TechnologyTell

HomeTechTell Review: Dish Network Hopper Whole-Home HD DVR

Sections: Distributed video, Reviews, Source components, Streaming, Video

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When there’s a pithy catch phrase to describe the mass exodus of customers from your industry, you know you’re in trouble. Or at least, you should know you’re in trouble. But in the face of massive numbers of cable and satellite subscribers “cutting the cord” for online alternatives, the response of most providers, it seems, is to hike the rates of those who remain to make up the difference, without adding any substantial value.

There are a few meager attempts to combat the trend here and there. Comcast’s Xfinity comes to mind.  But really, such services amount to little more than tacking the online experience onto a traditional TV service, without addressing the fundamental issues causing so many consumers to ditch said services to begin with.

Then along comes Dish Network with its new Hopper whole home HD DVR service, and all I can think to myself is finally, someone gets it.

I got my first taste of the Hopper system—and its PrimeTime Anytime feature—at this year’s CES, and the presentation was enticing. If you haven’t read up on PrimeTime Anytime yet, here’s the simple scoop: enable the feature on your Dish Hopper system, and all four networks are recorded during primetime hours every night of the week, and stored for eight days. So if your coworkers are gabbing about some amazing new show that came on the night before, and you forgot to set your DVR, no worries. It’s there for you to watch, in full HD, on your TV, instead of hunched over your laptop or squinting at your iPad.

Granted, that first taste was intriguing, but it’s the sort of feature that raises all sorts of questions. First, does it work? Second, doesn’t that eat up a lot of DVR space? Third, what if I want certain shows saved for longer than eight days?

I’ve been living with the Hopper system at home for about a month now, and I can tell you: it works like a champ; it doesn’t eat up a bit of DVR space, because PrimeTime Anytime shows are stored on the cloud, from which you can either stream them or save them to your DVR for more permanent storage; and it doesn’t conflict in the slightest with network shows you set to record directly to your DVR.

Honestly, the last month I’ve tried my best to break the feature, coming up with all sorts of scenarios that don’t necessarily apply to the way I watch TV, but might come into play for some viewers. Since PrimeTime Anytime shows are recorded via one tuner (that’s right: all four major networks—ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC—are carried on just one of the Hopper’s three tuners), the first thing that came to mind is, well, what if I want to set dedicated recordings for three network shows at once? Three shows, three tuners—surely that would interfere the PrimeTime Anytime recordings? It doesn’t, though.

Three non-network shows, now? Yeah, that causes problems, but given Dish’s recent revelation that a full fifty percent of DVR activity amongst its subscribers is dedicated to the Big Four, I think the odds of that being a major issue in your household are slim.

Is it something you’ll actually use, though? I’ll be honest: when my Hopper system was initially installed, I turned on PrimeTime Anytime recording, thinking I would give it a thorough testing and then turn it off. A month later, though, and it’s still on, partly because—as I said—it’s not impeding upon my massive 1TB of DVR storage (the Hopper comes with a 2TB internal hard drive, 500GB of which were available for DVR space at launch, although a patch soon upped that to its current amount), and partly because, in my day-to-day, non-reviewing, television-watching life, I’ve found myself using it way more than I would have predicted—to check out shows I might never have recorded of my own volition, mostly at the recommendation of friends, days after they aired.

And yes, I know I could have done the same online, but not in the comfort of my comfy chair, on the big screen, with the big home theater sound system. And certainly not without those annoying un-skippable commercials that the networks force you to sit through online.

That’s another cool thing about PrimeTime Anytime. Just yesterday, Dish added a new feature to the system called “Auto Hop,” which you can enable on any PrimeTime Anytime recording (after 1am the morning after it airs), which completely skips commercial breaks. No, you don’t have to press a button (well, you do once, when the show starts). No, the commercials aren’t deleted, so at any time you can pause or fast-forward the show and the commercials return. And the neat thing about Auto Hop is that it errs on the side of caution. It’s designed to never, ever skip a bit of your show, although it might leave a very brief glimpse of the end of a commercial if it doesn’t nail the timing perfectly. That’s happened once for me. Every other commercial break has been neatly and discretely skipped, making watching this week’s episode of 30 Rock feel like watching the DVD.

