Thought I'd share my families experience switching from DirecTV (*TV) to Dish over a year ago to help others considering the same thing. Naturally these are my opinions based solely on my family’s experience. I respect those with differing opinions and encourage anyone considering switching to do their own research to determine which provider is right for them. But as for me and my home the headline for us is we are glad we made the switch.
More specifically me and my family have been impressed with Dish and plan to stay as long as nothing better comes along.
My family has had satellite service for 15 plus years. In the beginning we were with Dish but then when High Definition TV (HDTV) started to take off *TV enticed us to switch to them given their growing lineup of HTDV channels. So we made the switch and were pleased with *TV service. Their HDTV picture was great and their DVR at the time worked well for our needs. After about 8 or so years with *TV I started to question paying higher rates to stay with them. So a little over a year ago I started looking at other options.
I’m not a fan of Comcast, which was my other option, so they were not in play and the other cable competitor in our local market (SureWest) didn’t have a good HDTV offering (channel lineup, picture quality) and technology package (DVR, easy to use program guide, etc.) to consider them. So I decided to take another look at Dish. At the time Dish had recently come out with the Hopper and that plus the Dish Anywhere capability (watch Dish from your iPad, cell Phone, or PC) grabbed my attention. While the Hopper was relatively new (early 2012) and I could see from the forums that people were experiencing problems with bugs, glitches, etc., I never-the-less decided to give them a try. We switched to Dish in August of 2012, picking up 2 Hoppers and 1 Joey for a 3 HDTV setup in our home.
We’ve had Dish now for over a year and have been very pleased. And while not everything has gone smoothly, I do believe Dish has made great progress fixing bugs from the early days so the Hopper system is now a stable reliable DVR system that is class leading today and has tremendous capability for future growth and development in the future. Not only that, but in my opinion Dish is clearly leading the satellite category providing many capabilities not yet available or as elegant from the competition. And while *TV is I’m sure working hard to catch-up, I looked at them just this past month and still feel Dish is ahead of the game in most areas and the best value for the dollar. Below I’ll give specifics in various categories that feed my assessment as to why Dish is the better provider overall.
DVR Capabilities (Dish Hopper):
As I alluded to earlier in the summary the Dish Hopper DVR system is really a class leading media platform. In the very early days of switching I must admit I questioned if we jumped in too soon because there were pain points with occasional lock-ups, restarts and shows that didn’t record according to their scheduled settings. However, after a 2-3 months and I believe 2 software upgrades the system really settled down and we have not have any problems with it whatsoever. Now, if you’re switching from *TV to Dish you will experience a learning curve for you and your family as you get to know the Hopper menu structure, layout, features, new remote layout, etc. The product guides Dish provides are excellent resources for explaining very simply and succinctly how the system performs so do take the time to read and understand them.
Aside from the general user interface differences between the Hopper and *TV DVR’s, which by the way my family learned very quickly, there were other more subtle differences that were harder for me to accept. A couple that may seem minor to you but were big annoyances for me were as follows. With *TV I would often start watching a live sports broadcast and then when commercials would come on, I’d pause it and start watching a recorded program, only to switch back and forth between the two so I didn’t have to watch commercials on either one. With my *TV DVR I could pause live TV, switch to a recording and then press the previous button to go back to the live program and find that it was still paused where I had left off. No so with the Hopper. With the Hopper if I switching from watching live TV to a recorded program it released the tuner on the live Channel so when I switched back it was live TV and not paused. Again, an annoyance for me and something I’ve just learned to do without.
Another example of a difference is with *TV I had 2 DVR’s and recorded programs on both DVR’s showed in one recorded programs list, while with the Hopper you see the list of recorded programs for the Hopper (or Joey connected to its Hopper) you’re using but if you want to see the programs recorded on the other Hopper you have to go select it. Again, not a huge deal but an annoyance never-the-less. So putting these things aside, here are some of the tremendous benefits of the Hopper.
The user guide is extremely fast and easy to navigate. The menu structure is simple and logical to follow. But where the Hopper really starts to shine is when you use it with the Dish Anywhere apps on your iPad or Smartphone. Streaming to other devices works great, so longs as the device you’re streaming from has a good broadband internet connection. I’ve found the quality to be awesome, and when the internet connection slows down it will simply reduce the quality of the video stream or you can even select the option to listen to the audio and not display the video. Turns your ipad into a streaming radio like service for any TV channel or show. This is great when wanting to watch or listen to sporting events that you can see or listen to anywhere else.
Further, the folks at Dish have a embraced the world of third party Apps, and the Hopper has several built in apps (weather, sports scores, Facebook, etc.) with more on the way. Honestly, this isn’t something we use a lot but I will say I’ve check my bill a few times from the Hopper. Again, not a huge deal but a nice simple feature that made something easier for me the customer.
Dish on Demand works great and so does the Blockbuster service, although we did cancel it after the promo period was up because we just didn’t watch it enough to justify the expense. That said, when we’ve downloaded a movie on demand the quality has been great and there have been no freezes or issues with playback.
