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DBSTalk First Look: DISH Hopper and Joey Whole Home HD DVR System


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#1 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 05:45 PM

Hopper and Joey First Look

Click here for a downloadable PDF

DISH’s Hopper Whole-Home HD DVR
Hopper1.jpg
DISH’s new Hopper Whole-Home HD DVR is more than a new top of the line DVR, it is the centerpiece of a system that allows customers to experience high definition and 3D television throughout their home. The Hopper / Joey system is intended to replace every receiver in the home. In the next few pages I will introduce you to Hopper and Joey and discuss how the system measures up to that goal.

The key features of the Hopper / Joey system are the ability to share HD content across standard coax cable throughout the home and Prime-Time Anytime capture of all major network programming every night of the week using a single tuner (HD local channels only). The Hopper works with the existing Sling Adapter and supports DISH’s standard OnDemand services, including 3D and 1080p titles. DISH is currently selling systems of one or two Hoppers and up to four Joeys (second hopper required for four Joeys). Leased systems require professional installation. For new customers a single Hopper and up to three Joeys are installed for free.

Basic Specs:
Hopper:
Input: One “dpX” feed from node.
3 Satellite Tuners
No OTA tuners (future)
HDMI and Component HD outputs
Composite SD outputs
Digital Audio output
Connections for two Ethernet cables, three USB devices (one on the front panel) and a phone line.
2 TB hard drive (2000 hours of content) with 500 GB (250 hours) reserved for customer use.

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#2 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 05:49 PM

DISH’s Joey Receiver

Hopper2.jpg

Joey Receivers (“Companion to Hopper Whole-Home HD DVR” as DISH calls them) are client receivers. With no satellite or OTA tuners in the box, they rely on the Hoppers for content. Joeys are small recievers, easily held in one hand. Joeys come with a base plate that allows the Joey to stand out of the way behind other equipment or the plate can be used to mount the Joey on any suitable surface.

Joeys receive their signal over standard RG-59 or RG-6 coax cable connected to the central node. RG-6 is required for long runs or if the coax has a splitter or tap between the node and the Joey. DISH uses MoCA to transmit HD signals between the Hoppers and Joeys on the system.

Joeys can be placed up to 200 cable feet away from the furthest Hopper. The Hopper can be placed up to 200 cable feet away from the dish. No other signals can share the cable in a Hopper/Joey system.

Basic Specs:
Joey: One “home video network” feed from network
No tuners
HDMI HD output
Composite SD outputs
Digital Audio output
Connections for one Ethernet cable and one USB device

What is MoCA?
The Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA®) is the universal standard for home entertainment networking. MoCA is the only home entertainment networking standard in use by all three pay TV segments---cable, satellite and IPTV. The current MoCA specification can support multiple streams of HD video, deliver up to 175 Mbps net throughputs and offer an unparalleled user experience via parameterized quality of service (PQoS).



#3 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 05:52 PM

Preinstall
My first DVR was a Echostar Model 501. Introduced by DISH in 2001, I purchased my 501 in 2004 and after using it wondered how I lived without a DVR. The 501 came with an RF remote, and I wired my 501 as a “whole home” DVR. I installed in my 501 in the basement, combining the channel 4 output of the receiver with my over the air antenna and could watch locals OTA plus my single DISH satellite feed anywhere in my house. In 2006 I added a ViP 622 to my home and it became my new “whole home” DVR (although the 501 remains in place to this day). I used the “home distribution” outputs of the ViP 622 to feed TV1 and TV2 to every set in my home on channels 52 and 54. My home cable system had all my local broadcast channels plus channel 4 for the 501 and channels 52 and 54 for the 622. I also placed the output of my home security system on channel 3, visible on all TVs in the house.

Then came Hopper, DISH’s first true “whole home” DVR. Where the ViP DVRs were limited to SD TV2 outputs, Hopper and the companion Joey units put HD at every set using the same coax cables. But there is a drawback - DISH has placed the MoCA carrier used to allow the Hoppers and Joeys to talk to each other in the broadcast band on the coax. Multiplexing my OTA and in house channels is no longer possible without potentially degrading the MoCA signal. Without the ability to tune OTA sub-channels on the Hopper these sub-channels are lost. I have to watch channels delivered by DISH.