As for the regular DVR built into the Hopper, I should also confess that I went in with trepidations, mostly because I’m a decade-long TiVo devotee, and the few DVRs I’ve been forced to use in those intervening years have only made me a bigger TiVo fan. I think the Hopper has kicked my TiVo habit, though. Yes, I do miss the little “puck” and “poguck” sounds. That’s about it, though. The Hopper DVR doesn’t mimic TiVo, but it does match it in terms of intuitiveness and—mostly—in features. One thing I really like about the Hopper DVR experience is that there are no navigational dead ends. Once you get the hang of the buttons, you can navigate between searching for shows, browsing ones you’ve recorded, PrimeTime Anytime recordings, and the like very easily.

Watching live TV (hey, it happens!) is also a neat experience on the Hopper for a number of reasons, but my favorite features are the Picture-in-Picture functionality (remember that?) and the ability to setup the Recall button on the remote for multi-channel recall. That is to say that it can either operate the way you would expect—press Recall and it takes you to the last channel you were viewing—or you can have it display the last four channels you watched at the bottom of the screen. As I understand it, that’s a handy feature for people who watch the sports. For me, though, it’s come in really handy during nasty storms, to hop between several channels displaying local radar and weather updates.

Speaking of weather! I have to admit, although I’ve long been unsatisfied with the two cable providers in my area, I’ve never given Dish any serious consideration, because I’ve heard the horror stories from friends who’ve left the service over outages when the sky so much as hints at rain. I asked my Dish installer about this, and he admitted, “As recently as a few years ago, yes, that was a problem. These days? If Dish goes out at my house, I’d better go ahead and get in the hallway. I lose my signal maybe once a year.” Anyone who’s losing reception during a regular rainstorm these days, he said, probably has a poorly positioned dish. Then he cocked his thumb at the house across the street and said, “I bet they lose their Dish signal when it gets breezy.” So I let him pick the ideal spot for reception at my casa, which ended up being on a pole in the front yard. “Most customers wouldn’t like this,” he said. I don’t mind it, though. I think it looks kinda groovy. It’s certainly no less attractive than the monstrous antenna on my roof.

As you can see, my neighborhood doesn’t offer a lot of access to open sky, but my installer found a spot that offers great reception in the front yard. The neighbor across the street, though? (Click to embiggen and follow the red arrow). My Dish installer said their satellite reception is probably iffy at best in anything stronger than a gentle breeze.

 

So what’s the verdict on the reception? Well, we’ve had a handful of really nasty, siren-wailing, lightning-cracking, head-for-the-hallway storms since the system was installed, and it hasn’t flinched once. In fact, during one particularly nasty storm, I called colleague John Sciacca to brag on my reception (he got a Hopper system the weekend after I did), and during our call, lightning knocked out my phone and internet, both of which are still provided by my old cable company. But during it all, the Dish system had a crystal clear HD signal, with no blocking or dropouts.

Getting back to the hookup, if you’re not brand new to Dish, and are upgrading from a relatively recent system, there’s still going to be a bit of tinkering done on the outside of your house. Your dish is probably fine, and the coaxial line running into your main box may be okay, but the splitter box outside will have to be replaced with a new node to support the multiroom functionality of the Hopper and up to three Joey boxes. The Joeys communicate with the Hopper via coaxial backfeed, and access its three internal tuners directly. The Joey itself doesn’t have its own tuner. Mostly because it’s itty-bitty–about the size of a small cable modem or media streamer box, like the Apple TV. It also accesses the Hopper’s network connection through the coaxial line, so you don’t have to worry about running an Ethernet cable to (or installing a WiFi antenna in) every room.

