Originally Posted by wajo
The only way YOU will know is by what a modern HDTV with digital tuner can receive w/o the cable box. Whatever your HDTV can tune, the Mag HDD recorders can tune.
Or not. It has been reported by multiple posters here, time and again, that the Magnavox (and other DVD recorders) use half-assed tuners that are nowhere near as sophisticated at handling no-box-cable signals as the tuners built into current televisions.
Before anyone new to AVS swallows the monumental hype and runs to WalMart under the delusion they're going to stick it to ComCast or TWC, and get around box fees and PVR fees by buying a Magnavox: think again. Think three times. Then drop the idea totally and rent the PVR from the cableco. The Magnavox is a lovely machine, I own two of them, but they are no substitute for a cable PVR unless you are completely satisfied with the bare minimum handful of basic channels.
They work fantastic with off-air signals from an antenna, and they work well if hooked up to a full-service cable box or satellite box. But if you currently have no-box cable, you run a 50/50 chance you'll want to take a giant hammer to any DVD recorder you buy.
The cable service of today is not the cable service of 5 years ago, when the Magnavox and most other DVD recorders were last redesigned. Cable has found many loopholes to get around Clear-QAM and other "boxless" service tiers. ComCast is the worst offender, they started the mess, and other cablecos have seen their success and copied the idea: give "free" crappy mini decoder boxes (DTAs) to boxless cable subscribers, defeating the use of cable tuners in DVD recorders and televisions. If you are on ComCast, don't waste your time with a DVD recorder unless you are prepared to tune all channels thru a decoder box (not the recorder itself).
If you are on some other cable franchise, and have NO box involved at all (cable goes directly into your TV), you can make a DVD recorder work for you with difficulty
until the inevitable day they ape ComCast and issue you a "free" decoder box. I say "with difficulty" because the cable tuners built into most DVD recorders (like the Magnavox) tune the signal differently from the way a television tunes it. Most TVs self-adjust the frequencies and other parameters, but DVD recorders go completely wonky as wajo briefly described above. The degree of wonkiness varies, but more often than not is constant and requires some technical awareness. You must be willing to understand the concept of channel mapping, channel duplication, analog vs QAM conflicts, quirks of the recorder channel scan process, quirks of the recorder forgetting channels at random, and so on. There are workarounds involving complex wiring hookups (looping thru the decoder box for some channels and using the recorder tuner for others) that may or may not help you, depends on your system and comfort with complicated setups.
It is not a case of reading a few paragraphs in a forum thread, picking up a couple pointers, setting up the recorder once, and having it work perfectly ever after. This is annoying enough in households of one person, if you are married and your wife is not a fellow geek she will have absolutely no patience with this nonsense. This forum is populated by a great many geeks who think everyone has their technical inclinations and patience, and write as if these issues with cable are trivial. They are not trivial, they're a huge PITA on some cable systems. Think it over very carefully, and if you decide to try a DVD recorder be sure you buy it from a dealer with a no-questions-asked return policy. There's a reason DVD recorders have nearly been wiped from the market: recent cable trends have rendered them impractical.