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I’ve been singing the praises of DVR technology ever since I finally got one myself back around the beginning of 2007. For me it revolutionized the way I watch television. What’s revolutionary about the new DISH Hopper whole-home DVR system is that it allows more than one viewer to watch programming from the DVR in different rooms simultaneously.
The control center for this new whole-home DVR system is called the Hopper. The Hopper is the unit that houses the hard drive that all of the recorded programming is stored on. It has the capabilities that you would expect with a DVR with the added ability to feed programming to remote units called Joeys. For those who aren’t all that familiar with what is perhaps Australia’s most iconic indigenous animal, a Joey is another word for baby kangaroo.
The system can support up to three Joey units which can be placed in other rooms and are connected to the Hopper, essentially allowing each Joey user to have their own DVR.
This is a great solution for people like myself, since I often find myself at odds with my wife when it comes to viewing preferences. My “research” indicates that this is a pretty common problem. Although my wife was a bit slow to embrace all the capabilities of our DVR, she has since become quite comfortable seeking out and recording her favorite programming, which, unfortunately, is of no interest to me approximately 90 percent of the time. The Hopper is made to solve those kinds of problems.
During April of 2012, a month or so after the release of the Hopper system, PC Magazine awarded a very favorable review of the new system with an overall rating of 4.5 our of 5 stars and declaring it their Editor’s choice for DVRs.
So What Can This Thing Do?
Other pay-TV providers have been offering multi-room DVRs for a while now, but this new Hopper system from DISH brings never-before-seen features to the concept of the whole-home DVR.
Among the system’s features that are most impressive include a 2-terabyte hard drive which DISH says is the largest DVR hard drive in the industry and allows the unit to store 250 hours of HD programming.
The Hopper also has the unique ability to record six programs at the same time when using the “Primetime Anytime” functionality which records the prime time programming on the four major broadcast networks as well as two other programs of the user’s choice. This feature frees users from having to set individual program timers for any primetime program they wish to record on the four major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX). “Primetime Anytime” can record and retain up to eight days (or nights in this case) of primetime programming content from the big four networks.
Another one of the best features of the Hopper system is that the Joey units are HD-capable, meaning that everyone can watch HD programs — not just the viewers watching on the main Hopper unit. There is some multi-room capability in current DISH DVR units that allows a viewer in another room to watch SD (standard definition) programming, but the Hopper system takes things to a whole new level giving each user HD capability as well as full DVR functionality from every television connected to the system.
Another interesting feature of this new system is the “Remote Control Locator.” This allows users to press a button on the Hopper unit which will cause the remote control to emit a sound, making it easy to locate a lost remote control.
The Hopper includes all the useful user interface functions you would expect along with some new additions such as the predictive search results feature. We have seen this on some of the big internet search engines that begin to predict what you are searching before before you are finished typing in your query. The Hopper has this capability as well, helping users who are searching for programs they want to watch or record.
The Hopper will also offer apps which will allow users to connect to social networking sites, games and information such as sports scores, weather, news and stock market information.
For television viewers that have not yet experienced the advantage of SRS TruVolume technology, that’s something that Hopper users will also find very beneficial. Gone are the days of commercials with audio that’s significantly louder than the program you’re watching. SRS TruVolume evens things out and tones down the volume automatically on those loud commercials.
Like other DISH DVR models, the Hopper can also be connected to a Sling Adapter which enables users to watch programming from their DVR from remote locations via the internet.
The Hopper ‘Auto Hop’ Feature
I thought this unique feature of the Hopper deserved its own section. It’s called “Auto Hop” and it’s pretty revolutionary for those of us who have come to dislike watching commercials.
During May of 2012, DISH announced that they had enabled a new feature for Hopper users. The new “Auto Hop” feature allows users to automatically skip most commercials while watching recordings that were saved using the Hopper’s “Primetime Anytime” feature (see above).
When a user decides to watch programming that was recorded via “Primetime Anytime,” the user will be prompted by the system to determine if they want to skip the commercials during the program they want to watch. The menu that displays the programs recorded via “Primetime Anytime” shows a kangaroo icon beside recorded programs that allow the “Auto Hop” feature to skip commercial breaks. Users are also prompted when they begin watching an Auto Hop-capable recording asking if they want to skip the commercial breaks while watching.
There are some programs where “Auto Hop” may not currently be available. Local news broadcasts and sporting events may not allow “Auto Hop” to skip commercials.
Viewing programs which do have “Auto Hop” available when the users decides to take advantage of the feature will skip commercials automatically and show a kangaroo icon on the screen to let the viewer know that a commercial break has just been skipped.
Using the “Auto Hop” feature on recorded programs is not possible until a few hours after all “Primetime Anytime” recording has been completed. This is due to processing that is required on the recorded programming to allow “Auto Hop” to function. Users are reporting that programming can be viewed using “Auto Hop” starting at around 1:00 a.m. which is about two hours after the programming has finished being recorded.
Unfortunately for viewers like myself, the “Auto Hop” feature is not available for any programs that have not been recorded via “Primetime Anytime.” I watch virtually no network TV programming and prefer to watch “cable” channels like Discovery, TLC, ID, History and more. Even so, my commercial skip button still served me well and allowed me to skip through commercial breaks quickly and with minimal effort.
One question that remains unanswered is how the big networks will react to this feature. Some speculate that the networks will not be happy about this development since commercials are a source of revenue for the networks. My take is that people are either going to be commercial-skippers or not. People like myself who use their “commercial skip” button religiously would take advantage of “Auto Hop” and those that don’t mind sitting through commercials will probably not bother using it.
I guess DISH is giving some thought to how the networks will react to this new capability of the Hopper as well. Just last evening I saw an amusing commercial from DISH that featured the characters from their previous Hopper commercial displaying their concern that the new “Auto Hop” feature might eliminate their commercials and then screaming in horror at the prospect. I guess it’s kind of like DISH saying, Yeah we know commercials will be skipped by some users but our commercials will also be skipped and we’re OK with it. I thought it was a clever tactic.
So Who Is This Joey Character?
As the “main brain” of the whole system, the Hopper makes DVR functionality available to viewers in other areas of your home. Think of the Joey as a “satellite” unit that connects to the Hopper and provides the horsepower which allows users in other rooms to access and view programming from the Hopper.
As mentioned above, up to three Joey units can be connected to a single Hopper DVR, giving just about everyone in the family the same access to the DVR. With two separate tuners (as well as a third that’s dedicated to the “Primetime Anytime” feature) inside the Hopper, there still may be conflicts among users of the system when recording favorite programs, but in my experience, programs are often re-aired a bit later on that day or during the week, allowing me to catch my favorite programs a little later when the simultaneous recordings of “The Bachelor” and “Army Wives” (or whatever) are occupying both tuners during the initial airing of one of my favorite programs.
The “Primetime Anytime” feature will likely eliminate many viewer conflicts since it enables the Hopper to simultaneously record all of the primetime programming on all four of the major broadcast networks in addition to two other programs of the user’s choosing.
Another benefit of the Hopper whole-home DVR system is that it is more energy efficient than previous multi-room system. It is reported to be 50 percent more energy efficient than previous models, giving consumers a break on their electric bill as well as going a bit easier on the environment as well.