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DISH vs DirecTV

Which One Is Right For You?

At one time, the following sentence was the first one that appeared on this page: “Since I am a long-time DISH customer, I really cannot say too much about how I like DirecTV, or how it compares to DISH when it comes to service and reliability.” At that time I was not well-equipped to perform a DISH vs DirecTV comparison, but things do sometimes change.

Well, I am now very familiar with DirecTV because I am a customer! Here’s the story of how I ended up switching from DISH to DirecTV.

Although it might surprise some people, the fact that I promote DISH does not have any effect at all on what I paid for a subscription. I paid exactly what everyone else paid for the 16 years I was a subscriber and I did not get any special rate.

What happened that changed things for me was that a member of my family got a job working for a company that is a major contractor for DirecTV. Everyone that works for that company gets a free Genie DVR System and top-of-the-line DirecTV programming package, and since that family member currently lives in the same house with me, we all got DirecTV for free. This presented me with the perfect opportunity to do my own DISH vs DirecTv comparison.

I saw this as a great opportunity to give DirecTV a try. During the 16 years I was a DISH subscriber, I never had any real experience with DirecTV, and who can argue with free? Once DirecTV was installed here, I called and canceled my DISH subscription and they were not happy to see me go after 16 years! They tried their best to keep me on, but there was just no way they could even come close to being able to match DirecTV’s best package for free!

If it weren’t for this development, I would most likely still be with DISH. I was pretty loyal to DISH for 16 years, but loyal does not have to mean stupid! I really didn’t have any complaints with DISH, but they were not about to let me have their top-of-the-line programming package for free.

I still believe that selecting DISH vs DirecTV is going to be based on what people like to watch. DirecTV probably has the advantage where sports programming is concerned, and DISH is probably a better choice for people who want international programming.

When I made my selection back in 1998, I chose DISH mostly due to programming offerings. Since DirecTV was offering more sports programming, and I am not much of sports fan myself, I decided to go with a DISH offer that made sense for me at that time.

Now that I have been a DirecTV customer for a while, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty, and make some comparisons between DISH vs DirecTV.

Update: Towards the beginning of 2015, the family member who worked for a major DirecTV contractor moved out, and as a matter-of-fact, he does not even work for that company any more. At the time I decided to stick with DirecTV and give them a try as a paying customer. What better way to gain some experience and be able to speak here with some authority about the quality of the service that DirecTV is offering? The fact that DirecTV was offering $200 Visa card for new subscribers also played a part in that decision, because, who doesn’t want $200? I am happy to report that despite my suspicions that they would come up with some reason to not issue me the $200 Visa card, I did receive it and pretty quickly after I signed up, so kudos to DirecTV for that.

I should also point out that it is February, 2017 as I write this update and that means my two-year contract with DirecTV will expire in the spring and I will be cancelling my service. I freely admit that my experience with DirecTV has not been terrible, but there’s no doubt in my mind that DISH Network is the better choice and chances are pretty good that I’ll be signing on with DISH again in spring of 2017. Continue reading here if you want to know exactly why.

DISH vs. DirecTV: What I have found

This might be a little disappointing for some, but my experience with DirecTV has not proven to me that it is better or worse than DISH, with one major exception. And that exception is equipment. There are other differences, and I talk about that below, but the biggest and most noticeable difference in my experience is that the DirecTV equipment is inferior to DISH’s equipment.You can read more about that below as well.

As far as picture quality goes, I did not experience any noticeable change when I switched from DISH to DirecTV. I have seen arguments in the past about who delivers the best picture, but I am not noticing any difference at all. I’m sure others will disagree with me.

As far as availability goes, I believe that both DISH and DirecTV will be available or not available in any given location based on whether there are any obstructions (trees, buildings, mountains, etc.) between the satellite dish and the satellites in the sky. Both DISH and DirecTV satellites are found in the same general direction which probably makes availability about the same with the chance that there will be a few rare locations where one service is not available and the other one is.

Where signal reliability is concerned, I really have not seen any major difference between DISH vs DirecTV. If was forced to make a judgement, I would say that the DISH signal might be a bit better since it seems like I have seen slightly more weather-related outages with DirecTV. I am somewhat hesitant to say that since there are too many factors that might make it seem like the DirecTV signal isn’t as reliable and in fact, it could be as reliable or perhaps even more reliable. For that reason, I am going to call the score even on this criteria and I truly feel that’s a fair assessment.

Ease of Use

Here’s what I will say about DISH vs. DirecTV. Even though I was still using older equipment when I had DISH, I believe the user interface of the DISH system was way better than the user interface on the Genie system. When I first switched to DirecTV, I absolutely hated the user interface! I’ve become more accustomed to it, but I still think the DISH system beats it hands down.

To me, it just feels like the DirecTV user interface is “inside-out.” I know, that’s a strange way to put it, but it just feels “wrong.” The DISH DVR interface was very intuitive and easy to learn. With the DirecTV system it seems like many of the things about it just don’t make as much sense. For me, it’s definitely harder to use, and it’s not just because I was accustomed to the DISH system.