For demonstration purposes I decided to place the Hopper provided to me by DISH for this review next to my ViP 622 in my living room. This will allow me to do a side by side comparison. The Joeys have been placed in the Kitchen for my wife to use and in our bedroom. While preparing to connect the Joeys I noticed a technology gap. The outputs on the Joey are limited to SD composite RCA connectors or a HDMI connector. There is no middle ground of S-Video (SD) or component (HD). If you have a HD set at a Joey location it must have a HDMI input or it will not receive a HD signal. Since both my kitchen and bedroom TVs are SD this limitation does not affect me, although I found that one of the sets did not have RCA inputs so I had to connect the Joey through an RF modulator.

And that is my setup. A simple single HDTV home with SDTVs in two other rooms. Time to connect everything, turn it on and see how it works.

Install
Knowing exactly how I wanted my install done (and preferring to do the install myself) I adjusted my wiring before the installer arrived, providing two cables from my DISH (1000.4 Eastern Arc) to the solo node, one cable from the location of the node to the Hopper location (with a HDMI cable and Ethernet cable ready to connect), and one cable fed through a splitter to the two Joey locations (with the appropriate RCA connections ready to connect). And then the wait ... a morning appointment turned into afternoon. DISH has been busy!

The first step: Connect the node to the dish and host/client feeds. Then connect the Hopper to the cables in the living room and power it up. The moment of truth - would my wiring work?

Yes. I started with good wiring, RG-6 tested to 3 GHz - which is what the Hopper requires. I watched the Hopper boot for the first time in my home and automatically detect my TV via HDMI and matching the 1080i input (not defaulting to 480i). My receiver was pre-loaded with the current software (S203) before delivery, which avoided most of the setup time. I ran a check switch and found that my receiver had already been set up for my dish (1k4 Eastern Arc). The signal strengths were as good as on my 622 so I was good to go.

Before moving on to the Joeys I spent some time with the Hopper, stepping through the menus looking for familiar and unfamiliar options. The banner at the bottom of the guide advertised the “PrimeTime Anytime” feature, so I pressed “*” as suggested and enabled these recordings. More about PrimeTime Anytime later in the review.

#4 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 05:54 PM

The Guide
The guide shows three hours and six channels at a time. If the advertising banner at the bottom is turned off (a menu option) seven channels can be seen. The option of a 90 minute by five channel guide is not available. There are logos next to each channel although, as my wife noted, many of them - especially the ones that have been shrunk to place “HD” in the logo, are small. The channel numbers and names remain available next to the logos. Selecting a program in the guide and pressing info will pull up the description with a thumbnail image and record options (series or single show). Overall it is a pleasing visual display.

A new feature in the guide is the ability to expand and collapse certain channels. Channel 98 is used for “DISH Music”, Channel 99 is used for “SiriusXM Music” and Channel 412 is used for “Regional Sports Networks”. When selected, the channels can be expanded out to show sub-channels. This allows up to 100 channels to share a single guide channel. The downside is that the channels are no longer shown on their regular channel numbers. For example, my RSN “CSN Chicago” no longer shows in the guide as Channel 429 ... it is now Channel 412-19. Instead of typing 429 on the remote to jump straight to my RSN I can type 41219. It may take a while to become accustomed to the new numbers. (Expandable channels are also used for international programming packages.)

DISH offers Video On Demand delivered via satellite. When first connected there were no VOD movies present (as expected). After leaving the receiver overnight 12 VOD options appeared on channel 501 including three 1080p options and one 3D options. After the second night there were 21 options (five 1080p). By the end of the first week there were 49 VOD options preloaded and ready to play at a moment’s notice. If one selects a 1080p event and does not have a 1080p TV the option of watching a compatible resolution is offered. VOD rentals are for a set period of time and cannot be saved to the customer portion of the hard drive. Traditional PPV channels are also available with many movies available with a “limited recording” restriction. Unless the Hopper detects the TV’s HDCP some of the movies are unavailable to view. The same VOD movie options are also shown as Channel 1 unless display is disabled in the guide settings.

The guide and all receiver functions are controlled by the remote control. Multiple remotes can be paired with each Hopper or Joey and the remotes work on UHF so no line of sight is needed between the receiver and remote. A lost remote can be found by using the Remote Finder feature - press a button on the Hopper or Joey and the remote will flash it’s buttons and play a tune.