Given the Joey’s tiny size, it doesn’t have room for the component video connections included on the Hopper. So you’ll definitely need HDMI if you want HD in your second, third, or fourth room. It does include composite AV and optical audio outs, in addition to HDMI.

While multiroom DVR has been around for a while (I’ve been using it for ages with my TiVos), I’ve never seen it work this well, this (nearly) instantly, this seamlessly. Not without racks of video matrices and sophisticated automation systems with robust multi-room capabilities, anyway. If I’m watching a show in the media room and want to pause it and pick it up in the bedroom, there’s no transferring to suffer through. I press Stop, go to the other room, and press Play. Or I can have the same program playing in both rooms (almost) simultaneously. There is about a second-and-a-half delay in the video stream, so if you’re playing both streams loudly, you’ll notice the slight lack of perfect sync, but that’s hardly a bother.

You’d expect this to lead to some serious tuner conflicts if you’re watching different content in different rooms, but a press-of-a-button on the Joey’s remote (and the Hopper’s, for that matter) brings up the tuner menu, which lets you see which tuners are in use and which are available. And if you’re watching the same tuner in two different rooms and decide to change channels on one, it doesn’t force you to finagle with the tuner menu—it simply and automatically switches to an available tuner and doesn’t bother you with the fact. Brilliant. Intuitive. Your grandma could figure it out. You’d seriously think that Apple designed the system if you didn’t know better.

My only real complaint at this point is that the system doesn’t include Netflix or—more importantly for me—Amazon Instant Video streaming. Blockbuster is built in, though, for which you get a three-month free trial, and there’s more video-on-demand content than I know what to do with (including 1080p and 3D movies!). Dish also stealthily added Pandora to the Hopper’s app library recently, so there’s some hope on my part that other video services on the way.

One has to wonder just how long Dish can keep up with the regular—and substantial—updates to the system, though. Like I said, in one month we’ve seen an increase from 500GB to 1TB for DVR storage, along with the addition of Pandora, and the completely-out-of-the-blue Auto Hop feature. Dish strongly hinted in yesterday’s press conference that Auto Hop is something that could easily be added to regular DVR recordings, but gave no indication that it would be. I wouldn’t be surprised, though.

I could go on and on digging through the features and functionality of the system, because there’s so much it does so well, but in the interest of writing something you’ll actually read, let me wrap up with a few additional points and call this review done (for now).

Given how robust the Hopper system is, how well it works, everything that it offers, I would honestly expect it to be economically out of reach for most customers. Turns out, all of this—and by all of this, I mean everything mentioned above, plus the Everything Package, which includes 315 channels, 30 of them premium movie channels; over 60 Sirius music channels; and my locals in HD—costs significantly less than what I was paying for cable TV alone, which gave me a mere 30 HD channels, and that was without Showtime and Cinemax. And the only thing my cable company has stealthily added to my service in a long, long time is additional fees. (Speaking of locals, if yours aren’t offering in HD yet via Dish, you should note that the Hopper doesn’t come with over-the-air capabilities out of the box. An adapter is on the way, Dish says, but I don’t think there’s any official word about whether or not PrimeTime Anytime will work with OTA.)

So, yeah—eleventy-gazillion more HD channels, a better, more reliable experience, the ability to record six shows at once, and functionality that you literally can’t get anywhere else, for significantly less money. It’s kind of a no-brainer. And to get pretty much the same channels I had with my cable company, the monthly bill with Dish (after signup incentives expired) would be about half the cost. And I’d still get all of the extra features Dish offers with the Hopper.

Throw in the optional Sling Adapter (a separate purchase, which hooks to one of the Hopper’s USB ports) and you have all of that amazing functionality and all of those amazing features pretty much anywhere you go via your smart phone or tablet. I didn’t get a Sling Adapter as part of my review system, but I’m definitely purchasing one for myself soon. I’ll keep you posted.

