Your luck using the HW to record may depend on your local stations.
My HW records from my This!, Me-TV, and Cozi TV affiliates pretty reliably. But I can't record my Retro TV affiliate even though I can watch it fine on the HW. There are just too many issues with their data stream. (Bad PSIP time, one of the most common issues with scheduled recordings, is only one of 31.4's issues.)
OTOH, my other HW can record Tulsa's Retro TV affiliate fine. So it depends on the station, not the network.
That may be one reason why some folks have a lot more trouble than others with recordings on the HW.
Unfortunately, unless you're willing to spend either >$200 up-front or $15 each month, there's not much else in the marketplace. Seems like there's a gap there: I bet a lot of folks would pay around $120 or so for a very basic but reliable, HW-style, 2-tuner DVR.