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Equipment

Very Cool Receivers and DVRs

The equipment sure has come a long way since I bought my first DISH System back in 1998. My old receiver, which was called the 5000, was pretty revolutionary for me at the time, but now it does not look that great when compared to all the new stuff they have since come out with, and my ViP 622 DVR really put it to shame.

One of the best features of my old receiver is one that they are still incorporating in today’s receivers, and that is the caller ID display. There is a telephone jack on the receiver that enables you to connect your receiver to a telephone line for the purposes of accessing pay-per-view programming, and probably some other functions as well. I strongly suspect that much of that functionality (and more) is now done over the broadband internet connection that was connected to my ViP 622 DVR.

But for me, the best thing about having the receiver connected to the telephone line is the on-screen caller ID feature. When we are watching television and the telephone rings, the caller ID information is displayed at the top of the TV screen. I just love that since we can usually tell who the call is for, and one of us does not have to get up to answer it just to end up calling someone else to the phone. A great lazy man’s (or woman’s) feature for sure!

After about a dozen years of service from my old DISH receiver, I finally upgraded my DISH System in February of 2007, and moved my TV viewing experience into the 21st Century! The old DISH 5000 receiver was sent back to DISH for a $50 credit, and in its place I got a DISH ViP622 DVR that was connected to my 51-inch Hitachi rear-projection HDTV.

The Latest DISH Receivers and DVRs

During March of 2012, DISH took DVR technology to the next level with the introduction of the Hopper whole-home DVR system. What’s great about the Hopper is that it distributes access to the DVR to a number of other rooms in the home. With the ability to attach up to three remote “Joey” units, each viewer can have complete access to the Hopper DVR from their own room.

There’s a lot more to learn about the Hopper, so check out the Hopper page for more details.

Even some of the older DVRs have the ability to connect two televisions to one receiver and have each of them tuned in to a different channel, although the functionality of a second TV does not even come close to what one can accomplish with a Joey that’s part of a Hopper whole-home DVR solution.

DISH DVRs also offer cutting-edge interactive TV capabilities that provide access to news, weather sports, games and customer service for DISH customers. More and more of these features are being delivered to DVR viewers by way of the internet. The Hopper system even allows users to access Facebook, Twitter, Pandora and other internet-based services.

DVRs really are one of the most important developments that have come along since I got my original DISH 5000 system back in 1998. DVR stands for Digital Video Recorder, and as the name suggests, it allows you to record programs just like a VCR, but with many more features and much better quality.

Features of DVR receivers include the ability to “pause” live TV and not miss any programs due to interruptions. This is possible because the DVR is constantly recording every program you watch on its internal hard drive without you having to do a thing. When you hit the “Pause” button, the recording continues, and you can go do something else for up to an hour. When you come back, you can resume watching the program right where you left off. A very nice feature.

You can also do things like recording one program while watching another one, and recording a live program while you are watching one that has been recorded. For example, recently I was watching a program I had recorded a few days before while the DVR was recording two other programs at the same time! One program being recorded was an over-the-air program from a local TV station and the other was from the satellite.

Since these DVR receivers can record up to 200 hours of programming, or up to 350 depending on the model, and whether or not you record standard or high definition programming, you will have more than enough capacity to record all of your favorite programs, and watch them when it is convenient for you. And if that is not enough for you, there are external units that can be purchased that will add more programming storage capacity to your DVR.

Some DISH receivers also have conventional television receivers inside that allow you to connect your receiver to a standard TV antenna (or even a cable TV system) and watch local programming in addition to the DISH Programming. This worked very well for me when I lived in New Hampshire since we lived in a location that was at a fairly high elevation, and we get excellent reception with all the digital channels from Boston.

I decided to add local channels to my programming package even though my ViP622 has a built-in over-the-air (OTA) receiver. This was mainly because the signals I received over-the-air from my local TV stations did not provide a program guide, or at least not a program guide that my DVR could decode. Therefore, I was always going to the internet to see what was on the local channels. It also makes it much easier to set up to record a program when you receive your local channels from the satellite, and since it only added $5 to the monthly bill, I figured it was worth it.

I could still access the local channels on the DVR via the roof-top antenna and the DVR somehow had recognized that those channels match up with the local channels that I now receive from the satellite, so it provides program guide information for those now as well. I don’t know how it all worked, but it was a bit of a surprise to see that happen.

