Originally Posted by PixelDot
1. I was originally using a Sony DVD/VCR box to record stuff. So the DVR arena is a new thing for me.
Assuming you are in the US you have two basic choices.
1. Acquire an integrated cable DVR that will take the place of your current STB and provide you with multiple tuners (record one channel while watching another) and 1-click recording from an integrated channel guide that will appear on your screen. A DVR is a hi-def recording option. You will have direct access to all the cable channels you are paying for and your recording capacity will be a function of the size of the HDD in the unit. Here you have three choices: TiVo, Moxi or the DVR your cable co will rent you. TiVo and Moxi are units you would purchase and own -- but you would still have to rent a "cable card" from RCN to integrate the device with their cable network. The payback period of owning vs. rental could be 4-5 years.
2. Acquire a "VCR equivalent" and continue to do what you have been doing. The Magnavox DVD recorder (it's not a DVR) that was noted above is such an option. A DVD recorder is a standard-def recording option. You would attach it to an output of your current STB as you did for your VCR and manually program it to record like a VCR (date/time/duration). Unlike a VCR, a DVD recorder records to an internal HDD so there are no tapes to deal with. Your recordings are displayed as a list of titles on the screen for you to pick from. When done watching you simply delete it from the list and "record over it". If you decide to keep a recording you have the option of burning it onto disk -- as long as it was not a copy-protected cable show.
At ~$200, a DVD recorder is a cheaper option than an integrated DVR. Of course the functionality is much, much less, but if you don't need all that functionality (or can't justify paying for it) a DVD recorder is a fine option. If you want to go rock-bottom cheap to record cartoons, go onto Craig's list and purchase a good used VCR for $20-50 and continue on as you have been. Personally, I think the DVD recorder would be the best option for you based on what you have written.