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#5 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 06:02 PM

PrimeTime Anytime

One new “killer feature” of the Hopper is PrimeTime Anytime. PTA (or PTAT as some prefer) allows customers to record all four of their local major network TV channels (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC) each night while using only one of the receiver’s three tuners. The PrimeTime Anytime feature works better than expected and not as well as expected at the same time. Although I do not watch every show on every channel the availability of a week’s worth of prime time interests me. There have been times where people have mentioned a good show that was on last night that I didn’t know about. Now I can go back and see what they were talking about. And the ability to use one tuner for more than one channel frees up timers for watching or recording other things. There have been times where my 622 was busy recording two local network channels and I had to push a recording on Discovery or USA Network until after midnight. Or I wanted to watch election returns while programs recorded and had to turn to a second receiver. This is a good feature - and if one doesn’t like it, it can be turned off.

PrimeTime Anytime works well at capturing the programs and the feature takes into account prime time programs that exceed prime time in the guide, such as sports and awards shows. The week of this review CBS was airing NCAA basketball starting before prime time, and PTA adjusted to record the extra 30 minutes or hour of programming. However it should be noted that when the game went long on Saturday and Sunday Nights and pushed back the beginning of the next show (48 Hours Mystery and CSI:Miami, respectively) the end of the show was lost. The EPG was followed with no adjustment for the potential of sports changing the schedule.

Individual timers can be set for major network shows. Those timers will show up as “skipped” in the Daily Schedule but after recording the programs will show up outside of the PrimeTime Anytime folder, protected from the 8 day limit of PTA. Within the PTA folder, the latest 8 day’s worth of programs can be sorted by name, date or rating. If there is more than one episode of a show (such as my local Fox affiliate’s nightly 10pm news) selecting the program will show an episode list. Individual shows can be started from the beginning, resumed (if left in progress) or saved for viewing after the 8 day limit
of PTA. On playback the channel can be rewound before the program start time and after the program end time, up to the limit of the prime time block. If a show starts early or ends late the entire show will be available.

PTA programs can be watched while they record without using another tuner but I have found that it is better not to watch “live”. Press skip back at least once to avoid a stuttering issue that I hope is fixed in a later software release. PTA records from five minutes before the beginning of prime time each night until five minutes after, defined by the beginning and end of the earliest and latest scheduled prime time show. Only the four major networks are recorded (sorry, no CW or PBS) and the feature is only available for locals carried in HD in markets with HD locals. If your market is short a network the other networks will record, if your market does not have HD locals PTA will not be available.

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#6 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 06:09 PM

Joeys and Whole Home Viewing
Another “killer feature” of the Hopper is the Joey. While some form of “whole home” viewing is available through the “home distribution” outputs of previous receivers, DISH takes their “whole home” offering to the next level with the ability to stream HD and 3D signals from the Hopper unit to Joey receivers. Joeys are satellite receivers with their own receiver id and internal smart card, however they do not tune satellite signals. Joeys receive their programming over MoCA (multimedia over cable). Joey units are connected to the system through the client port of the node. The signal to a Joey can be split to serve a second Joey. The signal to the Hopper can be split using a tap to serve the Hopper and a Joey.

After my initial experience with the Hopper receiver, I turned my attention to the Joeys. These were delivered to me in sealed boxes. I opened the boxes and made the connections to the coax, AV cables and power at each Joey location. After startup the Joeys found the Hopper and displayed a “standby” screen. Being new in box, the remote control had not been paired to the receiver. This was easy to do by turning on the receiver, pressing the “system info” button on the front of the receiver, then pressing the “Sat” button on the remote. The remote played a musical alert and pairing information showed up on the screen. Remotes can be named, if desired.

Generally speaking, the Joeys unit worked well. As noted at the beginning, there is the technology gap of needing a HDMI connection for HD with composite SD being the only other option (no component output). When active Joeys will use one of the Hopper’s tuners, if available. If a tuner is not available the Joey user will have the choice of joining one of the other tuners in use or watching PrimeTime Anytime On Demand or DVR content. If the Joey chooses to join one of the other tuners both units begin to work nearly simultaneously. On a shared tuner pausing at one location will pause the other location (although with a slight delay). When unpaused, the delay will be caught up and simultaneous viewing will continue.

This setup makes what one can see in a DirecTV commercial possible. A user watching a live satellite channel in one room can pause the channel, walk into another room and take that receiver’s remote and choose the same channel from the list of tuners, and resume the program from the point where they left off. This is also possible on DVR content. The user in the second room can find the program in the list of recorded events, select the event and choose resume from the menu, and pick up the program from the pause point made in the other room.

For PTA events Joeys can choose any program in the PTA folder, including programs currently recording and watch live (bearing in mind the suggestion above to press “back” at least once if stuttering is noted). Hoppers and Joeys watching live PTA events do not have to watch the same channel as each other. This allows flexible viewing between the four major broadcast networks, two other satellite channels, and anything on the DVR (recorded or On Demand).

