I like this processor combo because of the HD4000 which I am told will help for video transcoding (vertu quicksync etc) and somewhat decent 3D rendering (certainly not as good as AMD offerings, but good enough for the HTPC).
I also love that this is going to be a VERY low power system in terms of TDP and actual electrical watts consumed at Idle.
The other option I have is to go with AMD online with:
I like this processor for its overall balance, true quad-core architecture, which should help for video streaming and to some extent, transcoding. The TDP is still only 65w, but overall power consumption is much higher.
Also, I can actually do some low end gaming (being that my plasma is only 720p anyways).
I was then just going to slap either 8 or 16 gigs of DDR3 (that was on sale and compatible with a given board).
These boards have both SATA III and USB 3.0 so my connection options are pretty wide.
I was either going to pair this with an external USB 3.0 3TB HDD from Seagate or with an internal drive that I can find on sale. The advantage to the external drive is that it is 1) External and 2) often less expensive than the internal drives. I have seen the Seagate models for $130, while the internal counterparts are in the $150 range.
I am willing to take suggestions. The prices are pretty close for both options. I love the balance of the AMD system, but for HTPC non-gaming, power, streaming and transcoding duties, the Intel board may be a better option.
If there is a better cable-card solution, I would love to hear your suggestions as well.
Also, if you think going USB 3.0 and saving some cash isn't the best idea, rather than going SATA, please let me know.
Tough call. Personally, I'd take gaming completely out of the equation. If you want to game on the big screen, then build a gaming system to hook up to your HDTV. Aside from that, the only reason I can think of to go with more than a dual-core processor is if you intend to allocate one or two of the tuners of the Ceton card to other Windows 7 networked computers or extenders like the Ceton Echo (or XBox 360).
At this point, I'd probably go with the Intel processor and HD4000 graphics. If it's not up to snuff (and at 720p, I can't see it not being), you can always add a low-end, discrete graphics card.
Then I'd definitely go with the AMD Quad-Core set up. The general rule of thumb is to have one CPU core and two GB of RAM for each tuner allocated to other systems.
BTW - Ceton Card tuners do not "float". Once assigned to a system, they remain assigned to that system until you re-run the set-up. The SiliconDust HDHomeRun Prime (three tuners) and I think the Hauppauge WinTV-DCR-2650 (two tuners) allow for dynamic tuner assignment, I believe.