Originally Posted by djwilso
does Cox have a selection of recorders, or only one?
No, they only offer the one, the SA8300HD.
Will Cox provide an HDMI cable?
Not that I know. Unless something has changed, the 8300 comes with a set of Component cables and L-R Audio cables.
is it a dual-tuner box? Does it support adding an external SATA drive?
It actually has 4 tuners (2 analog/2 digital), but for all practical purposes, it is considered a dual-tuner unit. You can record 2 programs while waching a previously recorded program.
I've heard that some cable companies don't allow this.
Some cableco's use Passport software instead of SARA software that Cox uses and that is why SATA external drives are not yet supported by those cableco's. SATA drives are not directly supported by any cableco's that I know of, but it does work (at your own risk) on the 8300's provided by Cox.
If the HDMI cable is used, is the optical digital output active at the same time, and does it pass Dolby Digital 5.1 if the TV only has an HDMI 1.0 (2 channel) interface?
Yes, you simply need to change the Digital Audio Out setting to DD vs HDMI, though there might be some setups that still have problems even with this setting.
Based on your questions, it appears that you've already read through the SA8300HD threads (Tips & Tricks and SATA) but missed all the answers, they're all there.
However, if you haven't, you should check out the Master thread
and read through the sub-threads, particularly the first post in the Tips & Tricks thread.