Sharing tuners works fairly well. My wife (being at one of the Joey locations) and I only noticed a couple of times where the system seemed confused. One was at the beginning of PTA when her tuner was taken to record the PTA content. While she missed any warning, her screen stayed frozen on the last image before PTA took the tuner instead of returning her Joey to the tuner select screen or an error message explaining why her channel had stopped. But overall the system is flexible and works better than previous attempts such as the 622’s Home Distribution TV2 output. It is an HD output and with flexible tuners all three tuners can be used for recording or viewing or both with the Hopper and Joeys choosing any source. On the 622, if TV2 was recording something TV2 could not use the TV1 tuner - they had to wait for their tuner to be free.

Parental Controls (channel locks, ratings locks, purchase and application restrictions) are set per Hopper or Joey. If you wish to lock certain channels and ratings differently depending on where the receiver is located you can. You can also copy your settings between receivers, making it easy to set up restrictions at one location and transmit them to other receivers. (I suggest that households planning to use Parental Controls set up a password immediately and transmit it to all receivers, lest the brainy child finds a receiver unlocked and transmit those settings to a locked receiver.) Other than a copy one cannot remotely set locks.

When a program or channel is blocked by Parental Controls on one receiver and another receiver is watching it, it will show up on the tuner list as a locked program without the title.

The Hopper/Joey concept seems to work well when replacing one or two dual tuner receivers. But in homes that are accustomed to solo receivers with dedicated tuners the number of tuners may need to be managed. Some early adopters have chosen to pay hundreds of dollars extra and get two Hoppers before getting three Joeys, just to keep the tuners count high. (As of this writing, Joeys can only be connected to one Hopper. But a software update is expected that will allow two Hoppers to share six tuners seamlessly.)

Joeys and SD Television
DISH is now selling Hopper/Joey whole house solutions without allowing customers to keep other receivers active in their homes. This means that if you have a SD location you will need to replace that receiver with a Joey. This is a good idea when it comes to the concept of Whole Home Viewing, but the Hopper / Joey GUI is designed for HD sets. The font sizes may be difficult to read on a SD resolution set. This is where having the 90 minute / 5 channel guide of the 622 would come in handy. (It would also make the receiver more user friendly for those who are sight impaired.)

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#7 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 06:11 PM

Final Thoughts
Overall the Hopper Whole-Home HD DVR System and companion Joey receivers are well designed devices that are suitable for the purpose of watching HD television. As with any new product release, there are some minor bugs that have been noted by the members of DBSTalk. The system is based on the mature ViP-922 product making the Hopper / Joey system more stable on day one. This review remains positive with the expectation that DISH will work to solve these problems.

This review covers only the beginning of using the new Hopper / Joey system. Other features include apps that are are available on the menus for news, weather, sports and games as well as for managing your account. The Hopper also works with the existing Sling Adapter which allows viewing of your DVR content on devices on your home network or wherever the Internet allows. (Features that use the Internet may vary in quality due to differences in ISPs.)

While I did not have any issues with my install, I believe that this was due to the extra care that I put in to preparing my home before the installer arrived and the unique care that my DISH installer took to do the initial software downloads and activation before visiting my home. Customers ordering a system, especially in the early days of deployment, should allow extra time for install. The good news is that once the install is complete and the Hopper is in use I believe you will enjoy using this receiver.

My first week with the Hopper and Joeys went smoothly. I was able to enjoy watching TV on the Hopper in the living room while my wife used the Joey in the Kitchen to watch what she wanted to watch. I enjoyed sharing the receiver when I wanted and using picture in picture when I wanted without needing to shift the receiver into a different mode using a front panel button.

The “killer application” of PrimeTime Anytime has led to finding more shows to watch that I would not have seen with the limited tuners on my 622. And although the number of shows available in a week may be overwhelming, the ability to set timers for prime time shows that provide links to the programs from outside the PrimeTime Anytime folder and save the programs until deleted (or a selectable maximum number of programs are recorded) helps me manage my television viewing.

With my progression from 501 (single tuner DVR) to 622 (two tuner HD DVR) and now Hopper / Joey I believe DISH is on the right path and this new system is a welcome addition to my home.