The DVR is an amazing piece of technology. I was in love with my new ViP622 as soon as I got it set up, and realized what it could do. It is so easy to record any program you want simply by selecting it on the program guide and instructing the DVR to record it. You have the option of recording the program once, having it recorded automatically every time it comes on or recording only new episodes! A great way to make sure you won’t miss those must-see programs!

DISH DVRs are the most highly-rated DVRs in the industry. The ViP722 is pictured below, and has essentially the same features as the ViP622, but has added a larger hard drive for more recording capacity. Check out this review of the ViP722 from PC Magazine or this review from cnet.

DISH DVRs are capable of delivering HD programming, and I was as impressed with that as I am with the other capabilities of these units. HDTV is as good as you have probably heard it is. I am so amazed by it that I will watch almost anything as long as it is in HD! I’m sure that will wear off, but any doubts I had about buying an HDTV evaporated when I saw my first true HD program.

One of my favorite things about HD is that the colors looks so much more natural and realistic. Someone told me before I got my new HDTV that watching a good HD broadcast was almost like looking through a window at something outside. I wasn’t sure I could believe that, but I certainly do now. It’s just amazing.

In addition to all the cool recording capabilities of my ViP622, the other features I really like include the following:

It saves a few days worth of the on-screen programming guide on its internal hard drive so that there are no delays when you want to view programming information. My old DISH 5000 receiver drove me crazy because it would sometimes take as long as 2 or 3 minutes just to view the description of a single program after pressing the “Info” button.

When viewing the programming guide, the program you are currently watching is displayed in a smaller “picture-in-picture” screen above the guide so that you do not miss anything while you are checking the programming guide. Nice.

The ViP622 also has a “picture-in-picture” function so that you can watch another program on a smaller picture that is displayed somewhere over the program you are watching. You only hear the audio from the program you were originally watching, but the “Swap” button will reverse that and put the program you were originally watching in the smaller window. There are two sizes available to use for the “picture-in-picture” screen, and below you can see what the larger of the two screens looks like.

Personally, I use this feature when I want to avoid commercials. I can watch another program while keeping the original program I was watching on the smaller screen, and then switch back to it when I see that the commercials have ended, and the program is back on. I am sure those who advertise on television are not too happy with these developments! At least my wife appears to be on their side since she doesn’t like me changing channels or using the PIP feature when we’re watching TV together.

An upgrade to the software that runs DISH DVRs allows it to be connected to the Internet through a broadband connection. This is a very nice upgrade because it allows DISH to offer much more on-demand programming and compete with cable TV which always offered much more on-demand programming than satellite TV was capable of. DISH’s acquisition of Blockbuster gives subscribers access to a lot more programming that can be delivered via the internet, DVD or even directly from satellite.

As you can probably tell, I was very happy with my DISH DVR and HDTV. And you might be surprised to learn that I paid only $800 for my 51-inch Hitachi HDTV back towards the beginning of 2007. This is due in part to the fact that this TV is not a “flat” LCD or plasma TV, but a CRT-based set that has a picture “tube” much like an older traditional set. HDTV prices have come down a lot since 2007, so $800 may not sound like a great deal compared with today’s prices, but it was a good deal then.

Although there are rumors that manufacturers may soon halt production of CRT-based sets, they still may be available. I managed to get mine on sale from Sears. The secret about these CRT-based sets is that the picture quality is as good or better than most of the new flat LCD and plasma sets, but since they do not look as “cool” and cost less, retailers do not market them with the same enthusiasm as they do with the more expensive LCD and plasma sets that are all the rage.

I used to pay about $20 more per month to have the DVR, but to me it was well worth it. I probably saved a lot more than than just considering the time I don’t have to waste watching the same commercials over and over again! It also cost me a bit more for the HD programming, but again, I think it is worth it to have the ability to watch HD programming. I feel that took my TV viewing to a whole new level and I really enjoyed it.

By the way, do not use the quality of the pictures on this site to judge what HD-quality programming looks like. The programming on the screen when the pictures were taken is not HD programming, and even if it had been, my little 3-megapixel Sony point-and-shoot digital camera would not do justice to an HD picture. And I won’t even get into the compression and re-sizing I had to use to get the pictures to fit this page and download reasonably fast for visitors to this page.

For more detailed information and specifications on receivers and DVRs, you can visit DISH to check them out.

External DISH Equipment

Just like with a standard television, you need some way to get the signal to it so you can watch your favorite programming. With cable TV, it is a wire that the cable company runs into your home and carries the signals, and with a “traditional” television set-up, you need a set of “rabbit ears” (remember those?) or an external antenna mounted on the roof of your house or in some other external location to capture the over-the-air broadcast signals.