Compared to the way the programming guide and recording functions worked on my DISH DVR, the DirecTV Genie doesn’t hold a candle to it in my opinion. It can do everything the DISH system could — it’s just more difficult. I can compare it to driving a car. You can either come home through the city at rush hour and deal with gridlock, or you can sail home on the freeway with virtually no traffic on the road. Using the Genie feels like taking the city route to me. They could have done a much better job on the user interface. For me, DISH wins when it comes to usability.

Seriously? Ads In The Program Guide?

There’s something else I find incredibly annoying about DirecTV and that is the channel guide. DISH never did this in all the years I had it, and I don’t know if they do now, or will start doing it in the future. I certainly hope they do not!

What was a mild annoyance on DISH is a major annoyance on DirecTV. On DISH when you first called up the channel guide, there was a space at the bottom reserved for what is basically an advertisement. It was a promotion for some program available on DISH but I always ignored it. In fact, there was a button I could press that eliminated it until I was done viewing the guide. It would come back the next time I called the guide back up on the screen, but it least it could be removed each time. Not so with DirecTV.

What DirecTV has done with ads on the program guide is way more annoying, and you cannot get rid of it. When you view the channel guide you will see “channels” there that are not really channels at all. They are ads that are sprinkled right into the channel listings. The ads are usually brightly-colored and quite obnoxious and do not blend in at all with the channel guide. They throw the look of the guide completely out the window and makes the whole thing look cheap.

I have learned to simply ignore these stupid “channel” ads and I don’t even read them, but it really does take away from the look of the channel guide, and takes up space that should be displaying my channel listings only. That’s something I really wish they would get rid of.

Slow And Slower

The DirecTV system also has a lot more of what I will call “latency” when I use it. In other words, there is a noticeably longer delay between the time I press a button on the remote control and the time the DVR actually responds. I have never used DISH’s Hopper system, so I don’t know how that compares. I do know without a doubt that the Genie system has more “latency” than my old DISH ViP622. It’s slightly annoying but not a major issue for me.

Although it wasn’t as noticeable at first, I decided to update this page after a year-and-a-half of living with DirecTV and report what I have noticed about their equipment. My biggest gripe is that the performance of the DVR is inconsistent. There will be occasions when I am viewing the program guide or my list of recorded programs and when I press the “Exit” button to get back to watching TV the DVR will just sort of pause. It kind of like when you click or tap something while using your computer or phone and it does not react right away like you would expect it to. It’s almost as if it is saying, “Hold on a second here, I’m busy and I’ll get to you in a minute.”

I should point out that the DVR doesn’t just pause when I exit the program guide or list of recorded programs as I talked about above. I just used those instances as examples. It can happen pretty much any time I am trying to do something with the DVR. I should also point out that it doesn’t happen every time I do something with the DVR, but it does happen often enough to be very noticeable and quite annoying.

I never experienced a problem like that when I had DISH Network and with DirecTV it’s a regular occurrence. Sometimes the delay will last just a couple of seconds and at other times it may last for up to 5 seconds or perhaps a little bit more, which seems like an eternity when you are dealing with equipment that should react instantly. At times it makes me feel like I am trying to do something on PC when it is running slow. I know the DVR and a computer have a lot in common, but is there really that much going on inside the DVR that it has to bog down and struggle to play “catch up” just to do what I want it to do?

For me the speed and quality of DISH’s equipment is one of the major benefits of DISH Network.

DISH vs DirecTV: The Bottom Line

Before I updated this page, I had used this space to declare that there was “no real clear-cut winner when comparing DISH vs DirecTV.” In light of the equipment problems I have outlined above, I would have to declare that DISH is the better service. The erratic behavior that my DirecTV DVR exhibits suggests to me that the equipment just doesn’t compare favorably with DISH Network equipment. I should also point out that I know someone else who also has DirecTV and they have the same problems with their equipment that I have been experiencing, so it’s not something that’s specific to my DVR or the installation here at my house.

As far as programming goes, you are going to be choosing from all the same channels with the exception of a few, like sports channels such as DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket, and probably a few others as well. Since channel offerings change once in a while, your best bet is to simply compare the offerings of both satellite TV providers and see which one gives you the best deal for the channels you want.

Both companies offer introductory deals for new subscribers that usually include substantial discounts in order to lure in new subscribers, so pick the one you think is best and give it a try. You’ll probably have to sign a contract for a year or two, but as long as you don’t have any major hassles with reception or other service issues, you can always wait out the contract and switch to another provider down the road.

As you can see, I would not consider this DISH vs DirecTV comparison a slaughter, but there’s no question in my mind that I favor DISH. DirecTV will find that out during the spring of 2017 when I cancel the service and return to DISH Network because for me, it’s simply a better value.