Originally Posted by MaryJones
I use only over-the-air channels for tv watching, and have no need or intention to pay a monthly fee to anyone
You are part of what mfrs now consider to be an impossible-to-please, unrealistic, unprofitable minority group. So no, there aren't a heckuva lot of recorder options on the current market that will suit you. Thats the brutal truth: our current era of consumer electronics requires us to conform to how the recorders (and TV providers) want to work, not how we want them to work (or what we want them to cost). Economic forces in the 70s, 80s and 90s permitted us the luxury of consumer choice, at multiple price and feature levels. That is now almost completely gone: choices in "standalone recorders" are almost entirely restricted to either paying a monthly fee of some kind, or spending way, WAY more than you planned.
There is no happy medium, and nothing is as easy as the old VCRs. The smartphone paradigm has taken over everything from car alarms to TV recorders to birdcage feeders: if you can't or won't adapt to that sort of interface, your options boil down to just two units: one recently introduced (the Channel Master CM7500) and one in its death throes that probably won't be around much longer (the Magnavox DVD/HDD recorders). The CM7500 records in true HDTV quality, but can only connect to a flat screen TV (it has no connectors for the old tube TVs like the one you're still using). While the CM7500 is way more sophisticated than the Magnavox, it would require the purchase of a new TV, and cannot play or record DVDs. The Magnavox includes a convenient DVD player and can make permanent DVD copies of shows you want to keep, has connectors for the old CRT type of TV, but cannot record true HDTV and can be a pain to use if any of your local broadcasters are incompatible with its hare-brained tuner design.
I currently receive the digital signal through a digital DVR made by Panasonic (and more tempermental than the crankiest person you can imagine!)
Just about any alternative you replace this Panasonic with will strike you as "temperamental." NOTHING in the current recorder market "just works" like a VCR used to.
The Magnavox DVD drive is not nearly as cranky as the one in your Panasonic, but it makes up for that in spades by having the most maddeningly temperamental tuner/timer since the original Betamax of 1976. For some off-air users, it works flawlessly, for others, it creates different circles of hell. It depends on your location and how the stations in your area operate their broadcast systems. If you decide to try a Magnavox, be sure to buy it directly from WalMart so you'll have their generous 60 day return/refund warranty. Some of the Magnavox potential quirks can take a couple weeks to surface, so you'll want to test it out by making many timer recordings on all your available channels. If it works consistently and reliably for you, your local stations are compatible with it, and you should be happy with it.
But if you encounter problems with failed timer recordings (it doesn't record at all from some channels or it records dead air), you may find it more trouble than its worth to use. There are workarounds for the various tuner issues, but they don't always succeed as a permanent fix. Should you find persistent problems recording your local Fox affiliate, for example, the Magnavox will drive you up a wall. In that case, I'd recommend you return it for refund. Then save up some extra money and get a new TV so you can use a new-age recorder like the CM7500.
We're way past planned obsolescence at this point: we're at forced obsolescence.Edited by CitiBear - 1/13/14 at 3:54pm