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Thoughts on the DISH Hopper

I switched to the Hopper about 6 months ago.

I've been a DISH customer from the beginning. I like that they are the underdog and a bit disruptive to the industry. The company has come a long way - I bought the original solution (18" DISH) that pointed to one bird. They switched to a 20" DISH about 10 years ago that points at multiple birds. I bought their first DVR too.

I was a bit reluctant to go with the Hopper. I outlined my reasons in a previous post. I think they made some major mistakes on the design, but they didn't ask me for my opinion in advance.

It generally does what it's supposed to do. It's a nice solution for multi room HD television. The Joey's (remote rooms) connect to the Hopper via Co-Ax or Cat-5. Each room has it's own control. There are multiple tuners, but one gets used to record all three prime time channels at the same time. With multiple tuners, stored DVR content, and some streaming stations there's little conflict.

Now that I have been on the Hopper for half a year, I have stronger and informed opinions.

  1. It is too expensive. Many will find it competitive, but it was a huge increase for me. I primarily watch the premium channels, and they forced me to purchase a much higher base package. I used to have the "Welcome Pack" a core minimum base offering. They don't offer this package on the Hopper which is just greedy. They insist the Hopper is about HD, and the Welcome pack doesn't have HD programming. That would hold logic except I added HD locals and HD premium channels (extra charges). This is exactly why traditional media is being disrupted by the likes of Netflix and Hulu, because they insist on bundling/charging for stuff that customers don't want. I expected more from DISH.
  2. Because of the above, the Hopper doesn't support Netflix. This is kind of respectable, but not really. A lot of us have Netflix, and obtaining it means we either watch it on our computers or buy a set box. I bought a ChromeCast. This means I have to regularly switch my TV input. Even worse, I have a separate system for sound that connects to the Hopper via HDMI. To connect the speakers to the Chromecast, I have to use a different cable and then change the input on the speakers. This is too much trouble so I just use the TV speakers on ChromeCast. This means when I switch back and forth, that I need to adjust the TV volume and the input. It's a pain in the rear. Since I am finding that I watch more Netflix than DISH, I am considering getting rid of the Hopper. DISH would be smarter to support Netlix built in (as it does with HBO Go). Then, should I take the plunge to Internet TV, I have to replace the hardware which may discourage viewers. In other words, it's sometimes best to embrace the enemy for cohabitation rather than risk things with a winner take all strategy.
  3. By far the most annoying aspect of the Hopper is the nightly upgrade. A quick search on Google reveals a lot of frustration about this. DISH knows the frustration, but are either unable or unwilling to fix it.
    Between 1:00 AM and 1:30 AM every night, the Hopper wants to check for a system upgrade - no idea why this actually requires a reboot because most of the time there is no upgrade to install. If you are watching a show, it prompts the viewer with a warning and then reboots. The viewer can say no, but that only activates a timer and it asks again. It sounds harmless, but it isn't. The older receivers did a similar function, but the user could specify a different update window. The 1-2 AM window is my prime time, and it can't be changed. The other problem is the warning only works if you are watching TV. Sounds silly, but I am often watching my computer screen instead. Or, I have the show paused and stepped out of the room. In either case, if the viewer doesn't quickly respond the Hopper reboots. If you were backed up on something live, that content gets lost. This happens a lot. The Hopper really wants to update nightly, and it will ask to do so many times. It's annoying in its own right, but even worse because the update window was settable on the older receivers. Also, it should be something easy to fix, but DISH continues to ignore. For this reason alone, I can't recommend the Hopper.
  4. Another feature that is gone that I miss is auto-tune. As mentioned above, I often have the TV on in the background. I might see a good show is starting on the hour, so until then I will watch something else. Before, I could set to autotune to the new show on the hour. There's no way to do this any more. I get wrapped up in things, and miss the switch. I don't like it when vendors take away good features.
  5. One a minor note, the onscreen guide information is not as good as it was. This one confuses me because I would think that the guide content would be the same for all receivers. It is not. The descriptions are not as complete, the dates are often wrong, and the season/episode numbers are often wrong. Rarely had this complaint before.
  6. I wish the Joey units had Component Video outputs, like the DirectTV system does.

The Hopper nails it in the following areas:

  • Multi room control and HD.
  • Commercial skipping technology works great - though you have to wait 3 days to access it. Best feature overall.
  • Very large amount of storage for DVR
  • Love that it records all the prime time network shows automatically. Several times I hear about something great the next day, and it's nice to be able to still view it.
  • HBO GO Integration is very impressive - much better than the UI HBO offers on its website. Plus, it downloads the program to the DVR so you don't have to live stream it.

All in all, DISH got the hard parts right. They messed up on the easy stuff like the nightly update. I can't figure out why they don't fix these things.

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