So my panasonic hdd/dvd recorder died a week ago so I ended up getting the Sharp DV-HR300U from ecost.com for under $500 cad. This is the cheapest I've seen for an 80gig hdd and dvd recorder and for the price compared to the other brands I think its worth it.
So far the unit is working flawlessly, the menu system is a bit slow and takes some time getting used to.
There is a timeshift function where you can either pause live tv and it'll start recording to the hard drive or you can watch a hockey game from the beginning when you've come home during the middle
There's also a hi speed dubbing function that I have yet to try but it supposedly transfers recordings from the hdd-->dvd faster than normal time. I've burnt to a few dvd-r's already and they work in my pioneer dvd player, need to go out to get some dvd-rw's to try.
Recording at the EP (longest time) mode has some artifacts but nothing comparable to the EP mode on VCR's. EP onto the hdd is actually quite good and I can get over 100hrs onto the hdd. It also has a mode to switch quality to the amount of hdd space remaining to accomadate your timed recordings, or even shift to the dvd like many of the new recorders
Also convienient is a skip search function where you can skip 30 sec increments up to 120 to skip commercials.
I guess most of these functions are available in most dvd/hdd recorders today, but this little unit is great for the price I paid for my panasonic a while ago ($1200).