Since I usually prefer to have the "best", if it's affordable, I regularly compare/contrast the different TV & DVR technologies that are currently available. I've yet to find a DVR that exceeds the capabilities of the HR34 (now HR44) for my needs. Now, my high-end needs may not match anyone else's needs, but as I read your post, I wonder, because I'm under the impression that the HR44 is leading in the "high-end" space at the moment when I consider DirecTV, Dish, FiOS, my cable offerings, and TiVo ... all of which are available to me. And I've thoroughly researched this several times.
To review your points ...
Harddrive ... "The hard drive is far too small" ... while it comes with 1 TB, which meets my needs because I intend to have multiple, one per family member, once multiples are supported, others here have shown that very large eSATA implementations, even RAID, can be enabled. DirecTV just recently removed the 2TB restriction, as has been documented by some here at DBSTalk. Again, I don't have a need for it, but for everyone that does, now has a very high-end storage offering with the HR34 or HR44. I also can understand why DirecTV selected 1TB for the base unit, because 200+ hours of HD is probably a good base for J6P. You need to pick a base that's reasonable, but also provide an option for high-end needs.
Tuners ... "it only has 5 tuners" ... yep, that's true, and it seems to be better then everyone else, at least until the FiOS 6-tuner media server ships. For me, it's also better then the Hopper since DirecTV's 5 tuners are totally independent and there's no restriction tied to the major 4 networks, which would be a huge problem for me. I also prefer 5 tuners rather then 8 tuners, so that I can have one HR44 on each side of a SWiM-16 with other receivers, thus an HR44 and a few speedy H25 clients on each side, or an HR24 if needed. I like the high-end flexibility, where if it was 8 tuners, more then one would make pairing with H25's or HR24's more challenging.
Wireless ... "it offers wireless which everyone knows is unreliable" ... my view is that's just additional flexibility for those that don't want to run hard-wire for the internet connection. The HR44 already supports multiple options for connectivity to the internet, you can hard-wire Ethernet and use the HR44 as the CCK, you can hard-wire Ethernet and use a real CCK for the rest of your receivers, you can use DECA and a real CCK, or now there another option of using wireless. Lot's of high-end options, and also now a wireless option. Lots of flexibility.
Size ... "it has an outside power pack" ... it seems to me that it's the smallest of the high-end DVRs, which I love, especially if I intend to have multiple (once supported). It looks like DirecTV has taken the time to design a better more compact model with less internal heat, which for me, is high-end thinking.
Remote ... "new remote lacks some of the functions and convenience of the old remote" ... you might have something here, but I actually prefer the RC71, though I might be in the minority. It should be considered though that it appears that the thinking was to support high-end two-way protocols, thus some may consider the RC71 as targeting high-end needs.
Well, that's your list, and I'd probably add a few ...
nomad for me is a better high-end sync offering then the sync option in the new Hopper, based on those listing the Hopper sync restrictions from CES. nomad is also compatible with every DirecTV HR2x as well, and who knows what 2013 will bring.
MRV, multiple streams, from any HR2x, HR34, or HR44 through-out the home, it works great for those with high-end needs. The totally decentralized client/server architecture is awesome, especially with those with high-end setups.
Also, the HR44 does IR and RF concurrently, for those with Slingbox needs, it works great, you can use the new RF two-way capability and still have any Sling that you want.
Well, that's it for now, just figured that I'd post, because I always strive for the "best" and I always come to the same conclusion that DirecTV has the best current hardware, and I'll continue to compare as new technology ships ...
OK, let's just agree to disagree. I like Directv, but I am not in love with Directv. The problem with being in love is that you tend not to see faults even when you are on top of them. I think there are plenty of things Directv could improve on. We do agree on one thing,, they are the best of what is currently out there right now. I do not just blindly accept that though and I am always looking at alternatives that might better meet my needs.