One final word and I’ll hush: in addition to the nightmare stories I’ve heard about weather outages (which turned out to definitely not be the case for me, even in the worst of storms), I’ve also read a lot of fuss about controlling Dish boxes with advanced remote  systems. The remotes that come with the Hopper and Joey are RF (meaning they don’t require an IR line of sight to operate). There are handy IR inputs on the front of each, though, and I found it incredibly easy to program my URC MX-5000 to operate the system. Unlike so many DVRs I’ve tested, the Hopper responds quickly to an incoming IR blaster signal. I didn’t even have to turn the IR strength down the way I did with my TiVo and, at one point, a Moxi Box that lived with me for a while (which became so laggy in the presence of a direct IR blaster signal that I simply had to evict it).

Two points worth noting, though: if you’re stacking your Hopper and Joeys in a centralized rack, note that they all operate on the same IR signal, with no ability to change IR channels that I can find. So you’ll have to be careful when routing your IR if that’s the route you take. IP control also isn’t an option, unfortunately.

But the Hopper system works perfectly well with most of the buttons from the Dish 722. The only exceptions where the red, green, yellow, and blue buttons, which have some new functions that you’ll end up using quite a bit. A representative from URC tracked down the correct, updated Hex codes for those, which I’ll post at the end of the review for those of you who need them.

All said, I couldn’t be more surprised by how happy I am with the Dish Hopper system. I went in a skeptic on the verge of cutting the cord completely myself, and came out an evangelist. To call it the best DVR I’ve ever used would be the lump it into a category that it simply transcends. It combines all of the best features of every recording option I’ve ever used—including tweaky DIY computer-based options. It addresses all of the issues I’ve had with traditional TV service providers: the inconvenience, the draconian pricing, the inflexibility, the arrogant apathy of every telecom company I’ve ever dealt with. It also deals with all of the issues I have with online alternatives—the time restrictions, the forced commercials, the viewing limitations.

It almost seems like some mythical panacea.

Maybe Dish needs to come up with its own pithy alternative catchphrase—one for TV viewers who have “cut the cord,” and find the streaming experience lacking, as well. “Hopping back onboard,” maybe?

Hey, don’t look at me like that. I’m a long-winded journalist, not a snappy marketing guy.

Contact info:
Dish Network
800.823.4929

And here are those Hex codes for the reg, green, yellow, and blue buttons for the Hopper, in case you need them. Codes for the Dish 922 or 722 should work for everything else.

Red
0000 0048 0001 0011 0017 0162 0017 00A3 0017 0060 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 0060 0017 0060 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 0162

Green
0000 0048 0001 0011 0017 0162 0017 0060 0017 0060 0017 00A3 0017 0060 0017 00A3 0017 0060 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 0162

Yellow
0000 0048 0001 0011 0017 0162 0017 0060 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 0060 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 0162

Blue
0000 0048 0001 0011 0017 0162 0017 0060 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 0060 0017 0060 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 00A3 0017 0162

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24 Comments

  1. I like your review because it’s informative and didn’t at all get dry or boring. Before I had my Hopper installed, I was always flipping a coin to see which episodes I would record because many of the ones I wanted to watch would air at the same time. At the suggestion from my boss at Dish, I ended up getting a Hopper, and I’m glad I did because the PrimeTime Anytime function has eliminated my coin flipping. Now that I have the Auto Hop feature, I feel like I have more time to watch the shows I like on PrimeTime Anytime because I can choose not to watch commercials on those recordings.

    Tom
  2. Thanks, Tom! My reviewing style definitely isn’t for everyone, but I’m glad someone enjoys it! Happy Hopping!

    Dennis Burger
  3. Well, I must say – I am very impressed by what you say about Hopper!

