She definitely doesn't have to subscribe to the premium channels like HBO. She may, however, have to subscribe to at least the lowest digital tier, in some areas (but not all, I don't have to).
|Should she get the Comcast DVR - or is there a better way - like should she get TIVO from a independent retailer?
A Tivo runs $99 after rebate for their base 40-hr model, +$299 for their lifetime sub fee, after which there wouldn't be any monthly fees. I strongly recommend against going monthly on the first Tivo, which would be $12.95/month, much less economical in the long term. So vs. paying monthly for Comcast DVR, it would break even then start to move ahead in about 3.5 years, less if Comcast hikes the rates as they often do. I've had one of my Tivos for 5.5 years already.
Comcast around here is something like $16 or so for the install then $9.95/month forever.
Comcast DVR advantages:
High definition - I would definitely go this route if she has or is planning on upgrading soon to HDTV.
dual tuner - records two shows at once, a good thing if she often has two shows she likes that air at the same time
rental - if it breaks or there is an upgraded model available you can just call for a new one. Or if Tivo comes out with something better, you could just return it & buy the Tivo.
-better user interface, particularly in searching for & automatically recording shows by title & keyword
- no monthly fees if you get lifetime.
- can upgrade drive for more recording space
- plays back MP3 / JPEG pictures from PCs via network, will soon be able to transmit shows to PC via network.
I would lean toward Tivo if she does not have nor plans to get HDTV in the next 3 years, and if Comcast forces her to subscribe to digital if she doesn't have it already. Forcing a subscription to digital if she doesn't really use the additional channels would effectively make the Comcast DVR $20/month extra rather than $10/month, making the break-even on Tivo much shorter. Otherwise I'd go with Comcast.