#8 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 06:13 PM

Image Gallery
http://www.dbstalk.c...20&d=1333411964
Above: Installation
The solo node is used in a single Hopper system to connect the dish to the Hopper receiver and the Joeys to the Hopper receivers. Taps are used to split a host feed from the node and allow it to serve one Hopper and one Joey. The connectors are color coded to make connections easier. Blue is satellite signal only. Orange is MoCA signal only. Purple is the combined satellite / MoCA signal. Terminators (upper right) must be used on any unused splitter or tap outputs.

http://www.dbstalk.c...21&d=1333411964
Above: The Hopper

http://www.dbstalk.c...22&d=1333411964
Above: The Joey
Each Joey comes with a remote identical to the Hopper unit, connection cables (not shown) and a stand/wall mount that allows the user to
stand the Joey on end or to mount it horizontally or vertically on a cabinet, wall or any other surface one doesn’t mind putting screw holes in. Screws with wall anchors are included. The Joey receiver is small, just slightly larger than the popular TR-40 digital TV conversion tuner sold by DISH / Echostar.

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Edited by James Long, 03 April 2012 - 04:56 PM.


#9 OFFLINE   Sharkie_Fan

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 06:34 PM

Nice work, guys.

One question. You mentioned the ability to join a program on the joey. Can multiple joey's join the same program, or only 1 at a time. Or, put another way, if I have a hopper and 3 joeys, can all 4 TVs be tuned to the same recording at the same time? I don't know that I'd ever do that, but I can envision a situation where 2 joeys want to watch the same recording or live program.
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#10 OFFLINE   steff3

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 06:42 PM

Very nice!!!!! Thanks.

#11 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 06:49 PM

Nice work, guys.

One question. You mentioned the ability to join a program on the joey. Can multiple joey's join the same program, or only 1 at a time. Or, put another way, if I have a hopper and 3 joeys, can all 4 TVs be tuned to the same recording at the same time? I don't know that I'd ever do that, but I can envision a situation where 2 joeys want to watch the same recording or live program.

Yes, multiple Joeys can join a live feed. It gets odd when someone pauses and then the whole house comes to a pause. But the system lets you share the feed.

Sharing a recording is separate - each receiver having its own playback control.

#12 OFFLINE   dclaryjr

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 07:21 PM

A couple questions. Does the Hopper have an OTA tuner for HD, and does it work with a Sling adapter? TIA.
Dave Clary/Corpus Christi, TX
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#13 OFFLINE   fourhokiefans

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 07:28 PM

Good review James. My experience has been very good. I live in a four person household and would have liked at least four tuners in the unit.

#14 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 07:29 PM

A couple questions. Does the Hopper have an OTA tuner for HD, and does it work with a Sling adapter? TIA.

There is no OTA tuner at this time (planned for later this year).
Yes, it works with a Sling adapter.

#15 OFFLINE   krowlz

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 07:33 PM

A couple questions. Does the Hopper have an OTA tuner for HD, and does it work with a Sling adapter? TIA.


It does not support OTA but it does support the sling adapter

#16 OFFLINE   djm3801

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 07:45 PM

Great write up! I was looking at U-Verse for a second home I have but Hopper seems to have all I need at a good price point. While new, I have not heard good things abotu u-Verse.

#17 OFFLINE   dclaryjr

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 07:49 PM

There is no OTA tuner at this time (planned for later this year).
Yes, it works with a Sling adapter.


Thanks! I'm thinking of returning to Dish after two years with D*--this is an enticing piece of equipment.
Dave Clary/Corpus Christi, TX
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JVC 56FN70 1080P LCOS
37" 1080P Sharp Aquos)
Two old TVs to be replaced with HD by end of year
Overpriced AV with psuedo-surround

#18 OFFLINE   brunnegd

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 07:50 PM

Interesting description, but I would prefer to read a manual covering hookup and operation of both the hopper and joey, to fully understand how the system works. Can anyone direct me to an online posting of the manuals?
Also, since the hopper does not have an OTA input, I can still hook directly to the TV and switch the TV input to get the local subchannels not carried by DISH.

#19 OFFLINE   Alebob911

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 07:58 PM

Nice work! Lots of great information.

#20 OFFLINE   kgm32

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Posted 03 April 2012 - 07:59 PM

Good review James. My experience has been very good. I live in a four person household and would have liked at least four tuners in the unit.


So do I and seem to be a limitation if I am understanding this correctly with this setup if you had 4 tvs you could not have one person watching say syfy, another disney, a third fx and a fourth ESPN? DTVs up coming HMC DVR with 3 single tuner HD recievers seems like a better solution when it becomes available.

Please feel free to correct my assumption if I am wrong on how the Hopper/Joeys work.




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