    I’m on the verge of cord-cutting. And, I actually have everything in place – OTA antenna with Tivo, Roku box, computer setup, etc. I use it and it works well for me – but, then, I’m a geek…

    My biggest problem is, and has been, the WFA (wife acceptance factor). I don’t think she ‘s (1) ready for the tech involved, and (2) doesn’t want to lose the convenience of the all-in-one. So, what to do?? Hoper may be an answer…

    I really have to give Dish credit – they are the only cable/sat company that is being proactive about “dealing” with cord-cutting, and Hopper may actually be a winner for them. It’s certainly making me think twice.

    I’m reading, though, that there may be some legal problems with skipping the commercials. Do you know anything about that??

    Thanks for a good review!

    neil
    ============

    Neil
    • @Neil
      Ultimately, the commercials are still there. The viewer just has the choice of watching PrimeTime Anytime recordings with or without commercials. Basically, it’s a way to save me the effort of fast-forwarding manually through the commercials.

      Tom
  4. Neil,

    I think pretty much anyone who’s paying attention expects the networks to fight Auto Hop. I’m not saying they’ll win. In fact, in the end, I’m pretty sure they won’t. But they fought VCRs. They fought DVRs. They fought the thirty-second skip function. They’ll surely fight this in one way or another.

    Dennis Burger
  5. Great review. I just ordered the hopper today. I’m looking forward to it.

    Ken
  6. I just got the dish hopper. it’s great but the satelite boxes goes out ( cuts off by themselves) when there no activity. it gets aggervating going around every little bit and cutting them all back on. i been through the settings on the hopper and cant find nothing to turn the timer off

    heyoo
  7. Heyoo, while you unfortunately cannot turn off the inactivity timer, you can set it as high as eight hours. The problem is, it’s not incredibly intuitively located! Go to Settings>Diagnostics>Updates. Why it’s filed under Updates (or Diagnostics, for that matter!) is beyond me. But at least it’s changeable!

    Dennis Burger
    • My Hopper and 2 Joeys have a disable option in the same place at Settings>Diagnostics>Updates.

      Carin
  8. “embiggen”

    New Tech Term of the day!

    Motoman2WH3
  9. The Hopper can does not have keyword timers. There is no ability to setup future shows like a new fall series or to record all shows with the keyword rocket.

    Anthony Cooper
    • In order to do keyword timers on the Hopper, you just have to hit the ‘Search’ button, type in the keyword, and then select the ‘Seek & Record’ option towards the top of the menu. It even gives the option to record new shows with that keyword in the title and/or any reruns.

      Tom
      • Thanks. That did work. Too bad that Dish Network’s Tech support doesn’t know this. It would have saved me a lot of angst.

        Anthony Cooper
  10. I have been a Dish customer for over 10 years and always thought their DVR was superior to others I have seen. It had the largest hard drive, well designed menus that were easy to read and I could do most things using the remote without even looking.
    I have made the biggest mistake going to Hopper. While Hopper provides almost unlimited storage with a huge 2 terabyte hard drive, it goes down hill from there.

    Most the problems I have with Hopper deal with ability to read the text.
    1. The Guide now shows 6 channels at a time with no ability to reduce it to 4, thereby making the text larger.

    2. You can’t skip forward to the same time each day (now you have to use the forward button to advance 24 hours, a half-hour at a time).

    3. The channel information bar you get when you press the Cancel button, is hard to read for no reason. You can readily see the time, but the duration of the program and minutes remaining are more faint and should be the same clarity as the time.

    4. Now comes the worst part. When you try to look at what you have recorded, it no longer shows it in the old easy to read format. You now get ICONs that are too small to read without getting out of your chair and close to the TV to see what they are.

    5. The caller ID now is so small it also is difficult to read. Also, you no longer have the ability to bring up a list of phone callers with number and time of day.

    This is not progress, this is regress. I suppose if you had a very large 50-60 inch TV it wouldn’t be a problem, But even then, why do you need this. It all was fine the way it was.

    My wife has vision problems and it’s impossible for her to see anything dealing with the new system and Dish won’t let us go back to the old system.

