Cable is rapidly moving to kill off the "boxless" cable option. There are those here on AVS who will not accept that fact until the cable guy breaks down their door and smacks them in the jaw with a decoder box, but you can't turn the tide. Under those circumstances, I don't recommend anyone knock themselves out looking for a "DVD recorder that can tune cable channels". Even before this most recent digital cable transition, many users had problems getting the recorders to "lock" onto their cable signals, or the station frequencies would change at the whim of the cable company and screw with your settings. It really just isn't worth bothering with anymore- too much effort involved, recorder tuners have become increasingly unstable, and as bfdtv noted you're going to get forced onto a box within a year or so anyway.
Current "boxless" customers in many systems are being force-migrated to disgusting "free" digital cable converter pods, which function essentially as "economy" decoder boxes. They are junk and usually their performance with recorders is quite poor compared to the "normal" full-feature decoder box that they charge you a monthly rental for. If you have any sustained interest in recording, the best course now is to get ahead of the coming changes and ask for a "real" decoder box right away. If you want to make permanent DVDs for your library, get the standard decoder box and a DVD recorder. A Panasonic EZ-28 is needlessly complex and overkill when used with cable: instead of blowing $249 on an EZ-28 with its unnecessary tuner, opt for the tunerless EA-18 available online at Vanns for $180 or less. Its the perfect cable companion and very reliable. If you don't want to record DVDs to keep, don't waste time and money on a DVD recorder
- again, not worth it. Upgrade your cable to DVR service, with an automated hard drive recorder built into the cable decoder box. Its less clutter, makes it much easier to set timer recordings, and you never have to worry about it breaking since you don't own it.
Yeah, yeah, I can already hear the chorus: "but we don't wanna pay for decoder box rentals, we don't wanna rent the cable PVR, its our divine right as American citizens to have rock-bottom boxless cable service and a cheap recorder we own outright, w-a-a-h-h-h..." Well, forget it: that applied in the analog VCR days, and those days are gone. The DTV transition has had more obnoxious hidden ramifications than anyone ever dreamed, one of the most important being you can kiss boxless cable and cheap recorders goodbye. Either budget for a more midrange cable tier, or invest in an antenna for free off-air TV and get a good ATSC-capable recorder like the Panasonic EZ-28 or Magnavox H2160. Bargain-basement, recorder-tuned cable is on life support, with Nurse Ratched
pulling hard on the plug.