All good points. The truth is that I am a bit of a tinkerer and that is most likely a part of the appeal. I also like to watch netflix, hulu+ as well as other downloaded content and want to bring those to my TV. I can do some of that with the ps3 right now, but I would prefer a streamlined interface as well as access to many of my ripped blu-rays. The goal for me is to eventually get rid of cable and use the combination of the above mentioned services as well as amazon video on demand etc... to get all of my shows/movies. As far as the time it takes to rip movies... it's not like i'll sit there waiting for it to happen. I will most likely just rip new movies I buy while I'm doing other stuff. You are right though.... It is an expensive and unnecessary toy.
The intel Core i3s & i5s will pass the HD audio codecs w/bitstreaming and 1080P natively with onboard sound and video.. If your thurs 1 hour shown and Sports are all on the networks get an HDHomerun dual tuner (OTA or QAM), if protected cable the Ceton.
With the above, W7 MCE and a software Bluray player (TMT3 for me), your good to go. Also Hulu and Netflix streaming, commercial skipping, DVR, music, photos and the rest.
The other piece of the puzzle is ripped Blurays, Need software, one is AnyDVD HD and lots of drive space. avg 40GB per movie.
For a great setup I recommend the above with a SSD for the OS(Guides and menus snap alot quicker, startup quicker) another drive for recorded TV, 4-8gb RAM and a server for the Bluray rips. I'm up to 16.6TB on my BR W7 Movie server(BR & DVD), and 6TB on my WHS for Recorded TV, Data, photos, music and Squeezebox music server.
All my gear including Servers, HTPCs, Extenders, Receiver, Whole House AUdio Server and Amps, eTc are in a rack across the house from my viewing area. That helps with alot with all the cases and gear.
Avoid a lot of third party software and hacks on HTPC for reliability.
My cable boxes are gone. All HTPCs and extenders 100% of the time.
I love my HTPC.