    Before you invest in Hopper, go to someone that has it along with a TV size you presently have and you will see what I mean.

    There is also a deceiving feature that Dish promotes and that is the Hopper records your local network stations daily and allows you to watch them commercial free. This comes at a price. What they tell you is that you can record up to 6 programs at a time. What they don’t tell you is that four of the stations are being used by Hopper to record the local channels, therefore only allowing you to watch one channel and record another, just like it was before. They at least give you the ability to deactivate this feature, thus allowing you to watch one and record five.

    Dish needs to beta test new systems with seniors, not just young people with 20-20 vision.

    They now tell me that I can go back to my previous setup, but will have to sign a new 2 year contract. This is unacceptable considering I was lied to regarding the functions of Hopper.

    Three good features:
    The volume leveling.
    All in HD
    Access all recordings from any TV

    Lance
  11. Just one issue with the review. It says that the Prime Time Anytime recordings are stored in the cloud. I think this is a little off. The DVR has a 2TB drive. A 1TB partition is set aside for your recordings and 1TB partition is set aside for Prime Time Anytime (PTA) recordings.

    What I’m a little confused about is if you mark a PTA recording as Save The Series (STS), does it actually make a copy of the recording in your part of the drive are is there a pointer to the recording in the PTA partition of the drive. I know that if I don’t watch/delete a PTA recording that is marked as STS, it remains after the 8 days. And if I do delete a STS recording before the 8 days are over, the recording remains in the PTA.

    Last item, yesterday I got an eMail from Dish saying that for $30 you can get an OTA USB tuner to add to your Hooper.

    Anthony Cooper
  12. I have a question. I had the Hopper and 2 Joeys installed just this week. So far, so good. However, at the recommendation of DISH, I waited to cancel my cable service. They are coming out on Tuesday to “put a trap on the line” – I am keeping my cable interent thru them because when I ordered DISH I did not know I could get interent from them – now it would be too costly. I called my dish installed to ask them if the cable company’s “work” would interfere at all with the DISH. She told me no – as long as they stayed away from the satellite (which they have no reason to even be near – it is on my roof!) and that all the wiring was inside (the dish installed used the inside coaxial cable from my former service). I just want to try to make sure that I do not run into some sort of territorial issues with my cable company – they are bas***** to be blunt. Overprice and customer service and service in general sucks (Central PA if anyone out there is remotely even think of installing them – go somewhere else!).

    Any assistance you can provide to me will be appreciated. Thanks.

    D Dailey

    DDailey
  13. D,

    Lemme ask you this: if you have any way of seeing the wires, did the Dish installer run a new, thicker coaxial line from the satellite dish to your main Hopper? He or she should have, and then from there used the existing coax in your home for the back-feed to your Joeys.

    At any rate, the coaxial feed from your cable company could have been run in a few different ways. In my case, I literally have a separate, independent coaxial line from the cable company feeding my cable modem. No splits, no splices — just one independent line from the pole, and when I had cable TV, it came down on another line. That’s not always the case, though.

    What I would recommend is communicating with the guy who comes out from your cable company very clearly, to let him know that you have Dish service now and will be keeping your cable modem connection from Central PA. He should be able to do anything he needs to do without interfering with your Dish signal at all, but I would really have to know more about your wiring to say for sure how much potential there is for him to do harm.

    Chances are, you’re probably completely safe, though.

    Dennis Burger
  14. It appears he did run a new cable and in fact I remember I asking him if he was using his “own” cable or running another one and he told me that outside he ran his own and just used the “drilling hole” (my words not his) to run it into the basement. In my basement there appears to be 2 splitter type things that are dishs. Near them but not connnected in any way, shape or form, (I checked) is my cable (internet) connection cable – running from outside the house to the old cable co splitter and then the coaxial cable is running from THAT splitter up to my computer – so I am guessing I should be good to go.

