This area of home media is rapidly changing. The PVR is in flux as companies upgrade their products to reflect new consumer demand and current technologies. Are you ready for a PVR?
What are your needs? If you are going to record an occasional program and are comfortable with the VCR type functions, there may be no need to step up to the PVR plate. A digital video recorder with disk media may be all you need, especially if you are going to want to archive this for future use. Most users will need an IR blaster (IR for infrared) either in the DVD recorder itself or separately. This allows you to record on different channels without manually changing the channel on the cable box, so if you are going to be out while recording more than one show, the channels can be switched.
But if you are going for multiple recordings a day while you are at work, for watching on the weekends, or have specific recording needs, such as every professional soccer game, a PVR is a much better option.
There are new models that integrate a PVR and a DVD recorder. This combines the best of both worlds, allowing hard drive storage with DVD viewing, plus the option of transferring that program to DVD for "eternal" archiving.
What about your personal videos? Any DVD recorder will accomplish this but look for an easily accessible firewire input so you can go directly from camcorder to DVD.
If you are a batch TV watcher, consider a PVR, but before laying down any cash, check your TV provider for their options. Although less reliable, satellite and cable companies may provide integrated boxes that are far less costly.