little extra, but prefer best bang-for-the-buck)
8. Access media from outside the home
9. (Eventually, possibly) Play 3D media (Blu-Ray 3D or 3D TV)
10. Gaming is NOT a consideration for this unit, at all.

I do not want to pad Microsoft's pockets needlessly, and I came upon a site (http://www.havetheknowhow.com) that advocates Ubuntu and MythTV, which seems like a good idea if its recordings can be played by any DivX capable player, like those I already own (WD TV Live Plus, PS3, etc).

To address Objective 1: I've found lots of information that says AMD's Fusion (Llano) APUs are superior to Intel's i3 (Sandy Bridge) chips in integrated graphics performance, though lagging in computational umph. By all accounts either would be fine for playing 1080p media, but how much is the logic CPU portion involved in encoding/transcoding during the recording process? Would a better processor and entry-level discrete video card work better for my needs?

I currently own a HDHomeRun Dual network tuner, and I'll probably add another dual tuner card in the build at some future point to get the desired total of 4 incoming TV streams.

To address Objective 2: I plan to set up a RAID, and this is one thing that gives a decent ding to the AMD Fusion option since they are not RAID 5 enabled. A 2-disk RAID 1 with 2TB would be fine to start, but increasing capacity beyond that would cost twice as much for RAID 1+0 vs. RAID 5 (and would be less efficient).

To address Objective 3: Is it necessary to get a teamed dual LAN card to stream HD video to several (3+) local terminals simultaneously? How much bandwidth does that actually require?


Build alternatives currently considered (all product links to Newegg.com):
- AMD A6-3500 on ASRock A75 Extreme6 with 2x4GB DDR3 1866
- Intel i3-2105 on ASRock Z68 Extreme3 Gen3 or ASUS P8Z68-V LE or MSI H67A-G43 (B3) with 1x8GB or 2x4GB DDR3 1333

I already have a power supply (Rosewill HIVE-650W 80+ Bronze, modular) and case (Rosewill Blackhawk ATX Mid Tower), and I'll be getting a 32-64GB SSD for OS and start with a RAID 1 storage array with 2x2TB "Green" HDD. I'll wait on the optical drive until the Blu-Ray burners come down a little bit more, or I see a good sale.

Any thoughts and/or recommendations? I'm open to other ideas if they will better fulfill my design objectives.
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  1. Information from the "How to ask" guide that I didn't mention above:

    Approximate Purchase Date: buying parts as I see good sales

    Budget Range: $200-$300 for CPU/APU + motherboard; about $500 total after rebates (excluding case and PSU)

    Parts not required: KVM (headless), case, PSU, OS

    Preferred Websites: Newegg.com, Amazon.com

    Country: USA

    Parts preference: ASRock, ASUS or MSI for mobo

    Overclocking: Maybe graphics, probably not CPU

    SLI or Crossfire: Maybe in the future as upgrades, hopefully not needed to start

    Monitor resolution: N/A (headless), or 1920x1080 (50" Plasma TV) if I can't do headless

    Additional comments: Quiet isn't as important as low power and cool (I intend to put it in a ventilated closet)
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