    Again, thanks for everything – I do not trust for one minute my former cable company – and I could see them screwing with DISH’s equipment in order to p me off because I went to DISH. Had I known DISH had internet, I would have done the show sha bang but did not know it was available to me as well (the installer told me it would not be cost effective now for me to have internet from DISH installed after the fact).

    Thanks again.

    D

    DDailey
  15. A few corrections/clarifications of previous comments:
    Lance – You can skip forward to the same time each day (24 hrs) with the DVR forward (FWD) button…not sure if this is the same button that you said only advances a half hour, but it does, in fact, advance 24 hrs. The page up and down buttons move the guide 5 positions up or down, essentially moving the guide a “page” in either direction, rather than having to click the up or down arrows 5 times. The skip fwd and skip back buttons advance the guide 3 hrs in either direction, keeping in mind that you can’t skip back beyond the current time. Regarding the listing of your recordings, with all due respect, if you have to move closer to the TV to see the titles, and don’t recognize the large icons, the title and synopsis is displayed in a larger size at the top of the screen when you highlight a recording by clicking on the icon with the arrow. You can also use the left or right arrows on the remote to quickly highlight each recorded title. To be honest Lance, unless you have a 19″ TV or are sitting 20 ft from it, you should be able to read the recording titles without too much effort. Possibly a new pair of glasses would be a good investment for you or your wife.

    I absolutely agree that the advertised ability of the Hopper to record 6 shows simultaneously is quite misleading, because 4 of those 6 shows include Prime Time Anytime (PTA) recordings from the 4 major networks, assuming the PTA feature is enabled. If it’s not enabled, you’re limited to recording 3 shows at the same time (or watch one and record two). The Hopper’s ability to record 4 shows at the same time with the PTA feature doesn’t carry over to “manual” recordings, meaning recordings you schedule outside of the PTA feature. Essentially, disabling the PTA feature frees up one additional recording option, not four, giving you a total of 3 simultaneous recordings (or watch one while recording two others). My guess is that Dish felt compelled to one-up DirecTV’s new Genie DVR, which can record 5 shows of your choosing at the same time, and also enables you to watch 4 different shows at the same time on different TVs. A couple of other features the Genie is supposed to have is the ability to record shows up to 5 weeks in the past, as well as record an entire show from the beginning, even if you initiate the recording while the show is in progress. Quite often I’d like to be able to do this on the Hopper, but when you start a recording of a show in progress, that’s where your recording will start. The ability to record past shows is a nifty feature as well…I’ve always wondered why you can’t at least browse shows in the guide for a period of time in the past.
    And no, I’m not a DirecTV employee or fanboy….I’m a 16 year Dish subscriber, just trying to clear up a few misconceptions about the Hopper that Dish seems more than happy to propagate. Regarding the allotment of the 2TB of disk space in the Hopper, 1 TB is devoted (alloted) to the PTA feature whether it’s enabled or not, so I doubt if any PTA recordings go to the “cloud”, since a TB is more than enough to accommodate the 8 days of prime time programming from 4 networks. I’m not whining about a lack of disk space…I think one TB is plenty, especially considering that you can offload at least a TB, maybe two, to an external hard drive. Just clarifying how those 2 TBs are allocated in the Hopper. Also, I have to say the commercial auto-skip feature for PTA recordings is wonderful, whether the commercials are actually recorded or not. I fail to see what difference it makes if the commercials are recorded, if you can auto skip them as if they weren’t there. A whole lot easier than fast forwarding 30 seconds at a time (my preference) through commercials.
    In closing, I’m obviously a loyal Dish customer, having been with them for 16 yrs straight. I will, however, call them on misleading advertising and squeeze them for more features on a regular basis. BTW, Dish is one of the most flagrant violators of the new law limiting the volume of commercials, which has annoyed me to no end since the beginning of time (loud commercials in general, not just Dish). How often did you find yourself reaching for the remote to tone down or mute obnoxious commercials? I’m sure Dish isn’t the only advertiser pushing the new limits on commercial volume, but it seems most of their commercials, especially the outrageously priced PPV “sporting events”…DON’T MISS THE ULTIMATE, NO HOLDS BARRED, CAGE BATTLE REMATCH BETWEEN MAD DOG “I EAT BEER BOTTLES FOR LUNCH” MONSTER MAHONEY vs RABID “I KILLED YOUR SISTER” RAGIN RICK….are still noticeably louder than the show, know what I mean? Tell me if I’m wrong :). Anyway, I hope you picked up a useless tidbit of info, and I welcome any feedback….KC