With DISH and other satellite TV services, you need an external dish antenna to capture the signals that come directly from the satellite that is in a stationary position relative to the Earth at around 23,000 miles up above the Equator.

Today’s Dish From DISH: Smaller, Easier, Better

I’ve seen some pretty creative dish installations in my travels, and some of them actually make me wonder if I could have had DISH service at my old house, even though there were some tall pine trees behind my house that I thought would have obstructed the signal completely.

Since then, I have seen other DISH installations that appeared to be blocked by trees as well, but apparently are working fine for the people who live there. I guess I will never know if I suffered with cable TV for more years than necessary while residing at my previous address!

Even though I live in a rural area, and don’t have any practical reason to be wondering, I always assumed that it would be very difficult to get satellite reception in any kind of city setting, where tall buildings or other houses would block the satellite signal. Pictured here are a few installations in city areas that must be working just fine.

I am sure there are indeed locations where trees or buildings do completely block any possibility of receiving a satellite signal, but I was a little surprised to see as many dishes in city areas as I have. I guess that just shows that even in the city, where people are likely to have access to the best cable TV programming choices, there are people that prefer the lower prices and better service that’s available from satellite television.

When I first signed up for DISH, you could choose the option of installing the entire system yourself, and that is exactly what I did. All the equipment was delivered to my door, and it was not a terribly difficult job to get it working.

I enjoy projects like that, and have some experience with installing radio equipment and antennas, so it might have been a bit easier for me than it was for others who had not played with that kind of thing as much as I had. I had fun installing the system, and wish that they still offered that option today, but as far as I know, they do not.

Today’s receivers and dish antennas are more sophisticated and can receive signals from more than one satellite at a time, so I suspect there is more expertise required than there was when I installed my system back in 1998. Although I once adjusted one of dish antennas that was part of my DISH 500 system just to be sure I was getting the best signal possible, and found I was able to do it, it was more complicated and time-consuming than with the old dish that was capable of receiving programming from only one satellite at a time.

I later had my dish antenna upgraded to what they refer to as a model 1000. There are a few variants of this model such as the 1000.2 and 1000.4 and their use is dependent on whether or not you will receive your programming from the Eastern Arc or Western Arc of DISH satellites.

Along with the free equipment, you can also get free professional installation with your new DISH system these days, so you do not have to worry about installation charges. For more details on installation and the equipment that is currently available, you can check it out right on the web and see for yourself. You will often find great deals for free systems with free installation, as well as special offers for free equipment upgrades and free trial periods for premium movie channels like HBO and Showtime.

DISH And Trees

A lot of people seem to show up here looking for information on whether or not DISH will function with trees between the satellite and the dish antenna. From the research I have done, and various installations I have seen, the answer seems to be “maybe.”

Before I bore you with more details, the short answer to this question is to suggest that you schedule a technician for a visit, and have them do a site survey for you. They will have equipment that they can walk around your property with, and measure the strength of the satellite signal at various locations.

From what I have heard, each situation involving trees is unique, and there is no standard answer for whether or not you will be able to receive a good enough signal through trees to watch television.

Your geographic location will determine how high up in the sky a satellite dish antenna will have to be pointed in order to receive a signal from the satellite. All the satellites are in orbit above the Equator, which is necessary to maintain a geosynchronous orbit, in other words, the satellite stays in the same location relative to the surface of the Earth at all times.

The further north you go, the lower in the sky you will have to point your satellite dish in order to receive a signal. In New Hampshire where I used to live, we had to aim the dish pretty low, but if you live in Florida or Texas, you will be aiming that dish significantly higher in the sky than we did up north.

If you are going to call and have a technician come out for a site survey, I suggest you do it during the summer if the trees in question are the type that drop their leaves in the winter. A good technician will know this, and tell you that a signal that is good enough in the winter when the trees have no leaves may not be good enough once the leaves are all grown back during the warmer months.

Another option might be placing your dish antenna on your property in a location that has a clear view of the sky. I have heard of installations where the dish antenna is 100 or more feet from the house, so it may be possible to solve a problem with trees with an installation that is a little more work than a typical installation.

I have seen dish antennas mounted on trees as well as on poles that are sunk into the ground. There are quite a few options for mounting a dish antenna, but it will probably depend on how creative the technician is that they send to your home.

See my DISH Deals page if you are considering DISH, and you have a potential problem with trees. You can set up a visit from a technician to answer your questions, and determine if DISH will work properly for you.