DISH Network™ DISH Player-DVR 942 Review By Mark Lamutt, DBSTalk Administrator All text and images ©2005 www.DBSTalk.Com and Mark Lamutt No other use is allowed without prior written permission from www.DBSTalk.Com and Mark Lamutt Permission is not granted to distribute, republish or post this review’s text or images in part or in entirety at any other internet site or location, other than www.DBSTalk.Com 1.0 Introduction Welcome to the DBSTalk First Looks Review of the new DISH Player-DVR 942 receiver from DISH Network™. This review is based on the initial Production software version, L221. The first, and most important question that users are asking about this receiver is “Should I buy this receiver, and if so, why?” My answer to this question is a definite YES, but with a caveat. Currently, the DVR-942 is one of the more stable DISH Network™ receivers that I’ve seen released since the early days of the basic receivers. It is the also the most feature packed receiver that DISH Network™ has ever released. And, it’s very reasonably priced for ownership with an MSRP of $749 (with dish antenna) or $699 (without dish antenna), and it will also be available in the Digital Home Advantage lease program for a one-time upgrade fee of $250 for new customers. An existing customer lease has not been announced, although DISH Network™ has stated they are looking at the possibility. However, there is a caveat that prevents me from answering the question with an unequivocal YES. The biggest issue with the DVR-942 is that it is an MPEG2 receiver, and it is not upgradable to the forthcoming MPEG4 standard. To the average user, this means that the DVR-942 will not be able to receive and record future MPEG4 high definition channels. During the January, 2005 Customer Charlie Chat, it was announced that any new DISH Network™ high definition channels may only be transmitted in MPEG4 format. Historically, DISH Network™ has provided low cost or no cost upgrade paths with the introduction of new technology. Examples include upgrading the DISH 300 dish antennas to DISH 500 dish antennas, upgrading DISH 5000 HD modulator users to DISH 6000 receivers, and offering the DISH 6000 8PSK modules for no cost with a programming commitment. The upgrade path precedent has been set, but there’s no guarantee that it will be offered for the DVR-942. So, with that caveat said, how can I recommend this receiver? Because in my opinion after extensively using the DVR-942, it’s the best receiver that DISH Network™ has ever released to the public. It’s what the DVR-921 should have been. I am very excited about this receiver, and in my opinion you would be doing yourself a disservice by dismissing it immediately without considering what it can do. In this review, any time a command entered from the remote control is used, it will be presented in blue. For example, Menu-6-1 indicates pressing the Menu button, followed by the 6, followed by the 1. 1.1 Definitions There are several terms that are applicable to the DVR-942 receiver of which you may not be aware. Previous DISH Network™ receivers (other than the DVR-522 and the 322) have offered one set of video output connections (DVI, component video, S-video, composite video, RF coax). The DVR-942 has two distinct sets of outputs – TV1 and TV2. TV1: The TV1 output is connected to your primary high definition display device via HDMI or component video connections. TV2: The TV2 output is connected to a secondary standard definition display device, or to a video distribution system via composite video or RF coax connections. The DVR-942 can be operated in two distinct modes – Dual User Mode and Single User Mode. Different features and options are available depending on which mode you choose to use. Dual User Mode: In this mode, the DVR-942 operates as two distinct, independent receivers inside of one case. The TV1 and TV2 outputs display different programming, and are independently controlled via remote control. PIP is not available in Dual User mode because each tuner is treated as if it were its own separate receiver. And, you cannot watch digital (ATSC) off-air channels on TV2. Single User Mode: In this mode, the DVR-942 operates as a single, dual-tuner receiver. The TV1 and TV2 outputs display the same programming (if TV2 output is enabled), and both remotes control the receiver identically. PIP is available in Single User mode, and digital (ATSC) off-air channels can be viewed on the TV2 output. To switch between these two operating modes, you press the MODE button on the front panel of the DVR-942. It is not currently possible to switch between operating modes via the remote controls. 1.2 DVR-942 feature comparison with the DVR-921 I said that the DVR-942 is what the DVR-921 should have been. Let’s take a look at the specific features the DVR-942 offers that the DVR-921 doesn’t (currently) offer. Name-based Recording as well as manual time-based recording DISH Pass™ Recording Output of HD and SD simultaneously HD Picture in Picture 480i SD output via the TV1 component and HDMI outputs All video outputs are active all of the time All three tuners can record HD (and/or SD) simultaneously, while watching a fourth (in Single User mode) and a fifth (in Dual User mode) prerecorded HD program A more robust, later generation 8VSB Over the Air chipset Direct swapping between the tuners via remote button A remote that sends IR signals to the DVR-942 Closed Captioning on 720p high definition channels A user interface that looks and feels much nicer DISH Home™ and Customer Support interactive applications Independent tuner control in Dual User mode, or a dual tuner receiver in Single User mode TV2 output modulated in stereo via RF output to off-air channels (21-69) or cable channels (73-125) Direct access to the timers screen without going through the menus Faster operation in almost all circumstances Partial Zoom format An extended widescreen guide showing 3 hours of guide data for 7 channels (with preview video window) or 3 hours of guide data for 9 channels (without preview video window). An enhanced guide display with larger text fonts HDMI high definition video output Very quiet operation – the fan is currently about half as loud as the DVR-921 fan The AUX mode on the remote can be configured to control a second DISH Network™ receiver via IR and/or UHF DISH Network™ trademarks are property of EchoStar Satellite L.L.C., and are used with permission.