Your only choice for a DVR is a Tivo, which has both monthly or lifetime fees for the Tivo service and the monthly cable card fee from Comcast. There is no free DVR that can receive the encrypted digitai channels. Available from Tivo.com and Best Buy, there are several models, both 2 and 4 tuners.
If you don't have phone with Comcast, you can buy any D3 cable modem, the best model is the Zoom 5341J available online here or some Best Buys.
If you have CDV, there is one choice and it is difficult to find. Arris TM722G only sold at select Best Buy's with Comcast Connection Centers. Purchase from Best Buy and the on site Comcast rep adds it to your account. Some area's allow self install, some a tech needs to come out. Find the list of BB's with Connection Centers here. These eMTA's sell for $150.
I want to buy a better dvr and get out of the monthly rental fee. how about the cable modem??
Cable modems can be found for as little at $45.xx. Look at the features and only pay for what you actually need. I self-installed mine with no problems at all. Besides Tivo, there are also Tuners that allow you to record Comcast cable with your PC. I have one PC running Windows XP (without Windows Media Center) with a couple of Clear QAM/OTA tuners, and another PC running Windows 7 (with Windows Media Center) that has a QAM tuner (3-tuner) with a cable card to record encrypted channels.
Are you sure about this? The Zoom 5341J has the lowest certification rating from Comcast among the modems on its list. What are your referring to when you say if you have CDV? The Arris is a Telephony modem, so you may not even need or want that. Actually, the Cisco DPC3008 seems the best, and you can get those for about $80 (at $7 a month rental, you're paying over that a year). You should go for an IPv6 modem because it has greater data encryption than IPv4.
My question is about a DVR solution that doesn't require or reduces payment to Comcast. The Tivo option doesn't sound like it's really that good. I had heard that you could somehow use Windows Media Center to record. Anybody heard anything about that?
Indeed Windows Media Center will work with several Cable Card Tuners (on your in home network, USB port or a PCI slot). Do a google search on Cable Card Tuners and then go to the manufacture sites for information. There are a couple of other software programs that will work with cable cards, again check them out on Google.. As noted elsewhere, Comcast will charge you $1.50 per month for a Cable Card, and finding somebody at Comcast to correctly put it into your account can often be a nightmare..
Re: The Tivo option doesn't sound like it's really that good.
I returned my Comast DVRs and set top boxes about three weeks ago and went all TiVo. It's been wonderful!
Cash-flow wise, the monthly subscription fee I pay TiVo is slightly less than what I paid for the DVRs and set top boxes from Comcast. And I had to buy the TiVo equipment. (I could have eliminated the monthly TiVo subscription cost by buying "lifetime" service -- but I haven't done that yet.)
But the TiVo service and features are wonderful! Six tuners, watch any live or recorded show in any room -- and HD on all my TVs. Highly recommended.