Actually not to make a sale since there are couple people who are interested picking the up the OS soon but I wanted to clarify some picture quality issues due to lack of decoder/encoder since I was thinking same as you and had same results as you (I tried 2 AIW and 2 Hauppauge tuners).
My conclusion is that it's not the tuner but it's the video card with the video(TV)-out engine that particular card has.
The current set-up I have has amazing recording and playback quality due to the Radeon X600 Pro 256MB PCI-Express card that I have. I even connect it to TV with RCA cable (due to lack of long S-Video cable ).
I am using plain vanilla DVD decoder/encoder that Powercolor X600 card ships (will look up what it is once I am at home).
NVidia cards (esp el cheapo FX5200) has the best Video-out quality. Nvidia also has it's own very impressive decoder/encoder software.
Admittably HTPC hasn't matured yet and having growing pains but overall my results are very satisfactory (even on a cheap ass conventional 27" Toshiba flatscreen CRT TV).
I am now in the process of quieting the system down. Today I will be trying passively cooled Radeon 9250 PCI card and will post results. For me the X600 Pro card is an overkill to take the time and effort to put a VGA silencer since I never play video games.
PS: Forgot to mention. Win MCE 2005 is actually Win XP Professional based. Not the Win XP Home. The CDs that I have also have SP2 Slipstreamed.
Last edited by johnoz; 02-15-2005 at 03:31 PM.