You have essentially three options for a stand-alone recording unit, the first two of which (the Magnavox and the Channel Master units) have already been recommended to you. The third is the TViX M6620N DVR
. All of them have their individual quirks, and so far, no company has come out with a perfect DVR solution. All three of these operate without subscription fees, though.
I recently purchased the TViX unit, and I'm quite happy with it. I researched the Dish/Channel Master DTVPal unit a few years ago, and I read so many bad stories about it that I decided it simply wasn't worth the risk to purchase one. The main problem with the DTVPal is that it wants to set its system clock from either TVGOS (TV Guide On Screen) or PSIP (Program and System Information Protocol) data sent by stations. Unfortunately, many stations don't bother to set their clocks correctly, which means that your timers can go completely haywire and the DVR records random things you didn't want to watch. Because the DTVPal has no "manual" clock setting, it's impossible to avoid the problem if you have unreliable stations in your area. The weeks surrounding the Daylight Saving Time transition are especially prone to causing your timers to break.
The TViX overcomes this problem by having both manual and network time settings, which lets the box completely ignore the time sent by TV stations. As a result, you don't need to worry about your timers breaking, although you do have to toggle the DST setting manually. Unlike the Magnavox unit, the TViX records in HD, so you could utilize the 720p capability of your HDTV with it. It lets you record with timers like a VCR, and it lets you pause live TV shows like other DVRs.
Unlike a VCR, it lets you watch one channel while recording another, record two channels at once, and record two channels at once while watching a previously saved recording. Unlike the Channel Master box, it also lets you copy recordings from the HDD to your PC, where you can convert them to burn onto DVD or Blu-Ray disc. You can also stream files from the TViX to other displays to watch them in other rooms, and you can stream content from other computers to play them on the TV with your TViX.
The main limitation of the TViX is that it doesn't support closed captions, while the Channel Master box does. The TViX does support external subtitles, so you would have to go through a tedious process of extracting them from the recordings if you wanted captions. It's a limitation that may not matter to you, but it's worth noting.
You can check out the respective topics for each DVR in this forum, and of course you can ask further questions, too. Happy browsing!