UPDATE: For an update with more information on this device, check out this post
HTPC fans, this is big news... There has been rumblings all week on the SageTV forums about a very exciting HD Recorder for the Home Theater PC. The new Hauppauge "HD PVR" records video from HD Cable TV or satellite TV boxes into H.264 in real-time to your HTPC. The device takes the digital TV feed from the cable/satellite TV box's component cables (also referred to as 'YPrBp" or red/blue/green connectors) and then uses it's on-board H.264 hardware encoder to record that high definition TV programs in ISO standard, HD H.264 AVC format in real time. It uses an IR blaster to control the channels on the set-top box so you can use your HTPC to schedule recordings and change channels. The HD PVR can encode 720p, 1080i and 1080p content in the H.264 format at rates of 5 to 25 Mbps. This isn't perfect, but it should satisfy almost all HTPC users. Plus the H.264 profile is compatible with blue-ray so it should be playable in blue-ray players as well.
A working prototype was being demo'd at CES by Hauppauge. The Hauppauge recorder is slated to be available in Q1 2008, with a suggested retail price of $249.00 according to the Hauppauge press release.
You may be asking why is this big news? Well before this, you needed the expensive and inflexible Cablecard devices (or the lesser known and lesser supported R5000 mod) to record encrypted HD channels. It also will likely work with Non-Microsoft Vista Media Center PC's unlike the Cablecard tuners so this would open up the possibilities to SageTV users and likely other HTPC software programs. I would guess it would take a pretty powerful processor to do the conversion to H.264 on the fly so you better have a beefy HTPC though.
Another likely problem with this in the future would be if Hollywood realizes this "hole" exists in their plan to lock down all content, they'll probably push the cable and satellite companies to turn off the component outputs or just remove them from future boxes. For the present though this looks like the "holy grail" for diy HTPCers. I for one am very excited about it. If I can find some photo's I'll put up another post with an update.
If this device works as advertised it will sell like hotcakes and give those who spent their hard-earned dollars on Cablecard a little heartburn.