    kc80503
  16. kc80503, you (and others) are obviously correct about the PTA recordings being stored on locked area of the hard drive. At the time this review was written, I only had the information of my Dish installer (and some vague language from Dish itself) to go by.

    As for this statement — “I fail to see what difference it makes if the commercials are recorded, if you can auto skip them as if they weren’t there” — I think it’s important for Dish to have some plausible deniability in this respect. A) The commercials have to be recorded because AutoHop isn’t enabled until the next day. B) You can still watch the commercials if you so choose. I think it’s important for them to be able to say, “We’re not doing anything fundamentally different from customers who DVR shows and use the 30-second skip. We’re just saving them a few button presses.”

    I do agree with you that the Hopper’s inability to record a show from the beginning if you start the recording late is frustrating. I also miss my TiVo’s ability to maintain its buffer when switching between tuners. But in the end, for me, the pluses far outweigh the minuses.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Dennis Burger
    • Appreciate the feedback Dennis, and I absolutely agree that the pluses do far outweigh the minuses. Regarding the fact that the commercials are recorded, I understand why they are recorded…I only mentioned it because there was a remark in a previous comment that seemed to imply that the auto skip feature is somehow less effective because the commercials are recorded. The only real difference it makes is that the commercials occupy a negligible amount of space on the hard drive, but the auto skip feature is just as effective whether or not the commercials are saved. And I too hope to see this feature available for all recordings, not just the Prime Time Anytime recordings. I realize this is a touchy subject for advertisers, but I think it’s time they moved into the 21st century and acknowledged that the technology is readily available to skip commercials, it’s just a bit more of a hassle than it has to be (the additional button presses). Hopefully Dish will incorporate the few additional features that DirecTV has on the Genie, but by no means is that a show-stopper for me. Overall, I think Dish has maintained its reputation as having the best DVRs and consistently reliable service. Also Steve, I’m glad I stumbled on this site…lots of good information and reviews…KC

      kc80503
  17. Oh, right! Sorry! I had forgotten about that previous comment.

    Right-o, the fact that the commercials are there doesn’t make AutoHop any less effective. It’s also handy for things like the Super Bowl! HA!

    Dennis Burger
    • Sorry Steve…I mean Dennis :)…not sure why I had Steve on the brain…KC

      kc80503
  18. Lance, if you press “FWD” after bringing up the Guide you can advance up to eight days, one day at a time. But the cancel and info buttons bring up a lot of grey on black print that is very difficult to read, especially for old people. I am one and hate “seniors.” And the display of recordings is horrible. Kids might find it cool, but I’d just like to be able to see a list as was provided on earlier DVRs, several of which we’ve had over the years. There should be an option to list in the old format. At least do two things: Increase the size of the red ball that indicates a show is currently being recorded so it can quickly be found. Often the little red dot disappears in the noise of the picture. Secondly, delete the word “the” when it appears as the first word of a title. So you could more easily find The Five, The Falcon, The Glades. I currently have 20 of 82 recordings that begin with “the.”
    As for weather problems, that’s bogus. We were among Dish’s first customers and currently have the Hopper, three Joeys, two satellite dishes, a 211K and Tailgater. We had no unusual problems for years in Maryland and now no problems in Colorado. We live at 9000′ and “interesting” weather is a near daily matter.

    Craig