Picture Quality (HD & SD):
First off, I’d say HD picture quality is in most situations imperceptible between Dish and *TV. Now, I’ve read others who say *TV is hands down better than Dish on HDTV picture quality, but for me I just don’t see it. I do think *TV has a great HDTV Picture, but Dish has been fine and if there is a difference I just don’t notice. Now that said, I will say we do have a few channels in SD that we had in HD at *DT. For example a few of the Disney owned channels are in SD. When we switched from *TV to Dish I thought this would be a big source of complaints from my kids who pretty much watch Disney channels when they watch TV. But surprise to me when they didn’t say a word. I will say I do miss having ESPNU in HD for the occasional sports event I may watch on that channel. But again, it’s occasional and I’ve just learned to live with it. Now, I’ve heard Dish is negotiating a new contract with Disney so this may change, but we’ll see.
Lastly, I want to comment on something else that’s been a pleasant surprise with Dish. When we have *TV and rain/thunderstorm storms hit (we live in the Midwest) *TV would almost always go out for the worst of the storm. And it didn’t matter if the channel being watched was SD or HD. Well with Dish when a storm hits and I’m watching and HD channel, the Hopper sees that the HD signal is getting weak so it automatically switches over to the SD feed and generally I can keep watching in SD with no interruptions. Only the the worst of storms do both SD and HD channels feeds go out with Dish.
The one area I'd give *TV an edge over Dish is the HDTV channel line-up. As most Dish customers know, Dish isn't on the best of terms with the Disney family of channels (ala ESPN and Disney channels, etc.). What this means is since becoming a Dish customer, my kids have had to settle for Disney channels in SD and me having to settle with ESPNU being in SD. Also ESPN does not provide online access to the ESPN broadcasts for Dish customers. Now, some of you may say that's a deal breaker. Lucky for me my kids didn't care enough about Disney channels in SD to make it a deal breaker, and I don't watch ESPNU enough to make it a deal breaker for me. However, I really do wish at times I could access the ESPN3 online broadcasts that other cable networks offer their customers, but due to Dish and Disney company disputes have been withheld. So bottom line, *TV has a slightly better HDTV channel line-up at least for the channels my family cares about.
I give Dish a big thumbs up on service pricing compared to *TV. When I was with *TV my bill was consistently over $100. For very similar service/channel offerings and my 3 HDTV setup (2 hoppers 1 joey) under the Dish promotion my bill went down to low $60's. After the 1 year promotion expired it went up to the $80's, but that's still better than where I was with *TV.
Dish has done a great job making sure the DVR and remote work well together. For example the way the colored buttons are used in the Program Guide, the Recorded Program Area, etc., is very well thought out. Once you learn what various colors do it’s quick and easy to get things done, like deleting a whole group of programs without having to select them one at a time. The battery life on the remote is outstanding, it’s rugged, or at least takes a beating from my kids and keeps on ticking. And the find the remote feature is AWESOME. I don’t recall *TV ever having a find your remote feature on the DVR, so push a button and your remote starts to beep so you can find it. These are simple little things, but they mean a lot and it also shows that the people at Dish and Echostar really do use, analyze and critique their products, looking for every possible way to make them better for the customer. Something few companies do well now days.
Lastly, since moving to Dish I have had one instance where a Hopper DVR started acting funny and needed to be swapped out with a replacement. This was so easy to do and such a huge improvement over how it used to be when we were with *TV. For example, when I had equipment failures with *TV there was no easy option to save your recorded programs to an external hard drive, nor an easy way to save all your DVR settings, recorder settings, etc., to make the switch to new hardware easy to do. Basically you sent back the old DVR and *TV sent a new DVR and you had to reprogram everything and you lost all your recorded content. Well, again the folks at Dish must actually use their products and try to improve them because they have thought out very well how to make this process as easy and painless as possible. For me, when my Hopper began to act funny, like it said it recorded program XYZ, but in reality it recorded a completely different channel. Well, they sent me a new Hopper and all I had to do was plug an external Hard drive into the USB port, the Hopper formatted it and then in the External Hard Drive menu option it gave me the ability to copy over to it any programs I wanted to save. Then as I mentioned under the remote section, the remote allows you to backup all your DVR settings, program recorder settings, etc., so after you plug in your new DVR and complete the setup, you just restore all the DVR settings from the remote and restore your recordings from the external hard drive and you're ready to go. I didn't lose one program from making the switch and it was so easy to do. So again, big thanks to Dish for this capability.
So, if you want to save money, watch recorded or broadcast content from a PC, iPhone, Android cell phone or MAC, don't mind missing a few channels in SD vs HD and like a cutting edge DVR with lots of useful features and room to grow, then Dish may be the right service for you. I hope this review was helpful.
Edited by sbrown02, 13 November 2013 - 05:33 PM.